Thursday, 28 April 2011

Going away…

I’m flying to Greece tonight, to my parents’.
I haven’t been there since Christmas which is not that long but I think it would be nice to go. I can’t stand the “excitement” of the Royal Wedding anyway and I can’t wait for it to finish. I know that I will not avoid the silly thing even there. This is an invitation I found on a friend’s facebook page:

Apparently you can watch the whole thing live from the Hilton hotel in Athens for a small fee… This is so revolting. Look at that pink colour!

Anyway, the bright side: I’m off for some nights. It’s not like I haven’t been away recently (in Edinburgh two weeks ago) but my parents want me to go and I don’t mind. I haven’t informed most of my friends since my visit is quite short. So, I plan to keep it low and try to get some rest. I’m not going to run around like a headless chicken trying to see everybody. My experience tells me that I will probably run into the people I am now trying to avoid, but probably that’s my cynicism talking…

I’ll try to get some photos and I’ll ‘see’ you in May! Have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Wednesday humour

I loved this.
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Post Easter (religious) thoughts…

I had quite a lovely long weekend. Jesus Christ was thankfully resurrected. I didn’t have any doubts but our priest did take his time and the resurrection was a bit late. It is supposed to occur exactly at midnight. Most people (sometimes me included) go to church a little bit before that, to leave right after. According to custom, you are not supposed to eat (much) during the day because you mourn. By the time it gets close to midnight most people feel extremely hungry and don’t stay long after the joyful message of the resurrection is delivered...

that is so blasphemous...

Speaking of Jesus Christ, there was a very interesting program yesterday on the television. I don’t normally blog or comment on TV programs but I was surprised by it. It was called: “Derren Brown: Miracles for Sale”. According to Wikipedia, the know-it-all portal of modern times, Derren Brown is a British illusionist, mentalist, painter, writer and sceptic (yes, all that). He is one of those magicians that perform on the street and on the television. I have to admit that I am not very familiar with his work since I don’t watch telly much and this was the very first time I watched a full episode. By the way, he’s gay and fairly cute… Here’s a recent interview of his.

Derren Brown

On this episode, he wanted to confront the so-called faith healers. These people in the name of religion, faith, Jesus or whatever you want to call it, take advantage of the believers to sell them hope. The price of this healing though is very expensive and very dangerous. There have been numerous occasions where people stopped taking their medication or spent life savings and vast amounts of money to be “healed” in the name of Jesus. There is some information here.

In order for Derren to prove that most of this healing is false and these religious ‘shows’ staged, he decided to take an inexperienced performer and make a healer out of him. Through normal casting he found an ex-diving instruction and he created a man called ‘Pastor James’. During the training period, all members of Derren’s group travelled to Texas, USA, where these faith healers are renowned to perform. In six months, ‘Pastor James’ learned how to perform in a religious gathering, hypnotise the crowd and perform ‘healing’!

The show does demonstrate how these well known healers make fortunes in the expense of human misery. The tricks they pull are well organised and they can trick masses of followers. At the end of the show, ‘Pastor James’ stages a very successful healing demonstration and does prove how this so call healing is not to be taken seriously.

However, I don’t think than any progress can easily be made. It has been proven in the past how lots of these shows are staged and the healers are imposters, but still people do get victimised in the name of religion. I do believe that lack of proper education is a key factor that unfortunately is very difficult to be provided.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Easter thoughts…

I’m not a religious person. I never was. However, in my culture religion and national identity go together. We are taught in school how Church managed to keep alive our national identity through the years of the Ottoman/Turks oppression. Most of our national celebrations are the same day as a big Christian celebration as well. It all goes together. I don’t know what’s going on now, but in my years ‘Orthodox Christianity’ is taught in schools. We got an hour of lectures on Christian celebrations, on the lives of the saints and on psalms in public school every week. You simply couldn’t avoid it.

The most celebrated holiday in Orthodoxy is ‘Easter’. It’s not Christmas and it’s not the 15th of August. Greeks go totally wild then. On Easter Sunday, there are huge gatherings of family and friends, most likely outdoors, and vast quantities of food are devoured with traditional Greek music on the radio. The feast lasts from dawn (to set the lamb spit or put the roast in the oven) till late in the evening when dancing follows the alcohol consumption. It is no wonder that that day has the biggest rate of heart attacks of stupid people eating to their death after following the Lent the previous days.

