30 December 2010

Sick. Sick Of It All

I'm sick. Sick of it all. Not the band (they're OK), just literally sick.

Physically, because I stupidly ignored my own instincts and ate a whole plate of Penang Char Kueh Teow that had half a dozen jumbo-sized king prawns in it. Not a good idea when I know full well that I'm allergic to those tasty crustaceans. So, here I lie in bed with a moderately high fever and the feeling that my tonsils are about to come out of my ears in the next few moments.

But, whatever about the physical side of things (nothing a bit of Panadol, Merocaine, cough syrup, Sudafed and nasal spray couldn't cure), the mental problems are proving harder to remedy.

The lack of Vespa riding will eventually cure itself once I can manage to get back on my feet. It's the one problem that's beyond my control that's causing me to develop this mental illness. Some might call it rage. Some might say it's just me being over emotional. Some might even say that all this is just some sort of knee-jerk reaction to a problem that will eventually fade away. I disagree.

 I call it Roy Hodgson.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

28 December 2010

Rafalution in the Head

It was meant to be the holiday season. The busiest time for EPL clubs as about half a dozen games are squeezed  in between the few days before Christmas and the New Year. A time that can make or break clubs. And, managers.

Over in Melwood, Roy Hodgson must've breathed a sigh of relief when two games in this period were called-off due to the adverse weather. Seemingly, difficult games by current standards. One, a match that pitted Hodgson against his former employers with a Mark Hughes who is eager to convince the Fulham faithful that he is the man to replace Hodgson. The other, against formidable opponents, Blackpool. Yes, things have changed  a lot at Liverpool this season.

Unfortunately, the feeling of relief must have been abruptly cut short on hearing that Liverpool's former manager, was sacked from his job in Milan and subsequently decides to spend the holiday season in his Wirral home, just down the road from Melwood. No pressure there, eh?

Cue a flurry of activity on the many online Liverpool forums, Facebook and Twitter on the possible return of Rafa Benitez to the hot seat in Anfield. Immediately polls popped-up asking Liverpool supporters on whether they would take Benitez back. Not surprisingly, most if not all of the sites had at least, two thirds of people in support of Benitez's return.

What would be interesting to know is whether the two third majority reflects a genuine support for Benitez or is just some sort of no confidence vote for the current manager. I'd go with the former but then again, I've always been a fan of Benitez's work. But, to be fair, when all the underlying issues that exist at Anfield (player power, new footballing structure, media bias, etc.) are set aside, Benitez is still the only truly world class manager that is available and more importantly, passionately willing to take the Liverpool job.

The question now is, will it actually happen? And if so, will it be anytime soon?

26 December 2010

Another Postponed Date

Like most nights, I had the telly on that evening but wasn't paying too much attention to it as I was surfing the net at the same time. After awhile, something on the telly caught my attention. The news was on and I had gathered that the topic of discussion was this horrible weather that we were facing in Ireland, the UK as well as most of Western Europe. There was nothing new in terms of what was being reported but then the camera was focused on a single person, a Russian Embassy official and he was probably standing on the snow-covered lawn of the Russian Embassy in Dublin.

You see, we in Russia are used to winter temperatures of between minus 10 and minus 30 on a regular basis. Roads are chemically-treated and cleared of snow on a daily basis. Our airports remain open while schools are only closed when the temperature dips below minus 25. So, as you can see, the weather that you are facing now is actually quite comfortable for us...

The man said it all with a smug smile on his face as if to mock us all here for our constant whining and our continuous complaining about the mild weather. He was right though. Three horrible winters should be enough notice for the powers-that-be to cop on and learn from their Russian (and Finnish) counterparts who seem to be coping just fine.

Once the basics are out of the way, then maybe something can be done about match day preparations as well. Today's postponement of the Blackpool game was the second in just over a week following the re-scheduling of the Fulham game.

I don't know whether this is the norm but thankfully, it seems that my friends and I won't be losing out too much on our recent Irish Sea cruise. If all goes well, I'd still be getting the same trip for a nominal charge of around €20 to €30. Not too bad I suppose. The only bad thing about it is that the game itself is on, smack-bang in the middle of the week, in the middle of the busiest month of my working calendar.

Hopefully, I'll have better luck this time. Oh, and happy holidays and have a good New Year.

