Haka challenge

13 11 2017

It’s cold, wet and very windy here in Beautiful B.C. and – not surprisingly – the golf course is closed for the day. I’ve toured the back yard and picked up two garbage cans worth of debris. I’ve spent an hour or so with Scottish Wife sorting out receipts dating back to the dawn of the century. And now I’m on my third cup of (very strong) coffee while I peruse the latest in the world of sport. No golf on TV today (it’s a Monday), no soccer either except Italy v Sweden (and I don’t have that channel), no cricket (the ritual slaughtering of the England team at the hands of the Aussies doesn’t start for a couple of weeks yet). But what’s this? The Rugby League World Cup and a pre-match tête-à-tête between Samoa and Tonga:

Goosebumps, eh?

Dave B.

P.S. I’m trying desperately hard to make a link, however tenuous, with golf and this is the best I can come up with: how about a golf haka at the next Ryder Cup with the teams led by, say, Ian Poulter and Patrick Reed? Now that would get the fans fired up…

 

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The proposed new Rules of Golf

17 08 2017

As you may know, the USGA and the R&A, the bodies responsible for implementing the rules of golf worldwide, are in the process of introducing a major overhaul of the rules. These will not come into effect until January 2019, but the following video will give you an idea of what is likely to be in store. Many of the changes are designed to simplify the rules and to speed up play, neither of which can be considered a bad thing, but for traditionalists and rules nerds (and I plead guilty to both charges), some of these changes may be difficult to accept at first.

For the casual golfer, I doubt they will make much difference, and I’m pretty sure even I will get over it eventually. If you’re a keener and you’d like to give feedback to the R&A, follow the link to their homepage once you’ve watched the video.

Warning: if you really don’t like golf, you may wish to forego the video – unless, of course, you are a lover of the Scottish accent (“And who isn’t?” asks Scottish Wife), in which case pour yourself a dram and enjoy:

 

All da best!

Dave B.





Hasta siempre, Comandante!

13 04 2017

Scottish Wife and I got back from a 15 day visit to Cuba last week. We had a wonderful time in a fascinating country and have many tales to tell of the dynamics of the Cuban state and its people. There were a couple of constants, though: firstly, there was music everywhere we went, and secondly there were the slogans, some obviously state sponsored but many others daubed on walls or rickety posters. Many were in praise of Fidel Castro, but many others referred to ”el Comandante”, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. I leave you to your own opinion about Che – after all, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist – but I do love this song:

In every city, town and village we visited we saw the iconic slogan ‘hasta la victoria siempre!’ (‘to victory, always!’), Guevara’s closing words in his farewell letter to Castro and the Cuban people, written just before he left the country for the Congo and Bolivia where he was captured and then killed by U.S. backed forces in October 1967.

My own favourite slogan, however, was one I saw written on a dilapidated cement factory wall just outside of Havana: ‘Aqui no se rinde nadie, cojones!’. I figured out that the first four words meant ‘no-one’s surrendering here’ and our Cuban guide Eric explained they were shouted at President Batista’s men by Juan Almeida when his men were surrounded by government forces during the Castro-led invasion of December 1956. Almeida was one of only 12 out of 78 revolutionaries to survive that particular battle, but went on to become an important part of the ‘Triumph of the Revolution’, when Batista was finally ousted in December 1958 and Castro took power.

“But what does the last word mean?” I asked Eric. “Ah, mi amigo,” came the reply, “That word is too rude for me to tell you!” So I looked it up – and if you want to know the answer, you’ll have to Google it too!

Viva Cuba y la gente cubana!

Dave B.

(P.S. I should mention that SW and I travelled on a tour organised by Tom Robertson of the Comox Valley. I can’t speak highly enough of the tour. Tom can be contacted by email at tom@cuba1tours.com or by phone at 1 877 334 0355. I’m not on a %age for endorsements – as far as I know, anyway!)

Viñales haircut

(Oh, and here’s the customary me-getting-my-haircut-in-another-country picture. The catch? The hairdresser has nipped out of the kitchen – yes, that IS a kitchen – for a minute and our bus driver Angel has grabbed the comb and scissors and is actually cutting my hair!)





Viva Italia!

4 11 2016

Scottish Wife and I have just got back from a visit to Europe. Three weeks ago we flew in to London Gatwick and I immediately headed west to see my family while she headed east to see hers. One week later I joined her at her sister in law’s in Essex to be told that we (SW and I) had two days to plan a trip to ‘somewhere warm’. The following day we’d settled on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy and 24 hours later we were on an EasyJet flight to Naples.

