Monday, 31 January 2011

Gerrie (PR) and Kristien (Sales & Marketing) at The Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane. This photo was taken in late-2010 ... I bet the smiles are EVEN bigger today!
Me & the Moo had this photo taken many moons ago at the "old" FS ... we'll have get a new one soon!

The Four Seasons London officially reopened this morning! This is exciting news for visitors to the capital ... and me. I was a frequent guest (with Moo) to the "old" hotel and I am looking forward to revisiting officially! You may remember, I did get a sneak peak last December and it looked rather sexy ... while still retaining that "Four Seasons" aplomb.

I was hoping to stay tonight but instead had to drive down to Truro - a town near the most southerly point in England - to drop my old car off ... and order my new one!

I had to take the train home and I have to say that even though the journey was long, it was so picturesque. At one (mad) stage I even contemplated renting a holiday cottage near a place called Saltash that has ever so pretty beaches ... a staycation ... actually I think not.

I am pooped, so it's an early night for me ... sadly NOT on Park Lane!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

OK - knowing that I have a pretty full week ahead of me -  I did very little today.
I did buy a new fish for my fishtank. He's a funny looking fellow ... gold with black bits and he eats gravel rather than fishfood. I say he ... he may be a she ... anyway ... I have named the fish Bubb.

So - I have read & seen reports that there is widescale looting in Egypt and priceless treasures are being stolen including gold sarcophagi. I hope that this is not the case.

Poor Andy Murray. He just looked tired from beginning to end. He is only 23 ... he has a few more years in him.

Finally - there IS a God. The climber who fell 1000 feet (300 odd metres) ... landed ... and just got to his feet and walked off. He has just a few cuts and bruises ... now that's what I call a miracle.
Adam Potter ... the luckiest man in the world today ...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

I have always thoroughly enjoyed my visits to Egypt - whether it be filming trips or private holidays. We announced last December that we are filming an episode there this year and I still very much hope it happens.

There is no doubt that after 30 years in power, President Mubarak needs to step down and let the country have REAL democracy ... and I think that after what happened in Tunisia, he will. I just feel that the way he is trying to hold on to power - by ordering military action against the protesters is just wrong - plain & simple. The Pharaohs ruled Egypt in this way ... but that was thousands of years ago.

In this day & age, you just cannot simply try and crush the will of the people without consequences.

I have many friends working in Egypt ... in Cairo, Sharm El Sheikh and along the River Nile. I hope and pray that they are all okay.

Egypt depends heavily on its tourism industry ... and this political mess needs a swift conclusion so that the hotels, resorts & restaurants can once again welcome foreign guests ...

Some of the things I love about Egypt:


Friday, 28 January 2011

As many of you know, I have been writing a fortnightly article for Leica - that fabulous camera brand. Well the days of my relationship with the V-Lux 20 have come to an end ... boohoo ...

because ...

I am now in the possession of the NEW Leica - the V-2:

As I have tried to explain to that harshest of critic ... the amateur photographer ... I am a wordsmith and taking "snaps" is quite new to me. So I sometimes get the light wrong ... and maybe the texture too BUT I do put the camera through its paces ... in many, many different habitats ...

Anyway this new machine is pretty, pretty cool ... with long a lens,a bright flash and a HUGE screen ... my next trip with my new baby will be fun ...

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The downside of all this lovely travelling is that when I get home, there are piles and piles of letters, emails and general stuff that needs attending to.

There are three baskets on my desk: inbound, outbound ... and fogbound. The latter is a veritable black hole from where there is no return.

I did have a lie-in today which is very unlike me but I was just pooped last night ... and I think that the glass of wine with dinner didn't help. Over Xmas, Darlin' Jen from LA bought me a bottle of "Domaine Drouhin - Pinot Noir 2007" ... I love it so much that I have bought 2 cases of the stuff ... they need drinking and I am obliging!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

I am HOME! Yay!