24 December 2010

Vespa PX: An Insurance Example

One of the most dreaded letters that I could have received before the year comes to a close, finally arrived in the post today. Yes, it's been almost a year since I last paid for my Vespa's insurance. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad. The cost of the renewal premium was within my already over-cautious budget. At first, the €297 quoted by Carole Nash for TPFT (Third-Party, Fire and Theft) cover seemed high but after doing a bit more research, it turned out to be very good. Well, very good is relative especially when it comes to the cost of things in Ireland.

Normally, when it comes to all things financial, my first port of call would be the Financial Regulator's very consumer-friendly site which gives very good independent advice on the costs and services of the various organisations that fall within its remit. It's not a up-to-date as I'd like it to be but at least, it's a good starting point when comparing insurance costs.

Unfortunately, although most types of insurance products are discussed and analysed in detail, the cost of motorcycle and scooter insurance seems to have fallen under the radar with no mention of it whatsoever. So, it was back to square one. Quotes from every single insurance broker that provided scooter insurance cover had to be obtained as soon possible.

Thankfully, there were only two others in competition with Carole Nash, Quinn Direct and AON Bikecare. Both of them have decent online quote systems on their sites so, it made my job easier. Based on my past experience, Quinn always provided decent quotes and were never too far off its nearest rival but, I was fairly disappointed when they quoted me €468 for the same level of cover provided by Carole Nash.

Maybe the company's own financial woes were effecting it's ability to compete with its rivals but that was not my problem. I was looking for the cheapest possible quote and they couldn't do that so, off I went to AON's site.

With AON, I wasn't expecting much as I've always been quoted the most ridiculously high premiums from them. The broker stayed true to form when their system blurted out a quote that was almost double the amount quoted by Carole Nash and €76 dearer than Quinn's. The answer to their system's question was a quick No Thanks.

Note to self: Don't even bother paying AON's site a visit next year. Also, do get the test out of the way ASAP. It just doesn't make sense to give the insurance companies an excuse to rip you off on an annual basis.

22 December 2010

Vespa PX: In 16 Colours

Was messing around with Microsoft Paint and came up with this from a recent photo that I took. Think it looks nice in basic colours. OK I suppose, for a bit of boredom relief during these non-Vespa riding winter days.

Speaking of winter days, there's more snow expected later tonight but fortunately, a thaw is expected just in time for Christmas. Hopefully, the forecasts are accurate enough. Being forced to stay indoors most of the time is beginning to get to me and if not for my daily commute to work, cabin fever would have set in a long time ago.

20 December 2010

Distracted in December

Still gutted by the events of the weekend just past, I decided that I needed some sort of distraction to keep my mind off it. Normally, a nice long ride on the Vespa would do me some good but, in the weather that I find myself in, I doubt that doing so would be a wise option.

Being a cheap old fella, I decided to go with the least expensive option or more specifically, the one that cost me nothing, a free book. Bram Stoker's Dracula's Guest to be exact. A good, easy read that's broken-up into a few short stories. Not good, when halfway through the book, I had to visit my daughter's school at night when there's basically no one around.

The fact that the school looks as if it came straight out of a Stoker book doesn't help either. Yes, although the school does have that magical Hogwarts feel to it, I was also half-expecting a priest to be flung to his death from a second floor window or impaled by a stray cast iron rod while taking a walk around the school's grounds.

There's nothing like a good book to let the imagination run a bit wilder than normal. It certainly kept me distracted for a good while...

18 December 2010

Anfield: So Close But Yet So Far

Everything seemed fine as the wheels to our master plan seemed to be well in motion. Even the snow that threatened to ruin our plans the night before, mysteriously disappeared by early morning, leaving only a small bit on the ground, like lightly dusted icing sugar atop a cake.

Not wanting to miss our ferry, we made contingencies for delays because of the snow and arrived at the ferry terminal an hour earlier than expected. Better safe than sorry, I suppose.

After about an hour later, we were on the ferry and well on our way to Holyhead on board the Ulysses. Even the lack of sleep the night before couldn't dampen our spirits as my friends and I were all looking forward to the match and getting to know fellow Reds on the ferry, from Malahide as well as far as the Mauritius.

About two hours into the journey, the three of us started to get hungry and wolfed down my wife's delicious Nasi Lemak within the space of a few short minutes. We joked that, eating the Nasi Lemak while in international waters put a whole new meaning to the Antarabangsa in Kampung Baru's famous Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa. Anyway, a good walk around the ferry was in order especially after eating such a cholestrol-filled meal.

