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Abu Dhabi and Dubai Nov 2019

November 13, 2019 Leave a comment

Due to poor planning by British Airways we had to cancel a holiday to Dominican Republic and find somewhere else sunny and relaxing.

We decided on the Middle East. Somewhere we both know very well through work , but we hadn’t been to AD (together) since about 2006, so assumed it had changed a bit if the ever increasing size of Dubai was anything to go by.

We landed at about midnight, so it was collect the car, hit the hotel and it’s bedtime. A quick look around suggested standard top end ME hotel. Massive lobby, lots of staff buzzing around and copious gold fittings.

Our room was very nice, and quite sizable, with separate bathrooms, his and her sinks, and full wall windows. We were lucky enough to be on an”exec” floor meaning we didn’t have to go to a restaurant for breakfast, got snacks during the day and a few free beers pre dinner in the evening.

We did two trips during our stay, both recommended. One was the Formula One track your. Very knowledgeable guide, and there was stuff happening on the track, as well as preparation for the upcoming AD GP. I won a competition to do a lap (driven) of the Drift course. Great fun, not as terrifying as it looks. It was on the actual F1 track. So if anyone spins off due to excess rubber on the north end of the track, apologies.

The other was the Grand Mosque. Not normally a visit for me but the scale of this place is amazing, and just the fact they can keep the whole building that clean and white in a desert is amazing in itself.

The drive down to Dubai was strange, There only seems about 15 miles of gap between the two now, where it used to be long periods of open desert.

We arrived at the palm in no time at all. I discovered the joys of valet parking this trip, so we dumped the car and got our room. Once again very nice, but no fancy extras, but a balcony. This was nice as the weather got cooler.

Very little sight seeing, as we have spent so much time there, but we did find some new places. The pointe, a shopping centre on the palm, not so fantastic but functional.But it has amazing views of the Atlantis Hotel at night. Bluewater is another “coastal” location, but has what will be the Dubai “Eye” being erected currently. It also houses Caesars Palace, which for a country with no casinos, caught me a little on the hop.

We did manage to join friends one day for a boat trip out from Dubai Marina to roughly the length of the palm. A little choppy out to sea, but a great experience.

Last but not least we went to Dubai Old city one night for dinner. Its quite ironic to knock down old buildings, build loads of new restaurants in the same shape buildings and reopen the areas as Dubai Old City. But no one ever said the place was not ambitious.

We also made our usual visit to the Burk Khalifa but didn’t go up this time.

The day before we left it rained. Hard. Very Hard. In fact some of hardest rain I have ever seen. When you live somewhere where you hardly ever see rain drainage is not top of the list. Therefore after an hour, there was some pretty serious standing water. I only have video so cannot put up here, but google recent rain in Dubai and you will see some interesting sites.

Great trip, next up the good ole US for Xmas. Maybe.

Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders – NFL 06/10/2019

October 8, 2019 Leave a comment

The NFL International Series (do they still call it that ?) is upon us, and once again my team the Oakland Raiders is hosting a game in London. Anything to save the rent on the Coliseum. Anyway, suits me. When they move to Vegas, I might get to see them there as well. I’ve been over there once or twice…. This was my third time watching the Raiders. All in London.

The opposition were the Chicago Bears, who were on a 3 game win streak, and on paper looked better than the Raiders. The Bears have one of the best linebackers in the game, in Khalil Mack (ex Raider) and Oakland have a leaky guard and tackle set up. The only thing in our favour was Mack and Derek Carr are best buds so maybe he’ll take it easy on him !

The trip to the ground was uneventful , and the wander up Seven Sisters Road bought back memories of old trips over here with West Ham. (Gary Lineker hat-trick on a cold wet evening, anyone ?).

The new Tottenham stadium looks like aliens have landed in an estate in Haringey. It’s seriously impressive.

Outside the stadium there was less to see and do than Wembley, but if I’m honest, the British aren’t really into the whole tailgating scene. Its more a beer, maybe some food and get in for the Anthems. They did have some stuff for the kids and things to get your photo with, but no lines of food trucks, and cheerleaders, etc.

Which is pretty much what we did. Met up with some friends (Bears fans !) pre game in a local, pub and a few libations were had. Met the Raiders Squid in the garden of said pub. Odd outfit.

