I have to post this… Jo Costakes shared it on her Facebook timeline… It just makes you wonder at how small the world truly is.
I have to post this… Jo Costakes shared it on her Facebook timeline… It just makes you wonder at how small the world truly is.
I’ve not really posted much for a while because just so much other stuff that has been taking up my time. But in order not to lose sight or what I’m about, I’ve decided to carry on blogging for a while and travel more.
As part of this, today we made a trip to another Repatriation of a soldier coming home after paying the greatest price for not only our own nation, but for others too. It’s always a long journey for our lost heroes and heroines, but it’s just so important to pay them some semblance of respect for their work, dedication and sacrifice.
Some die in the most appalling ways, in combat, in support, in accidents, through their bodies simply failing. Yet all have willingly travelled to the war zones, and all of them know the immense sacrifice may come sadly knocking at their door.
Today, by way of a change we decided to take Charlie Wright’s son James with us. James has now started the application, interview and test process for joining the British Army and more over the Royal Engineers.
In a fitting way, the young soldier being repatriated was Royal Engineer, 23-year-old Sapper Adam Moralee who died recently in Afghanistan.
So we cut through the Cotswold towns, stopping in Burford to grab lunch before arriving at RAF Brize Norton.
As the Police out riders came through, the Memorial Bell started tolling as the Funeral Director with top hat and cane walked the hearse to the memorial garden where flags were lowered in salute and family and friends placed flowers on top of it.
Some clapped, most stared forward or lowered their heads, before the cortège finally moved off.
We already know that Sapper Adam Moralee’s ride will be stopped a few more times before his journey’s end today, but such is the feeling of many to need to come and say thank you as he passes by on his way home.
Personally, I think this stuff is important. Others may not think so.
As a civilian I can disagree with a war, a political point of view – but I will back a soldier ordered to the field of conflict any day, irrespective of what the politics are. After all, it’s the soldier, male or female who has to commit the “oh so filthy” act of warfare where the stakes are for real – not the politician…
Sorry it’s been sooooo late but to say I/we’ve been a little busy is an understatement. So, lets get on with it – at the end I will list some of the things now removed from previous lists and please do comment on it all. Sadly last year I missed doing it at all, but the last 2 Christmas’s New Years were spent in the USA.
Without further ado – here is the 2013 TWBrit Christmas List:
Oculus Rift Gaming kit
DJI Phantom 2 Vision
Yes it’s back again…. why? because this house is STILL awesome!!
Land Rover 110 County Station Wagon
Actually I want a 130 stretched County Station Wagon with a standard pick-up rear but larger internal cabin space (obviously a special order)
.338 with a x24 Schmitt und Bender scope ( I would say an AS50, but they’re not legal in the UK)
A life time supply of Coffee
A Knighthood: KBE
for services to Britishness and Commonsense
An invite to become a member of White’s
Now, there is no way I can continue in leaving this list without an update for my weird and wacky wants… But due to the nature of manufacturing issues I have revised my dire wish for a personal Boeing 787 Dreamliner and opted for my most favourite plane the 777 and on a tight budget a 767.
Below are two pics of planes for sale (click on them to enlarge). It’s worth noting that a new 767 is about $185,800,000.00 and a new 777 is around $261,500,000.00 (Boeing 2013 list price) so can see these are greatly reduced as they’re older and have probably changed hands a bit.
Now the 777 is fly by wire with a mechanical back up, making it very cost-effective and much easier to service, however the 767 is ALL Mechanical except for a couple of little bits – this means things like control cable replacement on a 767 is quite a big and expensive business.
Also there is the cost of refitting them with bedrooms, bathrooms etc. Frankly an engine of a 777 is around the $18m each mark so I really don’t know how many cycles the airframe has left – but either way, two rock solid planes make the list :-)
Taylor K24CE – Got One
A REAL Tablet: Motion Computing J3500 – Got One
Drum Kit – Got one
Theakstons Old Perculier – Got plenty :-)
Millions of personalised guitar picks – Got Them
Give up Smoking – Did it, one year ago today
Adobe Master Collection CS6 & Lightroom – Got them :-)
Heavy Duty Footwear – Got them all
Laptop with i7 CPU – Got It
So there you are… the craziness that is me and-some :D
Or simply Access ALL Areas UK…
Is a great, serious and humorous yet informative blog and campaign to sort out her local council.
You see Jane, while she could probably tell you more about the skeletons in my closet than most – has MS (multiple sclerosis – not Microsoft) and as this awful ailment has taken greater hold over the years – she is now stuck in a wheel chair.
This, while great if you need a lift, has come with a whole set of hassles and problems – as if the MS wasn’t enough.
You see in a time when red tape has gone mad and former politicians signed us up to so much do-good European rubbish… out of all of that came very specific Rights of Access to public places for the physically disabled. It’s just that her local council don’t seem to understand what responsibility they have and what such a careless attitude is doing to the detriment to so many lives in their care for the people they serve.
Well while the days of hard partying, canoeing, beer divining and flipping a minibus over with her teeth are long behind her… She’s not someone to lie down and be trampled on.
