Saturday, 19 August 2017


I can't help but feel this is is all my fault.

We're on board the Irish Ferry to Dublin, Rob G and Chelsea picked us up at 9:00 and a quick pit stop to pick up Mr Weller and we were away bound for Dublin and the half Marathon I promised to do at last years beer festival. It had been previously stated that when inebriated I tend to make grand proclamations and promises which I then deny all knowledge of once sober. With that in mind whilst at the Denbigh Beer Festival, 2016 vintage (heady nose, full body with base notes of chili and oregano) Mr Weller employed some hideous, hither-to unknown technology called a 'phone' to record my actual words...


(I'd also question my use of the word exotic.)

Whilst probably inadmissible in a court of law, in the court of public opinion I clearly didn't have a leg to (run) stand on. Having failed to squirm my way out of it  I found myself boarding the fast ferry to Dublin called the Johnathon Swift (I see what they did there.). The boarding procedure was completely painless compared to the hours of dehumanising screening and waiting and vetting that you are forced to endure in order to even get within touching distance of a plane. No one gave a shit how much liquid was in my backpack or what size containers this potentially hazardous liquid was in. Probably all due to change after we leave the EU and it'll be back to border guard with rubber gloves and less-than winning smiles. Walking onto the ferry as it loomed out of the dock towards us it's hard not to be impressed with the sheer size of the thing.

Once up the gang plank (check out the nautical terms...#research) we secured a table for exactly nine people, which was fortuitous for us but seems deeply impractical for them.


                Rob "This is all my fault" Taylor
                Em "Face of an angel, mouth of a docker" Taylor 
                Llion "Guinness hating Irishman" Weller
                Rob "Diplomatic Escalator Incident" Gotts
                Chelsea "Brand new passport" Gotts
                Andy "Enough of this shit, where's my fucking jam?" Morris
                Katie "You wouldn't like me when I'm Hangry" Owen
                Caroline "Come on, it's only another Ten miles" Parry
                Rob "Bad Bob" Parry

As the ferry glided smoothly out of the dock we played cards and strolled around the deck, venturing upstairs for some "Top Decking" (don't put that into google image search). The lounge was perfectly comfortable on a smooth crossing like ours but you couldn't help but notice nearly every surface was wipe-clean which implies not every sailing was as chunder free as ours. We ventured onto the top deck to re-enact that scene from Titanic, (the holding-hands-in-the-breeze-to-feel-like-flying one, not the ARRRRGH!-CRASH-SPLASH-SPLUTTER-DISASTER! one).

Andy purchased a small tub of jam as his pre-marathon breakfast, to be smeared liberally over toast. In fact it seemed like such a big thing to him it seemed churlish not to purloin the jam and hold it to ransom.

Of course if he didn't actually get his jam pre-run, he'd have thirteen point one miles (actually thirteen point two but we'll get to that later) and four days to plot a devious and subtle revenge that would see the downfall of all I hold dear. As I sank to my knees gazing at the smouldering ruins of what had been my life, I'd lift my arms to the heavens entreating God "Why?!" Andy would simply whisper "The Jam, you fool," and vanish into the shadows.

Or, you know, he'd punch me or something.

The ferry docked without incident and two buses and a very bored passport officer later we were standing in the middle of Ireland's capital Dublin.

Dublin has that feel that you get in vibrant modern European cities but still with the weight of it's violent birth as a nation upon it. The history of the revolution and the republic is still on every corner as the new builds stand shoulder to shoulder with the battled scarred historical ones. Berlin had a similar feel of a nation embracing the future whilst still being very mindful of the past. But there's  none of the warning from history feel that Berlin feels burdened with.

After a minor misunderstanding that led to us purchasing tram tickets for everyone within a one mile radius (we're very generous abroad) we boarded a still very new tram and headed out to Spencer Dock. A short walk later we were meeting our Airbnb host Orla, who gave us a quick tour of the house and map of the city before going. 63 St Marys Road is a traditional comfortable terraced house. The fittings were well loved and it hadn't been updated in a while but everything was clean and worked and it also had an espresso machine that I was going to make a lot of use out of.

We headed back to the others at number 7 which was more modern and quirky with a skylight that led to the upstairs bedroom (don't wear a skirt) and a massive kitchen that we designated our hang out place.
When we stay in hotels you always need a place to just chill out in, be it the hotel bar or a strangers front room (ask permission first). But when you have a house/flat there s already built in chill out areas which makes the whole process a lot less awkward.

We caught the tram into town and walked through what can only be described as the Bedlam of a Saturday night in one of the worlds best known party cities.

