Monday, January 30, 2006

www.spargoweb.com

After months of thinking about it, we finally decided that with the new camera turning out some pretty good shots, and our huge stack of photos on www.imageshack.com becoming unmanageable in the blog, it would be better to host our travel photos on our own purchased server space from now on.

So we have purchased and set up our own website and photo galleries all under our own new web domain, which is www.spargoweb.com. This single site will give you links to our new photo galleries and also links to this blog (www.blog.spargoweb.com). I'll also be putting other random bits and pieces on the home page as the mood takes me, and where time permits.

At this stage this blog will stay located at its existing blogger.com home right here, however there will be links to it from our new homepage for those coming here from there - so whichever way you arrive here, you won't have to change a thing.

As with this kind of personal site, it will be a continual 'work in progress' as I play with different web editing programs and photo gallery layouts - so don't worry if it never looks the same each time you visit!

-shane

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Thames Whale latest update

Well, it seemed like the whole world was watching London exactly this time last week as a Northern Bottlenose Whale, normally a local of the freezing depths of the North Atlantic, found its way up the Thames estuary. The stupid thing travelled past my office here at Tower Bridge (we didn't see it though) and upstream as far as the Albert Bridge in Chelsea, where unfortunately its health deteriorated and the decision was made to try and rescue it and take it back out to the open ocean.

Sadly though, the whale died enroute from causes unrelated to the rescue - simply it starved and dehydrated because of a lack of its natural food during its time in the English Channel and while in the river. Of course this week the media still hasn't let up about what has almost become the biggest single event to happen in London since VE Day. Surely the same energy could have been expended on trying to get the District Line running reliably?!?

And with such events comes the usual barrage of e-mail banter in the form of pictures and jokes that clog up your office Inbox. Below is the best one of those that I've received (click on the image to open it to its full size in a new window).


Damn funny stuff!!

-shane

Friday, January 27, 2006

Australia Day 2006 - this year in Fulham

On what was a cold January night, a group of our friends gathered after work at Brogans pub on Fulham Broadway to celebrate the 26th of January. We weren't alone. Across the Broadway a 100m line stretched from the door of the filthy Slug & Lettuce, and from what I hear the Temple Walkabout and the other Antipodeon favourites around town were heaving.

In short, too many Fosters and evil Snake-Bite pints led to too many screaming singalongs to the aussie music anthems being played at full volume for the drunken crowd. We kicked on afterwards at Willow's house around the corner, before making our way home on the 28 bus. Sore heads abound today..


And just like last year, I listened to the Triple J Hottest 100 streaming over the web from Australia Day at home, only to be disapointed when the Number 1 spot went to a single from Bernard Fanning's (of Powderfinger-fame) solo album - what a joke!

The Top 20 ended up as follows:

1. Wish You Well - Bernard Fanning
2. Catch My Disease - Ben Lee
3. Feel Good Inc. - Gorillaz
4. Best Of You - Foo Fighters
5. Dare - Gorillaz
6. Mind's Eye - Wolfmother
7. My Doorbell - The White Stripes
8. O Yeah - End Of Fashion
9. Joker & The Thief - Wolfmother
10. Do You Want To - Franz Ferdinand
11. Fig Jam - Butterfingers
12. Computer Camp Love - Datarock
13. Gold Digger - Kanye West
14. Songbird - Bernard Fanning
15. Flame Trees - Sarah Blasko
16. Apple Tree - Wolfmother
17. Blue Orchid - The White Stripes
18. I Was Only 19 - The Herd
19. Middle Of The Hill - Josh Pyke
20. DOA - Foo Fighters

The full list can be seen here.

There was some good to come out of the countdown though. Aussie band Wolfmother managed to get a record number of tracks (6 I think) into the final 100, breaking the previous record. If these guys are the current sound of Australian rock music then its a good sign. I now have their self-titled album and it is fantastic.

I hope the BBQ's, hot weather, and public holiday was enjoyed by all at home - you can be assured we were thinking about it!!

-shane

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We watch the Arsenal go down at Highbury

Tonight we headed to north London, for another great British sporting experience – watching Arsenal play at home on the hallowed football ground - Highbury.

Thierry Henry (14) lurking on the left wing right in front of us

Scoring tickets from my mate Dan 'who knows a guy', we travelled there after work for the match against Wigan Athletic, which was the second leg of a semi-final in the Carling Cup. Normally you wouldn’t be too interested in a Cup match between these two teams, even if it was a semi-final – but in the first leg, Arsenal were beated 1-0 away at Wigan, meaning that they had to score at least two home goals to take back the aggregate lead and get themselves into the final. However at the same time they could not concede an away goal by Wigan, as they are worth 2 goals.