Wanting to feel like a cross between Jack Sparrow and a Cold War era submarine commander, I ended up with a bunch of smokers on the upper decks of the vessel. That didn't last long but I managed to snap a quick pic which should explain why my naval fantasy was a short-lived one...

It wasn't looking good but as we caught sight of land on the horizon, things began to clear up and the sun was shining on the ferry's intended destination.

As soon as the ferry docked, we walked up to the reception area, eager to get a hold of our match tickets from our travel agents' representative. Seeing us standing around at the agreed meeting point, the rep headed straight to the three of us. I knew something was wrong when I didn't see any match tickets in his hands...

Sorry lads...the match's been cancelled.

I looked the man straight in the eye, trying to gauge whether it was the Irish sense of humour coming through or outright seriousness.

You're joking...?

Nope. Nothing we can do about it. They cancelled it.

I was stunned. Utterly disappointed. One of my friends was in denial and was immediately looking for the nearest computer or Wi-Fi connection to confirm the news. The other was already thinking ahead and was taking a look into the small print of our booking confirmation.

By noon, it was clear we weren't going to watch the match. We weren't even going to get anywhere near Anfield or Liverpool itself. We were in Holyhead and within the next two hours, we were going to be back on the Ulysses, making our way back to Dublin...

16 December 2010

Plan A (for Anfield)

Just over 24 hours to go to my long-awaited return to Anfield. Seeing that its a packaged trip, there wasn't that much to do except to print off the booking confirmation and make sure we turned-up in time to wherever we had to turn-up to. Easier said than done.

The plan is simple: get the early morning ferry from Dublin to Holyhead and from there, travel by coach to Liverpool, presumably direct to Anfield where we would be arriving about an hour before kick-off. Just enough time to grab a bite, snap some pics and spend some cash on souvenirs.

The only problem with the plan is the impending snow showers. The words from Met Eireann weren't actually too encouraging...

A second more significant snow event is expected to occur during Friday afternoon, Friday night and for a time on Saturday. A band of heavy snow is expected to spread across the country from the west and northwest. Further totals of 10-15cm possible, with all areas at risk. 

When I mentioned this concern to a colleague of mine at work, he just laughed and when I thought of it from his point of view, it made sense - the Irish Sea wasn't at risk of freezing over anytime soon so, my journey by sea should be fine. The gale force winds would make the journey slightly uncomfortable but, that was the least of my worries.

The main problem was getting ourselves to the ferry terminal at Dublin Port in the small hours of Saturday morning when the roads could be impassable and too hazardous because of the ice and snow. Then, even if we did make our way safely to the ferry, there was always a chance that we wouldn't be able to escape the same hazardous conditions in Wales.

Of course, desperate to make it back to Anfield after such a long time (the first time for the two guys accompanying me), all sorts of contingency plans were made covering everything from the unavailability of taxis to the suitability of Nasi Lemak on a potentially rough journey. There wasn't only Plan B as back-up, there were also Plans C to probably Z to make sure we made it to Anfield on Saturday. You certainly couldn't blame us for not putting in the effort, eh?

Anyway, do wish us three the best of luck. We'll definitely be needing it.

14 December 2010

Sub-Zero Scootering

The Yahoo Weather thingamajig read minus 1. It definitely didn't feel like it. Having gone through a couple of weeks of sub-zero weather, I think I should  know what minus 1 felt like. I quickly came to the conclusion that the weather dudes at Yahoo were wrong and I was going to go ahead with my plan.

The plan (if you could call it that) was easy: ditch Dublin Bus and get back on my Vespa. I had thought about getting back on the Vespa for a while. The main roads were all clear of ice and snow while the city centre had been a snow-free zone for days now. The only thing that held me back was the ice and snow that was still a permanent fixture on the roads around my housing estate. Most of that melted away over the weekend. Being the of the risk averse variety, I gave it another day to thaw out a bit more and this morning, I found myself kick-starting my Vespa.

Surprisingly, the scooter came to life on the first kick. Maybe, it too was eager to get out and about after being locked-up in a shed for over two weeks. I looked around me and there were still patches of ice and compacted snow but fortunately, none of them were unavoidable. I let the engine run for a bit longer and then, I was off...

Halfway out my estate, I was beginning to have second thoughts. There was still a touch of frost covering the road which wasn't helped by the fact that the Vespa's tyres were probably still half-forzen. I went down a gear and moved on slowly. I constantly assured myself that all I needed to do was to get myself to the main roads and all would be fine.

