Saturday 29 October 2011

NFL International Series

Wembley Stadium

NFL International Series - London Game 5.

23rd October 2011

Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Chicago Bears.

Pirate ship Pre-match entertainment Giant flag
The arch The home team
Vistors and hosts Tailgate Party
My seat Final practice


A set by nat_mach

Somehow despite the lock-outs and the uncertainty of there even being an NFL series in 2011/12 once the dispute between players and management was resolved a might organisation machine sprang into action and the annual road-show; the one regular season game played outside the continental United States was ready to take place as normal.

This year's event differed from normal in as much as the last Sunday in October hadn't yet happened so the game was taking place an hour later than normal. That didn't deter our normal routine so we ended up arriving before the turnstiles were even open!

This was a good thing as I was making the annual pilgrimage in my wheelchair and the Better-half had to push me up those endless ramps. Despite endless internet searches I had been unable to find whether there was step free access. There is. There is a lift by the Club Wembley entrances at car park level. Don't even think of trying to use it if you aren't disabled (or presumably Club Wembley) as it is steward operated!

We spent some happy time on the upper concourse playing 'team bingo' - you have to spot some sort of apparel from every franchise in the NFL. This year we got all but two (Kansas and Cleveland).

The gates finally opened and we went in (through the special wheelchair entrance, imagine trying to run a chair through those turnstiles!). I castigate TfL for their accessibility - North Greenwich is not step free from train to street level as there is and inch gap up to the train... might as well be a foot in a wheel chair; and as for Wembley Park what is the point of step free access from platform to street level... it was about six inches up to the platform! As they say on Twitter "hash fail". I digress. 

Wembley Stadium (apart from the secret lift) could not have been easier for a wheelchair user. Disabled toilets operated by RADAR key (so no random drunk people who couldn't be bothered to queue), smooth flat surfaces so easy to navigate (even self-propelled), counters that are reachable from a wheelchair; couldn't be better... and that was before we even got to our seats!

This year our tickets weren't behind the end-zone in our usual spot (that isn't where the wheel chair spots were) we were half way to the half way point on the side. Fabulous view. 

We took our seat just as the pre-match entertainment (The Goo Goo Dolls) finished, in time to see the teams take the field and for the anthems. The Buccaneers (who were the 'home' team) had a giant flag but there were no giant national flags this year, the flags formed instead by bits of glossy card. The crowd were asked to join in too by holding up coloured pieces of card left on their seats - the organisers didn't learn from previous years that these would later become paper aeroplanes!

The formalities over and the game began. It was a pretty good game, not a total whitewash although, as form suggested would be the case, Chicago won 24-18. The fact that the top passer and top receiver were both Tampa players tells you that it was a good game to watch.

There were all the usual fun moments that you don't get watching a game on TV; the mascots 'steward baiting'... the mexican wave... watching the teams benches. My favourite Sunday outing.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Black Cats

Before I met the Better-half I'd never had many cats in my life. There'd been a tabby Thomas a rather large (and not very friendly) cat who lived next door to me when I was a kid. I briefly lived next door to two Siamese; their speciality was sitting on their doorstep and shouting in that very special Siamese manner. Friends had cats... I knew a slightly mad tabby, two gorgeous little black cat girls... but all these were brief and fleeting acquaintances.

Then I moved in with the Better-half where the house was shared with Gizzie (a white Persian who sadly decided to leave home and move in with a mad old neighbour) and Molly. Molly was a black cat... she was beautiful (and she knew it). She was around three or four when I first knew her, and I watched her grown into the grand old lady she was before she passed away a few years ago.

Molly was a cat who knew her own mind. Feline in her independence. She wasn't a lap cat and didn't have much time for cuddles... she didn't mind some human company though... as long as it was on her terms. She loved spending time in the  garden and had many shady spots to hide in. My great sadness was she was never much one for playing with toys, no matter how many I brought home and tried to persuade her what fun they were!

Uploaded by nat_mach on July 31, 2011
© All rights reserved

A few years passed an it was decided that our household was empty without cats. Enter Casper and Tinker. Twelve weeks old, rescued by Cats Protection and adopted by us.

I'd never known kittens before. All the untouched toys that had been accumulated for Molly finally had a purpose for these two bundles of black fur. If there was mischief to be found theyd find it; from climbing furniture (we want to be mountaineers), to playing with the taps (we want to be plumbers), to chewing houseplants (we want to be horticulturists), to opening packets of food and spreading it about and licking the washing up (we want to be chefs).