Below is a short and actually very funny vid of just how bad her problem is…
And as for the local council – try doing a survey while IN a wheel chair or we may have to change that AAA acronym to something more realistic like Acute A-hole Algae which would be more appropriate for people who “follow Set Guideline/Rules” without the adaptive use of logic, common-sense and a can-do, will-do attitude … In other words the very people who make this country awful, and live in the excitement of being totally un-British…
British = can-do, will-do, and get the job done and done right…
The First HUA Award for a while goes to
Sheffield City Council for their contribution to the work they’re employed to do
i.e making the city safe to use and indeed, accessible to ALL residents
Here at the TWBrit hq, it’s all complete and utter change.
It’s not rocket science to see that I haven’t posted anything for several months, and yet…. boy have I had plenty to write about! Travel and red tape has been very much at the top of the tree, so what have we been up to?
Well TWBrit as an entity is changing and the absence has been a real part of that. In the past few months I’ve moved effectively 3 times and I’m now based in a place that suits our immediate needs far greater than we anticipated. In earlier posts I had been traveling and meeting a great deal of people, and not just for a “jolly”. Some people I met was simply to gauge and understand the people more thoroughly, with others it was friendship, business and much more.
The upshot of all this is the replacement of this blog with an all new website. Furthermore there is going to be video! Yup, you heard that right; the grumpy individual who badly writes this blog with terribly poor English is going to appear in these odd if not downright quirky oddities.
We have learned much by mistakes and 4 people have been outstanding in their counsel. We also learned that if we ever do any merchandising products, the cost of using web-based methods like Café Press simply put item cost far beyond the reach of common-sense, so we’ll print ourselves and relay those massive savings on etc. This is predominantly an experiment in Internet and Social Media. If it works, then it will set a degree of benchmarks. As such it will have a few more people involved in it than just me.
At the moment the primary existence has been in the UK, however this will change as things become more formalised. Indeed, after a brief change of hands and more travel to organise and eventually finalize – things on that score will be much more different and in so many ways clearer. If (over the coming months and years) it works, then it will simply get, better and stronger. If not, then it will revert back to this.
Of course stepping from a fun outlet into a far more professional arrangement does require me to shed much of the stuff I’ve posted on here, re-do and re-register trademarks and all manner of other legal stuff. Infact, you may have noticed there are two colours of logo. The beige backed one is the general blog logo and the white is my own direct logo (so a little tidying up to do there then lol)
As I can see from the IP addresses and regular hits, many have stayed with me and regularly checked in and I thank you sincerely for sticking with myself and the blog. In this, I hope it gets better and far more entertaining with a little factuality thrown in from time to time for good measure. So with all that, I may get a few more posts up before the big change, so here’s to hoping
Bouncing out of Nashville we set about attempting a 2am ETA in NYC and made it!
Strangely, after all that people had said about driving in the Apple and it being a city that never sleeps, there was hardly a thing on the road and it was a straight forward navigation to our downtown 6th Ave hotel, where they promptly stole the Snot Rocket (our car) for safe keeping.
However, the New Jersey (N’ooo Joyzeee) Turnpike is NOT for the faint hearted or for anyone with a shred of logical commonsense due to the clarity of the signage, or indeed no signage. Thankfully, other than a few other lost souls, all was good.
The following day was a mad rush and full on with Gabsatrucker heading out early to chase her own butt up 20 blocks and pound out the rest of her 7 mile run around Central Park.
I jumped in a cab and headed to Chelsea and the new global headquarters of Rocketboom.com!
Set in tasteful surroundings and interrupted from beavering away I sat down and had a great chat with Andrew Baron about how the future for Rocketboom and how other enterprises were rapidly shaping up to be far larger and indeed a permanent existence in the day on day “must watch” web media listings :-)
The evolution of Rocketboom has been long and its consistency in what I call intelligent humour – ie Witt, sarcasm and irony mixed in with a variable amount of new or leading tech, entertainment and global web cultural insight is well established and is still leading in this field.
Andrew’s exceptional ability to seek out great talent for presenting Rocketboom is second to none and the present anchor of the show Keghan Hurst is a perfect example of this.
Andrew Baron’s great strength is not just that he is one of the first true instigators of what we term web media, but it lays at the door of not just knowing what he wants to achieve, but also in listening to so many others without being derailed from his overall aim. In this he has achieved a greater understanding than most within this field and in the creativity stakes there are few to rival what he has achieved.
In the evening Gabsatrucker and I headed over to meet Andrew, his stunning and glowingly pregnant wife Rima and their friend Eli for what Andrew termed Korean BBQ which was a fantastic evening with a lot of laughter.
While we were invited to stay for another evening, our plans were forever changing and we were sadly unable to. As we walked back to our hotel leaving great people and company behind us we came upon Times Square which was very much alive and bouncing.
Grabbing pictures and a bit of t’shirt swag we called it a night.
Waking early and packing up our gear, we headed out to catch a few sights before leaving this unrelenting island city.
A fast walk up the street our hotel was on (that sounds like they moved it) and you hit the likes of Radio City and the not so liked News Corp headquarters.
Onto the subway and Grand Central Station for crepes (of course)
Then South to the 911 Memorial.. BUT, remember all the trouble I had getting into the Hoover Dam? Well this time, I’m wearing a Leatherman tool and all manner of sharp objects as we headed into security.
The X-ray operator sees the Leatherman and asks to look at it, calls another guard over and then “Sir, where did you get this?”
Me: “Ebay, why?”
