Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The projects

The first project I had was to redesign my blog - bring it more up-to-date.  Which I did, but not as much as I would have liked; I want it to be a blogazine, rather than just a blog.  Funkier, cooler look and more interesting to read and view, but my skills are not at that level (yet), so this update will suffice for now.
The idea behind this design was I wanted the look of the blog to be simple and clean and in line with my photography site.  It's very possible I will keep tweaking this site as it isn't what I want.

My main aim for 2010 is to do a 52 week project.  What do I mean by that, well each week I will choose a theme: lines, colours, macro, landscape, abstract etc and shoot what I can that week using only that criteria. This should hopefully push me to hone my skills and creativity much more, whilst also keeping me focused.

I still have a few ideas I would like to pursue in photography, not least of all making a career out of it, which like most things is easier said than done.   For some reason I keep choosing interests which tend to be expensive, I should perhaps think this through more.  Photography equipment is VERY expensive and being a professional magician became expensive - cards will only get you so far (unless your Ricky Jay).

Being a magician I know what it's like to be desperate to learn and other people holding on to secrets refusing to share with beginners.   I found myself in an awkward place, keen to learn but nothing to offer (except desire). It was a catch 22 you couldn't progress without the knowledge but you couldn't get access to the knowledge (unless you were good enough).
It took me a while but I rose to the challenge, I learnt some tricks, bought some tricks and constructed and de-constructed tricks in order to make them mine.  The hard work paid off and I got accepted into the Magic Circle, which after a while lead to me becoming a paid professional magician; but it was harder than it ought to have been.  When in the Circle information and sharing flowed in all directions; which opened up all kinds of ideas and opportunities.

The thing is reciprocity is what we should be aiming for, that way we all grow: win/win situation.
One thing I'm very impressed with and pleased about is the amount of information available and sharing going on in the field of photography.   It used to be quite a complex and secret kind of profession (what with dark rooms and chemicals), but now in the digital age there are so many talented folks teaching and sharing ideas.
No doubt of course social networking has helped this, as it is now a culture that most people are involved in.  Not to mention of course cameras have come a long way and much more accessible to amateurs and pros alike - pros and cons to this of course, but again like Magic only serious folks will pursue it to a level of professionalism, for others it will simply remain a hobby.

So I have asked and am asking that anyone who has information or experience to share in photography to please get in touch, post links to your site, email me, arrange meet ups etc.

Quick side note: this blog has had 18,000 visitors and my photography site 4,000 visitors, which is fantastic - looking at the map I can see people from all over the world logging on, even someone in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean!?
Analysing further into the keywords searches for random things such as Vaughan Town, Lose weight and strangest of all, thai sexy girl in town; I dont remember posting that?  I bet they didn't stay for long!
I would like to thank each of you for visiting and please do drop by anytime. 

Lets make everyone's lives richer and make 2010 the year of caring and sharing ;)

Friday, December 25, 2009

So this is Christmas

Today is Christmas day. Early start, preparing all the food and veg; which we never managed to eat it all in the end. Roast potatoes went a little off, fortunately I had prepared enough so it wasn't a total loss. Turkey was good and gravy was OK; I had to make it from scratch as Spain doesn't have the luxury of Bisto Gravy, ahhhh Bisto!

No Christmas crackers to pull at lunch time - they dont know what they're missing :(
Luckily this year I had some stuffing, as last year that was nightmare. All in all the food was good, company was good too. Of course I managed to burn myself, which made taking things constantly in and out of the oven a challenge. If that wasn't bad enough the dam electrics started playing up and only allowed me on hob ring and oven in at any one time - with 6 pans of veg and potatoes to cook, this of course was not a good thing.

Yesterday we spent the evening at Sandra's parents; I hadn't eaten much but knew they would cook a lot as the whole family were going there.
Sadly for me most everything they cooked was seafood!! REALLY!?!?
But hey, I did managed to eat a block of cheese and pate all to myself.
I think the thing I miss most is the bullshit conversations and jokes you have at family meals, whether at Sandra's parents or at home, I feel like a stranger looking in - yes, I know it's my fault I should have learnt Spanish, but it is very apparent at meals.

Some of the differences in the UK at Christmas are; Xmas music in shopping centres, selection boxes (boxes of chocolate bars), Christmas crackers, cult movies on TV - Indiana Jones, Superman, James Bond, Star Wars etc, and of course crap TV - Eastenders (someone dying/being killed) & the Queen's Speech - it would be nice if she was in touch with the real world like Princess Diana was.
And of course Christmas isn't Christmas without a Christmas pudding.

Pitu managed to open her own presents this year, which consisted mainly of bi-lingual toys and a couple of DVD's - one Snow White and the seven dwarves.
Interesting fact, or not: this was actually the first film I ever saw at the cinema when I was a child. These were the days when cinema's had only one screen and ushers who served ice cream in the interval and you could sing along to the film, without being told Sssshhhhh or mobiles going off! After Snow White had finished we got to see Star Trek 2: the wrath of Khan (may give you an idea I'm over 28), we were there with our next door neighbours kids, who were older than us, so we got to watch Star Trek 2, too (although we were too young).

