Tuesday, 31 August 2010

So last week we had the story of a woman who trapped a cat in a wheelie-bin and today there's a video that allegedly shows a girl throwing puppies into a river ... drowning them. Is this what the world has come to? If anyone ever touched any of my pets in anger ... I am not sure I could be held responsible for my actions ...

Today has been research day. Tomorrow we look at the Canada and Scotland shows and start the editing process. This should take a few days ... but thankfully Oli the Editor manages to get through most of it without me. All I have to do is nod in approval or shake in disbelief! And add some words of wisdom of course.

When I first started this job ... the internet was, of course, not nearly as advanced as it is now. Back then, research was books, magazines and articles faxed to me ... so pleased that we have moved on from that!

October is shaping up to me "the month of many miles" and I can't wait! Details on that very soon ...

Song of the Day: Rough Boy - ZZ Top

Weather: SUNNY!

with my best friend ...

Monday, 30 August 2010

Firstly, for those who were waiting for this week's Leica blog, I am sorry but the site is undergoing an upgrade and it WILL now appear later in the week.

So it's Bank Holiday Monday and it's been SUNNY and gorgeous!

It's also been 80's day on VH-1 which as you will know, is my idea of heaven.

SO - this week, editing Scotland and Canada ... and I am off to Abu Dhabi! I am excited and I know the boys are too ...

Ah ... Uptown Girl - Billy Joel with Christie Brinkley ... hmmmm ... ahhhh ... yummmmmm ... ketchup!

Song of the Day: Uptown Girl - Billy Joel

Weather: Outstanding! The last day of Summer I reckon ...

I was looking for a photo of me & Billy Joel - I have lost it ... but found this photo of Joel Robouchon & Christophe Cussac ... in my first EVER cooking feature (at The Metropole Hotel in Monaco) !! I looked so thin & healthy ... eeek!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

It's been playing silly buggers outside ... when I am at my desk, the sun shines ... when I go outside, it starts to rain!

What's even worse is that I have "broken" my barbecue! I am gutted! The gas canister got stuck in its hole ... when I tried to screw it out, it snapped off! OH DEAR! I have great faith that Weber will replace the part - the second in two weeks! They are going to think I am a barbemoron.

It's Sunday on a Bank Holiday weekend ... all is VERY and WELCOMINGLY quiet ... nothing stirs ... heaven!

I have been writing my Leica blog today ... see tomorrow at 1700 hrs GMT for the clue to this week's entry: http://blog.leica-camera.com/

I have been umming and ahhing about the song of the day ... will be Mark Morrison (Return of the Mack), Madness (the Sweetest Girl), Luther Vandross (Stop to Love) or ...

Song of the Day: Rock The House - Gorillaz

Weather: SUNNY/rainy, SUNNY/rainy, SUNNY/rainy ...

I took a snap of this train today ... I like choochoo trains! whoo-whoo!

Saturday, 28 August 2010

It's a Public Holiday on Monday ... so the roads, railways, airports and ferry ports are stretched to breaking point.

I have not joined the throng, opting instead for a homecation ...

Feet up, in front of the television ... a cold beer, pizza ... ahhhh .... heaven.

This time next week I will be preparing for Abu Dhabi! Whoo-hoo! The weather there is still looking good ... "hot during the night, VERY hot during the day" ...

Next week we are starting the edits on the Scotland and Canada shows.

In one of the properties in Canada, La Pinsonniere, I managed to knock over a bottle of red wine. I was hoping that this was not caught on camera ... however ... see below, it was! Oli (editor) has apparently got a whole day's worth out out-takes ... hmmm ... NEVER to see the light of day!

Song of the Day: Woops Now - Janet Jackson


wine disaster! I look genuinely shocked!

Friday, 27 August 2010

The sun in shining ... the sky is blue ... there is just a wee wisp of wind blowing through the Autumn air ...

I am back home ... after 3 glorious days at The Four Seasons, Hampshire ...

I had a superb time (mainly due to the lovely PR Claire and Sales Manager Sarah who basically mothered me)!

My suite was perfect ... the swimming pool was perfect ... the cuisine was perfect ... the wine was perfect ... the whisky was perfect ... the service was more than perfect ... the only thing that was NOT perfect was the weather! Ugh! But that did mean that I stayed in like a good boy and got all the planning work done for 2011and 2012 ... yay!

