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Last Updated: Monday 09 May 2005 From London


Held Hostage In The Iranian Embassy For A Day

Work goes on and time is ticking away slowly till I go to Iran on the 19 May.  Sigh!  I really need a holiday.

I'm really starting to look forward to going to Iran despite spending a bladder busting day in the Iranian embassy waiting for the visa. In one hour, they processed 2 people. Things seem to speed up after the man had his coffee and by 2pm I had got to the head of the queue. After a few questions and chanting 'Death To America' several times, they told me to come back at 3pm. I did so only to be told I'd have to wait some more while the guy had his lunch.  I finally got the visa an hour later.


The highlight of my day was meeting a cheeky Iranian mother and her English born rather tasty 18ish daughter on the way out. They asked why I was going to Iran. I cheekily said "Obviously, it's sex, drugs and the alcohol". The mother laughed and said "You'll find plenty of that in Iran.  You just need to know where to look!".  The daughter just looked exasperated.


Have already received a few travel tips including one from my doctor. Apparently the girls in Shiraz are the most beautiful in Iran ... how you'd ever know that with all the covering up, I've no idea. My Iranian friend Massih said there are ways but they're subtle ... and require a man to become a connoisseur of women's finer points. I'm not sure whether he was talking about nipples sticking out in the cold air or something else. I'm sure they cover those up ... maybe with tape or something Ayatollah approved.

I was also told by someone to check out  the 'Death To America Cafe' in Tehran. Needless to say, I'll be buying the mandatory souvenir t-shirt for myself and all my friends. Makes a big contrast to my Hard Rock Cafe Beirut T-shirt with the peace symbol on it saying 'All Is One'. And I'm sure they'll be great to wear next time I'm strolling through US Customs. The US border guard love that sh*t.


Am also looking forward to trying out Mecca Cola. Inshallah! Oh! and I saw a picture of a suicide bomber training school in the newspaper so I'll be sure to check that out. I'm guessing it focuses more on the theory rather than the practical. Otherwise, I'm not to sure how many graduates there would be. Anyway ... more when I get back.


The Old Bitch Reborn

As some of you are aware, in 2000, I bought an extremely old high mileage BMW R80RT and promptly called it the 'Old Bitch'.  I can honestly say it was one of the worst two wheeled buys of my life.  It didn't go well, it didn't stop well, and much to my great regret, no one stole it either.  On the other hand, I spent five months of my life on it and after so many miles, crashes, breakdowns and £1200 worth of parking tickets, I reluctantly sold it to a friend of a friend for a second hand VB stubby holder.


Anyway, Stubby Holder Man has resurrected the Old Bitch into something 'muy especial'.  Full Story ».


Heaven Less Opulent Than Vatican, Reports Disappointed Pope

St. Peter's Basilica, with its 90-foot bronze baldachin designed by Bernini, is one of the many Vatican splendors no longer enjoyed by Pope John Paul II (below).

Well, you can always rely on The Onion, one of my favourite news sources, to put world events into perspective.  Here's last week's coverage on the sad demise of the Pope.

HEAVEN—The soul of Pope John Paul, which entered heaven last week following a long illness, expressed confusion and disappointment Saturday, upon learning that the Celestial Kingdom of God to which the departed faithful ascend in the afterlife is significantly less luxurious than the Vatican's Papal Palace, in which the pope spent the past 26 years of his earthly life.  Full Text »

On a more serious note, I have a lot of polish friends and all of them were very upset by the pope's passing, crying as they watched the pope's funeral on TV.  For many Poles, the Pope was Poland and they felt like they'd lost a family member.  There was an amazingly spontaneous gathering of polish people in Trafalgar Square on the Thursday night before his funeral.  The organisers expected 200 people to turn up but after a lot of word of mouth (and text messages), over 5000 Poles living in London turned up. 


Stop Stealing Monkeys

After several weeks of walking past London Zoo Monkey Experience advertisements saying "Put your monkeys, in with our monkeys", I decided to go with to take Anka to the London Zoo to check them out. 