Reply: “I’ve been looking for the same model” before handing it back to me…
Now that is commonsense security!! They acknowledge the item, make you aware they have and then carry on as normal – and where? Where this whole terror thing for this country started!! Well-done 911 Memorial Security with their reasoned, professional and very logical approach to what they do.
I can’t really add much more, this place and most definitely this memorial leaves you silent as it stands for so much more now than the day it all happened, and to a far higher loss than ever before.
With that, we left the fair city of New York and headed back south, Philadelphia, DC, and on to Virginia – or ENGLAND as I like to call it.
After an evening in the Rainbow Bar and Grill we headed over the Mojave Desert to the Nevada border and after a quick stop at a state line mall and with the sun rapidly setting behind us and the sky displaying strange unusual colours – we crossed the border and descended to a place some call the City of Lost Souls (personally, I thought we’d just left it in California).
Vegas is known for a vast myriad of reasons, most of which are bad to the moral amongst you (not that I know what these moral things are). But like all realities of life, all things good and bad exist everywhere. It is normally only a need to open your eyes – but here in Vegas they’re a nice bunch and prise your eyes wide open for you (with their teeth).
As all know, Sin City has been revamped over recent years and for the most part it has become family orientated. Most street attractions are shut by midnight and then only the clubs, casinos and bars punch on into toward dawn.
Every shopping area on the Strip had designer names above the doors, yet every promotions person out on the street wear shirts offering you women to your hotel room in under 20 mins. And while this is a city where prostitution is completely outlawed, the Las Vegas Yellow Pages are a far more of an adult read than any copy of 50 Shade of whatever!
Obviously now with Gabby feeling right at home, it must be said that those looking for the “Old” Las Vegas just need to travel a few blocks over from the Strip and to where shopping changes from Designer names to places that specialise in the attire of Show Girls and if you want a feather for your cap – this City is what you may consider the Mecca of feather sales . Off the Strip you will find a more tradition Sinful evening. So, not being afraid of a little hardcore fun, knowing how to let our hair down in ALL the wrong ways – we went to see the Tim Allen show.
But in the regular entertainment stakes Las Vegas Rocks!! There isn’t a band or performer of any reasonable repute in the world who is not passing through here. And some that have no credibility at all ;-)
Taxi drivers are either friendly and fun – or not of around here… In one cab ride I realised I hadn’t been on a journey like this since being in the Middle East. So I asked the driver where he was from.. “Ethiopia” he replied. Gabby asked “do they even have cars there?” Well frankly they don’t even have food unless we put on a show for them.
Vegas is a must see and do for those never having been, but there is just so much more to see than a few shows, adult titillation and expensive boutiques and great restaurants. But there are some odd sights about the city. Like this line early in the morning outside a Gold and Pawn shop… Many of these people are in a state of pure distress, even men are crying…
A few blocks back takes you past the Heart Attack Grill where waitresses dress like nurses, will mop your brow, take your pulse and where anyone over 350 lbs eats for free!! They claim it’s “Food Worth Dying For” and indeed, to date, two people have passed on from this world right there in the restaurant. Out of interest (and the inability to write “two fat bastards”), one portly gentleman and one skinny bugger died there, one at the table and one as he was leaving.
Of course Vegas is also a regular town, with ordinary shopping, and ordinary hardworking people. They even have a few major companies based there, so it’s not all adult entertainment, gambling restaurants and shows.
It also has a vast through-put of NATO military personnel heading for the Nellis Airforce base and of course a healthy supply of UFO spotters, complete with foil hats marvelling at new experimental aircraft shapes coming in and out of Groom Lake (Area 51) in the dead of night.
In fact, only a short drive east you will find yourself where Alien’s breed – which is not true, but you will find yourself at the Hoover Dam.
The most amazing thing about the Hoover Dam is not the loss of life building it, not the sheer scale or even the balls forward Engineer genius and determination in constructing it – nope… The single most amazing thing about the Dam is trying to get past the security screening to enter the place.
It was about the point I had removed all metal items, hat, coat, boots, belt, wallet, watch, change, e-cig, passport, med tag, testicles and brain I had to even ask myself (as someone who understands security and threat) what could I possibly have on me (other than me) that could be a threat to millions of tons of concrete and/or the people around me?! I was wondering if the pliers would have to come out now for some teeth extracting .
Finally staggering through almost stark bollock naked I was finally clear to cause mayhem. But then there is the Catch 22… “Stand here for your picture to be taken” But I don’t want my picture taken! “oh, it’s ok, it’s so you can buy a gift photo of yourselves later”. No it isn’t because we have a camera, “No Thanks!!”
“It’ll only take a second – say cheese!” (pulled faces) click…. Photographer cracks up, security guard glares on, jaw clenched, cheek muscles flexing…
Such is the nature of how Terror has won the war in this nation… Fear causing overt security without any real thought… AND the removal of your own copyright as they actually get you to appear for your own mug shot against a green screen – it’s actually easier to get on a plane than into the Hoover Dam – think about that for a sec! Besides, surely the best place to do harm is in the highest concentration of people – that would be the queue to get through security then…
The Hoover Dam is and always will be awesome and one of the great engineering achievements of our time, actually before our time. What did surprise me as we strolled along through drill and hand carved tunnels was that they really don’t generate any effective power from the Dam. Yet this Dam must be capable of a huge amount of output. But then after reading through the lines of the somewhat bizarre and erroneous talk by the guide – you realise quickly that the full potential of this Dam is and never will be reached due to internal politics. Indeed, we were told one thing while having a diagram explained in one of the vast feeder tunnels – yet the diagram showed something quite different.