The hotel/resort is just an hour or so out of London down the M3 motorway. It's set in hectares of glorious Hampshire countryside. There's clay pigeon shooting, horse riding, croquet, a canal boat, spa, gardens to walk in, golf nearby ... there's just so much to do. It was a great escape ...

The weekend is here ... a Bank Holiday ... that means 3 days of friends, fun and jolly japes! If the weather holds, a barbecue may be on the cards!

Song of the Day: Cantaloop - Us3

Weather: Dull, dreary and cold ... then SUNNY!SUNNY!SUNNY!

The Four Seasons - Hampshire

The 20 metre swimming pool
The Park Suite (1-Bedroom) ....
Living Room ....
Marble bathroom ... Asprey products ...
The gorgeous Four Seasons ladies - Claire and Sarah ...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Away Day 2

Another rubbish day weather-wise! It was just miserable but I didn't really care as I was happily ensconced in the palatial Park Suite ... at ... oh well, will tell you tomorrow.

From my windows, I could see stables, a clay-pigeon shooting range and hectares of lush grass. Sadly Moo isn't here as she is now so blind that she gets a wee scared when she goes somewhere new. She has been here before though on her 8th birthday.

The lovely PR lady here - Claire - ensured that there was a doggie-cake, doggie-biscuits and a bowl of fresh doggie-casserole. Strangely Moo would not touch the meat ... when I found out that the dish was beef, I had to explain that Moo is a "Hindu" dog ... and Claire replaced the dish with chicken and Moo scoffed the lot!

SO - 2011 & most of 2012 is now mapped out. I will be visiting EVERY continent next year ... and I am E-X-C-I-T-E-D!

Song of the Day: Major Tom - Shiny Toy Guns

Weather: Beef casserole!

Moo and I share a cocktail!
Moo waits for her Daddy in the car!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Away Day 1

I am 2 hours from home in a beautiful suite overlooking the rolling green hills of the English countryside.

I can't see too much out of the window though ... it's raining cats and dogs ...

Talking of dogs, I was sent two photos - which are real - of Droopy the surfing pooch! Doesn't he look great?

Work Work Work, Rest Rest Rest, Sleep Sleep Sleep, Swim Swim Swim, Work Work Work!

Song of the Day: Welcome to the Real World - Mr. Mister

Weather: AWFUL

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

It's not often that I "gain" a day ... but here we are.

Every year before we finalise the filming schedule for the following year, we check-in somewhere nice and discuss hotels, features ... and how to make the show better (and no, getting a replacement presenter for me is NOT on the agenda!) ...

Anyway, I though the 2 day boondoggle was today/tomorrow ... but actually it's tomorrow/day after!

I woke up feeling fine ... and as far as I know, all the guests who attended yesterday's "Sharmaville Barbecue" are still alive & kicking (I stress "as far as I know").

Great swim, wash the car, walked the pooch, smoked a cigar, drank some whisky AND got loads done! I am ahead of the game! Ahead of the game ... the only thing that would have made the day perfect would have been a tennis rubber or round of golf ...

You can't have EVERYTHING in life!

Song of the Day: Pass the Dutchie - Musical Youth


Riley the Smiling Dog ... always makes ME smile!

Monday, 23 August 2010

I am pooped!

It's been a long day of nothing & something!

Thankfully after a wet start, the sun shone gloriously ensuring that the planned barbecue went "swimmingly"! I have not hosted my own barbecue before and thanks to Weber, it passed off without a hitch! And there wasn't much charred food either! Haha!

Note for anyone who ever comes to a Varun-barbecue ... bring your own ketchup!

I will sleep rather well tonight!

Song of the Day: Slow Burn - David Bowie

Weather: Showery .. then Sunny!

the battle of the sausage!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Oh dear! Another dreadful day ... with another one predicted tomorrow. It's been raining for 89% of today ... but in the 11% it wasn't, I managed to build the barbecue (at last, whoopee), take Moo for a quick walk AND get to the pool for a swim.

I am completely up-to-date with all my paperwork now and am have now started researching Abu Dhabi in earnest.

Moo loves classical guitar music. After watching the rather depressing but wonderful movie (possibly the greatest movie ever made?) - The Bicycle Thieves ... I put on some John Williams ... Moo walked in, sighed and fell asleep at my feet ... every now and then she huffed ... listened to the music again, licked her chops, put her head down and snored again!