At the end of the fun they'd curl up and go to sleep together, a habit that lasted well past kitten-hood.

Sadly just over a month ago Tinker passed away, very suddenly, leaving Casper an only cat. He copes quite well although tells us often (and vocally) that we don't know how to play cat games properly.
Uploaded by nat_mach on September 16, 2011
© All rights reserved
Uploaded by nat_mach on September 03, 2011
© All rights reserved

This post is celebrating Black Cat Awareness Day an initiative by Cats Protection to raise awareness of the plight of black cats who find it harder to be re-homed than their lighter coloured furry friends. You can find out more at the links below

Here are a few of the beautiful black cats I know and have known:

Casper Tinker
Minnie Pacey
Uploaded by nat_mach © All rights reserved

Sunday 16 October 2011

Blog Action Day 2011 (#BAD11): Food

My pet peeve when it comes to food is wastage. Wastage comes in two forms; throwing away food that could still be eaten and the over packaging of food.

The main culprit for the throwing away of edible food is the rise of the supermarket over local shops and the 'nanny' culture that we find ourselves living in.

When I was growing up we lived in a village. There was a butcher, a baker, (no candlestick maker) and a greengrocer. There was also a convenience store, but we didn't shop there as it was much more expensive than the other stores. Everything came home in unmarked wrapping. Fruit and vegetables in brown paper bags, meat and bread wrapped in white paper. No best before, no use by. If it smelt good and looked edible you ate it, if it was a funny colour or smelt bad you threw it away.

As we got older the local shops closed. Supermarket shopping became the norm. Foods had 'use by' and 'best before' dates. My father's constant observation to my teenage self was 'best before, not poisonous after'. So now I still try and keep to that principle. Meat and dairy I'm more careful with but fruit, veg and processed food - if it looks good and doesn't smell funny then it probably doesn't need to go in the green bin (yes, at least our council composts food waste).

I saw on a TV show (I cannot think what I can have been watching - I think it may have been Justin Lee Collins) a couple of blokes who practised 'Freeganism'. This is going round the food waste dumpsters of shops and restaurants and liberating the food that is still edible. It was amazing the stuff they were finding. Certainly enough for them to live on. Interesting concept, although given the pigeons and other vermin in London not one I'm sure I'd like to try myself! 

Certainly some chains (Pret a Manager springs to mind) do operate a similar type of scheme in as much as what they don't sell on any given day is distributed to charities at the end of the day. Perhaps more initiatives like this should be in place, and not just from sandwich chains.

Packaging is another irritation. Buying things in plastic trays, wrapped in more plastic; or in plastic cartons inside plastic bags inside cardboard boxes. Again my sole comfort is that where I live all of these things are recycled when I throw them away; but that doesn't happen everywhere and packaging could and should be reduced.
Food, just as much as everything else, is a limited resource; more so as the planet's population grow and typical crop cycles are effected by climate change. Food needs to be thought of in terms of sustainability just as much as all other resources like energy and water.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Glimpses of London (1): City Dragons

I have recently discovered that I have an absolutely enormous amount of photographs of London. Hundreds upon hundreds (possibly thousands). I have decided, therefore, to start an occasional series - 'Glimpses of London' which will take a glance at one small part of our great city.

City Dragons

At various points around the perimeter of the City of London (that is the area known as the Square Mile, the oldest part of London) there are dragons which mark the boundary.These are historically significant entrances (other points are marked only by black bollards with the City crest).


Uploaded by nat_mach on August 22, 2011
© All rights reserved

This is one of the Aldgate Dragons, which number among several pairs located at historic locations of gates in the fortified walls of the city (dating from Roman times). The City of London boundaries were historically of great importance as the City of London controlled various aspects of its own governance (including trade in the form of Livery Guilds); even today it has a unique political governance compared to the other boroughs of the capital. 