This year though I’m not going to Greece to celebrate Easter. The flight tickets were astronomical. I could more easily fly to any other destination of this part of the world than go to Greece. I could go to see any of you bloggers happily with less money (if I had any left). I am going to Greece the following weekend of the Royal wedding (don’t let me start on that) since it was my mother’s birthday present for me! She simply mentioned that she wouldn’t have it for me not to visit during the (extended) Easter period, so she bought me these tickets.

So, this weekend I’ll be all alone! JJ is doing his wild late work shifts which mean that he’ll be sleeping most of the day. My housemate is flying to central Europe with her sister and friends. Most of my Greek friends are already gone and the rest of the non-Greeks do not celebrate Easter anyway! I don’t really mind though, I'll have my fun.

I’ll try to go to Church on Friday and Saturday evening. It’s more of a custom than a need. I feel closer to my family and heritage doing that. The last time I think I went to Church was again on good Saturday last year. I completely avoid the busy central St. Sofia in Bayswater (a complete nightmare) and try to visit other smaller establishments elsewhere. On Saturday morning I’ll go grocery shopping and I’ll make myself a nice roast on Sunday. I’ll even try to dye some eggs today…


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

When people behave badly…

I visited a client in Yorkshire recently. He paid to have one of our software installed. It’s not something amazingly complicated but it involves installing some stuff on the server and then some other stuff on each user’s PC. Of course the whole thing involves some testing routines and a little bit of presentation of what our little monster technological marvel can do…

I generally enjoy these visits. All expenses are of course covered and I like occasionally spending a day or two out of the office, just for a change. I don’t even mind starting my day much earlier than normal or the time spent in the train going back and forth to the client’s office. When the frequency of these visits is no more than once per month I like spending some quiet time (in most occasions) reading my book and enjoying a nice cup of coffee. I also like meeting new people. My contact in that small village of Yorkshire proved to be quite cute, which is always a plus.

Anyway, while I was installing the software on one user’s machine, I couldn’t help but notice that in the same open-plan office were two other employees. One of them I’ll call junior was quite thin, in his very early twenties with a thin voice and a fringe covering one of his eyes. The second was his superior, in his late thirties, shaved head and a bit hefty. He looked a bit like Al Murray.

It was very obvious by his body language and the way that junior spoke to his superior that he was intimidated and afraid of him. The way he was answered and talked to was rude to say the least and disrespectful. I didn’t want to eavesdrop or to appear that I was watching, but I started feeling uneasy and stressed. I can’t say that the whole scene was a proper case of bullying but I felt bad for the poor guy.

After junior was sent to a job out of the office, a third employer tried to confront the supervisor. I don’t know if he did it because me, a foreigner, was there or because he felt a bit bad too. The supervisor simply answered that junior was a graduate and should know better than asking stupid questions and behaving like that. His reply was proof that the supervisor was an asshole and I felt even sorrier for junior. He would probably serve under the supervisor for a couple of years as his bitch with his confidence levels reaching rock bottom.

It wasn’t my place to talk but I felt guilty about seeing the scene and not doing anything. When I visit a client like that, I do represent my company and I always try to be at my best behaviour. It’s also my job to please the client (always in a professional way) and make sure that everything’s OK and we stay on the best of terms. I can’t simply go and pick on fights but I believe that not being part of the solution of the problem, makes you part of it. Bullying in any form should not accepted…

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Last days’ news…

I’ve been awfully busy lately. I’m not complaining though. I spent most of my weekend outdoors and I loved it, especially with the weather being so nice. On Friday evening we went to listen to a soprano friend singing Handel arias in a nice church of Eastern London.

I missed the protest at the ‘John Snow’ pub in central London though because of that. I read that around 300 couples went outside the pub and kissed for three hours. The homophobic pub owner had closed the pub some hours earlier, but the protest went on anyway! I believe that if he had been at least a bit smart, he could have tried to play along and offer drinks to the protesters or something to try to avoid the humiliation… You simply can’t run a pub when incidents like this happen, especially in the Soho area, it’s so infuriating… As MadeInScotland suggested, we can help now simply close the pub…

