5 Years Ago

December 6, 2008 -

John Heald

So yesterday I reminisced about yesterday’s heroes and role models from history and the world of television. And, with this in mind, I decided to choose my starting five for my “Heald’s Heroes” basketball team. We already have the coach in Winston Churchill and today I will name the first player in my team of heroes……….and at the position of point guard…………………….it is…………………Colombo.

Have you ever met anyone who says, “Oh, I hate Colombo?”………..Nope……..and that’s because everyone likes him. Now he may not be to good at shooting as he only has one good eye, but his determination to get the ball to the big guys would be relentless ………… he is like a pit bull terrier………he never lets go.

I can imagine Lebron James dribbling the ball behind his back and, just as he is about to shoot, he’d get a tap on his shoulder and would turn round and hear the immortal phrase “Ummmmm, just one more thing.”

Before he knew it, Lebron would have forgotten about shooting the three pointer as he would be too busy admitting to murdering Dwyane Wade’s shoe designer and defrauding his rich aunt out of millions of dollars. Colombo is in the team because he represents that never give in attitude you need in a successful team. The other great thing about Colombo is…….you never saw his wife. He would talk about her but you never saw her. Therefore there would never be a problem with Colombo’s wife turning into a basketball diva wife ………so at point guard………the world’s greatest detective………………….Colombo.

And then at center and team captain…………….it’s my go-to guy. Every team needs one of these, the man who leads the defense and calls the shots…….in this case………….it’s Don Vito Corleone….The Godfather. Imagine the scene, one of my players………..let’s say Colombo….has made a flagrant foul on Kobe Bryant and is about to be thrown out of the game.

Don Vito wanders over to Steve Javie, the ref, and makes him an offer he can’t refuse and suddenly not only is Colombo allowed to stay in the game but the foul has been awarded to our team and Kobe has been dismissed for being too rich.

I did consider putting Tony Soprano in the game but he is too violent. I want honor in our captain but I don’t want Tony beating Alan Iverson to death with his Reebok. You know, I just read this stuff I have written about my basketball team…….and sometimes I wonder …..what the hell I am writing about?………I think I need to get back on a ship.

Please keep the comments coming. I have a load of questions to answer and will do so on Monday. Remember, if there is anything I can do for you …..anything at all….please let me know.

Good Evening everyone……..I took Heidi out on the town last night. I felt a little pressure to do something special as it’s our fifth wedding anniversary today, and my normal routine of sitting by the TV watching soccer and basketball would result in time in the doghouse and probably would not be how she would want to celebrate our special day.

In a fit of lunacy, I got us two tickets for a play. I loathe plays – I don’t care if this makes me common and uneducated. I can understand why theatre was needed before television and cinema: the peasants were bored and restless and needed entertaining. Theatre provided them with storytelling and costumes and boys dressed as women. Nowadays, however, I can’t see the need for it. The play featured a reasonably famous person in the form of Josh Hartnett in the role made famous by Tom Cruise……yep………this was a stage version of Rain Man.

The whole thing was so wooden and stilted and….hammy. I just didn’t believe any of the story or in the characters. Yet, I was surrounded by people howling with laughter and at times crying tears as the actors went through their paces.

There was one scene in particular Charlie Babbitt, frustrated with his brother constantly talking to nobody in particular on a cellular phone, snatched it off him and dunked it in a vase of flowers. The audience erupted in mirth. This was clearly amazingly funny and a blow against the tyranny of the cell phone. I can only assume that none of them watched television, as there is more social commentary in an episode of “Desperate Housewives” than in this crap.

After a while, I started to fidget uncontrollably and kept looking at my watch. Even worse, there was no interval. I love intervals, as they are when you can bugger off early. I remember regular trips to the National Theatre when I was at school. I think I’ve seen the first half of every Shakespeare play as we’d sneak away in the interval and get drunk in a bar before throwing up on the coach back to school.

Anyway, back to the play with Heidi. The thing finally finished and the actors gave themselves three encores that nobody seemed to have asked for and we were free to stretch our cramped limbs and rush for the toilet. To my delight, Heidi hated it as much as I did and we agreed that we should have gone to see “Mama Mia” instead, although we were both proud of ourselves that we’d done something cultural.

The evening finished with a romantic dinner for two in a top London restaurant which now, of course, means I am completely broke………….I also had one of the worst meals of my life………at a restaurant called ………well, I had better not say the name but I can tell you it’s French………….and it’s Le something…………and quite famous. I had been recommended this restaurant by my mate Danny who is, thanks to this recommendation, currently walking with a limp.

Well, I knew this was the case when the man on the next table decided that what he’d really like for an appetizer was his girlfriend and set about eating her face. I was so close, I could hear every slurp. Mind you, she was a lot more appetizing than most of the stuff on the menu.

The real puzzler was the way the desserts and main courses seemed to have been mixed together. So the roast pork came with hazelnuts and sherry-vinegar sauce, the lamb came with pear, and the venison with fig marmalade and juniper-berry sauce. I know it’s a personal thing, but I don’t like sweet and savory in my mouth at the same time. It’s why I wouldn’t ever choose salmon-flavored ice cream. Or crème brule garnished with hamburger.

