Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wedding Notes

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything meaningful on the blog. But a rainy Bank Holiday Sunday at the caravan at the Gwalia Falls site in Tresaith finally gave me the chance to type some scribbles from the last month.

A lot has been happening in the past few weeks, not least of which was the small matter of getting married and we are now Mr Martin Veale and Mrs Cath Janes.

Saturday 28 April was the date when Cath and I tied the knot at the Peterstone Court Hotel near Brecon. And a wonderful day it was. The sun shone, the hotel did a great job of getting us organised, the registrar Cheryl King was excellent and everyone entered into the spirit of the occasion. I’m told that there were a few moist eyes amongst our gathered friends and family. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the day went without a hitch.

The tone for the evening was set when Karl O decided to go skinny-dipping in the hotel pool. The evening’s party was a big success, aided and abetted by ChocIce, probably the best cabaret band in the world.

Many thanks to all our friends and family who joined us at the wedding and helped make it such a special day. And big thanks to everyone for the cards and gifts that we received. We also managed to raise several hundred pounds for our nominated charities Mind and the Hospice of the Valleys.

Lots more pictures from the day will be posted on my Flickr photo site in the days and weeks to come. If anyone has any good pictures (or bad ones) of the day please send them to me and I will add them to the site. As you can see, there were quite a few taken.

Our Vows

Cath, you make me happier than I ever thought I could be. You make me feel complete. You make me laugh like no one else can. You make me stop and appreciate the world around us. You make me happy, you make me sad. You make me think, you make me feel. You make me do the washing and the cooking. But most of all, Cath, you make me.

Martin, you make me bogglingly happy and you make me hoot with laughter. You make me look forward to coming home and make me smile when I least expect it. You make me forget whatever I was doing before you came along and you make me as sensible as you make me daft. You even make filling the dishwasher fun. But most of all, Martin, you make me.

We promise that, through the good times and the bad, our life together will be filled with laughter, hope and surprises. From today we promise that we will grow old together but never grow up.

Honeymoon Notes

The Pacific Coast Highway dominated the honeymoon as we travelled down California’s central coast on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And all point in between.

My highlights of the trip included a visit to Alcatraz and riding the cable cars in San Francisco; chilling out in laid-back Monterey; driving down the Big Sur; Hearst Castle; sunsets over Santa Monica beach; seeing the lunacy that passes for the roads in Los Angeles; staying at the Hollywood Roosevelt; and taking in a couple of baseball games.

California Dreaming

Everywhere in California has featured in a song at sometime or another. In San Francisco its Otis Redding’s Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay and the Grateful Dead. In Los Angeles it’s the Beach Boys, the Eagles and the whole Laurel Canyon scene: Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and even Frank Zappa (who apparently is the only one on this list who didn’t ingest industrial quantities of drugs).

Do You Know The Way To San Jose? Well, yes, its down Interstate 580 from San Francisco.

Coincidentally a CD which could easily have been the soundtrack of the honeymoon has just been released, called California Dreaming.

Hotel Notes

The tour itinerary was:

Chancellor Hotel, San Francisco – 5 nights
Monterey Hotel, Monterey – 4 nights
Ragged Point Inn, near San Simeon – 1 night
Hotel Oceana, Santa Barbara – 2 nights
Doubletree Guest Suites, Santa Monica – 3 nights
Hollywood Roosevelt, Los Angeles – 4 nights

It seemed that each hotel was better than the last, although all of them were good. The Hollywood Roosevelt is desperately trendy, and a place where LA wannabes go to be seen. It was so achingly hip I don’t quite know how they let us in. Poolside (the pool itself has a mural designed by David Hockney) was populated by ‘the beautiful people’, in other words anorexic chain-smokers who ever take their pagers and blackberries into the pool with them.

In the evenings there was always a queue of wannabes trying to get in so that they could hand out at the poolside bar. The velvet rope and a seven-foot bouncer kept the out. People obviously thought I must be famous when I wandered back into the hotel late at night armed with a Starbucks coffee, bypassing the queue with no more than a “alright butt” to the bouncer.

Travel Notes

Online check-in must be one of the best innovations in recent years. It turns a truly horrible experience – the airport – into just an unpleasant one. Now, if only BA could work on giving everyone a bit more space in cattle class.

We had a hire car (rental) for most of the trip. It looked like an orange hearse, which we nicknamed Orange Crush. It was a Chevy HHR, and drew lots of looks (not all of admiration).