Here’s the Coles Notes version of our trip:

1. We stayed in a very friendly, family run hotel in Pompeii, about 100 yards from the nearest train station. Unfortunately, the bridge you had to cross to reach it (the Ponte Persica), which had been there since Roman times, was closed for repairs and so every day we had to use the next station, a mile down the line, and brave the traffic without the benefit of any sidewalks. We quickly learnt that Italian drivers are very skilled at missing pedestrians – by a couple of inches.

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Up Pompeii! And yes, that is Vesuvius you can just make out in the background..

2. The guided tour of Pompeii was my non-culinary highlight of the week. We spent two hours hanging on our guide’s every word and then went off to do some exploration of our own. Brilliant! We also visited the less famous (but better preserved) ruins of Herculaneum and of course made the mandatory hike up Mount Vesuvius.

3. All these places (as well as Naples to the north, Sorrento to the south and all points in between) were easily reachable by train (once you’d got to the station, of course – see 1. above). And the maximum fare was 2 euros 20 (about $3.30). Say what you like about Mussolini and fascism, but he did set up a decent railway system. (Let’s hope they’re not saying the same thing about Donald Trump 80 years from now…)

4. On the down side, train etiquette seemed somewhat lacking. Some people (I’d like to claim they were all American tourists, but that may not be wholly true) would literally shove their way onto the train before passengers had a chance to disembark. However, one of our best train encounters was with two elderly, non English speaking ladies from Naples. We tried French, Spanish and mime without success until a young couple in the seats across from us started to translate for us. We covered family, tourism and Brexit and were well on the way to world peace when the young couple had to get off. By now everyone else in the carriage was looking on and a young lad offered to take up the role of translator. We eagerly resumed, only for the youngster to interrupt us 30 seconds later to say “I not understand. I no very good at English. Maybe 5 out of 10?” “Er, maybe 2,” I said, and the whole carriage cracked up.

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

5. Real Italian pizza is every bit as good as you imagine it’s going to be. Ditto for ice cream and espresso coffee. However, I’d never heard of sfogliatelle (pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese) before last week. Now just typing the word has put my salivary glands into full flow mode.

6. What with me being a bit of a polyglot an’ all, I figured I’d be able to learn basic Italian on the 3 hour flight from Stansted to Naples. That kid on the train who I rated a 2/10? Put me down as a 1.5. Just enough to ask a basic question and then have no idea what the answer means. “Sono inutile!”

7. See Naples and die? We had beautiful weather for 7 days out of the 8. The one day it rained and blew a gale was when we went to Napoli. We traipsed up and down the cobblestones of the admittedly cool (but slightly scary) back streets, me singing the Peter Sarstedt hit “Where do you go to, my lovely?” all the while, getting wet feet while trying to avoid the detritus all around us. Naples: city of dog sh!t and broken umbrellas.

Positano. Wow indeed!

Positano. Wow!

8. Capri and the Amalfi Coast on the other hand were spotless and very, very upmarket. Also, given the narrowness of the winding roads in both places I would say there’s a case to be made for the bus drivers there to be as talented as any in their profession world wide. And Positano? Wow indeed!

9. SW and I slept through the tremors that rocked central Italy. On hearing the news that the earthquake’s epicentre was only 100 km from us, my perfectly innocent question as to whether the earth had moved for her during the night was met with a snort of derision.

10. Co-winners of the Nicest Italians award were our lovely hotel receptionists for their unendingly enthusiastic suggestions for our day trips; the translators on that train trip from Sorrento to Pompeii; the restaurant owner who, when he learned that we knew Pasqualina at the Hotel Costa, cancelled our expensive taxi ride back from the restaurant and told one of the waiters to take us back in his beat up Fiat 500 instead; and finally, the brothers who ran the fruit and veg stall just down the road from the hotel. They’d already endeared themselves to Julie by insisting she try one of their fresh figs for free before buying and then gave her half a kilo for 1 euro 50. When I asked where the nearest wine shop was one of the brothers tapped the side of his nose, disappeared through a curtain and returned with an unlabelled bottle of red: ‘vino di casa vero’, he said. Real house wine, from his own house!

Grazie mille, Italia!

Dave B.