And with all done, we headed on our way towards the Grand Canyon and home…
We had cut some tough driving the day before coming down the old coast road from Monterey, a road NOT dissimilar to that of the coast road between Cannes and Monaco. This morning it was Gabby to take the wheel and drive like psychopath through Los Angeles and get us to the Fender factory before it closed at 4pm – as they were closed for the following day (Wednesday) all day. As I mentioned in an earlier post HERE we turned up the previous Wednesday when closed and they still looked after us!!
The choice of driver was well founded. Gabby who is known on the web as @Gabsatrucker and famed for International half marathon running, 100 mile cycle racer, former Harley rider and kick-ass big rig driver – can adapt to pretty much to any driving style and can make progress where most people simply can’t. Her adaptation and traffic reading of the nightmare known as the freeways of LA are not for the faint heart – but every defensive and offensive action founded in years of advanced driving skills were positively put to use.
For me this meant bemused pondering like “Toyota Sequoia drives well on two wheels” and “These brakes are GOOD!” including “The view from the rear window is great” and of course, that old nugget “I left my teeth in the dashboard”.
Finally, minutes before the 4pm deadline I phoned Fender and left a message to say we were only 5 miles out…
We arrived at 4:10pm and as I walked up to the door – it opened with the smiling face and ever greeting persona of David Brown the Manager of the Fender Visitor Center and Ralph Esposito who is the Projects Coordinator / New Product Development for the Fender Custom Shop.
Running past us was Gabby, hoofing it at speed towards the toilets.
We hung out a while and it was decided that as they’d had an extremely busy day, they’d invite us back the following day (when shut)to carry on and Ralph Esposito wanted to give us a complete, indepth and thorough tour of the Fender Custom Shop.
We set to retire, but was delayed by sudden outpouring of adoration from the Fender team over the two dogs Elsie (who I call Wubble) and Ben, the most timid little fella who we took in from a Dog Shelter. With adoration over, we headed in to Anaheim and a hotel.
The following day was an education the likes of which no ordinary factory tour could ever provide. David Brown took us over to the Factory to check on the body of the Telecaster they’re building for me and which has been principally engineered by David.
We went through the main factory and into some parts where no one from outside goes, through the paint shop, curing areas and final assembly. In the waiting area of hundreds of guitar bodies we found my Telecaster body and inspected work already done prior to that evening’s satin coating.
We headed out in search for a walnut neck to see if there had been any left over from the limited run of the Stratocaster’s, one of which I had purchased. With none left, we headed down past the wood shop we entered the Fender Custom Shop and was taken through to catch up with Ralph.
To describe Ralph is easy – he knows his shit! He’s been there a long time, believes in what he does and believes in getting the very best for whoever the customer is. He’s knows that what they do in the Custom Shop is the very best of their efforts and abilities, yet with so much knowledge and insight he’s very down to earth and easy to listen to and indeed – learn from.
We were taken through every work area, if there was a master builder about we were introduced and where not – Ralph explained the work that each did. We talked and talked as he led us through a history of music from a side few rarely see. We moved on to the Gretsch Custom Shop and then into an area where they’re building a special run of Eric Clapton guitars. We went further to where they turned the finished necks and so much more.
Back in the Custom Shop, examples of models they make and have made were everywhere, and even one incredibly light weight Stratocaster which was so light I thought was made of balsa – but obviously wasn’t. With much talk of food and beer next time we’re in town – thus sealing my return at some point (it was this word : “Beer” that did it) we headed back to Visitors Center so I could put the rest of my guitar parts together with David Brown.
There was still more to choose including neck type, electronics, metal furniture and finally the information to be placed on the Neck Plate of the guitar. This Neck Plate will show the name of the guitar which is TWBrit, the date and where it was born and finally “Engineered by David Brown” whom has been the most outstanding, outgoing and friendliest person from the outset.
Together David Brown and Jane Esposito of the Visitor Centre are a great team; they’re knowledgeable and passionate about what they do and the products they provide. In fact it was Jane’s husband Ralph who we’d met the evening before while waiting to go home who taken us around the Custom Shop and all it’s workings.
Now I’ve said this before; We’ve been to Gibson hollow body factory in Memphis, We’ve been on a fantastic tour of Taylor Guitars in El Cajon, San Diego (who had no interest at all when I wanted them to build me a custom guitar). But out of these, nothing prepared us for the welcome, friendliness and great people at Fender. While this is easy to throw all under the title “Great Customer Service”, of which I am the greatest of sceptics and picky when presented with the good stuff – the team at Fender humbled us! No, they didn’t make us feel special, they made feel welcome and like friends and that is very rare, very rare indeed!
To David, Jane and Ralph who did so much for us
Of the three guitar companies we have visited; Fender has not just done a little more or been a little better than the rest – they have and are miles ahead in the entire experience of dealing with and understanding customer wants and needs. They go the extra mile without being asked and around the world Fender and these great people in Corona, California create things so iconic to the USA and music as a whole it is amazing how they take all this in their stride without any of the pretentiousness of so many other companies.