Sandra got a lady shave and a Nespresso Coffee maker, which she seemed happy with ;)
I received a new shirt and some Wii tennis raquets - not 10 grand for my new studio :'(
Of course here in Spain we also have the 'Three Kings Day' so pitu will have some more stuff then, mainly clothes - she's growing a lot.
Sandra still has her Secret Santa (invisible friend gift to come too).
China had her laptop of course, but I got no contact from her... ...perhaps she's having such a good time, she forgot.

Monies kind of tight as I haven't been informed about work for next year, so I can't afford to splash out too much and having only done 1 week that doesn't go far; especially at this time of year. So next year should be interesting, lets see what happens.

It's strange all the effort and fuss and its all over so quick - story of my life, lol.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

F.A.Q's @ Vaughan Town

Whilst at Vaughan Town there are some question which always get asked.
So in an attempt to address these questions (and to save repetition), see below:

Q: What do you do?
A: Good question. I’m basically a self employed entertainer / motivator / coach / teacher
and more besides.
Me: magic is my thing, but I also like telling bad jokes, performing and variety –
a ‘jack of all trades’, so to speak. Musically I’m awful!
Rob: is a musically gifted bloke from ‘up North’ in England, many many talents –
but music is his passion
Greg: theatre is in his blood. An American who will teach you all you need to know to get
you performing on stage. Woody Allen fan and personality

Each Master of Ceremonies (MC) has his own style and approach to the job.
My take on the job is to get the best from the participants.
I choose who will do well in what capacity and I try to build a program specific to the needs of the group and individuals.
I do not feel this is a ‘one size fits all’ kind of program and I have worked very hard putting together and creating scripts, theatre pieces, jokes and all kinds of ice breakers / energizers and activities, which means I have something for everyone, and each program is different; that’s my aim anyway.

Q: How long have you been an MC?
A: Around 3 years now

Q: Do you always work with the same Program Director?
A: No. Like the MC’s the PD’s have their own way of doing things and also have their own personalities: which adds to the mix as well, variety is the spice of life.
Carmen is a sweet genuine person with a heart of gold; who will help you with anything except LOVE and MONEY.
Marisa looks Spanish but do not be fooled she is an Aussie with fabulous eyes and even more (bad) jokes than me, she’s also a great dancer and teacher.

Q: Do you like your job?
A: Of course. I get to meet wonderful, extraordinary people almost weekly.
I get to see the fruits of my labour grow before my eyes as the participants grow and learn together and leave feeling closer to each other and much more confident
(which is really the secret)

Q: Which venue do you prefer and why?
A: San Ziolo: Nice venue, steeped in history, part of the Camino De Santiago, rumoured to be haunted, staff nice, bad desserts!
Montfrague: Great staff, sadly venue not really 4* quality, issues with water,
VERY isolated location, food OK
Zamora: OK, the staff OK, the location OK, the venue OK – just OK
Burgos: In my opinion too big for our needs. I didn’t feel participants were catered for
properly. Not the best venue for parties, food poor. Nice city though.
Salamanca: Very nice venue and staff. City can be distracting; lots of bars etc.
Plenty to see and do. Fantastic desserts.
Good for Master students, or students who have been to Gredos
Gredos: Very nice venue/location, staff OK (few issues, although the manager is working hard to sort this), isolated location, amenities need to be paid for,
perfect for low levels or first timers. Not a lot to see and do especially in winter.

Q: Which is better, the city or an isolated location?
A: For me both have pros and cons.
For participants with low levels then the isolation is what you really need to focus without
For participants with higher levels you need to be able to deal with distractions, as this is
what the real world will present.
For the Anglos the city offers them a chance to see part of Spain’s culture and history, so
it’s nice for them.

Q: Is this the best group ever!?
A: Every week almost without fail someone asks that very question.
Each week is different, a different dynamic, different personalities, different outcomes
and I like that it makes them unique, as your experience should be.

Q: What would you do if someone spoke Spanish?
A: This is THE cardinal sin!!! Whether you are English or Spanish, do NOT speak
Spanish. It defeats the purpose of you being here. If you speak Spanish and we hear you, you will be reminded of the rules, if caught again you will be removed without question.
Please don’t, it’s not worth it ;)

Q: Have you ever had to remove someone from the program?
A: Sadly yes, but only for good reasons.
Speaking Spanish, drunk and disorderly, inappropriate behaviour, not wanting to
participate (I’m on holiday attitude).
Any of the above reasons and others besides will be enough to have you removed from
the program and people have gone for these very reasons.

Q: Does the program really work?
A: Yes, I wouldn't work for something I didn't believe in. Having said that like everything
else in life, you get out of it what you put in. You will not speak fluently in 5 days.
However you will feel more confident in your ability to speak English, have less fear about making mistakes and leave knowing that you CAN actually speak English
(at least on some level).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waiting to exhale

So that's it another year over... ...for Vaughan programs that is.
I first met Carmen (the P.D.) 3 years ago this very week, when I did the program as an Anglo (I was 'THE MAGICIAN' on that program) and Greg was the MC. So it has been a while since we did a Xmas program together; now of course I'm the MC with some 70 odd programs under my belt. It was a fantastic program and great sharing the Xmas period with you once again.