All did turn out to be fine and I made it to work in one piece and on time.

12 December 2010

The Predictability of the Unpredictable

As of last night, here's what Liverpool's performances look like as we approach the halfway mark to the season...

The unpredictable becoming oh so predictable. Based on this, at the very least, I can expect a draw for the upcoming home game against Fulham. The way things are going this season, I think I'll settle for that result.

As for the away game last night, if the players on the pitch were looking for some sort of inspiration from the sidelines especially after going down for the second time during the match, this is all they got...

Ah yes, the old face and chin-rubbing technique. Works all the time. Surely. Doesn't it? No. A blue genie doesn't pop out to score 3 goals in 6 minutes? That only works with a lamp and if you're called Aladdin, Roy. Lamp. Aladdin. Not. Football. Match.

What? No? Dammit...

10 December 2010

After the Snow

The people in the tropics have been blatantly lied to. Well, at least I know of a good few people (yours truly included) who have this image of a perfectly fluffy, snow-covered winter where we all sat indoors by the fireplace and sipped hot caramel macchiato watching snowflakes gently fall to the earth. I blame Hollywood. The reality of it is, after the snow is gone, it looks like this...

That feel-good feeling that comes with snow’s first appearance only lasts for about two days (a week at most). Over a few nights, that fluffy and soft snow turns into compacted ice that’s as hard as concrete and is so slippery, one might as well ditch the ski boots, wellies, magic shoe socks, etc. and put on some skis.

It took me almost 10 minutes to climb up this slope this morning whereas normally, it would have taken me half a minute. Stepping on icy footpaths or anywhere there was ice on the road would have been lethal. I had this image repeated in my mind where I took a wrong step and fell, hitting my head on the kerb, cracking my skull open with my brains oozing out like grey egg yolk. So, I treaded carefully on the thin strips of visible tarmac that were left behind by cars over the past few days. The fact that one might come along and accidentally hit me from behind was completely ignored. The fear of oozing brains was all it took for me to stay the course and stay on the road, car or no car.

As I sat on the bus this morning, I contemplated whether it was time to get back on the Vespa. But as soon as the thought crossed my mind, flashing images of oozing brains started to re-appear and any thought of getting even close to my Vespa was quickly brushed aside.

About an hour or so later, I was in the city centre. I thanked the driver as I stepped out of the bus and as I turned around to cross the street behind me, there it was – a rider sitting smugly on his cream coloured Vespa PX whizzing past me as if he was riding on the coastal roads of the Italian Riviera whereas I was the fool that was stuck in some sort of personal Arctic dimension, complete with cartoonish hovering grey cloud above me. It didn’t make sense but after seeing that, the flashing images of oozing brains slowly melted away...

08 December 2010

When is One Better Than Three?

As the title suggests: When is one better than three?

When the One is a Champions League trophy that was won in the most memorable fashion in the history of the competition and the Three being the treble of the UEFA Cup (that's the Europa League these days), the FA Cup and the Worthington Cup (better known as the Carling Cup since 2003).

That's my personal view on the matter and I'd say it would be a safe bet to say that it's most Liverpool supporters' view on the matter too. But apparently, Jamie Carragher disagrees. If the comments came from anyone else, I would've easily written it off as sentimental, even delusional tripe but, seeing that it came from a man that has notched over 650 appearances for Liverpool, I would give him the benefit of the doubt and not judge his comments too quickly.

Anyway, it has long been speculated that Carragher was the player that texted Houllier to say this on Benitez's departure...

...he never beat you, Boss...

After his comments above, it's starting to become clear who sent the text to Houllier. And, while Carragher is talking about mathematical superiority, it's slightly ironic that his old gaffer got soundly beaten by a treble of goals at Anfield a few days ago.

In this case, three is better than one...

06 December 2010

Winter Wonderland

Walking has its advantages. Other than the obvious ones like getting yours truly some much needed exercise, the slower pace does allow me the time to appreciate the finer details of what lies around me even more. Being from tropical Malaysia, snow still has this magical hold on me. That magical feeling slowly diminishes though with every harsh winter that passes. The slush and extra slippery ice don't actually help.

What does help are scenes like this which I took while walking to work a few days ago...

St. Stephen's Green

The picture was taken on my Nokia mobile and doesn't actually do the scenery justice but hopefully, it would give you a good idea. Simply magical.

04 December 2010

The Kids Are Alright...