The overnight flight from Chicago was painless ... but sadly I did not sleep very well. I had waited nearly a week to watch the end of "The American" with George Clooney and I was less than satisfied with the ending! It was way to obvious ... still ... Italy looks so pretty in Summer ... seems like an ideal spot for a holiday!

Car situation sorted - goodbye Mercedes ... hello Volvo ... goodbye sleek, powerful, sexy Mercedes ... hello tough, sturdy, grown-up Volvo. Really????

Ah! My biggest issue of the day surrounds Jack Daniel's whiskey. Last week, you may recall that I visited the JD Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Even though the mere whiff of JD reminds me of bad student hangovers and general yukiness, I bought an "only from Lynchburg" bottle to add to my collection. Guess what? It leaked in my luggage ... all the new clothes I bought from Chicago REEK of cheap American whiskey ... if it was a fine Scottish single malt, I wonder if I would feel differently ... hey ho ... (yes, by the way).

Thank you for all the nice comments about my Leica blog from Budapest ... most appreciated ...

Now I am off ... to sleeeeep!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Ah! Farewell to Chicago and to the USA ... but just for a short time.

It's still rather brrrrr here but I have been wrapping up warmly and snugly so that has helped immensely.

Last night I went out with my dearest friend in Chicago  - Kimberly - and we had a super supper at RL (Ralph Lauren). Escargots with garlic butter - yum. I stink though! haha!

This morning breakfast with the Elysian dream-team - Bridget (PR), Kevin (General Manager) and Joe (Sales & Marketing). Wolfed down a HUGE and YUMMY chocolate croissant before popping up to the 54th floor to get some more (and sadly dull) photos of the city skyline. Did some shopping at the 900 Shops - a bargain is to be had in every store and soon I am off to the airport. Tomorrow, I will awake in London!!! Whoo-hoo!

These past few days have been brilliant ... Nashville and Chicago ...

OH ... and finally .. Leica from yesterday - the answer is: BUDAPEST and

Kevin, Bridget and Joe

54 floors up ...

Monday, 24 January 2011

My first Leica blog of 2011. Where am I today ... where I am tomorrow!

I am still here in Chicago ... and it's been a miserably cold and misty day. Chicago is the original "skyscraper" city and sadly I didn't see any upper floors ... as the snow clouds and fog were quite low.

I did get around though - my favourite building - possibly in the world - The Tribune Building and the Art Institute where I sat in front of two of my favourite paintings in the world: American Gothic and Nighthawks.

I shopped ... bad ... but fun!

This evening I am having sushi with my best Chicago-buddy ... and I can't wait!

The Elysian ... lovely ... hmmmmm
 American Gothic
 The Tribune Building
 A piece of rock from Paris ... in Chicago!
Nighthawks ...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Greetings from Chicago! After three nights in lovely Nashville, I am now in the lovely Windy City. I am staying at one of my favourite hotels in the USA - The Elysian.

I am writing this entry from my hospital ... oops hotel bed as I am exhausted after a rather long night! The first thing I did on arriving here was to pop into Pizano's for an enormous pizza. It was yum and I watched the Bears/Packers game too. Bears lost ... boohoo. Everything was fine until I was accosted by a rather drunk lady who made the last quarter of the game quite miserable for me! Grrrrrrr!

The pizza was lovely BUT so cheesy and thick that I am having serious heart palpitations (hence hospital bed). I am now pleased that I actually did not make it to the game itselfv-- it is SO cold here, minus 7 during the day ... brrrrrr ... and I would have been miserable after the loss ..

So, last night in Nashville ... dinner at Puckett's, a new and happening dinner venue and then we all went to the Grand Old Opry ... a 2 and a quarter hour country & western musical extravaganza. It features some of the greats of past & present. It is live on stage and the radio. The square-dancing was awesome, as was the Bluegrass and all the other bands too. I have never been a fan of country & western ... and I am not still ... but the Opry was thoroughly enjoyable and definitely one of the best "concerts" I have ever been to.

After the Opry, we went dancing in a honky-tonk, drinking in some bars and also sang karaoke! The girls on the trip sang Jolene and us boys - Twist & Shout ... Ferris Bueller ... Chicago!