One of the other worst travel experiences must be renting a car. We pre-booked ours and so were subject to only a few minutes of hard sell (upgrades, roadside assiatance). Some others we saw had a horrendous time: “You need to give me another $300 for a one-way drop-off or you don’t get no car.” Nice customer service, Alamo.

By the way, I’d recommend Holiday Autos which searches all the hire companies to get you a good deal.

On the whole, driving in California is a piece of cake. Away from the big cities he roads are quiet and the driving is very orderly, sedate even. But then there’s LA.

The traffic is Los Angeles was comfortably the worst I’ve ever seen. At rush hour, and several hours either side, the freeways seemed to be jammed with cars. One of the sights of the trip was turning onto the Hollywood Freeway and seeing five lanes of stationery traffic. In both directions! A five mile drive to the baseball game took 45 minutes.

Something that was new to me this trip was valet parking at some of the hotels. It’s a cool feeling to pull up outside the hotel and just throw the keys to one of the attendants. Mind you, it doesn’t come cheap.

Nut Notes

San Francisco must be the nutter capital of the world. At the bottom of Powell Street where it meets Market Street there’s the finest collection of loons you could ever wish to meet. This must be a legacy of too much drug use during the flower-power hippie years. There’s all sorts of manic street preachers and assorted mad hatters. There was a woman who stopped to stroke the tarmac as she crossed the road, oblivious to the traffic bearing own on her.

The number 71 bus to Haight-Ashbury was clearly a meeting place for the mentally unsound. Even the Kurt Cobain wannabe loon shook his head at the strange old woman with the blue wig and eye shadow and special line in mumbling disaffection. And then there was the black guy who I thought had a mobile phone. Except he didn’t. The bus was subjected to one side of a discussion he had with himself. Yikes. Worryingly we didn’t seem to attract that much attention. We must have blended in well.

Art Notes

I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. So it was with trepidation that I went with Cath to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). There were some truly horrendous “installations” there, but the Picasso exhibit was a wonderful insight into his influences on other artists. Pop art was well represented with Roy Liechtenstein and Andy Warhol pieces. I also discovered Georgia O’Keeffe and Stuart Davis for the first time.

Lots more art in the Getty Museum which is near Bel Aire and overlooks smoggy LA. It houses one of the finest art collections in the world; Van Gogh, Degas and other masterpieces were on display, all housed in a fantastic modern building which only someone with Getty’s spare cash could have come up with.

Then there was the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown LA. Some interesting and unusual pieces, but some of it was utter tosh. Toothpicks, q-tips, wire and rope do not make art. Sorry folks.

Nature Notes

At Fisherman’s Wharf in SF there is a sea lion observation deck. As we approached Cath reckoned there was a sea lion tape playing. It tuned to be hundreds of sea lions basking in the sunshine on pontoons just off the wharf.

An even more natural environment for sea lions is a beach near San Simeon which they have decided to take over. To see hundreds of females and pups coming and going into the sea or just lazing in the sun was a privilege.

In Monterey, the aquatic mammal of choice is the sea otter. A bigger and cuter version of the river otter from back home, they were one of the man exhibits at the magnificent Monterey Bay Aquarium. As well as the three in captivity at the aquarium, the guide pointed out several playing happily just offshore in the Bay.

Baseball Notes

We went to see the San Francisco Giants host the Philadelphia Phillies on the only rainy evening of the entire trip. The game lasted 3¾ hours, played largely in light drizzle. With the Phillies up 9-2 after 4 innings, SF manager Bruce Bochy took Barry Bonds and a few other stars out of the game. Despite this throwing in of the towel, the Giants rallied to get close but ultimately lost 9-7. The Giants managed to use 19 players, and the endless changes and double-switches reminded me why I prefer te DH rule and the AL over the NL.

Apart from the chance to boo steroid-ridden Barry Bonds first-hand, the highlight of the evening was the crowd reactions to score updates from the NBA playoffs. It was the night when the Golden State Warriors knocked out the Dallas Mavericks in a shock upset, and it was obvious where the crowd would rather be.

Wind forward a couple of weeks, and the second game of the trip was the Los Angeles Dodgers taking on reigning World Series champions the St Louis Cardinals. OK, so Dodger Stadium is a few years old now, but in all other respects this was a better experience. Better crowd, better atmosphere, better weather and a better game. Randy Wolf pitched well for the Dodgers, and pinch-hiter Wilson Betemit made the difference with a home run. The Dodgers ran out winners 5-4.