I was surprised to see such a large group as typically this time of year tends to be smaller groups, but we had 18 Spaniards and 19 Anglos.
The tapas not great again competing with football, poor tapas and 5 missing Anglos at tapas.

Sadly as I think I have mentioned this before, pickpocketing is on the increase and 2 participants had the pockets picked when they arrived in Madrid.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't fall victim to this.
The latest con seems to be: someone approaches you from the front, tugs on the bottom of your trousers as if adjusting them, when you lean over to look down at what they are doing their friend dips into your pocket!!!
Keep your eyes open - do NOT leave bags out of sight/reach (or even strapped to your back) - move your wallets out of your back pockets.

The hotel in Gredos has had some improvements made; which was good to see.
The major one being that the hotels logo/name was redesigned. Previously on the windows and doors of the hotel was the companies name IZAN, which was ok, but from inside of the hotel looking out it read NAZI which was not so good. Someone has had the intelligence to now call it IZANHOTELES with their logo built in and its simply read from inside looking out, much better.
We now have some nice LG Flatscreen TVs in all the rooms - which Carmen noticed actually picks up Vaughan Radio!!!
Now if they could just improve the WIFI signal and maybe put in a communal computer; hint hint ;)

It threatened to snow all week, but it didn't fortunately. I did see on the TV however that Salamanca was covered in snow this week.
On Wednesday I awoke to a path covered in black ice - of course not noticing it - I fell, not once but twice then struggling to stand up, I jumped for my life to the grass (ok, slight exaggeration, but only slight). My wrist took the brunt of the fall; which really hurt.
Sadly I was not alone, several of the participants also fell.
As typical the path was only salted after the accidents; really people, proactive is the way!

The entertainment was enjoyable and quite a few of the returning vets got involved with some nice additions to the program. About half the group we had this week were repeat Anglos, as we had so many vets it also meant a lot of changes to scripts and ideas and games.

The meeting room was out of action for most of the week due to being filled with the old TVs and later it was just too cold. We finally managed to use it on Thursday (just in time for the party).
For a novelty I decided that we would have a secret Santa (invisible friend in Spain).
The catch was you couldn't spend any money, so creativity was important, and boy did they rise to the challenge; very impressive folks!

The party was strange, kind of a slow starter, then almost everyone disappeared for about 30 mins, then as usual when I was just about to call it an early night everyone shown up?!
The hotel would be wise to use the upstairs room as a mini bar, easier for them and participants and they would make more money. We had Mulled wine instead of Sangria; more festive.

Tough week for me as I have several issues to resolve privately and I need to know where I'm heading next year, but also this is the anniversary of my brothers passing (anniversary is so not the right word), so that was heavy in my heart.

Still no official news on the venue or dates for next year!?

The photos (and there are many!) can be accessed below
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 196

The last thing I want to say is Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad to you all ;)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Just for laughs

Men vs Women

Procrastination Workflow

A Brands Perfect Day

Friday, December 04, 2009

Public Speaking 101

Some additional information on Public Speaking and tips to help you improve... ...or not!

Fear of speaking



Know your facts

Body Language

Eye Contact

Spell Checking

Friday, November 27, 2009

Adios or Hasta luego to Salamanca?

I arrived in Madrid earlier this week, as I had to sort my passport out; it needs renewing.
So I went to the British Consulate to see what I had to do.

You get some VERY strange looks when you go into an embassy with a very large suitcase
(it was full of my weeks supplies for work).

The following day I went looking for a camera shop that Scott (Marisa’s son) told me about.
I found it and WOW! Now that is a photo shop!! Some much in there and so busy, it made me realise how little I still know.

Later on was the tapas, our old venue has closed down so we had to use a new one; it’s OK short term but sharing it with football supporters is not a good idea :S

This group was very big maybe the biggest I have had in VT, which on one hand is great on the other a challenge. The meeting room however was a little small for this amount of people; but we managed none the less.

The food started off well, but sadly as the week progressed the standards slipped from day to day - and I'm beginning to look and feel like an egg!

Lots of people meant lots of work and lots of fun. We had some great stories and presentations shared by some of the Anglo’s, it would have been nice to have more presentations from the Anglos though given the amount of them and their vast experiences.

The karaoke was enjoyed a lot and we had a great group of singers.

As for the Masters their challenge was debates, very difficult, but they did well, considering they have never done them before and it was in English. Joaquin shared an excellent story as his presentation; one I may well steal ;)

We had people from all over the world, which was great to see: South Africa, Philippines, Latvia, Ireland, America, Canada, USA, UK, Australia, so an enormous linguistic challenge/opportunity for the Spaniards to take advantage of.

Good luck with the baby Victoria, you will make a great mommy.

I do find it interesting that you give so much of yourself and there is a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work yet some people still expect more?!

This week was made uncomfortable by the fact that the staff in the hotel told us we are no longer using the venue next year and asked why: as yet I have had nothing confirmed either way and couldn’t offer any comment or explanation.
However, it would be nice to be kept informed of changes for obvious reasons.