The other day I met a lady who insisted that cats & dogs (all animals basically) didn't have souls ... REALLY? My Moo has more soul than most humans I have met ...

We have just 4 shows left to film in this series ... and we are now just days away from announcing the destinations for 2011 ... I forsee many countries, many cities, many flights & many, many kilometres of travel ... I can't wait!

Song of the Day: Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin

Weather: Poo

misery ...

Saturday, 21 August 2010

It's always nice to be remembered.

This morning one elephant (Yuki) and two pups (Stella & Lucky) sent me messages through their respective human friends ... and I have been smiling like an idiot all day! Memories: Four Seasons Tented Camp in Thailand - bathing with Yuki the elephant ... and Sonora Resort in Canada - breaking all the rules and being visited by the two pups on my deck!

Another VERY grim day here --- rain, rain, rain, rain --- but not rain-rain, the irritating stuff that is like mist ... It's also quite warm ... sticky ... yuk. No golf, no barbecue building ... just a day writing thank-you notes and watching DVDs ... The Hurt Locker (again) ... the stuff of nightmares ...

SURELY tomorrow will be better?

Song of the Day: Crystal - New Order

Weather: Miserable

Orcas pay a visit to the Sonora Resort in British Columbia, Canada this morning! What a sight that must have been! Stella + Lucky live there all year round ... I miss it there ...
Ah! Yuki and I go gallumping ...

Friday, 20 August 2010

It's been a rather dark, wet & blustery day. I even lit the first open-fire in the fireplace for 2010 ... I now really feel that Autumn (Fall)/Winter is just around the corner.

Before you wonder, I did not manage to get my barbecue up & running! According to the forecast that's a job that will get done between the hours and 10 & 11 tomorrow morning! If I am lucky ...

In Abu Dhabi it was 44 degrees Centigrade today ... that's 111.2 Fahrenheit! I am off there next week for our next filming trip! 111.2??!! That's SCORCHIO! Shorts & t-shirt I think ...

It's been a weird week catching up on sleep and trying to get through all the paperwork on my desk. I reckon by Monday evening I should be there.

We are planning a filming marathon in September/October ... if it comes off, it WILL be awesome!

Have a great Friday wherever you may be!

Song of the Day: Nothing Lasts Forever - Echo & The Bunnymen

Weather: Yuk!

feel the heat!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Where has the Summer gone?

Well, like an idiot, today I went out and bought a barbecue. I reckon I am safe with a barbecue as I am very good at burning food and that's the point of this method of cooking? Yes? (http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/)

The problems:

1) I have to build it (i.e. build it!)
2) One of the pieces looks broken (oops)
3) It is both gas and charcoal (how does that work?)
4) It's BIG
5) The instructions are in German (actually in English but they may as well be in German)
6) I don't have a flathead screw driver (where is Jimmy when I need him?)
7) I have invited people round for a barbecue on Monday and the weather looks iffy (I could get them drunk instead!)


Song of the Day: A Groove of Love - C&C Music Factory

Weather: SUNNY!

my new barbecue ... well a picture of it ... will post a pic of mine tomorrow!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

I am not political. I voted in the last General Election because I felt that having the ability to vote is a privilege and one that should be exercised.

Today I was listening to the radio while driving back from my swim. The journey from my home to the pool is just 5 minutes but I sat in the car for 30 minutes thinking.

Here in the UK, we are spending 10 BILLION pounds on the Olympics (up from the original £4 billion) ... are now talking about spending 20 BILLION pounds renewing Trident - a nuclear weapons system. The UK debt is around 926 BILLION pounds ...

- 17-18% of the population are found to be in poverty at any one time consistently, from 1994-2004. (BBC News)

- In 2003 to 2004, 21% of children lived in households below the poverty line. After housing costs are taken into account, this rises to 28%.

- 3.9 million number of single people in the UK living below the poverty line in 2005 Many of these people are divorced women. (The Elizabeth Finn Trust/BBC News)

- Nearly 60% of those in poverty are homeowners. (BBC News)

- Water poverty is defined by the Government as spending more than 3% of disposable income on water bills. Nationally, in 2006, nearly 10% of households were in water poverty.

- In the UK, on average 498 people sleep rough each night, with 248 of those in London.