We arrived at Arsenal from the Piccadilly line, and walked to meet Dan and friends at a nearby pub before we walked to the ground and took our seats. The whole Highbury area was buzzing as some 35,000 fans began to pack in for the match in the old traditional ground for the club, which is in its last year of service before it is replaced with the flash new Emirates Stadium nearby. It is a bit of a shame really, but with club football here being bigger than life itself, the club needs to expand and update its facilities. Once we were inside it was easy to see why.

While the seats and viewing area are more than fine, the facilities beneath the stands are pretty substandard, although they give the sense of a venue that has seen so much history. The old brickwork in the walls, timber work in the beams, supports, and rafters, the old-style bathrooms and amenities, and the narrow low clearance corridors where the fans gather in the break to smoke and debate the game so far - you wouldn't think it but it is just brilliant stuff!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

The game got underway and it was obvious that Arsenal was a cut above. Precision passing, an obvious lack of panic in their gameplay, and overall dominance lead them to be 1-0 up at the break after a brillant cross to the front of goal finished off by a simple header by captain Thierry Henry.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Jose Reyes misses Arsenal's early gift penalty chance, which in the end would cost them the game

However there was always the chance of Wigan getting that critical away goal hanging over the match. As I shot photos from our fantastic seats, the entire home crowd sang all of the songs that you hear when watching a game on TV, and with every exciting moment the whole crowd in front of you would leap off of their spring-loaded chairs, and so inturn you would stand up and then those behind you would follow, meaning that the whole stand would be on their feet before the shot at goal had left the boot. The crowd was amazing to watch let alone the match!!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Henry (14) and Bergkamp (10) in action up front on our side of the ground - brilliant to watch in person

At the end of standard time we still had a 1-0 draw on aggregate, so onto extra time we went. And it just had to be one of the coldest January nights in a very long time!!

In extra time Arsenal was awarded a penalty just outside the box to the right of goal, and Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie drilled a perfect shot at goal curling the ball into the top right corner, which we were in a perfect position to watch from behind the kicker – it was a perfect example of just how talented these players really are, and luckily we both managed to leap up out of our chairs before those in front so we both caught the ball hitting the net!

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Henry (14) & Bergkamp (10) discuss tactics before a penalty; and the players wait for the restart after Wigan's winning goal at the death

So with the Arsenal up 2-0, and the crowd on their feet sticking it up the Wigan fans at the away end, the clock began to tick down to what was becoming a certain win without the need for a penalty shoot-out decider.

Then, the worst nightmare for the home fans – a runaway through-ball running towards the Wigan goal followed by two Wigan players is nudged beneath the Arsenal keeper and Wigan take the lead 3-2 on aggregate. No-one could believe it.

The whole stadium went silent – besides the ecstatic Wigan fans at that end, the rest of Highbury’s Arsenal army appeared to have just had a death in the family – without exaduration there was complete silence. Nothing. As the game ended seconds later with Arsenal unable to equalise, the supporters strolled out with bowed heads all across the crowd.

We left Highbury and walked up to the nearby Finsbury Park Victoria Line station and headed home. Unfortunately the scoreboard didn’t lie, BBC has just confirmed what we saw in person hours ago – Wigan is through to the final, and the Arsenal is not.

It was fantastic to have seen a match there, before they tear it down at the end of the season – 93 years of history in the home of an amazing football club. Have they become ‘our team’? We’ll have to see..

-shane

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Top of the Gherkin!

This post might not mean much to people at home, but I am damn excited about it!!

As I type this off-line entry, I am on the Tube on the way home from a Building Research Establishment function to launch a Centre of Excellence in Construction partnership initiative with the UK’s top build environment Universities. This normally wouldn’t mean much to even me, but this event was held in the restaurant/function area on the top floor of the 30 St Mary Axe building, otherwise known as the “Gherkin”.


An external view of the building amongst the City skyline; and the view from the top floor during the day

This building is rarely open to the public and even if you got in there on a business engagement you’d probably not get to go to the area at the very top - so the chance to get up there as an invitee to a work function was an absolute treat that I will remember for a long time.


The brilliant domed roof over the top of the top floor function area

Some 40 storeys up from London City below, work colleague Bronwyn (an Aussie environmental policy advisor from Brisbane, formally of the EPA office in Brisbane) and I headed there after work, and found ourselves treated to white wine, canapés, and fantastic salmon, pasta, and ‘bangers and mash’ dishes while picking out sights across overcast London.

It was something I’ll never forget from my time here, and it was great to have shared it with a co-worker from Brisbane.