The photos of the weeks craziness can be found below

Vaughan Town - Salamanca - Program 194

footnote: another thing on my mind this week is the birthdays of China and Ariadna (China’s on Thursday and Ariadna’s on Saturday), I bought China a laptop and Pitu bi-lingual toys.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Fun Theory

I think life should be about fun and enjoyment. All too often it's serious and boring. Or is it what you make it?
These clever guys have being putting the fun back into the mundane; and it works!



So how are you going to make your day more fun?!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's all becoming a little clearer

As I have a lot of freetime lately, I have been looking for resources to improve my photography amongst other things - my Spanish is coming along, though very poorly.
I have yet to hear from work about the dates for 2010, so no idea if I have a job next year or not: very late in the year to make other plans.
Things are tough at home too, not sure if it's pitu being demanding (as babies are) the fact that I'm bored stupid, maybe the fact Sandra dislikes her job, the economy or perhaps I am actually missing the UK!? Eitherway its tough, but we are working through it.

Anyway, I recently managed to get hold of a copy of an excellent DVD called OneLight Workshop by Zack Arias.
What a great find, not only did it help to make sense of a lot of the questions I had but it went above and beyond a basic tutorial DVD - showing you basics, setups and on site photo shoots.
If you haven't seen it and are into photography this is a MUST!

I have revisited some of my early attempts at some shots such as Smoke and Water and I am pleased to say I can see a difference, not only has my photography improved but also my knowledge (phew).

I am still trying to run before I can walk though. I have dreams of owning my own business already and what I could do with it. Like most times the one thing I'm missing more than experience is money, isn't it always the way. I would love to be able to put as much money into a project as I do enthusiasm - but I'm afraid I'm not that well off.I do need more models though - after watching the DVD (onelight workshop) I understand my flash and settings much more and how to do some clever things, but I need to be able to put this learning into practise.

I have been looking at the likes of Zack Arias and Chase Jarvis amongst others (top role models, and well out of my league) but hey, gotta aim high if you want to be the best.
Hope you like the photos so far. It's a long journey, but what a great trip ;)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Photography progress

Still trying to get to grips with my photography. I recently bought a flash unit; which it too turned out to be more complex than simply attach and click.

I can see I have SO much learn. I fear I will get the better of myself and as usually run before I can walk, but what the hell that's the way I am.

I don't think I have a style to speak of, but people do seem to like the photos so far. To be honest so do I. I do wish however I at least had a grounding in photography to understand what works and why - rather than what looks good. I would then be able to take my photos from good to great.
At the moment I have covered most types of shots and keep experimenting not only with my shots and angles but also in Photoshop which helps tweak them that bit more or even change the whole feel of the photo - it's not so much about showing what I see but what I want you to see.

However rather than me being the judge I will let you, so feel free to check out KRYSALIS
and why not leave comments whilst you're there or here for that matter ;)

Here is a taste of my photos go see the rest
QUICK ADDITION: any photographers out there click HERE to see a special planned event for December 12, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pitu's big day out

As I had a little time off between programs Sandra, Pitu and I went to Madrid for a few days and to the zoo; courtesy of tickets that Covadonga sent to me (many thanks for that).

Now that pitu is walking about everything is an adventure to her.
She is growing so quickly now, not only is she talking, walking, dancing but also her teeth have come through. It seems every time I come back she has taken yet another step in her growth.

Anyway we went to the zoo and she got to see the various animals and she shouted at the dolphins. In Madrid she walked around the palace; everyone though she was so cute, I could have made a fortune just sitting her there and people give her money (maybe an idea for the future, lol).

She also has a moody aggressive side where she will growl at people she doesn't like!
Not sure were she gets that from :S

Later that night we went for a Indian meal and she actually wanted to eat my Madras after having a little taste!! (not as hot as in England, but still packs a punch for a pitu)

The photos of her big day out can be found below

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stealing thunder

As Windows releases its version 7 the folks at Apple are already creating their mocking ads - worth checking out, below's one I particularly liked

They are not happy stopping there, they have also just released a brand new 27" iMac, which looks amazing - twice as sharp twice as fast!! Not only that but they have a fantastic new mouse with their touchpad technology built in or rather on it and also the wireless aluminium keyboard. I wont bore you with the details, if you want to know the specs of this fantastic machine head HERE

Now that's a present Santa would keep for himself :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Desert my dessert... ....NEVER!

Another small group this week and yet another no-show. Was the group small because of the time of year or the recession? I'm not sure but I am sure both things have an affect, next year could be interesting as we await to see the dates we have for programs!?

The group themselves were great, older and loved to talk, although they found it more tiring than they had expected; talking for 12 hours about everything and anything IS tiring, so be prepared. I have said it before, Vaughan Town is not a holiday ;>)

The food was below par this week, which was a shame but the desserts were still good

Things were going swimmingly until I awoke on Tuesday morning deaf in my right ear!
I had a really high pitched whistle sound for maybe an hour, and I could not distinguish sounds or voices, I could only hear muffled noises, that continued for the remainder of the day.
The next day my hearing was almost back but still not the same as my left ear, but now my head, neck and throat ached, so I think I had an infection.