Gibson for instance will charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars to add a plastic strip around the edge of a guitar (called a binding) and in some cases, add $1000 for that added extra – not great for the present financial climate and considering how much work you have to do to get Gibsons truly playable. But with the “can do – will do” and friendly reception that awaits all at Fender; Fender is certainly on the road to a better recovery from the financial doom and gloom of the past few years – and frankly? I will buy from the people who give me their time and effort and appreciate their customers where so many others don’t!
Fender Musical Instrument Corp is now one of (if not) the biggest guitar manufacturers in the world! Their other products include:
Guild Guitar Company
SWR Sound Corporation
They are also exclusive the U.S. sales representative for Sabian Cymbals and exclusive worldwide distributor of Takamine Guitars and Gretsch Drums.
San Francisco is many things, it indeed has many sides, many openly obvious and claims the greatest freedoms. But in reality we have to look at the entire Bay Area to understand the dynamism that is here.
As I write this I’m kicking back in Monterey and heading on back down a day later than originally planned to the land of plastic faces, that one nip-n-tuck too far and on back to Corona; so I’ve had a little time to think about all we’ve seen – albeit, have we even scratched the surface? From what we’ve seen, would we even want to?
This, like all sun kissed lands the world over has seen war and bloodshed, these days it claims to be the area of free thinking, openness and true multiculturality [I think I made that word up]
But what can I say? What can I add to all the usual clichés that brings this city to worldwide attention? I could talk about the millions of people whom suffer the insanity of living in a place that should have and probably will; one day shake itself to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.
Then China Town, The Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Mythbusters, and every conceivable genre of the entertainment industry – especially the world of amateur robotics.
From stunning hills and neighbourhoods of quaint pastel painted timber homes to sky high landmarks and of course – bridges.
As we move south towards Mountain View, there are the stunning, affluent, safe and green lifestyle neighbourhoods of the who’s who of the software world, internet and the world wide heard of tech innovators. Before finally hitting Palo Alto and the of course the businesses of the tech world as we know it. Here are the full blooded companies, the place where Billions are created from minds of imagination and insight; the modern home of the patent lawsuit.
When we arrived in the area we had so many plans and so many people we were looking forward to meeting. However, as all things with the greatest intentions, things just don’t turn out how they should. In fact hardly a thing we planned was achieved. As it turned out Gabby had a couple of good plans that did turn out well, but I thought were going to kill me at the time as we climbed the steepest side of Telegraph Hill and it’s 3, 475, 924 steps.
We hit Down Town San Francisco via the local “BART” (think tube) and headed north on foot through semi deserted streets towards the University to get there, we rolled past loads of things including the Global headquarters of Levis; this was kinda strange to me because I just didn’t think they were a San Francisco company.
Once at the top of this evil hill of near death we suddenly became amateur photographers as loads of people started asking us to take their pics. Of course under my breath I was screaming “Yeah, I’m David fkin Bailey!” and keeping the British tradition of covert grumpiness as I smiled on politely. Thankfully Gabby avoided taking too many pics of me on the grounds that the “near dead” are not always the most photogenic.
We headed off the hill stopping to take cross valley shots of that wiggly road with all the cars on it – we wanted to photograph Gabby driving the Snot Rocket down it, but then realised there was a massive queue for people wanting to do that very same thing.
We headed into Washington Square where I had previously planned a bit of a piss-up with a load of old school buddies a few months ago with the help of awesome twitter buddies Paulo Elias and the brilliant former Journo Layla Bohm ; both of whom we failed to sadly meet :-(
We were happy to leave China Town only to walk into a wedding photo shoot right outside the Ritz Carlton.
Onward and we cut through the hordes of tourists and headed up to the Hayes Valley area, a far more Boho existence with street music and Gabby popped into Lava 9 to seek out a jacket – but failed (haha).
We headed out and back to base thinking about what we had and hadn’t seen, and tried to get our heads around the things we had.
I finally got to check twitter and noticed Andrew Baron of Rocketboom.com was in SF this weekend as well and also suggested meeting up. Irony being what it is, I was going to fly up to NYC see Andrew as soon as we got back home, with a twitter chat in flow he said that we’d be better doing the NYC thing instead – so that is what we agreed.
We crashed out heavily that night, yet there seems to just not be enough time to sleep.
The downside of SF :
In reality, you either live in the good bits or you get persistently and aggressively begged upon… I’ve never come across more beggars in my life as the Bay Area holds – but the worst part is the level of aggression, if this is a badge for which the greater SF wishes to be proud of, then good luck to them – but to hell with ever returning. I dunno, I might be old fashioned, may be too picky in my fat assed forties, but to be aggressively begged at and verbally abused for not giving my money to a man standing by a fresh heap of his own faeces while walking down central Market Street in the heart of San Francisco with my better half has me restraining myself beyond the norm at the very least. In other places groups of young guys hang on “their” bit of the sidewalk seeking to intimidate by their presence.
Such is the maelstrom that is the Bay Area, all it’s sins and all it’s beauty, just bear in mind that they’re not separated by whole blocks, but often simply by a few feet.
The following morning we headed out early to drive around the bay and head south. We took in the Golden Gate Bridge and Gabby drove us all through San Francisco However, before we got to the Golden Gate we noticed a sign which took our interest instantly ; The Rosie the Riveter visitors centre! We pulled in to the very place Rosie the Riveter worked and was photographed and artwork made about women’s contribution to the WW2 war effort. The place was fascinating and was the site they constructed the Willis Jeep and tanks right on the dock side. The other amazing thing is that this was the very area Gabby’s own grandmother worked as a wiring technician on ships.