I know that there are "median" figures that work out how "poverty" is measured in each country ... and according to the median: Sweden 12.3%, Germany 13.1%, United Kingdom 14.0%, France 14.1% .. and the United States 23.8%.

I am shocked by all of this.

How can we WASTE 30 BILLION pounds in the UK on stadiums and weapons while men and women of all ages & children haven't got enough money to eat ... or heat up their homes ... or in some cases have clean water ...

I will now get back into my box.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Ah! A great day ... I'm back!

0730 in the swimming pool for a lovely splash-about and at 1700, a rubber of tennis! I feel grrrrreat!

OK - so where did I disappear to last week for my "big day out in the USA"?

The answer is just a click away ... http://blog.leica-camera.com/

Song of the Day: Streets of PXXXXXXXXXa - Bruce Springsteen

Weather: Ahhh .... sunny ....

The most famous bell in the Western World ...

Monday, 16 August 2010

OK - so there's a country & city I want to film in. However, as I am British but of "different ethnic descent", a formal investigation has been instigated to ensure that I am fit to film there. I am not sure I now WANT to film there!

Grrrrr ....

Anyway - for those looking to enter a competition (where there is no real prize) - http://blog.leica-camera.com/just-for-fun/viva-varun-where-is-he-now-6/

The answer is published tomorrow along with a review of the city I have just visited.

Grrrr ....

Song of the Day: Pink Sunshine - Fuzzbox (truly awful .. but funny!)

Weather: Sunny! Sunny Sunshine!

another view of my Leica location ...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

This was not the most positive of days ... i.e. I didn't do much.

The closest I got to having a swim was taking a shower ... the closest to playing golf was looking at the PGA scores on the television and the closest to preparing a healthy meal was slinging a frozen pizza in the Aga.

I did have a first peek at the Scotland show... which looks superb ... I did write my Leica blog for tomorrow ... which is slightly depressing ... BUT I did spend time with Moo ... which is always lovely!

Tonight I will watch Shutter Island ... which I have been told will scare the pants off me and I will prepare for what is going to be a tough week ahead ...

Song of the Day: It Had to be YOU - Harry Connick Jnr

Weather: Rainy ... the Sunny! Yay!

I want ...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

There's a first for everything and my "first" is that it took a full 24 hours to get from my hotel in New York to home ... I have actually done it in half that time.

OK, so I did take a detour via Toronto but more airline delays and nightmare traffic on the roads did not help. I have to say though, the idea of flying through Canada to get to the States is not as mad of an idea as you would think. You actually clear US immigration in Canada which takes minutes ... rather than the hours it has often taken in Miami, New York and LA ... food for thought.

The one (& only) highlight of my journey home was seeing a take-off and landing of a HUGE Emirates A380. In a bizarre way, it reminds me of that Disney cartoon "Dumbo" ... when he learnt to fly. It's awkward ... but thankfully ... effective!

Home for just a few days ... Abu Dhabi beckons! Yay!

Song of the Day: Wild Wild Wood - Paul Weller

Weather: Thunderstorms ...



Friday, 13 August 2010

An early diary today as I am flying to Toronto this afternoon to catch the overnight flight back to London!

I have had a lovely time in New York ... and of course, a SUPERB time in Quebec! The next episode will be filmed in ... Abu Dhabi!!!!!

TODAY is all about James ... it's his 20th birthday!

I can honestly say that not only is Jimmy one of the most kindest & thoughtful people I have ever meet, he is brilliant at his job. I ALWAYS surround myself with people who are better than me in their chosen professions ... and Jimmy certainly fits in that category.

I hope Jimmy is having a wonderful day!

Song of the Day: Born Slippy - Underworld

Weather: Sunny!

Jimmy is pleased when a bacon sandwich with Ketchup arrives ....
Boy (man?) at work!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

After yesterday, I was hoping for a MUCH better day ... and I am pleased to say, I got it!

It has been raining for much of the day but the temperature has dropped to a much more manageable 75 degrees!

SO - up early, Starbucks and then shopping all morning! Actually received a few "thank yous" and a "you're welcome" - which was quite pleasing. I love walking around 5th Avenue ... and even popped into The Peninsula and Four Seasons (for lunch). The afternoon was more shopping and a massage.