That aside, things were fine and we cracked on not letting that slow things up; as we had a lot to get through: theatre, singing, dancing, presentations, stories, a quiz and of course a party!
The quiz was SO close and we had a tie for the first time! - he who dares wins ;)

As usual the folks did a wonderful job on both sides, which helped the bonding process and most realised that when they weren't on a one to one they still wanted to hang out and chat which is VERY important and shows how much they enjoyed the company.

I seemed to have forgotten lots this week, jacket (important as it's colder now), my phone, my camera and some material!! Damn old age is creeping up on me!
Luckily I had my other camera, so I used that, phew!!

The photos of the week can be accessed by clicking below
Vaughan Town - Salamanca - Program 189

Friday, October 09, 2009

Meaningful Words?

Whilst looking at, and playing with, my Labels and Tag Clouds as to which words I use the most often, these are what WORDLE found from my site!

Wordle: Dades-life

Seems like LOVE plays a big part in my blog!

The frog and the fog

I wasn't mentally or physically prepared for this week. The main reason is I was working from another schedule which told me I was off this week. But a comment made by a PD made me double check and I soon realised I was working from an out of date schedule and I WAS actually due to be working this week, oops!

Luckily some plans I was considering: a trip to the UK, were never finalised. Maybe later in the year Huss?!

Anyway, on Saturday I made my way to the tapas meet. I'm becoming more confused with the purpose of the tapas meeting. As far as I am aware, it is for the Anglos to meet and greet each other prior to the program; yet more and more often I am seeing some of them simply don't show up until the Sunday morning (if at all) or actually meet us at the venue. Now I don't mind so much but after some long winded discussions about the point of the tapas meet and the flexibility of meeting at the venue and being told NO fullstop, the rules don't apply to others it seems?!

I really enjoy what I do, and, what an opportunity I have here to meet such wonderful people. There is always an odd personality to contend with and always issues in any job, but more and more I am seeing too many issues for my liking.

A vast difference in the levels this week made it difficult for everyone to follow along at the same pace, as you have to try to cater to them all, which was not possible. The best option was to aim for middle ground but some of the lower levels still struggled with this.
The quiz was challenging for all, myself included; as I was left to run the 2 hours activity alone.

The theatre was enjoyed, but I am sure not actually understood properly; as a day later one of the participants got the joke. It happens (even in English) ;)
So I ditched the sketches and opted for a more linguistic medium instead such as poems, stories and jokes etc. We had lots of energy from Steve and some great ideas such as the sketch - The green eye of the little yellow God (which can be seen below, sadly the video ends before the sketch did).

The group themselves were very keen on talking; in fact too much at times, like when you needed silence, lol. But lots of intellectuals, teachers and professionals from all over, but mainly Australia!

The weather in Salamanca has started to turn for sure, grey clouds are moving in, earlier darker nights and much more rain: goodbye summer :-S

The photos of the week can be found below

Vaughan Town - Salamanca - Program 185

On a personal note: I'm finding it increasingly harder to keep 'up' on some programs.
I found this week harder than it ought to be for MANY reasons. The reality I fear maybe Vaughan Town has ran its course for me and it's time to move on and I simply need to face that fact or maybe I really do need that holiday afterall?

The green eye of the little yellow God

Friday, September 25, 2009

What a week!

El noche en blanco (white night) was happening in Madrid last weekend. Basically this is a festival where all the museums are open all night for FREE and concerts and performances take part in the street, it's a very interesting experience and typically very busy.

So at the start of this program when we had 6 Anglos not show at the tapas I presumed they were off enjoying one of Madrid's many parties. The following day however we were still one Anglo short; a simple no-show it seems.

Ricardo worked very hard to get the rooms ready (I'm pleased to say) - as again this was a looming issue for us and our guests.
A very mixed and diverse group, South Africa, Canada, USA, UK, Guana, New Zealand all represented; great for the ears of the Spaniards, and such a mix of personalities too; groups like this are fantastic, we had several veterans return too.
Folks seem to be getting a few tummy bugs lately, so perhaps think about bringing some medication for upset stomachs ;)

In the entertainment hour, we had lots of presentations offered by the Anglos; from one of them talking about his experience with adopting 6 children, another giving us virtual tours of stately homes to making pottery and more besides, so that was great. The sketches worked wonderfully and we have some great photos to prove it, check out the Yorkshiremen ;)

The Spaniards (including the masters) worked very hard on their presentations and storytelling too, with some wonderful performances from the likes of Alvaro and Jose C; Jose has a career in either comedy or stage work - his presentation had me in tears (in a good way you understand), again this reinforces my point of having them video recorded.

The quemada and karaoke went down very well too, which was good to see.
The party was interesting... ...lots of dancing, but also lots of sneaking off to bed early too, so before I knew I was left with maybe half a dozen dancers :S
I don't mind it has been a great week and EVERYONE worked hard and gave so much of themselves they were exhausted by the end.

One small hiccup threatened to dampen what was an otherwise great week, but it was dealt with accordingly and he was removed from the program without any further issues.

The flies this week have been 'a pain in the arse' (idiom), when I return some months from now they will all be gone thank goodness!