Still, I thought I’d give this mix ’n match cuisine a bash and started with seared duck foie gras with — wait for it, a roast banana and some banana purée. Strangely, the combination tasted like a Zippo lighter. But then my wife’s seared scallop in Indian spices, with a caramelized cauliflower purée, tasted like hemorrhoid cream…..I know this because as you will remember I once put this on my toothbrush by mistake.

Of course, your usual food gourmet, who understands the history and science of food, would know why our dinner tasted of various household products…..me, I have no idea.

Heidi’s main course was the big disaster, though, because it seemed to have the same flavor and nutritional value as a pair of my socks. Me? I ate an entire pig. Its blood, its belly, its feet, the lot. That was good(ish), as was my wife’s mushroom risotto — although her green salad didn’t turn up for ages and then, when it did, was actually made up mainly of tomatoes.

All in all, a fairly disastrous culinary experience, which is of no consequence to me because I don’t care about the food particularly. What I did care about, however, was the extremely bright lighting and the Herculean rudeness of the staff. OK, I know some of you will think that he is A) being grumpy and B) ridiculing the French……….but honestly, I am not. The headwaiter was flippant and obnoxious and definitely had a chip on his shoulder and was lucky not to have a foot in his arse.

You know, when you go out to a posh restaurant you want to be treated like a king and lit like a film star while they bring you mountains of incomprehensible food that you couldn’t make at home, even if you wanted to but……pigeon and pear? Banana and duck liver? That’s far too pompous for me.

Give me a roast beef and Yorkshire pudding anytime………give me a porterhouse steak from the supper clubs onboard. I think it’s time to be honest here. Over the last 20 politically correct years, it has been the man chef that has dominated the posh restaurants and the TV chef airwaves. I know there are one or two but they are seriously outnumbered by the men……..I am pretty certain that there are no female head chefs in the cruise industry……….are there? Maybe, less and less women know how to cook.

This is why I fervently believe school should be rather more than a factory numbering system, churning out kids with a C or a D or an A+. It should be a place where you learn how to be an adult. And cooking is a start. Polish is a good idea too. Why teach us French when we all know that they can understand what we’re on about perfectly well if we poke them in the chest often enough? Far better to be able to say, in a Warsaw burr, “My boiler is broken. Can you come and mend it?” Or better still, why not teach everyone how to mend their own boiler instead. Seriously. Why not have plumbing lessons? Because basic welding and how to cook a great macaroni and cheese, I promise, will stand you in better stead as an adult than knowing the square root of 35,987,654.

So, the play was boring and the dinner was overpriced and the food strange. Overall, it seemed that our big night did not go well……however……..there was one saving grace. ………the gift I bought Heidi.

As I mentioned in a recent blog thingy, you should never buy your wife anything that needs a plug, but this has always presented a problem. Because I’ve always had some understanding of stuff that needed electricity to function, and had no clue about stuff that didn’t.

Perfume, for example. Have you actually been into the perfume department of a shop recently? Not only do you have the traditional choice of about 10,000 from the well-known names such as Chanel and er . . . Jean Paul Gout but now you have celebrity-endorsed products, as well.

Does your wife want to smell like Beyoncé or Celine Dion? Or would she like to spend the year strutting around with a whiff of Paris Hilton behind her ears………although the real Paris Hilton usually wears he legs behind her ears to attract her men.

Horrified by all of this you ignore the perfume and head for the clothes department, but this is an even bigger mistake because you’ll buy the Wrong Thing. And to make matters worse you will buy the Wrong Thing in the Wrong Size………and that means returning it and being in the doghouse all at the same time.

So, jewelry then. Well, no, because for reasons I’ve never fully understood, jewelry shops never advertise their prices. Which means you need a basic grasp of what I call the “cheapgit” technique as you try to pretend the reason you don’t want the diamond- encrusted Rolex watch is because she needs to see it herself before you buy it….. not because it costs $36,000.

Personalized luggage or stationery is fine, but this needs to be ordered in March. And as for furniture…….well that may include a trip to IKEA and I would rather put my thingy in a shredder then go there.

At round about this point, the modern gentleman will start to think about getting some candles. We all know that girls like to spend hours having baths in the semi-darkness but a candle really didn’t seem substantial enough……..so, mmmmmmmmmmmmm how about music?

I’m afraid I’m similarly selfish when it comes to music. My wife is forever buying CDs by bands I’ve never heard of and I know she wants the new Take That album, but if I were to buy it for her she’d play it and then I’d have to listen to it as well and she would have to be the one to clean up the vomit

It was as I was getting desperate that I had a brain wave. I bought Heidi a digital photo frame. Have you seen these? You download all your favorite photos and they rotate onto the frame……..so, with the help of my mate Alan I downloaded all the wedding photos, photos of us, her Dad and much more………and that was one very happy lady. Problem is……….I have bugger all for her for Christmas.

Here is a photo of Heidi and I today after breakfast with Mum and Dad.


Thanks for all the anniversary wishes. Five years with this beautiful lady………I am one lucky bugger.

See you on Monday.


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John, Heidi and the Thingy.

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.