Temple Bar is an area just south of the river and everyone seems to congregate there to parade between a plethora of restaurants, fast food joints and Irish bars (of course here, they just call them bars ). We braved the crowds for a bit and then went to a place our hosts had recommended for dinner called the Porterhouse. Inside was busy but without the frenetic energy of young people desperate to prove they knew how to have a good time (usually by drinking lots and falling over).

We snagged another nine seater table, apparently three time three is the actual 'magic number'! (In your face De La Soul!). Looking out onto the street and the river it was a welcome respite from the mania of Temple Bar proper and we settled in for pre-race carb loading.

Although the food was excellent they didn't actually sell Guinness all their ale was either brewed on site or bottled exotics. It was lovely but not quite what we were looking for so we had to make a pilgrimage to one of our favourites from previous visits, Mulligans.

Way back in the Jurassic Era, The Parrys and the Taylors visited Dublin and found ourselves in this rather pleasant pub called Mulligans. The Guinness was good, the atmosphere quiet and the kind of place where you might find yourself in conversation with total strangers. On a cardboard hanger behind the bar where you would usually expect to see peanuts or scratchings there were five or six small tins. Looking closer we could see they were labelled as being Snuff. Being the adventurous sort we ordered a tin of the foul stuff much to the amusement of the regulars who being local didn't need to prove their mettle by nasally ingesting finely ground up tobacco. That kind of the stuff they left to the idiot tourists. Twenty fruitless minutes later we managed to get the tin open through judicious use of forcing the bastard thing and as a consequence split half the contents on the table.

The locals had done us a favour of not actually gathering around the table and pointing and laughing but you could tell no one was paying any attention to the TV when the free tourist floor show was on. We all took a pinch and snorted it to what can only be described as minimal effect. Oh well we thought, putting the tin away and continuing to talk quietly in the corner. About five minutes post inhilation Mrs Parry lets out a sneeze of the power and proportions that gets talked about of the weather segment of the News,


This was closely followed by the roars of laughter from the locals who had been anticipating this very moment, from the second one of us said to the barman "Is that snuff?"

Anyway in Mulligans we found ourselves a small corner and had pints and avoided the snuff although I swear it was the same cardboard hanger that we'd got our from all those years ago. The Guinness was as I remembered, cold, refreshing but substantial and without that metallic tin taste you seem to get in most pints in pubs. They also take a while to serve it pouring four fifths and letting that fully settle before the final top up and serve.
This can take four to five minutes and allows ample time for conversation and anticipation of that delicious first draft. We had a pint each, I avoided the traditional additional Rob Pint in lieu of a Decent nights sleep. Walking home we found a squirrel mural on a building that Caz kept trying and failing to take a photo of.

We caught the LUAS home and headed for bed.


Now I might be paraphrasing Richard Curtis here, but I think you lose an essential part of yourself when you travel by airplane. You surrender to a Kafkaesque nightmare of bureaucracy and procedure.

Stand there.
Be Here at this time.
Don't talk about these things.
Don't carry these things.
Carry liquid containers smaller than those you would ever normally purchase if the government weren't afraid you were going to become some kind of Heisenberg-like genius and concoct an explosive device out of Right Guard and factor thirty Ambre Solaire.

Breaking any of these seemingly arbitrary rules could find you forced to remove your clothes in front of a stranger who is wearing rubber gloves and a purposeful look.

So when you emerge out of this area of strangeness and fear into, say, the arrivals hall of a major international airport, your face seems to contort in a certain way. The fear is replaced by relief and a sense that things have at least started to shift back towards normalcy after the Borstal-like nightmare of the last hours (minus the shankings of course).

Phil had previously stated that no one had ever met him from the plane at Manchester Airport so I advanced there with a sign saying "Welcome Taylors!". Em and I had a plan that if the both of us went we would stand five feet apart deliberately not looking at each other holding signs saying "The Judean peoples front" and "The peoples front of Judea".

I'd stood there for half an hour or so whilst the Airport machinery did its thing and my Brother, Amanda and the three boys emerged blinking into the light. Jack waved at me and Hugh just started laughing (he does that a lot, I'm trying not to take it personally). On their last visit Owen, the youngest, wasn't walking so its great to see him developing into a little guy wandering around and trying to get involved in everything.

So far a lot of people have made the comparison between my Brother and I and Jack and Hugh, I was the second child and smiled a lot. Phil was a bit more serious about his fun.