On a personal note: I have some tough choices ahead which will affect more than just myself, so I must tread carefully. With such wonderful people that I have the fortune of meeting and touching the lives of, it is making that choice so much harder.
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 182

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are we the lost generation?

Yesterday I stumbled across this wonderful, very clever and thought provoking presentation.
Of course I shall no doubt incorporate this into my work.
If you know of any other such works or things that made you sit up and take notice please forward them to my email address ;)

In the meantime, enjoy

Friday, September 18, 2009

Small, but perfectly formed

The group I had this week was small; even more so due to 2 Anglos being missing in action.
The levels were average this week, but were all keen to learn and improve.

The theatre pieces went down very well and even though I said I wouldn't be writing anymore sketches one almost wrote itself, after watching two Anglo participants using a computer; so I wrote out the sketch and they performed it wonderfully
(wearing their own wigs!)

Karaoke was great too as we combined it with a birthday celebration for Carol, I think the Cava helped get things going ;)

We were lucky with the weather, but that changed dramatically on Thursday, so we did a quiz and I think we had the highest quiz scores ever
(smart group you see).
As for the party it rocked until the wee hours with people drifting off at points, David G being the last Anglo amongst 7 Spaniards - Well done!

All in all a great week was had by all, and it was a pleasure to have such wonderful people ;)

One word of warning: if you come onto MY programs be prepared to get involved, I don't like NO's or I CAN'T. These are barriers and obstacles from which you will never break free.

When here do anything and everything! I understand completely that we have lives outside, I understand that some things may make you uncomfortable, but it is no excuse to exclude yourself or not participate; Obama got it right... ...YES YOU CAN!!!

The photos as usual can be found by click the picture below

Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 180

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not a blog of note award, but...

This was passed on to me by the wonderful LOU from the blog: The quiet life. Check it out, its a wonderful, fresh read ;)

This is a blog award, where it originated from I really dont know, but it was nice to have an acknowledgment of my wee blog nonetheless
(also she said some very nice things about me).

All you have to do in return is share with my readers "7 things that I love", not including people, and then nominate 4 brand new worthy recipients, simple.

Below is my list:

1) Photography is my new passion. I love capturing a moment and making it mine.

2) Thailand!!! Simply love, love, love the place. Everything about it, the people, the culture and the food!

3) I love change. Things being new, interesting and exciting; routines bore me.

4) I love music. I think the world would be a boring place without it - TV I could live without, but not music!

5) I love performing, whether it's acting, magic or just being in front of people, I actually like public speaking, YES I'm an attention seeker :)

6) I love being creative and rising to challenges, I dislike failing at anything


7) I love technology. I think it has made the world a more efficient place and opened up a lot of opportunities in all sorts of arenas. Most of all I LOVE APPLE - long live Apple (I'm NOT a PC!)

and now for the nominations... ...in no particular order:
BLOG SIN JAMON - This blog is by Emma, a friend I met at Vaughan Town, who is now living and working in Spain. You can find out about her trials and tribulations here by clicking the link

- I shall say nothing about this blog except it's your duty to go and find out for yourself - one of the most refreshing blogs there is; endorsed by Stephen Fry too ;)

- Great blog, simple, wonderful read and layout. ps some excellent photos on there too.

- This blog is by Andy, a friend who took it upon himself to create a 'real wall' rather than a virtual one. He is one a strange mission but it IS working and growing - he also has adapted a new Facebook layout; which is kinda cool ;)

anyway there are others I could mention but why not visit them simply by clicking on the BlogList link on the right of my page.

Thanks again Lou ;)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

All doom and gloom?

I recently managed to watch the new dvd HOME.
It was stunning from a production and informative point of view.
The messages contained within were clear, direct and wrapped around some of the most amazing videography.

Strangely enough this also coincides with what I am currently listening to - which is Bill Bryson's: A short history of nearly everything
Both are highly informative and well worth the investment.

Its strange maybe I'm getting old (I keep saying that!? Am I trying to convince myself?) but I am taking a closer look at the world around me and thinking about the how's and why's.
These both go some way to filling in some of those blanks.

At first the dvd entices you with great shots of the magnificent earth in all its slender, informing you of how it came to be the equilibrium of life and the balance of nature, then enters man! And boy do we know how to screw things up. Luckily we also know how to makes things better.
One of Mans best assets I believe is overcoming adversity, so I have faith we CAN correct this mess we have made and make a better future for ourselves and future generations to come.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Website v2.1

As I have some free time just now, I have managed to get some photography in and upgrade my website

I have now added Google maps to the site so you can see where the photos were taken and several other tweaks such as an improved browser etc. Not easy at all, but my coding is getting better. The problem I find is, it has been so long since I last did any coding I forget how, and its like being back at square one :(

I am looking at tweaking the site further still with hopefully the option to have larger or smaller photos displayed and maybe a slideshow too.

I'm also toying with the idea of updating this one too as it's looking a little old and tired (at least to my eyes). I have being running this template for 9 months; that's long for me.
So watch this space...

UPDATE: Whaddya know, all that talk of upgrading led me to playing and tinkering with the site next thing I know it's 3 in the morning and a new version is born, enjoy.
Let me know your thoughts ;)

Friday, August 28, 2009


A much quieter and more subdued group this week. A moment of panic struck me when only HALF the group turned up at the tapas!? On Sunday they all had shown up except for one, which gave us an even number of Anglos and Spaniards.