And, just in case you’re struggling to remember that Peter Sarstedt song, here it is:





The Cat

7 10 2016

I was 12 years old when England won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. Four years later, defending the trophy in Mexico, they made it through the group stages without difficulty and in the quarter final match led West Germany 2-0 with 20 minutes to go. England’s legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks had had to pull out of the game with food poisoning but they had a great replacement in Peter Bonetti, nicknamed ‘the Cat’ because of his amazing agility and reflexes. Unfortunately, Bonetti fumbled a shot to give the Germans hope. Sure enough, Germany went on to win 3-2 after extra time and Bonetti never played for England again. I’m now 62 and still waiting in vain for a second England victory.

When I immigrated to Canada in 1992 I joined a local soccer team called the Collingwood Innvaders. Our goalie was also English, also named Peter and also known to his team mates as the Cat – not because of his great skills, however, but because of his tendency to have a nap if play was concentrated in our opponents’ half of the field. Peter Dobbs only played for that first season, but we’ve become great friends over the past two decades – and fierce rivals on the golf course.

For the last few years, always in late September, we’ve played a series of matches – always match play – at Gold River. Peter plays fewer than a dozen rounds a year (and I play 150), he doesn’t have a proper handicap (and I know my factor down to the last decimal point) and his knowledge of the rules is selective at best (and I’m a rules official). Despite all this our games are nearly always close (thanks to some pretty tough negotiating on the first tee re exactly how many shots I’m to give him). And at close of play, one of us always looks pretty smug:

Just how smug can a man look?

This is Peter after the first round at Gold River last year.

So last week I phoned Gold River to make our usual booking for two rounds of golf, overnight camping and our standing order for lots of beer and fish and chips. To my dismay I was told that the course was closing the very next day! Oops – lucky I phoned. Plan B was quickly put into operation. A quick look at the weather forecast, an equally quick look at Peter’s 2 for 1 Lung Book, and phone calls were made to Cowichan Golf and Country club and Mount Brenton in nearby Chemainus.

The weather worked out perfectly. It was lashing down when we left Comox on Wednesday morning, but sunny and warm when we arrived in Cowichan. I played pretty well, shooting 81, but I was giving Peter a shot on all but the Par 3’s and it proved too much. He made a great up and down at the 18th to win the match one up. “Well played, Mr Dobbs”, I muttered through gritted teeth. I was about to mention my bad luck in mysteriously losing a ball on the 17th fairway, but then remembered my tee shot on #16 which landed in the bunker, hit a rake and ricocheted onto the green. Better to maintain a dignified silence and hold on to the moral high ground…

Right next to Mount Brenton golf course is a large parking lot ‘for the use of golf patrons only’ and that’s where we camped in Peter’s RV that night. Peter had provided supper, so I bought the beers at the somewhat dubious-looking pub a couple of hundred yards down the road. Peter was pretty quiet (he’s not usually quiet after a victory) and when I asked him why he explained that he’d just remembered that he’d had a heart attack last time he’d played Mount Brenton. Not only that, but the guys he’d been playing with (not knowing how serious it was) had insisted that he paid up his $6 bet before he left the course! Now Peter is quite capable of playing mind games if he thinks he can gain an advantage, but I knew that even he wouldn’t stoop so low as to make up a story of this magnitude. Actually, it reminded me of another reason why he’s called the Cat – with all his heart attacks and other medical issues over the years, he must have nine lives!

The morning got off to a rocky start when the pro shop pointed out that our 2 for 1 coupons were not valid until noon. Even Peter couldn’t talk his way out of that one and I think that may have affected his play. I wasn’t at my best, but Peter struggled too – except on the greens where he irritated me no end by making every single short putt he looked at. After 14 holes we were all square, but suddenly his putter deserted him and he three putted the next two holes to leave me dormie two. When he hooked his tee shot into the trees on #17 we knew Peter needed a miracle. We found his ball, but all he could do was chip out sideways while I – for once – hit my second shot pretty close to the flag. As we walked to the green, Peter mentioned he’d felt pretty nervous about his tee shot. I agreed that #17 was indeed a narrow fairway to aim at. “It’s not hitting the fairway I was worried about,” Peter replied. “This is where I had my heart attack.”

We were pretty sombre for all of thirty seconds and then it was back to the usual insults, with Peter insisting I putt out from 18 inches when I had three putts for the match. When I queried the need to putt out, he simply said “Well, you never know.” And of course he’s right – you never do.

Over coffee on the patio afterwards, Peter brought out a trophy he’d made for the event. To say it was ugly would be putting it kindly. Thinking of Scottish Wife’s probable reaction if I showed up with the trophy in tow, I protested: “But we won one match each, Peter, so surely we should share it.” “Indeed we do, my son – but you get it for the first six months!”

ugly-trophy

ugly-trophy-2

Don’t tell anyone, but the way I’m playing these days I’m actually pretty happy to be part winner of a trophy, however ugly it may be:

All da best (and cheers, Peter!)