We carried on past San Quentin and on to the Bridge and then away south, stopping in Mountain View for a bite before heading through the hills to Monterey.
It was during the drive to Monterey that we decided to pursue some auto safety care for the dogs. Previously I have turned to look over the seats to see two dogs in various states of disarray and bewilderment, even hind legs and butts stuck in the air in unison; but on this journey Gabby took an unexpectedly sharp corner in the car and we heard the inevitable sliding sound of dogs and the rattle of their collars. A moment later Gabby called “you two ok?” – it was then after they heard the reassurance of her voice (giving them their shred of hope) the single, totally in unison, as one, loud THUD!! was heard as both dogs came to the end of their impromptu demonstration and education in Physics.
The following silence was deafening!
Gabby, suddenly concerned for their well being was asking me [who was at this time curled into a ball crying with laughter at the almost slapstick event that just happened – asking if they’re ok before they were pile-driven into the sidewall] to check on them to see if they were ok.
Finally I reached over and switched the lights on to be greeted by two silent and staggering dogs! Ben crawled into his crate not to return anytime soon and Elise just stared at me with ears back, intermittently shaking with a look I understood all too well.
I switched the light off and returned to my uncontrollable laughter.
We head back south now down the coast to Malibu, Fender and then – Vegas!!.
Today we have visited the Fender Visitors centre.
Walking in we got strangely eyeballed by a security guard while there were a few people milling about and much talk of NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants Expo – the bees knees in music gear).
We went further in, passing the shop and looked at all the displays, but in under 5 minutes I was creating my own guitar.
Noticing the place seemed quiet a guy suddenly turned up at the door and said “Sorry, We’re shut Wednesdays, we’re only open as we had a group in from NAMM”.
This changed everything, and that change, while I would have been happy to leave – was about to stun the life out of me.
We had originally set off to Fender in the afternoon because they do all the factory tours in the morning and we’ve had enough of factory tours (no offence to Fender)… But what we were about to do was a bit beyond your average tour.
David from Fender was wanting to go for his lunch, so I said it wasn’t a problem and we’d come back next Monday.
He wasn’t having any of this and together we went through the selections of guitar parts and I explained that one of the coolest looking Stratocasters was the one Bonnie Raitt plays, it has no paint or varnish, but had aged in a rustic style that is frankly awesome. The problem is that I wanted a Telecaster.
“Right” David proclaimed, “lets go and see what is laying about in final assembly”.
Moments later we were in the factory and walking through all the places normally prohibited. We searched through hundreds of guitar bodies (and I mean hundreds!) Finally we found a Telecaster body made of Birdseye Maple, but it had a slight defect in the polish and while it hadn’t been buffed up yet – the thing was – I wanted a matte satin finish…
Next the body shop guy, David, Gabby and me looked on as a guy with an evil sander set about making the guitar how I wanted it!!
So… there we were, in a factory and visitors centre that was closed to the public standing over these guys who were bending over backwards for us to make my guitar of choice.
I was humbled!! Because what they were doing wasn’t really any extra cost to a normal guitar and they were really getting behind making me what I wanted..
While looking around I clapped eyes on something strange, a Stratocaster with a body of Burnt Ash and a Walnut neck.
“What the hell is that?!” I exclaimed. “It’s a special limited edition of 100 guitars” said David.
10 minutes later I’m playing it and while they choked over vast sums… dropped $300 off the price and then a 35% discount was added too… the deal was done.
With a swapping out of the tweed case for a TSA approved SKB case, all that’s left is for the actual guitar to register on the Fender system so money can change hands and for it to arrive in Arkansas in a few days time or be picked up next Monday when we find out if the intensive effort on the Telecaster body can be completed.
It was full on 110% top quality and outstanding customer service from start to finish!!
Of Gibson, Taylor and Fender for quality of customer service, care and attention
1st is Fender (with no official factory tour)
2nd Taylor, purely for the factory tour and absolutely NO wish to go any distance AT ALL to aid, sell or offer any level of customer service face to face.
3rd is Gibson in Memphis who were so useless and S**te I don’t want to talk about them or my time there.
For the very first time in the USA, one company has come forward and offered me exactly what I wanted and more, everyone else has always found one or more issues or not even bothered.
Fender USA was that company and I am a proud and happy customer!
So the only thing left : learn to play the guitar!!
Down Day N Haggle
I woke today feeling like I’d been out on a well known British past time of binge drinking, which we class as normal – but today felt like I’d been at it for a week.
4 pints of water, 4 x 16oz mugs of coffee later and enough Ibuprofen to surgically remove my stomach lining like a cheese grater – I started to feel near normal [for me that is]
Gabby on the other hand took off to have her finger and toe nails turned into M&M’s.
I sat around and took pictures of the place we’re staying and by mid afternoon everyone was home and everyone feeling near normal, so the quest for food followed and was sorted out about 50 yrds away – nevertheless we are in LA, so we took the car anyway.
Over lunch plans for the afternoon were made; Gabby was going off to the Mall to find some comfortable “run-recovery” footwear and I was going to get the Snot Rocket washed.
Now ALL men know the following : If a lady knows exactly what she wants to shop for and knows where it is – she will get it (but only after comparing the exact same thing in every shop that carries it). However, if she knows what she wants but is going to search for it – she will NOT get it… But, she will buy things totally unrelated – as such the said shoes weren’t purchased.