Punctuality was again an issue on many occasions, although its harder to keep track of time here as the city is a big distraction, it is still important for the program.

I felt my energy levels drop considerably this week; tiredness, group energy, I don’t know why, but not on top form. (perhaps I'm getting old… …er)

Missing Sandra and Pitu that’s for sure!

There was a lot happening in the 'outside world' which gave opportunity for lots of diverse conversations – Michael Jackson’s MURDER! The South African woman who won the gold was alleged to be a man; which in turn gave rise to discrimination claims. The Italian lottery winner and of course England winning the Ashes (sorry Marisa, get in my son!) There’s a weeks worth of gossip there alone ;)

There was a lot of interesting and strong personalities on the program which kept us entertained – intentionally or not. A few cliques too which didn’t help to make the group inclusive :(
I noticed that this week that we had a couple of non native English speakers (which is unusual), accents are one thing (and great as a comprehension challenge) but non natives is a different thing altogether, in my opinion.

A quick tour of the city was a welcomed break from 'the office' and a chance to get some photography done too. It was a quieter group as I said but enjoyable and fun non the less, the party rocked and then rocked some more in the city; but I really am getting too old for that.

One word of advice a wise man passed on to us was: DENY DENY DENY ;)

I did however mange to get APPLE PIE
(twice) !!!!!! You gotta love it!
The memories are below simply click the picture ;)

Vaughan Town - Salamanca - Program 174

Monday, August 24, 2009

The big one

Italy has had the biggest lottery win in the whole of Europe so far - 146.9m euros (£128.3m / $211.8m).

No one has officially declared themselves the owner of the ticket, although that doesn't surprise me. Firstly all the begging letters that are inevitable then all the possible issues that come with winning that much money (mafia target?!).

The question is does one person really need / deserve that much money?? Is it fair??
It one thing to have worked all your life or became a success at something, but how do you really prepare to be an instant millionaire?

The question I often wonder is what would I do with all that money?? To be honest, I dont know, I have an idea. I would look after close friends and family of course, after that I would set up a foundation to help people achieve their dreams. I think this is important and most of the time all people need and want is a chance, I would like to offer that opportunity.

As for myself I think I would set up a studio and several small business' to keep me busy, I would for sure continue to work, but also take advantage of what that sort of money affords you to do.

So what would you do with 147 Million???

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

On your marks....

This week Vaughan Town got off to a bit of a shaky start - but once we arrived at the venue it was business as usual. This time I was working with Mayte, its been about a year since we last worked together.

I spent another week spent in Gredos; this is great for my weight loss ;)
However next week I'm in Salamanca, and I'm looking forward to the change and to choosing what and how much I want to eat; this is awful for my weight loss ;)

The week was a breeze, really. All veterans on the program meant they knew what to do and how to do it, so there was no issues on that front. It was also nice to see familiar faces back again too.
A few issues with punctuality which for the most part got sorted quickly.
It was a very involved group on both sides, which was good to see. Surprisingly during 'Human Bingo' one of my activities the Anglos kept reading the questions wrong which meant a lot of false claims; which was funny. Well they did say they could speak English, not necessarily read it, lol.

The karaoke turned into more like an impromptu party, but I did get to gauge the music they would want for party at least. Again we were blessed with some talented folks musicians and singers so they got a spot on Wednesdays stage, reggae to opera, scary bedtime stories to scary Omar stories and much much more besides!

Interestingly I'm noticing a lot more photographers coming on the programs, could there be a specific market to tap into there?!
Mayte is now the undisputed sit and ride lawnmower/go-cart champion of VT.

The party was good in general; but as always people want their own kind of music which isn't to everyone's taste, but hey we do what we can with what we have ;)

As usual the photos can be found below.
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 172

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Life Expressed Through Songs

Just for fun try this:
Using only SONG TITLES from any ARTIST(S) & genre, cleverly answer these questions. Feel free to pass it on. You can use OLD SCHOOL, NEW SCHOOL, whatever you want. Repeat a song title if you like. It's about letting your Facebook friends & family see a little bit of what you're about, by using the titles of songs. (If you're an artist & have written your own songs, then feel free to use some titles from your own joints to help promote your music. The hardest part is narrowing down your responses to only one songtitle per question. (Just copy this & paste it to your notes, where it says 'write a new note'.) Repost as "My Life Expressed Through Songs". Type the name of the song first, then next to it or under it type the name or attribute of the artist (if you can remember the artist's name). Thanks, for participating. Hope you enjoy it! Have fun, Family!!!

Are you a male or female:

Describe yourself:

How do you feel right now in your spirit?

If you could, what would you do to help make the world a better place?

If you could go anywhere, where would you go?

Your favorite form of transportation:

Your life's theme: (for example: theme song, what are you about, spiritual or political views, etc.,) GO YOUR OWN WAY

Your relationship with significant other (ideal relationship if not currently in one):

Your worst fear:

What is the best advice on life you have to offer:

If you could change your name or attribute, then what would it be?