They were mega cute.  I was kind of tempted to steal one. 

 Here are a few photos »


What I've been reading lately

Pompeii By Robert Harris.  Pompeii is basically a who dunnit starting in the two days before the eruption of Vesuvius.  The engineer Marcus Attilius has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct which brings fresh water to a quarter of million people in nine towns around the bay of Napoli.  But .... and there always is one ... springs are failing for the first time in generations, his predecessor has disappeared .... and now there is a crisis on the Augusta's sixty mile main line - somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvious.


Well ... that's the cover blurb.  As far as Robert Harris books go, it's not his best but it's not a bad yarn and you do get an interesting insight into roman aqueducts, how they were built, how were they were maintained.  For me, the thing most interesting was reading about Pompeii and picking out the things I'd seen when I visited the ruins in 2002 - the uncompleted baths, the bakeries, the brothels (and the phalluses carved into the street pointing the way to the brothel), the houses and the Temple of Isis.  Very cool. 


See the photos of my visit to Pompeii here »


Baghdad Blog: The Baghdad Blog  by Salam Pax - During the lead up to the Second Gulf War (and the way things with America and Iran are going, we'll probably be having a third), a young Iraqi man living in Baghdad began publishing a diary on the internet.  He adopted the name Salam Pax and wrote in complete secrecy about life under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and the distengration of his regime.  It's an interesting book.  And the blog is still there.  See Where's Raed for more »


Timeline By Michael Crichton - This is a thriller based around some twisted business genius (eerily similar to Bill Gates) who develops a time travel machine and sends a bunch of history students back fun fun and games in the 14th century 100 years war France.  A damn fine escapist read ... especially if you're spending a heap of time touring castles in Belgium and Luxemburg.


Rifleman By Phillip Elliot-Wright - Okay ... I admit ... I'm a nerd.  I bought this book when we visited Waterloo. It's a about the formation of units of infantry using rifles instead of muskets upto and during the wars against Napoleon.


What've I've been watching and listening to

Churchill - The Hollywood Years - I'm sure a lot of people missed the point of this film and didn't bother seeing.  Basically, it takes the piss out of a how Hollywood rewrites history to suit themselves and America's view of the world.  U571, Pearl Harbour and The Patriot are prime examples. 


In this film, Churchill is American, the real Churchill is not Churchill but someone else, Princess Elizabeth is in love with Churchill, he can rap, King George has no idea what universe he is in, Princess Margaret is spoilt to her teeth and dog-loving Hitler has taken control over the British Army. What more could possibly go wrong?  A great film with a heap of English comedy actors thrown in.

Marmulak (The Lizard) - I saw this fantastic film at the ICA in London with my friend Massih.  It's an Iranian comedy about a thief who escapes from jail dressed as a priest.  Somehow, he manages to carry on the charade and soon has people flooding back into the mosque with his laid back style, sexually suggestive jokes and references to brother (Quentin) Tarantino, the American film director. 

All in all a good laugh.  Massih was in stitches as he hasn't heard Tehran street slang in years.  I found it pretty funny as well given that the Tehran street slang converted to 'Bro', 'Dude', etc. 

See here for a full review »  And here for a sample»


The Pyrenees - I love the Menier Chocolate Factory.  It's a great place near London Bridge where for £20 you can have dinner and see some great theatre in a small intimate setting.  The latest play I saw was called The Pyrenees ...  about a guy that turns up in the Pyrenees with a suit full of cash and a case of amnesia.  Well worth the effort.  See here for the full review ».


Forth coming content (one of these days)

  • Belgium

  • Norway

  • Brazil, Argentina and Patagonia

  • South East Asia

  • Krakow Weekend

  • Motorcycling In Eastern Europe

  • Motorcycling In Spain

  • Northern Chile Short Trip

Previous Editions:

March 2005, July 2004, October 2003, July 2003, November 2002, Mid April 2002, April 2002, December 2001, April 2001, December 2000, November 2000