Speaking of Phil it was great to spend some time with him as he and I went to pick up a rather nice rented Passat with lots of room for the kids. now I'm not saying we got lost from the rental car place back to the terminal to pick up Amanda and the kids but the route we took was certainly scenic and Phil and I had time to vociferously curse the airport road layout and all designers thereof.

We got to "Grannys" and she was waiting with big smiles and hugs for all the kids as is the want of Granny's everywhere. They lost no time at all in getting a football and having a kick-about in the garden. It's great playing football with six and four year olds as my ability with a football consists of being just about able to boot it in the roughly the intended direction. No one's expecting me to go on a mazy run on the right and swing a big cross into the box. If i can boot it to them they're happy which makes me happy. Phil and I used to play a lot of football in the garden, which was big enough to hold our footballing dreams of glory even if our skill-sets didn't quite match up.

Amanda looks really well considering her fourth is due in October, it's been great seeing how amazing she and Phil are as parents and for that matter Jane and Wez as well. I think maybe it's just Em and I that never developed that parenting gene.

It's sobering if I'm honest. I lead a very selfish life compared to nearly all the parents I know. It's not that I feel guilty about my life choices, alright I do feel slightly guilty, but it's more that I see the sacrifices that the people that I love have made and I see the development of these tiny people as their reward and it seems like a lovely way to spend your short existence. However I've never been puked on at three in the morning whilst trying to change a nappy so I know it isn't all sunshine and roses.

They headed over to the cottage and I headed home first to meet up with Em. Due to confusion over lifts and details too dull to go into now, Llions Mum and her greyhound Sandy came over to pick Llion and ended up staying for an hour or so. Sandy was a rescue dog and is one of the sweetest natured Dogs I know but having been a racing greyhound is trained to chase anything small and furry so we have to be super careful regarding bringing him into any proximity with cats.

Carter seemed most upset that I was booting him out and gave me a look as he slunk away that said "That's the last time you'll find a mouse on your doorstep, Buddy!". Sandy came in and spent the next twenty minutes try to find where the scent of cat was coming from but eventually wound himself down and collapsed onto the rug. Have you ever seen an old greyhound trying to lie down? It's like a controlled demolition as bits of the leg lever against each other and seem to crumple in sequence until he's collapsed on the comfy rug.

We discussed the house and various and sundry until Em and Llion arrived and we went out separate ways.

We took the back road over to Betws-y-coed across the Denbigh moors and saw the usual level of complete disregard for personal safety on those ridiculous roads. What is it about an open twisty road that brings out the inner Clarkson in people?

Anyway we found the cottage and it's a perfect match for them with a large front room for the boys to congregate with a garden that's entirely fenced in. We had supper whilst the boys set up a slate processing factory(?) which we helped with until it was time for bed for us all! We headed home over the moors and eargly waited for the next day when Wez, Xander and Jane would arrive and we'd have the Taylors together again.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

Galveston is the novel from Nic Pizzolatta who was the show creator and writer of the neo noir True Detective which was set in Louisiana. That style of dark realism is shot through this gritty tale of low rtent lives in the shallow end of the criminal underworld. Rot Cody is a small time enforcer / hitman cracking head and collecting money for a local crime boss when what should have been simple job goes horrifically wrong. He’s forced to run both from the police and his ex-boss taking the only other survivor a damaged young girl called Rocky with him.

The change in circumstances forces him to evaluate his own life and he acts like a surrogate father or elder brother to rocky when his every instinct is screaming at him to abandon her and go it alone.

The writing is shot through with ink black poetry finding beauty and meaning in the minutiae and gutter scrapings of small lives poorly lived.  The charactisations are spot on and the plot is more about atmosphere and suspense than full on action. Anyone who’s looking for an American slice of the dark Scandinavian fiction should find themselves right at home here. 


Dominion asks the question what would happen if Britain had capitulated after the Dunkirk escape? How would Europe have changed the book is set in 1950s when the third Reich had finished on the western front and Britain is a fascist state under Prime minster Mosley.    David Fitzgerald is an unremarkable civil servant who has started to leak documents to Churchill resistance. He’s given a mission to smuggle an old school friend with a terrible secret out of the county. However the German army the British fascist and the SS will do anything to posses it.