Name something that you like to do:

What would you say to inspire someone?

My soul's present condition:

If today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Easy street

This week was considerably easier. The group were older, but VERY focused and bonded immediately which obviously makes life easier not only for us but for them too.
No problems with hotel clients this week; although the hotel was busy. The hotel staff still need to be shaken up a bit though, it seems that the manager is going to tackle this issue.
Vegetarians are still suffering at meals however; a buffet would be the way to go in my opinion.

A lot of high levels and indepth conversations kept things moving forward and they never seemed to be short of topics for discussion.
The theatre sections went over very well as we had quite a few musically gifted people on the program too: guitar players, ukulele player and a table tapper, so they kindly put a jam session together; which was great.
Emma got to star in her own murder mystery - with some last minute edits, but it seemed to work.

The presentations were also of a high level and everyone appeared to have worked hard on them which was great to see.

As I have been here for the 2 weeks I took to opportunity where possible to nip up to the river and surrounding areas to take a few photos not Vaughan Town related; which are posted HERE
never did find the kingfisher though :(

Somehow I managed to catch a foot fungus (doesn't sound nice does it?!)
It REALLY hurt when walking around and I thought at first it was Athletes Foot but it turned out to be something else. So I went into the town and got some cream and powder which seems to be working.
Funnily though, on the way to meeting room the Spaniard who took me to the Pharmacy very nonchalantly asked "so hows your virus", I went as red as my feet! He never asked again
I also managed to catch an infection which sapped my energy on Friday totally and no it wasn't a hangover. I could feel it coming on during Thursday. I seem to catching everything at the moment (very unlike me, is this what happens when you get old?).

It was fantastic to have had such a great group and I meant what I said to you all in the meeting room. It is this mix of people that make my job worth doing and why I do it, Thank you again.

Below you will find the wonderful photos of our week together.
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 168

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Best laid plans

This month I have 2 programs back to back in different venues; or so I thought. I decided that I would take my 'proper' camera with me to Salamanca, spend the weekend in Madrid then the following week in Gredos and get three locations shot, that was the plan.
However I arrived at the tapas meet only to find out that I was going to Gredos for both weeks, AND this that week is the Young Adults program! Damn it, so much for preparation and planning.

The Young Adults were in high spirits and seemed very much up for the week. The Spaniards on the other hand seemed daunted and sleepy at first, but they soon came round.
There were a few issues during the week. We had a couple of complaints at night from guests. The problem is, people are going to socialize (an important part of the program) but in order to do so they need to be able to have somewhere to do it without disrupting others. There is little point in expecting 8/10 people to 'chat' quietly.

It would have been nice if the facilities were made more available by the hotel, as they are already there it is of no extra cost to them.
One of the participants left the program at the beginning of the week after finding it too difficult. Vaughan Town is hard and daunting enough, you really need to have at least a basic level of English to feel comfortable. I think that age is also a factor and 17 is too young; Vaughan Town is not a summer camp.

I must admit though the Young Adult programs are more work then most typical programs and they do get tiring after a while, which is why if the group do as they should, you can relax off and not 'mother' them so much.
We had an accident during the improv sketch which put a downer on the remainder of the evening; luckily she is ok, nothing broken.

Surprisingly it took the party over an hour to get into full swing - and no, it had nothing to do with my music! Marisa did a good job of keeping them together and focused.
Well I have another week to prepare for but this time with adults, lets see how that goes.

The photos of the week can be found below - enjoy ;)
Vaughan Town - Gredos - Program 166

Quick tip: I found something out recently which may be of use to you travelers. Don't bother buying a return ticket for the train. Firstly it is not like a return in the UK. There if you buy a return ticket you pay one fixed price, keep your ticket and use it to return, simple. Not so simple here. If you buy a return ticket you pay (lets say 35 euros) for the ticket and you have to buy another ticket when you actually return which is slightly cheaper (perhaps 28 euros). The ticket itself does little. It doesn't guarantee you a seat or offer that much of a reduction. However the Renfe (train) are now offering last minute tickets, which are considerably cheaper from 35 euros to 18 which is a big difference. So if possible hold out until the day before if possible it could be well worth it ;)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Santander blues

After getting home and resting for 5 minutes (more or less) we headed off the Santander to visit Sandra's sister. It's a nice place, lots to see, a beach, flowers etc; unlike Palencia, lol.

We stayed there for a few days and went out and about the city and neighbouring villages. We found a village that Gaudi built another house in. This one was decorated with sunflower tiles; perhaps Van Gogh was his inspiration?
Sadly the bad weather seemed to be following us around so lots of moody cloudy skies in the pictures I took.

I think I have now pretty much done the North of Spain from East to West. I have seen most of the middle and down as far as Granada and Cordoba, but as yet none of the South coast.

This time just for fun I have heavily edited some of the images, just to experiment and try different looks and styles. I used overlays, saturation, lomo effect, black & white and inverted images, hopefully they still make interesting pictures non the less. Below is a quick edited photo to show the benefit of enhancements. The first is the enhanced photo, then move your mouse over to see the original photo - I think you will agree a little touch up makes a big difference.

The snapshots are below and the chosen few are HERE

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