We went off down into Pasadena to drop Gabby off and I headed to the local Mexican car wash…
Now, I don’t how things work in this regard here, but soon felt that I being taken for a fool, especially when I was being told what needed cleaning and why… heck when testing Land Rovers we’d drown them in mud, then fix them up like new and send them on to the customer and I was now being told various things the obviously some people in LA believe.
So I told them exactly what I wanted and nothing more. For this he wanted to charge me $65.00
That wasn’t going to happen!!
Yer see, there were these things called “signs” about with all the prices on them and while I didn’t go to Oxford University – I can (amazingly) count due to the number of fingers and toes I own. I didn’t want a machine auto wash because of issues with the rear door, I wanted a thorough handwash and wipe down. This is $39. But I also wanted the wheels cleaning, body waxing and Rain-X on the windshield/screen… AND the interior windows cleaning.
The haggling started…
As this was going on, two guys had started vacuuming out the interior who I had to stop.
The figures from the guy were all over the place… so finally I said “look $45 the lot and you’re doing very well out of it”… He stopped, looked at me and said “you a businessman!” – I said, no mate, You are.
Finally he accepted the $45 and while I still felt I was getting ripped off – this was soon belayed with what followed; 3 guys spent 1hr 45mins working like mad on the car, meticulously taking time on the wheels, the wheel arches, the roof and roof rails. All plastics were cleaned and treated properly and every single mark and dead bug remains removed. They did a frankly stunning job and the Snot Rocket now looks good enough for the two big white strips that I feel it needs on its centreline from front to rear, along with police siren and flashing grill lights.
Even Gabby was impressed as she hauled her shopping bags in (containing nothing she had gone shopping for). And as the day drew to a close Gabby took to taking pics on the return to the hotel.
Tomorrow – Fender USA
Today’s journey (followed live by quite a lot of people) was not at the speed of the Santa Monica terror train – BUT!!! You would not believe the stuff I/we witnessed… Thankfully I wasn’t the driva – but Lady Stirling Moss behind the steering wheel was having none of it!
I honestly think it’s actually the only time I wished we weren’t in the SUV (better known as Snot Rocket) but a fast (as in s**t off a shiny shovel) muscle car with carbon fibre brakes and a twin set of anchors for that touch of added superior stopping power would have been just the ticket today.
Having set off in good time, scary driving behaviour I haven’t witnessed since living in Riyadh took a massive toll on our progress, nerves, spine, eyes and tongue swallowing. All of which paled when we got into L.A. proper – here fear of sudden involuntary prolapse followed by limb removal and sudden death soon followed. That said, for the most part, driving the streets of LA, while busy, was ok compared to the freeways.
Finally we arrived at CBS Television City all but a few minutes later than our book in time to be told our tickets for the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson were no longer worth anything and that we pretty much had no chance of getting in as we’d be sent to the back of the “off the street walk-in crowd”.
We turned around and headed back out… [we were later told the security guard had been over-zealous]
We slipped into the traffic and away toward Hollywood Blvd, passing a dog shop on the way going by the name “Bark N’ Bitches”. It was actually Gabby who pointed out it was a dog shop as I thought “hey, that must be a bar” lol.
Turning down Hollywood we soon came across the Chinese theatre where there was obvious preparation at hand for some kind of location shoot – this I later found out (once back at the hotel) that is was for an all night filming for Iron Man 3!!
Gabby asked where should we go? So I was suggesting the Rainbow Bar & Grill to meet Lemmy from Motorhead… however, a darker place came to mind as we passed the Church of Scientology (aka Cult!!) International Celebrity (read: nobhead) Welcome Centre : A Cave… Sorry, I mean my idea was a cave.
Yes a place I knew of that wasn’t part of the usual tourist stuff, infact people of the area call it a secret location -seriously? Are there any secrets in this city? Even the Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza is really 20th Century Fox’s HQ and strangely enough called Fox Plaza
Any way this place has been the set for more TV shows than I can write and more B movies you’d ever thought existed – BUT!! Above all you will know it for one thing and one thing only – Batman!!
A short walk off the beaten path find you in a place that is both a little odd, kinda medieval and something I think Gabby thought would make a great place to keep the wine, well I think that’s what she meant when she said this is a great place for a full sized rack :/
Heading back and the street level traffic was max’d out and now taking a toll on mind, body and definitely soul… we, turned away shattered and sadly having to re-organise the plans for the next few days. But with rest needed badly, you have to know when to stop for a day or two.
Here’s the list of TV shows shot at the Caves:
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.
The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin
Alias Smith and Jones
Beauty and the Geek
The Dukes of Hazzard (“Hazzard Connection”)
Have Gun, Will Travel
Little House on the Prairie
The Lone Ranger
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Mission: Impossible (1960s)
The Outer Limits (1960s)
Salute Your Shorts (The Cursed Skull)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Enterprise
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: Voyager
We headed on back down the actual pacific highway looking for a place to pimp out the Snot-Rocket. Tomorrow we move on to LA… then away to the north for more fun.
So you know, I’m in Amarillo Texas and sitting in The Big Texan – famous for its 72 oz Steak.. which is free “IF” you can eat it!! The present record is under 9 minutes… this needs an animal to complete – wonder where I could find one of them?