Dinner was a truly wonderful affair at Gilt - the 2-Michelin restaurant in The New York Palace (those older folk may remember that Le Cirque used to be in this hotel too). The service at Gilt was faultless ... and the cuisine inventive and rather tasty. Started with hamachi sashimi .. followed by a lobster dish. Then dessert ... tiramisu and a knickerblocker glory! Next year I am going to cook with the chef Justin Bogle on the show ... I can't wait!

SO - the hotel. My darling friend Julia Record who used to do my PR now looks after the Dorchester Collection. The group has hotels in LA, Paris, Milan ... London and NYC ...

The Palace is rather different to the others. It has 899 rooms and suites ... HUGE! I am staying in The Towers ... in the top 14 of this 54 floor building.

My suite is on the 45th floor with views over St Patrick's Cathedral ... 5th Avenue ... Rockefeller Centre ... lovely!

I am off home tomorrow - Toronto ... then London. I am tired ... I need a rest!

Song of the Day: Ain't that a Kick in the Head - Dean Martin

Weather: Cool

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

I am so pleased I am back in my hotel room ... I feel safe and happy here ... away from the mean streets of life.

It's been a Leica day so I have been wandering around ... "somewhere" ... more on that next week.

SO - I dropped my US cellphone down the toilet. That was NOT a good start to the day.

My other main gripes of the day are:

1) If I hold a door open for someone ... I DON'T expect a "thank you" but some recognition would be nice ... (this happened 5 times today)

2) If I say "thank you", I DO have an issue with "uh-huh" as a reply (3 times)

3) Finally if someone says "how are you?" - PLEASE don't walk off while I am trying to reply (3 times)

None of the above happened in Canada!

It's been a rather hot and sweaty day ... it's like a steamroom ... 100 degrees with 90 percent humidity! Singapore would be proud.

TOMORROW will be a much better day ... ! I feel it ...

Song of the Day: New York State of Mind - Billy Joel

Weather: Steamy!

me today .... a clue!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Greetings from The New York Palace hotel in ... NEW YORK!

I am here for work ... not pleasure ...

It's hot and stuffy in the City! Eek ...

SO - I am in the USA after ten days in Canada.

Below are two wonderful photos that sum up my stay in Quebec.

What a wonderful show it will be ....

Song of the Day: Some Like It Hot - Power Station

Weather: It's a pea souper!

The humpback whale performs in the St Lawrence River ...
A polar bear at Zoo Sauvage in St Felicien ...

Monday, 9 August 2010

Much sadness as this is my last entry from LOVELY Quebec and indeed Canada ...

I am back in the City today before flying off early tomorrow morning.

We left Val-Jalbert after breakfast this morning. This has been our home for the past couple of nights in Saguenay. Although it does not appear on the show, Val-Jalbert deserves a good mention. It was a REAL industrial town that dates back to the VERY early 1900's ... and is now an authentic 1920's mining town which happens to have some lovely "hotel" rooms attached to it.

I had a lovely, bright and fresh room ... only months old. In the 1950's the area was used by walkers ... and in the last year, millions of dollars have been spent building new accommodations, rebuilding the old wood pulping mill and turning it into a restaurant and meeting area ... and refurbishing some of the old 1920's houses/homes into living museums (www.valjalbert.com).

I was most impressed by the service we received from the staff (mostly students) who work there. Professional "hoteliers" they may not be ... but I know many properties that could learn much from these youngsters.

SO - we drove back to Quebec City and spent the whole afternoon picking up shots in the beautiful sunshine!

Specials thanks must go to Nancy Donnelly from Saguenay who looked after us in the province and Michelle Couture-Demers who has looked after us here in the City.

EXTRA EXTRA special thank-you to Marouan - driver, guide, friend - who has been SO brilliant with us! Seven days with us is not easy ... ha! We have had fun ... and then MORE fun!

I LOVE QUEBEC ... I LOVE CANADA! I am going to miss being here in this country so much ... wonderful sights, smells, cuisine ... shopping, flora, fauna ... hotels, museums, art galleries ...
and most importantly people ... I LOVE CANADIANS!

Adieu Canada ...

Song of the Day: A Girl Called Johnny - Waterboys

Weather: Magnifique!

Val-Jalbert (waterfall and pulp mill)
"main street"
nancy donnelly (saguenay tourism) + marouan bel fakir (quebec tourism)
michelle couture-demers (quebec city tourism)
that's a wrap folks!
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