Anyway, after the arias I decided to take JJ and go out. We hadn’t been out dancing for ages. So, we decided to go to Soho, have a late dinner and go to ‘bar-code’. I hadn’t been there in ages. I don’t think it’s the nicest place to go, although I can’t really put my finger on what I don’t like about it. Anyway, after a couple of drinks we had our fun. It’s so funny checking people’s behaviour and body language in gay clubs! Apart from some normal nice people, you have the sugar daddies advertising their latest trophies, you have the junkies in their own world seeing butterflies in the air, there are the escorts trying to get new clients or the club queens with the big egos and attitudes. It’s all so entertaining…

A traffic sign in Soho


Saturday started a bit late (after mixing rum and vodka shots the night before). We did however decide to take advantage of the great weather and walk along the river. After a long walk we ended in ‘Tate Britain’. I am not sure why, but I hadn’t visited that particular gallery before. I’ve been to ‘Tate Modern’ so many times but not the other one… It was a very nice day out that we finished with a nice dinner in a South-African restaurant and watching ‘Source Code’ at the cinema. The movie was actually quite good.

Sunday was ‘London Marathon’ day! So we went to see and cheer for the runners! We found a nice spot close to the ‘Embankment’ which was the 40th kilometer of the route! The place was full of people and the atmosphere was amazing. Since we weren’t that far from the finish line, we could see how most of the runners were struggling to keep up and we tried our best to help them. Most runners had their names written on their t-shirts so we tried to call them personally for encouragement.

It was very funny to spot people running with weird costumes. There was a group of runners dressed like Snow-white and the 7 dwarves, smurfs, Big Bird, a guy running with a real washing machine on his back, a guy dressed like Natalie Portman from ‘Black Swan’, a guy dressed in a wedding dress with a carbon picture of Kate Middleton on his face etc. Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough or with a good view to take pictures of all the funny costumes.

a sexy police officer?

human toilet? (with someone collapsing on the side unfortunately)


Big Bird?

Near the finish line! So many people!

It was totally amazing to see how they were trying to keep going when their pain was so obvious. Some people couldn’t even walk properly and they were limping. Some other people were bleeding, especially from their nipples, and still going. We had a couple of runners getting awful leg cramps in front of us but still getting up and trying to run. Two other runners simply collapsed and had to be carried away.

In any case however it was all very inspiring. You could see how mind could win over pain and that if you really put your mind into it, there was no stopping some people…

Friday, 15 April 2011

Quiet evening in…

After spending the last few days out of town, we decided with JJ to lay low, stay in, eat home cooked food and watch a movie. So, I decided yesterday to cook some nice dinner for both of us while JJ provided the entertainment…

It’s no secret that I love seafood and fish in general. I can eat almost everything that comes from the sea. I used to go fishing with my grandfather when I was a child and we used to eat what we caught. What we didn’t eat on the day it was caught, it was put into the freezer to be consumed the days when the weather didn’t allow us to go fishing. In his house if you didn’t eat fish, you simply starved. I learned how to take the bones out of them even before learning how to properly hold a knife.

So, I decided yesterday to make a fish pie. I went to the supermarket and I got the following:
400gr of boneless smoked haddock, 400gr of boneless white cod, 4 eggs, 1 onion, 0.5 pint of milk, 1 kg of potatoes, parsley and I used some of the butter and seasoning I had at home.

For the base of the pie I placed the fish in a frying pan with 500ml of milk and the onions chopped in quarters. I turned the heat on till the milk started boiling and then I left to simmer for 10 minutes till the fish was tender. I removed the onions and kept the milk for the mash potatoes. I cut the fish in chunks and put them in the tray where the fish pie would be baked.

I hard boiled 4 eggs for 8-9 minutes. I left them a bit to cool off and then pealed and chopped them. I mixed the egg pieces and some chopped parsley with the fish in the baking tray:

Then I created the sauce for the fish. In a pot, I added approximately 100gr of butter to melt and then added 50gr of flour. Stirring the contents continuously out of the heat, I’ve slowly added the 500ml of milk used previously to cook the fish. When all milk was added, I placed the pot back for some minutes on the hob and I stirred until sauce was thicker. I’ve also added some pepper, salt and nutmeg. When that was done I added the sauce to the mix of fish and eggs. I stirred them well for the sauce to go everywhere.

I finally created the mash potatoes to seal the fish pie. In another pot I boiled the pealed and chopped potatoes for 20 minutes. When tender, I added a bit of butter and 100ml of milk. Using a potato masher I’ve created the mash potatoes that I’ve placed over the fish mix:

In a preheated oven, I baked the fish pie for 35 minutes in gas mark 6 till the mash became golden:

Recommendations: I suggest offering sex to your partner for these 35 minutes of baking to pass quicker, especially if he is very hungry in the verge of becoming grumpy. It’s an honest mistake to forget the time needed to boil the potatoes and make the mash.