Dave B.





Andy Murray – King of the Death Stare

19 08 2015

I’m not a huge tennis fan, but I saw this clip this morning and couldn’t help but burst out laughing. It helps if you’re bilingual (French/English or – to be more precise – Québecois/Scottish), but I’m pretty sure you’ll laugh too even if you’re not.

Incidentally, the way Andy Murray is viewed in England tells you something about the great Anglo/Scottish divide. He was born in Glasgow and raised in nearby Dunblane (he was a student at the primary school on the day in 1996 when a local man entered the school and killed 16 children, their teacher and then himself). Perhaps this accounts for Andy’s steely demeanour, or perhaps it’s connected to his parents splitting up when Andy was just 10 years old.

Anyway, whenever Andy Murray wins a tournament (Wimbledon, say) the English consider him to be a Brit. Whenever he loses, he’s Scottish.

Canadians would never be like that, would they?

All da best, and let’s not bring Scottish Wife into this, eh?

Dave B.

P.S. I was going to write about the hole in one I got on #17 at Glacier Greens on Monday, but seeing as I never even saw it go in the hole and I’ve really only got Bud Bryan’s word that it did, it’s not much of a story. Anyway, monkeys and typewriters…





R.I.P. Muggsy

6 05 2015
Muggsy

Muggsy. Still got it.

In the summer of 1996 a new addition arrived in the Brooker family. For reasons never explained at the time, Scottish Wife had taken herself off to the SPCA in Courtenay and returned with a scrawny looking tabby kitten, just a few weeks old. “He was born in a ditch and his mother’s died,” she said, “and if no one takes him he’ll have to be put down.” There are times when SW can be talked out of a course of action by using logic and rational argument. This was not one of those times. Apart from Bob the goldfish a decade or so earlier – and that hadn’t ended too well – we’d never been a pet family. Now we had a little bundle of energy tearing around the house, jumping at shadows and leaping half way up the curtains. Kate had picked him out – the smallest of a litter of five – so it was up to Joe to choose a name: no hesitation – in honour of Tyrone ‘Muggsy’ Bogues, at 5’3” the shortest player ever to play in the NBA and surely the owner of the most impressive vertical in all of basketball, Muggsy it had to be.

It wasn’t too long after that we took Muggsy to the vet. We borrowed a cage to transport him in the car. He was fine going into the cage – we must have caught him unawares – but when we arrived at the vet’s he went absolutely mental. A year later, when we received a phone call to remind us that it was time for Muggsy’s annual check up, SW and I looked at each other and said “Nuh.” Apart from being on a special diet for a urinary tract infection, Muggsy remained in the best of health and he never went back to the vet.

If Muggsy had been a human being I think the best word to describe him would have been ‘curmudgeonly’ which, as the rest of the family pointed out, made him ideal company for me. Molson, our second cat, who arrived on the scene four years later, was the friendliest cat imaginable. If anything, Muggsy got even grumpier. He tended to ignore Molson unless she got in his way, in which case he would give her a cuff round the ear.

In recent years Muggsy got a little slower and his hearing started to go (insert your own ‘Just like Dave’ comment here). Although he was approaching his 19th birthday (we never knew his exact birth date so we chose August 4th, to coincide with the date we immigrated to Canada), and we’d started to leave DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) messages with friends whenever we went away, it was a shock to receive a Skype message on Monday from our dear friend Mickey to say that when she’d popped in to check on the house that morning she’d found Muggsy lying dead on the carpet in my study.

Here are some extracts from emails sent between us and the kids yesterday:

Me: Sorry to have to tell you that Muggsy passed away yesterday. Nearly 19. The good news is that you both move up one place in the family hierarchy. Stu’s going to bury him down by the shed.

Kate: Surprised at how sorry I am to hear the news about Muggsy. Can’t believe I never knew how to spell his name. Glad to hear of the burial plans – I’ve never forgiven you for flushing Bob the goldfish down the toilet.

Joe: Damn. I respected that guy more and more each year – a true rags to riches story in joining Molson in a life of luxury. Please give Mom a hug from me.

Joe: P.S. I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I wish it had been Molson.

So from all of us (I think Joe was just kidding) RIP, Muggsy. It’s been a pleasure having you as a part of the family all this time and it’s going to be weird without you.

All da best.

Dave B.

R.I.P.Muggsy

R.I.P. Muggsy