You can walk the boundary of the City and see the dragon collection (it's about 6 miles).  The dragons can be found at: 
  • Victoria Embankment (between the Cities of London and Westminster) - these are the two original dragons on which the others (except the Temple Bar Dragon) are based
  • Blackfriars Bridge (south side)
  • London Bridge (south side)
  • Aldgate (between Aldgate High Street and Whitechapel High Street)
  • Bishopsgate (heading north towards Commercial St)
  • Moorgate (heading north towards City Road)
  • Aldersgate (heading north towards Goswell Road)
  • Farringdon (on Farringdon Street near the junction of Charterhouse Street)
  • Holborn (on High Holborn near Chancery Lane)
  • Temple Bar (in the middle of Fleet Street, near the Royal Courts of Justice)

Friday 14 October 2011

Social Media

Once upon a time... some time before 2007 the web was a very different place. It was more static, like a  large library; rather than the constant interactive experience it is today, a giant constant conversation. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, Friends Reunited, GoodReads, FourSquare, GetGlue.

I can't imagine what I used the internet for before Facebook, Twitter and the like burst onto the scene. I have an add-on in Firefox which constantly chides me for my 'unproductive' (use of social media) internet time. I seem to be doing quite well so far today as only 78% of my time has been distracting browsing.

Having recently spent a month sick in bed my iPhone and lap-top connected me with world by means of Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

I use Facebook to keep up with friends and family; like a giant photo album/newsletter. Twitter I use for current events, chatting, and generally idling away hours.

This blog now even has its own Facebook page. Do drop by and 'Like' us.

Skywatch Friday (57)

London's Building

Sunday 9 October 2011

You are the Big Picture

Wandering idly on Facebook one afternoon (which is one of two places you are likely to find me on the internet, there or Twitter) I came across an App. 
The Facebook App
It was being advertised down the side of the page. Insurance company Aviva 'You are the Big Picture'. Intriguing.

The App invited you to upload a picture and choose 5 words that were important to you (well Facebook chose them from you wall, but it did allow you to change them). For every picture uploaded Aviva were donating £2 to Save the Children and in addition your picture might be broadcast on one of the concrete walls of London's National Theatre.

Your very own fifteen seconds of fame.

Countdown and reminders
I chose a picture of me and our beloved Tinker... it seemed like a nice tribute for him. It is my favourite picture of the two of us, practising the feline (Jedi) mind-meld... or maybe just rubbing noses.

I was thrilled when I received an email telling me that the photo would be projected on the night of the 7th October.

Internet problems and live web-cam problems gave us a few scary moments - but I managed to stay awake and see the projection live.

Casper didn't mind that he wasn't on the side of a wall... after all - he does have his own blog!

Our moment of fame

Better quality pictures - courtesy of Aviva

The bit with the words

The sorry tale of our broadband

Last week (around Tuesday) our internet connection started to misbehave. Without warning or reason it would suddenly slow down... beyond normal parameters of slow, back to the days of a dial-up 56k modem - actually worse.
When we complained (which I did several times) we were given various excuses and explanations and an expectation that it 'would improve' and be fixed no later than the 11th October (5 days away at that time).

Worse was to come. The internet connection then started spontaneously disconnecting itself; often for hours at a time.

On Friday night the phone line went down. No longer able to report faults. Did they confiscate the phone to stop me calling and complaining?! On Saturday afternoon, in desperation, I used Skype to call the faults department about the phone. It would be back by mid-day I was promised. Here we are on Sunday, and guess what, still no phone.

The smart-phones of the house have been getting some serious use - being the only remaining connections to the outside world.

I've tried using Twitter to communicate with them but unfortunately all the customers on Twitter and two guys monitoring the account doesn't give much satisfaction.

The really ironic part of this sad tale. We've just ordered a Ti-Vo box - which means we'll be paying them even more money every month.

Friday 7 October 2011

Skywatch Friday (56)

Perfect Autumn afternoon framed by Autumn leaves

Tell MS Friday (3)

Time for another 'Tell MS Friday'.

Whatever you want to get off you chest about MS (whether you usually blog much about it or not) - please come and join in... the good, the bad and the ugly - all welcomed!

Thursday 6 October 2011

It's OK Thursday (4)

Linking up with Neely and Amber for "It's OK Thursday" again

It's OK...

  • that the seasons seem to have sorted themselves out and Autumn is here at last
  • that I've taken another several dozen photos of Kitten-cat; he doesn't mind... he's vain
  • to really want to get back to work and be fed of being sick
  • that the steroid course is going on longer than anticipated (either the pharmacy can't count or I can't) as they do seem to have done some good