Breakfast Notes

Ordering breakfast can be quite an ordeal. Eggs any style; fried is far too imprecise. They can be sunny side up, over easy, over medium, etc, etc. There must be a thousand permutations for an ordinary breakfast. But them Americans still can’t do proper bacon.

My personal favourite brekkie was at Sears, a famous breakfast eatery next door to our hotel in SF. It had queues most mornings, but worth queuing for. It was a pecan waffle (drowned in maple syrup, natch). Served with a bottomless cup of coffee. If that doesn’t set you up for the day, nothing will.

A few mornings in LA started at the ihop (International House of Pancakes) where corn flakes are not served. Industrial quantities of pancakes, eggs, hash browns and bacon are served up, smothered in maple syrup (as always). I can feel my arteries hardening just writing about it. Good though.

This week's stuff

This week’s sign of the apocalypse

This past week saw the first mobile phone call made from the top of Mount Everest. British mountaineer Rod Baber also sent a text message that read “One small step for man, one giant leap for mobilekind”. Now its official – nowhere is safe from the modern irritations of life. If you want to read more (I don’t really suggest it, you’ll only get depressed) you can do so here.

Rugby Notes

This is my first chance to congratulate Ebbw Vale on their second place finish in the Principality Premiership. Great job guys. Best wishes to coach Alex Codling who has secured a new job nearer home as forwards coach at London Welsh. Good luck too to Ian George and Hywel Jenkins who appear set to follow him to Old Deer Park.

In recognition for their great season, Ebbw Vale features in the running for the Principality Premiership Awards, due to be given out this week. Alex Codling is on the shortlist for coach of the year (with Simon King, Pontypridd and Iestyn Thomas, Llandovery) and John Bowd is on the shortlist for player of the year (along with Dafydd Lockyear, Pontypridd and Morgan Stoddard, Llanelli). Good luck to you both.

Wales put up a good show in Australia on Saturday, losing 29-23 after leading right up to the last move of the game. In Bloomfontein however, the Springboks thrashed England 58-10.

Cricket Notes

Just a month ago when Cath and I set off on honeymoon the World Cup final fiasco had just finished. By the time we get back the summer test series is underway in England. There’s no break at all for test players nowadays. I sometimes wonder why they bother listing the county that each test player represents, because they never turn out for their county side.

Glamorgan have managed, as predicted here, to reach some new lows this season. This past week they lost by an innings at home to Middlesex within two days. And to add insult to injury, they have been docked eight points for the Swansea pitch being substandard.

Glamorgan are firmly rooted to the bottom of division 2, with just 14 points thus far. And in the one-day tables, Glamorgan would be bottom if it weren’t for Ireland’s inclusion in the tournament. And now there’s news that Simon Jones is injured again. It’s looking like a good decision not to renew my membership this season.

Television Notes

Watched Dr Who on BBC1 on Saturday night. Many of the street scenes for 1913 England were filmed at the National Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans. Rhydycar Cottages and the Oakdale Institute both featured in the episode. Bringing back the Doctor was one the Beeb’s better ideas in recent years.

Website of the week

Heckle Depot has some good pieces of abuse which can be added to any sports spectator’s armoury of heckles. They’re mainly baseball-orientated, but I’m sure they can be adapted. Of course there’s always the witty banter page of the Ebbw Vale RFC website, the best rugby website in the world. Not that I’m biased, mind.

Astronomy limerick of the week

There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was faster then light
She went out one day
In her relative way
And came back the previous night

Of course, the second funniest joke in the world is about a limerick. The funniest is about a piano player with Tourrette’s syndrome. You’ll have to ask Rob Smith to tell you them as they certainly aren’t repeatable on a family-friendly blog!

Old joke home

“Doctor, I can’t pronounce my Fs, Ts and Hs.”
“Well, you can’t say fairer than that then.”

Things that make you go Hmm

Why do people say: “Can I ask you a question?”
Didn’t really give me much of a choice there, did you?

Why do people say: “Its always in the last place you look”?
Of course it is. Why would you keep on looking after you’ve found it?

Ode to IT

I have a spell in checker
It came with my PC
It plainly marks four my revue
Missed takes I can knot sea
I ran this poem threw it
I’m shore your please two no
It’s letter perfect any weigh
My checker tolled me sew.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Well, here I am; three weeks a married man and no signs of wanting to drown my sorrows. I’m told it’s just a matter of time though!

I’m sure that there are lots of pictures of the wedding around, but here are a couple of links to start you off.

Robo’s photos
Our brother’s photos
The James’ photos