Ah Chicago ... watch this space ...  
 "Shake it all baby now, twist & shout ..."

 We get ready for a night of some singin' & dancin' ... yeeeehaaaaaa!

 Thompson Square
 Ricky Skaggs (a country legend)
 Michelle and Alex sing Dolly Parton's Jolene! They were VERY good!
 My home in Chicago!
 The fans hope ... in vain ...
My favourite photo of the Nashville trip ... Douglas from St Ermin's and myself sitting on the VERY stool on which Elvis used to sit when he recorded over 230 songs at Studio B. We just got the giggles ... maybe at some of the ludicrous C&W song titles ... MY favourite ... "I hate every bone in your body - except mine" ... hahahahahahaha!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

 Up early and out of the door .... it's a three hour drive in one direction to Graceland ... and a three hour drive in the other direction to Dollywood ... we didn't have six hours to burn ... so instead we went on a 90-minute drive to Lynchburg - the home of Jack Daniels. I am NOT a fan of this alcoholic beverage but I was sure that a visit to the distillery would be a positive experience ... and it was!
 Jack was the first legal distiller in America ... getting permission at 16 years old in 1866 to produce the stuff. The factory in Lynchburg is the ONLY place in the world that makes Jack Daniel's whiskey (it is NOT a bourbon) ... and that is tens of MILLIONS of bottles a year.
 A chap called Bubba or was it Chad (?) took us on a one hour tour of the entire distillery and I even ended up buying a couple of bottles. We were NOT allowed to sample any JD as Lynchburg is on a DRY county! No drinking allowed anywhere - how crazy is that?
 Lunch was a hearty affair and I tried fried green tomatoes ... and they were DELICIOUS!
 I have been to The Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Nashville is known as "Athens of the South" as it has an exact replica of the Parthenon just 5 minutes from the hotel in the Centenary Park! It was built 1897.
Inside you will also find  a 42 foot, 10 inch statue to Goddess Athena. OK, so it does look a wee hokey but still mildly impressive. There are also casts of the famous Greek sculptures that were removed from Athens by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1804. I believe that the Greek people would like them back but the British Museum refuses to return them ... hmmmm ...

Tonight we go dancing, singing and enjoying Nashville by night! Yay!

Friday, 21 January 2011

This is undoubtedly one of my favourite photographs of all time. It was taken this afternoon at Studio B in Nashville. This studio was owned by RCA and is dubbed "the home of 1000 hits" because this is where the top country & western stars recorded their singles. Elvis used this piano to record 231 of his hits ... THIS piano! Also this studio was home to the likes of Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton ... awesome!
 The day started with a quick tour of the city and Gruhn Guitars - hundreds of these wonderful musical instruments on one shop floor.
 It was then over to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum - everything you have ever wanted to know about C&W but were too afraid to ask! There are exhibits dedicated to Elvis, Dolly, Tammy ... and even Taylor Swift and Faith Hill ... pretty ladies!
 Studio B - as above - a REAL hit ... loads of 3, 8 & 16 track machines ... the original recording instruments and booths. Only re-opened for recordings recently - shut down in August 1977 - the day after Elvis died ...
 To record "Are you lonesome tonight?", Elvis shut off ALL the lights and sang ... goose-pimples ... ahhhhh! He ONLY recorded on Sundays and then only after 10 p.m. ... His gold plated car & piano are at the CMHF.
Before dinner, Billy Montana (& guitar Hannah!) played us an acoustic set in the Penthouse Suite of the hotel. Lisa - Director of Sales & Marketing here at the Hutton even accompanied him on a track ... Billy has THREE number 1 music hits in the USA to his name! WHAT A DAY!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Greetings from Nashville, Tennessee!

I am now - finally - at my hotel - The Hutton - on this very dark and snowy evening.

The flight from London to Chicago was surprisingly acceptable. From once, BA did themselves proud - pleasant staff and a pleasant journey. I am NOT good at day flights so the idea of 8 and a half hours in a tin can filled me with dread. I decided that after a couple of 9 a.m. whiskies, I would watch movies the whole way across.