This is a slow burner to start with having a glacial pace that really builds the drab grey atmosphere of post war fifties with a horrific Nazi twist. As with all of Sansoms work the research is impeccable and he delves into some of the facts behind the fiction at the end of the book. However you never get the feeling the writer is trying to blind you with information. “Never Mind the plot feel my research!” not naming names *cough* Kate Moss *cough*

In a sentence, it’s end of the affair meets Len Deighton 

Gone girl – Gillian Flynn

The movie has been out for a little while so I thought I’d read the book first, as I prefer to do things that way around where possible. Gone Girl centres around the marriage of a New York couple Nick and Amy who have to give up their city-life to move out to the sticks to support Nick’s family. When Amy goes missing in suspicious circumstances the skeletons of the couples decaying relationship are spilled out in front of a baying media as Nick’s culpability is called into question.

It’s hard to talk about this story without giving plot points away but I can say that the writing and distinctive voices of the characters shines through, using alternatively Nicks accounts of current events and Amy’s Diary of the previous years together. This device of current and past events gives flight to a plot that keeps the pages turning well into the night. It’s definitely a ‘just one more chapter’ book and will keep you gripped until the final page.

The casting of Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike gives hope that the movie will hold some of the dramatic power of the book. But I’d read it first just in case it’s a let-down… There has been some controversy about the book/film which directly relates to spoilers but I think the story should be seen entirely as a work of speculative fiction and not an endorsement of any particular view.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Thoughts from a Conference

Business speech in every mouth
Cheap suits in every corner
Conferences suck

I work in business
This is not what I imagined
A life badly lived

My tie only chokes me
Someone somewhere is laughing
Anywhere but here

For security
I made a cage for myself
I cannot see the sky

Life is before me
A million shades of Beige
Time for something else.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ten books that have stayed with me:

Ten books that have stayed with me:

Iain M Banks - Use of weapons
Anyone that I’ve talked to knows how much I love Iain Banks and Iain M Banks and choosing just one book was torture but this was the first of his books I read with my jaw somewhere around my. By turns funny, brutal and exciting it features my favourite book ‘twist’ of all time.

Hunter S Thompson - Fear and loathing on the campaign trail 1976
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is his most famous book but this much larger tome follows the author into the insanity and craziness that is the American political system in the seventies. His style of Gonzo Journalism has been much copied but very few authors can tell a story in the moment like he could. As Mark Twain said “Never let the Facts get in the way of a good story”

Jeanette Winterson - Sexing the cherry
It’s a slim volume but filled with the kind of imagery that will stay with you forever. The first book I ever bought on my now wifes recommendation and for that reason alone I have to have it.

Transmetropolitan - Warren Ellis
Bit of a cheat. Transmetropolitan is a comic series comprising of 60 individual comics telling the story of a grim and dirty future where one man with an honest heart and a portable bowel disruptor can make a difference. It’s probably my favourite comic series with a distinct beginning middle and end that feels like a full length novel and despite the dark tone has moments of proper heartstopping beauty that are all the more poignant for the squalor that surround them.

Eisenhorn - Dan Abnett
Blood, death and madness in a dark grim future where there is only war. Everything you need really. It’s a martial story and no one writes battles better than Dan Abnett who manages the trick of getting you to care about characters whose lives can be measured in pages rather than books.

War and peace - Tolstoy
I spent three months reading this monster of a book and it would be difficult to better a chronicle of the follies and foibles of men covering a broad swathe of life of the characters. That title isn’t kidding. It genuinely covers nearly everything.

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
It’s probably wrong to admit to having had a teenage crush on a fictional character but Elizabeth Bennet is smart, funny, strong and occasionally hilariously acerbic. If I could exist in one novel as a minor character I think it would be this one.

Microserfs - Douglas Coupland
A Story of Microsoft employees during the mid-nineties that decide to branch out and create their own company. It’s a good book in its own right but it stayed with me because it reminded me so much of myself and my fellow geeks at the time. It’s a proper snapshot of the mid-nineties when the Geek inherited the earth. 

The Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy - Douglas Adams
I read the first book when I was seven or eight, I didn’t get 75 % of the jokes but I still loved the idea of traversing the unfathomable depths of space in a dressing gown with only a towel for company. I also loved the idea of a portable device that meant you could hold the sum total knowledge of the universe in your hand. Cough iphone Cough

That old ace in the hole -Annie proulux

Annie Proulux has a ability to draw characters so well that you feel like you’ve known them half your life after a couple of pages. This book has stayed with me as every time I reread it it’s like visiting old friends that you haven’t seen in ages. It’s set in the pan handle of Texas around the windmills that draw up water for the grazing animals which doesn’t sound like the greatest premise for a book . But It’s an area I’ve driven through once and will go back to one day.

12/08/2017 - TOP DECKING - FOR FUN AND PROFIT I can't help but feel this is is all my fault. We're on board the Irish Ferry ...