...and the old dudes too! It was good to see Jovanović getting on the scoresheet as well as his badge-kissing-I'm-staying-put celebration in front of the fans. If anything else, it would be nothing else but a reminder to Hodgson that he too could be considered as strike partner in Roy's preferred 4-4-2.

Fabio Aurelio also had a good game an escaped unscathed. If he could stay injury-free for a good run of games, we'd be instantly stronger at the leftback position. Kyrgiakos was his usual, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin self whereas Poulsen, presumably included to add some experience to the young midfield, did just that i.e. increased the average age of the First XI and pretty much nothing else.

Joe Cole's substitution didn't actually come as a surprise but, what was strange was who greeted him at the touchline. Instead of either Sammy Lee or Hodgson which would be the norm, it was Peter Brukner (Liverpool's Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science) who offered Cole a pat on the back...

Anyway, back to the kids. Danny Wilson had a decent first start considering Liverpool weren't threatened that much for most parts of the match. No silly mistakes (can't say the same about Reina unfortunately) and a show of decent defending skills is all a fan could ask for from a centre half at this stage of their career so, in that sense, Wilson looked good. The experience would certainly come in useful with Liverpool's current shortage in his position.

One young man that doesn't lack experience is Martin Kelly. He's increasingly being viewed as a dependable and solid option at rightback. Certainly not a bad reputation to be earning. He wouldn't actually set the world alight at that position but the skills learned there would do him good when he moves back to his preferred position in the centre. Again, here's hoping that he can stay injury-free as long as possible.

Jonjo Shelvey on the other hand, clearly looked like a work-in-progress but that's not a complaint considering that he's only 18 and had Poulsen as partner in the centre of midfield. It would be interesting to see how he does with some quality players partnering him in the very near future. One potentially quality player is Dani Pacheco. Admittedly, he had a slightly subdued game which wasn't surprising given that he was played off-position. At this stage though, being played off-position shouldn't worry Pacheco too much as what he needs is games and if playing at right wing gets him games, he should keep his head down and do as much as he can to impress manager.

Closer to home and it was interesting to see Why We Won't Copy Barca as a news headline on Liverpool's official site. A fitting headline considering Barcelona only recently trounced Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid 5-0 a few days earlier but at the same time peculiar. I mean, which football club in their right mind would not want to emulate Barcelona's amazing football? I suppose, Radolfo Borrell's reply was the one and only answer...

Liverpool is too big to copy other sides. We can have our own vision.

Now, that's one person who understands Liverpool Football Club. If only that message could get across to the one person in charge of managing Liverpool these days, we wouldn't have to hear ludicrous comments about managing supporters' "unreasonably high expectations".

02 December 2010

Trains, Planes and (Skidding) Automobiles

I woke up that morning thinking the worst was over. I got myself a shower, grabbed some breakfast and headed out the door. My aim was to get to the bus stop by 7.30 for a chance of getting in the office door by 9. Normally, I'd allow for more time but because of the weather, I gathered that there would be less traffic on the road. I was right to an extent but I didn't take into account that traffic was going to be much, much slower in this weather.

The bus finally got to Baggot Street a half an hour later and I was greeted by a blizzard that made the 5 minute walk to work feel like a whole hour.

I made it to the office safely enough and as soon as I cleared the snow off my coat, I was out again. This time, in my boss' car, a rear-wheel drive BMW. Great in the dry, desperately useless on snow and ice. I mentioned this to him but he was determined that we got out to the client's place out in Citywest (a mere 10 miles away from Dublin's city centre).

I got in the car and brought along my coat and gloves. My boss had a quick look at what I was carrying with me.

We don't need all that.

I smiled politely and replied.


He didn't return the smile.

The journey out was fine but the journey back was an adventure of The Day After Tomorrow proportions. The car skidded like mad on the icy roads back into Dublin and to top it all off, we narrowly missed a skidding/swerving double-decker bus.

Miraculously, we made it back to the office in one piece. At that stage, I lost any desire of sticking it out at work. I grabbed my laptop and whatever else I needed and was out of the office at just after 3 that afternoon. Of course, Dublin Bus was no longer in service at that stage so, it meant that I, along with a thousands of others who desperately needed to get home that evening had to fight it out for a spot on the already crammed commuter trains.

At least, I had the option of the train. Others didn't and had to either book a hotel room or walk the whole way home.

Thankfully, I made it home. Home, warm, sweet home.

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