Inside, the ground is amazing. Space for everyone, and plenty of outlets, and its own brewery. Pretty impressive.

Big shout for Rhys for sorting out tickets at the very last minute. Thanks to all the via-gogo, stub hub, ticket touting robbing tossers for me not getting tickets on launch!

Chicago’s starting QB was injured and therefore not playing which was a bonus, and we kept things tight and ended Q1 with a 0-0 scoreline.

The Raiders lit up the second quarter,taking names and driving in (Josh Jacobs especially) 2 touchdowns and a field goal to go 17-0 up at half time. WHHHAAATTT ! To say I was happy, was an understatement. However, things were tempered by the food and drinks service up on level 5. Complete disaster compared to the more quick food court style of downstairs. 20 mins for a packet of crisps ? No thanks.

As usual for any team I support, you are never safe, and the Bears hit back with 21 in the 3rd quarter. Carr at one point, just chucked the ball to nowhere, overturning to Mack in a bizarre move. We also had one interception ripped out on our 1 yd line. Grrrrrr

So the witching hour arrives and I am in familiar territory. 0-3 for me ? Maybe.

Carr managed to get us up the park ,using the running game that I admit I’m not a fan of. Josh Jacobs finished off his MVP performance jumping over the pile of players on the line to put us back in the lead with 2 to go.

The Bears piled it on and the game looked like going OT, but a long ball from Daniel was intercepted and that was that. 3-2 for the Raiders this year. 1-2 for me alltime !

WHUFC vs Crystal Palace EPL 2019-2020 05/10/2019

October 7, 2019 Leave a comment

As usual West Ham fail to capitalise on a good run of form and throw away a lead to a decent enough team, but not quite at our level.

As with most Hodgson’s teams, there was a straight 4-4-2 across the board, where defence and midfield play close together meaning we have to break down. Once or twice we did get through, and as you might have seen in the build up for our goal,once we do, it was plain sailing.

Anderson and Lanzini were nowhere near their best, therefore creativity was at a premium. In fact the whole team seem to have a bout of wooliness, that stifled any smart play. Haller had chances to score that he didn’t take , and they got very lucky with a rebound. The penalty was also slightly contentious but more likely to be given than turned down. So all in all, happy with the draw.

Aha, but we didn’t draw, we lost. TO VAR. I’m OK with VAR, but for clear and obvious errors only. It’s an assist, not a judge. For a player to be adjudged 5 mm onside , there needs to be something else with the same amount accuracy. The ability to match exactly when the ball is kicked/headed/whatever. Unless you can 100% match these two, any of these too close calls cannot be made, and you have to go with the on the pitch decision (which was offside). From where I sat, it looked offside as well, but there you go. Lose 2-1 and move on.

We are seventh in a league that outside the top one, looks pretty open.

WHUFC vs Manchester United – EPL 2019-2020 23-09-2019

September 23, 2019 1 comment

Before someone tells me I only write about wins, I have only made one of our two previous home games this season and that was the predictable white wash by City on the opening day, and there was literally nothing to write about.

I arrived at this game quietly confident (and had been for a couple of weeks). We have been not only playing well but seem to be settled in our style and cadence. This hasn’t been seen for some time. Man U on the other hand seem to be struggling with team selection and a (for them) poor transfer window. This also hasn’t been seen for a while.

I watched Man U in their Thursday night European game and thought they huffed and puffed, but in Greenwood they had a player, who could get in amongst our defence.

Talking of which, the preferred line up seems to be Ogbonna and Diop in the centre back berths. I have warmed back to Ogbonna since his most recent run in the team. He has stopped the silly mistakes and seems confident to be the leader over Diop, whereas with Reid or Collins he wouldn’t despite being the better player. There were some interesting words being said about Balbuena by MP, so lets trust the manager on that one. And 5 games unbeaten suggests he is right.

There were 2 enforced changes this week, Cresswell coming in for Masuaku at left back and Fornals getting the nod over Wilshere for the Lanzini position. Fornals, sort of yes. Cresswell however seem to split the support, who were vocal in their support for either Zaba or Johnson, both right backs.

Longer readers will remember my obsession with round pegs in round holes, so I was happy with the selection. I don’t get the stick Cress gets although I admit he was a better player pre injury. We are not enamoured with high quality left backs !