Well one thing is for sure – I’ve never been to a restaurant with an open gun range on one side…
So.. The Big Texan and it’s famous 72 oz steak… Now the guy on the right in the pic below in an Aussie (along with the other 80 Aussies there) and the guy on the left? A Kiwi… but then two other guys started the eating challenge next to them – meaning that between them there was over 18 lbs of dripping bloody meat – it looked like a butchers shop!! [where they eat babies]
I bought a guitar!! A genuine Fender Stratocaster USA Deluxe from Guitar Center. And in the process saved over £400 off the UK basic value!! Another one and I’ll save my entire flight costs :D
Also had Gabby test drive a Range Rover today and showed her how to test out the entire drive train. It’s a funny thing though – I get behind the wheel and it just suddenly felt like old times, testing and breaking them on purpose ;-) Early days for the car buying though.
Anyway, here’s my guitar and believe me this pic does not do it justice and of all the strangest things – PJ of Guitar Center, after listening to me make my sod awful noise on it, only went and invited me to an open stage blues night here in Little Rock. (hmmm, strange idea of pushing you out in front of a hard Comedy Club audience me thinks lol)
It was 1999 when I got the call… “We wonder if you’d like to work in Saudi Arabia?”.
I asked “who is we?” and the answer was then one of the biggest Telecommunication companies in the world – Marconi under the name GPT Special Project Management (as Marconi wasn’t supposed to be doing military contracts anymore)
The rest is history, but in early 2000 my feet landed on the sun-scorched ground, a place so hot that it makes a mockery of what the Guinness Book of Records claims is the hottest place on earth…
Saudi is unlike any other country in the world. You respect it, or it’ll spit you out in a heartbeat. Even the way people think is different, completely differently to how we think in the western world – and you have to learn this very quickly indeed.
We were based in Riyadh and our office then was a big old house we called the RMO. And staff would come and go frequently – not a surprise when the head of HR’s opening line is “Welcome to Saudi! You WILL go to jail here, get over it – it WILL happen!!”
Some of us were more receptive to the way of life and learning about a nations history and culture. In fact you soon become aware that it is melting pot of culture and extraordinary coincidences. A guy who lived a few villas away went to my very first school, more amazingly he was in the class next to mine when we were no more than six years old. Another time I walked into the next office to mine to walk straight into the father of a mate from Sheffield! (Danny Curran) It was like “errrr…. what are you doing here?”
I met three great people there, people who I know to this day and I regard very highly 1. Abdullah Al Romaizan 2. Ginge (the one and only IT Wizard) and 3. Phil Green. Now apart from Abdullah who is a Saudi national and from one of the most influential families in Saudi (after the Saud family) we lived on a compound, a walled town where inside it was very much western living and also very much like some of the best holiday resorts – Ranco Village… It’s not the best compound in Saudi – but a good one, good enough for us and we called it “home”.
Phil and I worked in the same office as Installation Design Engineers and a major part of our job was site surveys. As our contract was to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, we spent a lot of time in and around and often under military barracks, but the head of the “SANG” was the then crowned prince (now King) Abdullah and as part of the communication system, we had to install direct landline secure communication to any possible location he could be… This meant EVERY royal palace in Riyadh – and while that sounds great and a bit posh, there are over 120 of them…
Phil knew telecommunications very well, he knew far more than most of us, but at the same time, when he didn’t know something, he knew who to ask. Even me when he was building a 8ft concrete retaining wall – he re-engineered what I told him, but it was a strong and interesting job when he had completed it ;-)
In our down time we kicked it hard, Phil was into old school rock n roll and the mention of Elvis would have his full attention in a heartbeat, in fact I was doing a simple 12-bar turnaround on the guitar one drunken evening and he came bounding over “which Elvis song was that?” he asked. “All of them” I laughingly replied, “along with every blues tune you’ve ever heard and you could even throw most of Status Quo’s repertoire in there for good measure”.
An irony of sorts; earlier this year I was kicking around Memphis (as yer do) and had a fantastic meal in B.B.King’s restaurant with @Gabsatrucker when we decided to do a drive by of Elvis’s home at Graceland for no other reason than to send a pic to Phil as this is his mecca and Danny Curran who hates the place.
Weekend partying was often hard, for Phil it was his way of numbing how much he missed his family, wife Mel and the kids. For Ginge, a way of life ;-) But it was either on a compound, in the middle of the desert or Bahrain – for which Phil bought this old wreck of a car with the biggest wing mirror in the world welded to the door so that we could drive over to Bahrain.
Life from those days has moved on, Ginge lives in South Africa now, I’m between the UK and USA and Phil worked as a Project Manager in the UK for various companies before recently settling in at BP.
It is funny, Phil and I never really socialized that much over the years, but we kept in touch, we chatted via FB and email just a couple of weeks ago. But more often than not, to me he was often a voice in the darkness, at a time when things were the worst – he’d simply say “hi”… And that I’ll never forget.
On Monday Phil passed away suddenly and without warning, last night his wife emailed me the news.
Someone I was lucky enough to meet and I’ll never forget
Yup, with the western world now turning attention toward Christmas and all you parents out there both young and old – and everyone else whoever had toys (which is all of you, because they hadn’t been invented in the century I was born) – while the 2012 TWBrit Christmas list is still being compiled in an outrageous manner – Youtube Vlogger GirlGoneGamer has the right questions regarding toys.