-shane

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Mike and Bec head home

A sad bon voyage last night as Mike and Rebecca said goodbye to Europe (for now), and boarded the 10pm Qantas flight to Brisbane via Singapore after their year in Ireland..

It has been a great week catching up, although Michael had started getting a little edgy towards the end with his mind seeming like it was already at home as he contemplated his big plans. Packing their whole life into two suitcases and backpacks was a bit of a laugh, although we know that the challenge will be much worse for us when we do it!

Now it's just us left over this side of the world - I printed out a few A3-sized political maps of Europe at work, so it's time to get the marker pens out and start planning the big year ahead.

-shane

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Goodbye Barons Court Road?

It's been an up and down week. We got a letter from our landlord today, regarding some issues that he'd been having with his letting agent. Nothing to do with us, and something that was easily resolved. However, he dropped a bit of a bombshell for us, saying that he is planning on selling the flat at the end of our 12 month lease in April, and therefore the lease would not be renewed or continued as we'd hoped!!

Now this is exactly what we didn't want right now. Our plans were to stay on at this flat as long as we need to be in the UK, unless we found something close by with a porch or similar to move into for the summer. Instead we now need to begin flat-hunting soon in pursuit of another flat in the same area for the last part of our stay in London. Or our other option is to move into a few share-houses that we know have spare rooms going over summer - and we've been making some pretty busy travel plans for March/April so who knows what will happen.

A bit dissapointing, but we'll find something.

-shane

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Producers with Mike & Bec

With Mike and Bec here for a week before they head back to Australia from their year in Ireland, we've been just hanging around the house all week while London is treated to its typical January weather of cold temps, minimal daylight, and drizzly rain that hardly seems to hit the ground and just hangs around annoying you. Just like last year, this weather is fustrating enough to relegate the month to visits to museums and art gallery's while everyone recovers from the excesses of December.

But their visit prompted us to see a West End show last night that we'd been putting off seeing for months - The Producers

(Picture coming soon)

The production, written by funnyman Mel Brooks, had been seen by most of our friends before us, so we were expecting big things. The musical is a stage version of Brooks' film of the same name which starred Gene Wilder. It won a record 12 Tony awards when it started on Broadway where it originally starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderrick, so it has been doing very well in its West End run. Without giving too much away the show is the story of a 'down on his luck' Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Fred Applegate), and his accountant Leo Bloom (John Gordon Sinclair), who concoct the perfect money making scheme: Produce a premeditated certain theatrical flop by the name of Springtime For Hitler, from which they plan to keep the capital raised from backers - but of course, things don't go to plan..

Considering the name of the show they produce - Springtime for Hitler - combined with the writing of Mel Brooks, you can imagine it is hilariously inappropriate and crosses all boundaries related to the war, Nazi's, Hitler, etc.. and the brilliant score has had Michael humming lines from the theme song around the flat for the days following.

Go see it.. you'll love it. Or, take the easy way out and watch the movie when it comes out soon, starring the original Broadway main actors Lane and Broderick, and also funnyman Will Farrel.

-shane

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

finally back to London (for now)

This morning we returned to London from Cornwall. It was a fantastic drive on almost empty roads, as we got ourselves up very early to beat the 'returning to London holiday traffic', and I wanted to give the VW Golf a good hard workout on the very nice A-- and M- roads before I had to return it to the hire car office. I want one of these when I get home!! Brilliant cars! You just can't beat German engineering!

As we sit here back in our very messy flat I can tell you that we are completely exhausted after what has been over 3 weeks of non-stop travelling and frantic packing and repacking of bags between trips, and throw in a few days of work here and there and you have what was our very hectic December and festive season 2005/06. And we wouldn't have had it any other way!

We have met some great new people on our tour to beautiful Scotland who we'll be catching up with soon; i've taken some fantastic photos of things that i've always been wanting to see; we spent a brilliant week in what has become one of our favourite places anywhere - New York; and we had a fantastic new years with friends in a beautiful part of England that we hadn't seen before..

Now back in London, we have my brother Michael and fiancé Rebecca staying with us for a few days on their way home to Australia, so there'll be a few late nights catching up and hearing all about their recent 3 months travelling through Western Europe, and their exciting plans for when they return to Toowoomba.

As for us, well, back to work tomorrow for what promises to be a very busy year ahead - we will be sitting down in the next few weeks and mapping out (literally) where we want to go in 2006, which will be our last full year living in the UK before we head back to Australia.

And there is a project in the pipeline to develop a proper on-line photo gallery, so that everyone we know can view our travel photos on the internet with minimal fuss rather than putting too many of them in the blog - i'll keep you posted on when it is available..

-shane

Monday, January 02, 2006

Fancy Dress new years night in Newquay

More to come soon

-shane