Anyway, the movie we watched was ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’. Having read the book meant that I knew the story and the ending but I have to admit that it was a very nice adaptantion. We liked the fish pie and ate most of it with a glass of white wine.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Edinburgh Half Marathon

I’m back! I’ve made it. OK, we’ve made it! I’m so happy…

The trip to Edinburgh was a success. We tried to take it slow on Saturday and not stress ourselves or walk too much. We went for the run on Sunday morning!

On the way to the stadium where the start line was, we encountered a group of three older ladies with their race numbers, gears etc. They looked to be in their late fifties or sixties. We started talking to them since it was obvious we were headed in the same direction for the same event. They admitted that a week before they had done the Berlin half Marathon. I was so impressed and jealous. I would so much love to do that, especially at their age! Needless to say that they even walked faster than we did…

Funnily enough, me and JJ, we got some nice remarks for our t-shirts from other runners. As I previously posted we were wearing a ‘Running sucks’ t-shirt on the race day. There is a picture that follows. We had three different people asking about where we got them from. We also had a few funny remarks from spectators and supporters on the way!

Unfortunately, the day of the race was very hot! It was more than 20 degrees (Celsius) which made the run very difficult. Even running along the coast line didn’t make a difference on the temperature. There was simply no breeze whatsoever. The race organisers didn’t think that it could be case since last year was wet and cold and they didn’t thought about extra need for water or drinks. When we arrived at the first water station on the 4th mile there wasn’t any water left. We had to run another 3 miles before getting a drink. That was a bit frustrating to say the least. We had to run half the race before getting some hydration.

In addition, the coastline east of the city centre is a bit rural and rough, so we didn’t have much support. Also, the route was not very well designed. We had to go along a road up to a point, do a complete u-turn and come back. Going to the u-turn and back was more than 6 miles. On the way to the u-turn, for more than 30 minutes, we were watching other runners coming our way while we were trying to guess where the return point is. I found that psychologically draining…

I generally enjoyed my half marathon in Bath last year much nicer, as I’ve explained here. I am however very happy and proud that I’ve finished it with JJ. We had lots of fun while staying in Edinburgh. We did a ghost tour visiting the ‘Underground City’ Vaults and we also did a ‘Whisky tour’. The latter was of course in order to overcome a little bit of muscle pain we had. Alcohol does help. I’m not a great fun of whisky but I have to admit the tour was fun…

Here’s some of the pictures I took:

Street performer

The streets of Edinburgh

'The elephant house' coffee place.

The whiskey tour

Victoria Street

The Balmoral Hotel

Hearing ghost stories during the 'Ghost Tour'

Gathering for the race

Running sucks with the medal on hand

The Outhouse. After run drinks

The Scott Monument

The castle at dusk

Friday, 8 April 2011

Things to come…

We’re flying tomorrow morning for Edinburgh. We’re staying there till Tuesday. Fortunately enough it will be 20 degrees and sunny tomorrow! I will be packing sunglasses to go to Scotland! That sentence sounds so surreal! No offence to the Scottish people, but Edinburgh is not the sunniest place on Earth. Of course it didn’t help that the last time I went there it was October, four years ago.


Our Half-Marathon is on Sunday. The weather is supposed to be amazing that day too, ideal for a race. It will be a bit cooler, 15 degrees, with a chance of rain. If it doesn’t rain too much to be slippery and dangerous, we will be fine. A nice shower to keep you cool and wet while running is fantastic. The best thing of the race is that the beginning in next to the Meadowbank sports centre, which is quite high in the city. It is all downhill from there running towards and by the seafront.

I generally find the beginning of each race the most difficult part. The first couple of miles I feel out of breath, unfocused and struggling. I’ve noticed though that when the crowds start to dissolve and I get warmer, especially after the 3rd mile I can get in a trance, lower my heart rate and concentrate on running, enjoying the route. Running downhill in that race I hope will help me to get into that state quicker.