Our visitors decided not to play Greenwood, which suited me and with no Pogba, and the aging Mata and Matic playing, seemed quiet understrength.

The first half was a pretty dull affair up until just before half time, a Noble – Anderson interchange ended up with the ball at Yarmalenko’s feet, and he duly slotted it away.

I did have a lot of words to follow that wordpress dained not to save, so I’ll be brief.

Second half, West Ham were the better team by far, especially after Rashford left the field with an injury. Cresswell topped off a good game on this comeback by raising the spirit of Dimitri Payet to drill in a free kick late on in the half.

Nearly everyone played well, Noble was outstanding. Fornals, not so. He needs to rise to the pace of the game. I was very surprised to see Anderson and not Fornals being replaced by Wilshere. But I suppose MP thought the game was won and he needed the gametime. MOTM was Ogbonna, commanding at the back and looking like a leader.

The press have gone to town on Man Utd with no praise for us, as usual. We are now back to back winners against Man U in the league at home. Yesterday was plainly a good team performance against a not so good one, but this time I dont feel it was a bad day at the office for our visitors. It’s more endemic and could be the new standard unless things change quickly. There is a malaise in Manchester , which I think was displayed by the subplot of Phil Jones and Ed Woodward. Why Greenwood never got a chance I don’t know.

Apparently Sky was full of Roy Keane trapping off. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

On the way I met a group of lost early 20’s Man U fans, and each one shook my hand, so at least real fans got it. These are lads who have only known success, so fair play. Also had my photo taken by a crazy Ukranian who was shouting about Yarmalenko.

Oxford and Bournemouth up next. Both away. Would be nice to get an unbeaten September in.

Muse September 2019 – O2 Arena

September 16, 2019 3 comments

So it’s been 5 years since a music blog. https://mrben09.com/2014/09/17/invictus-games/

Maybe its about time to do another ! This passed weekend I was lucky enough to score a ticket through a good friend to see Muse at the O2 London. Easy trip for me, so why not. This was the end of their Simulation Theory tour which had been doing the rounds this year.

I have to say , it was pretty spectacular both sonically and visually. The stage set, although massive for 3 people ,was well filled out with robots (dancers) , and screens, and the walk down areas made well to reduce the size of the Thunderdome that is the O2.

All classics were duly ticked off (Plug in Baby, Time is running out, Knights of Cydonia) ,along with other crowd favoutires and most of the new album. A 2 hour set felt right, and the band go further to cement their place as the Queen of their generation.

The over the top presentation I hope is acknowledged by the band for what it is, a great visual and no more. Easily the best screens and use of them I have seen by anyone, But as they (the band) get bigger and less attached to reality, strange things will happen.

Next Band Watch will be in 2 weeks where i will be taking in the delights of Pub Rock Mod bands in Clitheroe. Just as important and valuble. Everyone starts somewhere.

Calgary and the North – August 2019

September 9, 2019 1 comment

Recently went over to Canada for some R+R, and started in Calgary and , headed North up to Jasper and Canmore and some places in between. Had a great time but the photos are the winner here.

So heres some notes I did for someone else, and the photos:

Johnson Canyon near Banff. Bit tourist, made paths etc. 2 Waterfalls. Not the end of the world if you don’t get there, but worth taking a look if its quiet. I say that as its one way in and out, and if it’s busy I imagine a nightmare.

Peyto Lake. Just off the Icefields Parkway North of Banff. Short walk from the car park but the view is amazing. Once again could get chaotic if busy, but worth it.

Further north around Jasper you have Valley of the Five lakes. Proper hike for about 5 miles, not surprisingly, around 5 lakes. Some great views, nice bit of countryside. Bring mozzie repellent. By the state of me once we had finished, bears would have been welcomed !

Maligne Canyon. Bit touristy and made paths but worth the walk along ever increasingly deep canyons and water just crashing through.

Lake Louise and Lake Moraine. Lake Louise is the jewel in the crown and has a 5 star hotel attached. We blagged our way into the hotel car park for nish, but they will let you in for $20 if it’s not too busy. Else it’s get lucky in the nearby public car park, or its a 7km park and ride. Canoes for $100 an hour. No thanks !