I started with Wall Street: Just When You Think Gekko Could Not Get Any Greedier - He Does. Apart from the comedic cameo from Charlie Sheen, the movie was actually not as fun or indeed "tough" as I had hoped. Gekko drinks JW Blue Label (good man) and smokes Davidoffs (good man) but that's where my general interest ended ...

Movie "two" was The Town. It was excellent until the end. Affleck blew it with a ... well for those who haven't seen it, you must ... but be prepared for a Disney rather than Tarantino finale. The Town is set in Boston. I didn't recognise it much except for one of the bridges. I do miss Boston and the pizza ...

Finally - The American. That Clooney is a lucky fellow - surrounding himself with pretty Italian bellas! I need to see the last 20 minutes though! It's an odd movie I think.

Chicago looked and IS cold ... - 7 degrees! Brrrrrr

The flight to Nashville was just 60 minutes and I sat next to a chap called Mickey Donald - Goofy to his friends. How I laughed!

OK - here now ... where's Dolly ... where's Elvis?

Chicago skyline from over the wing ... brrrrr
Welcome to Dollywood!
Rocking chairs at arrivals! All they need is some chewin' baccy' and they will be at home!
our transport to the hotel
Douglas McHugh - GM of the St Ermin's Hotel in London - soon to open .. in our "gangsta ride" ... country & western stylee ...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Chico no longer goes out after dark.

In keeping with Varun's healthy interest in all things fluffy, feathery and downright furry.... I thought you may all like this little snippet.

Todays Diary - c/o Emma (the producer)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Regular readers of the Daily Diary will know that I love flying Air New Zealand. I was introduced to the airline by my dear friend Gary Kershaw. Gary and I have spent much time together ... mostly smoking cigars and drinking whisky it has to be admitted but there will be no time for that anymore. He has just been appointed UK Manager for South African Airways ... so if ever you have an issue with that airline, you know who to contact now! Ha!

I am personally pleased as this means cheap flights (I hope) to get on my favourite kind of holiday - SAFARI ...

Today is Winnie the Pooh Day! 18th January marks the birthday of AA Milne - the author. I am a HUGE fan of Pooh and have been since I was a wee nipper. I am not so happy about the Disneyfication but I suppose it means that Mr Pooh, Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Christopher, Eeyore and Wol (sic) are household names now because of it ...

I am back on the road tomorrow for day 1 of my latest adventure ...

Finally, the funniest story of the day which involves a cat and Jury Service.

A cat has been summoned to do jury service, even after his owners told the court he was "unable to speak and understand English".

Anna Esposito, wrote to Suffolk Superior Crown Court in Boston, US, to explain that a mistake had been made, but a jury commissioner replied saying the cat, named Tabby Sal, "must attend" on March 23.

Mrs Esposito had included a letter from her vet confirming that the cat was "a domestic short-haired neutered feline".

Tabby Sal had been entered by Mrs Esposito under the 'pets' section of the last census. "When they ask him guilty or not guilty? What's he supposed to say - miaow?" She said.

"Sal is a member of the family so I listed him on the last Census form under pets but there has clearly been a mix-up."

A website for the US judicial system states that jurors are "not expected to speak perfect English".

My mittens has been bugging me all day for a ticket to fly to the US. She likes the idea of jury duty!
I want my hunny!
Gary - call Mr Kershaw

Monday, 17 January 2011

Today I feel like a salmon swimming against the flow ... I can see the goal but so many things have got in my way ... I am still at least 50% short of my destination ... grrrr ...

I am exhausted! But I am looking forward to a couple of nice long flights this week where I can go to sleep and catch-up.

Will it EVER stop raining?

I have done a lot of purging today! And what I mean by that is my annual "let's discard dead wood" day ... so Facebook, Twitter and my postcard list have got much lighter and much more manageable.

I am now ridding myself of my new Mercedes and buying a 4x4 instead ... it's a VERY long story and not a very happy one ...  GRRRR ... top of the list at the moment ...

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