I’ll try to get as much photos as I can, most likely at the beginning and end of the race. Especially the photos at the end will not be the most charming photos ever, but I hope to have the look of a proud man who accomplished something. It is a bit embarrassing to admit that this time I haven’t been fund raising for any charity. In the past, I’ve ran three races for ‘Cancer Research UK’. Next time I promise to run for a greater good cause…


In another very happy note, we’ve booked our summer holidays. JJ gets his holidays at the beginning of each year. This is good because he knows when he’s off and he can plan ahead. However the system is not very flexible and changes cannot be easily arranged if something out of the blue comes along. So, this year, he has three weeks off in July. I’m not a great fan of going away in July because it is far busier, more expensive and so early. I fear that I will be sad finishing my holidays in July and having to wait till Christmas for the next ones.

We had checked various places from Cinque Terre, the south coast of France or Spain. We’ve agreed that we have a limited budget and we’d like somewhere nice with nice beaches, interesting places to visit and nice food. JJ was the one who first suggested Greece. I was reluctant a bit in the beginning since I didn’t want us to be going there every year. I don’t want him to feel obligated that we have to visit my country every year.

However, most people in Greece go on holidays on August. It is not as expensive as the Italian or French Riviera. In addition, I have people to help us with accommodation arrangements and tips on where to go and what to do. So, the plan this year is to go to my brother’s in Athens for a few days (I’d love to see the new Acropolis Museum), then for a few days in Naxos (the biggest and greenest island of Cyclades) and then for a few days in Santorini (I hope this to be the most magical destination).


I’ve never been to Naxos or Santorini. There are so many islands in that island group. I’ve been to a few but not all of them. I hope we’ll have a nice time.


Anyway, our summer holidays are not that close yet. For the time being I have to go eat my carbs and get ready for Sunday! Wish me luck…

I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately. I love it

Have a great Weekend!!! I’ll see you on the other side!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Five on the fifth

It's the 5th of the month and this month's theme is 'Blur'. My first thought was the band but it wasn't very easy for me to go and take a picture of the band, so...
This is my first attempt to participate so be nice to me...

My keyboard at work - Every day's friend and foe

JJ's helping me as well. He's got the artistic eye


The Hammersmith bridge

St. Paul's through the eyes of another building

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sunday day out

We had a really nice day yesterday…

I’m so glad that the weather is getting milder and the daylight lasts longer. I woke up yesterday at JJ’s place a bit late. After having some ‘quality’ time in bed we got ready to head to the city centre.

I am not very keen on the idea of going to London’s centre, especially on a Sunday. There are some places so crowded that I avoid like the Pope avoids gay saunas (Camden Market, Oxford Circus etc). However, the day was nice and we had a shopping list that we had to finish. We did negotiate other shopping destinations but we agreed to give it a try…

Our first stop was ‘Le Pain Quotidien’ close to the Waterloo station. I totally love this place on a Sunday morning for a nice (and somewhat healthy) breakfast and lunch options. I am a sucker for bakes and quiches and I have to say that the ‘spinach and feta’ quiche there is quite good.

nice breakfast to begin a nice day

From there we walked towards the ‘7 Dials’ area and the ‘Long Acre’. That area has a very good variety of shops. After checking some of them we ended in the ‘Nike’ on Neal’s street. There we finalised our outfit for this Sunday’s half marathon. The moment we saw this t-shirt we agree to wear it. Yes, we will be wearing matching t-shirts:

that's the t-shirt we'll be wearing

I hope the other contestants will accept the irony and laugh. I do expect some people to frown or make nasty comments though. My housemate said that we might be on the news…

Anyway, after that I managed to find a nice leather jacket. I never had one and I think that it’s a classic piece that if chosen correctly can be used for years to come. I went for something black, with fine lines and soft leather that I hope will last long:

that's the jacket I got

Our day out in the city ended with a couple of drinks in Soho, the London’s gaybourhood, at the ‘Yard’ and a nice Mexican dinner at ‘wahaca’. I don’t usually go for Mexican food. When in central London I usually prefer oriental cuisine, Japanese, Chinese or Thai. However, we decided to give it a try. Mexican food is not that common at this side of the pond. The last time I had Mexican must have been more than a year ago, but how much noodles or sushi can a guy have? In addition, a couple of nice Margaritas to accompany dinner can help you eat almost anything. I wasn’t disappointed though. We went for a variety of ‘street food’ as they call it that includes tacos, quesadillas and tostadas, most of them quite spicy and very tasteful.

Overall, we had such a nice time yesterday. I hope you had a good weekend as well.