Moraine is close by and more normal and worth the short drive. Also has a shuttle service but we managed just to drive on in. I thought the actual view and lake was better at Moraine but seemed to be in the minority.

Grassi Lake. We went here on a recommendation from an old friend who now lives in Canmore, just outside of Banff, who we saw for dinner. I didn’t even know she lived there until 1 week before we left. Hadn’t even spoken to her in 10 years ! Any way. It’s a locals hike, quite a bit uphill with 2 amazing smallish lakes at the end, but the view of the main lake from the top of the hill is worth it as well. Bear country, take your spray.

If you fancy something more hardcore in that area, there’s Ha-Ling peak

WHUFC vs Newcastle United 02/03/2019 – EPL2018/2019

March 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Very late as is becoming the norm, and I know I’ve missed a couple of games, but Fulham at home was just that. Fulham at home. Despite their early lead, as soon as it went to 1-1 they really didn’t want to know. Since then their manager has been sacked and former hammers favourite Scott Parker has been installed, so good luck to him , he will need it.

Newcastle arrived on a decent run and were likely to be a better test than when we beat them at their place earlier in the season.

Actually, stuff that. The Geordies were also devoid of ideas and even their fans were (for them) a little quiet. Today was all about a real club legend. Billy Bonds. Six foot two, eyes of blue and all that.

The stand I usually sit in was being renamed after him, and he now sits alongside Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking in getting this honour. This led to Gary Lineker winding up twitter suggesting the remaining stand was becoming the Mark Noble Stand. Although a little premature I think that would be better than what it probably will be. The Lycamobile stand ? The Betway ? The Kens Cafe ?

Anyway I say the stand I usually sit in, as for the first time since we moved I sat elsewhere for the game. In the prawn sandwich seats no less. Not quite a box, but very corporate. We (me and @mrsmackay) were kindly hosted by a supplier of hers to enjoy the game in a different atmosphere. This involved getting there considerably early and me seeing the “dark side” of the stadium I have never been around to that side, not even for other events.

Its very much what you would expect if you have been in the Club England section at Wembley. Lots of escalators and people knowing where they are going (except for you). We ended up in a lounge called the Forge for our lunch. Whilst munching, we enjoyed an interview, on a stage about 10ft away, about Mr Bonds, from some ex players. Namely, Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart, Stuart Slater, Pat Holland and Kenny Brown (jnr). Being the game was against Newcastle, Alvin was given the liberty of retelling his historic hatrick against the magpies (again!).

Food was 7/10. Entertainment was 8/10. Half time was interesting , listening to a guy on an acoustic guitar, playing Jump Around by House of Pain. Different, but he just about got away with it. Service was as you would expect, polite.

Don’t get this in Block 232

Anyway we filtered out early , as Bonzo was getting his presentation 20 mins before kick off. We were greeted by a great sight.

Billy was led out though an honour guard of ex players

And then was interviewed by Alvin Martin

Billy and Alvin

And then cut his ribbon, to open the stand. During his lap of honour there was not a dry eye in the house, especially from the man himself. as he made his way around the stadium a tribute played on the screens.

Billy Bonds is after you !
Bill finishing his standing ovation.

All parties have to end, and if you know where to look you can see my empty seat !

Then there was the little matter of the game. Mark Noble is the closest we have to a Billy these days, and we are all hoping that the mantle will be taken up by Declan Rice in the future. He did himself no harm by netting a header after 7 minutes, much to the consternation of @mrsmackay who wanted a bet on him to score the first goal only to be dissuaded by yours truly! From then on there was only one winner and a mistimed tackle on Hernandez gave us a pen just before half time. Ably converted by Mr Noble. The second half was only notable for me for 2 reasons. One, Longstaff at Newcastle is being touted as better than Rice, and was hooked at half time while Declan was picking up another MOTM and more plaudits. Secondly, and more interesting was Marko entering the fray (mystery illness from Wednesday cleared up). Clearly not happy at being a sub and not the darling of the fans anymore, outside of 2 runs it was Marko pre Moyes of sulking and and waving arms. He needs to sort himself out or the manager has no option but to start him from the bench every game, which actually is doing peak Marko a disservice and could actually cost us points along the way.

So, another good day at a stadium that is slowly (very slowly) becoming home. Not sure if I could do corporate every game but it has its advantages.

Handy to be able to watch replays in real time !