From over the horizon

.... a closer look from far away.

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Maui Matters

Quite a bit tardy with this but we had such a great time, the memories haven’t faded a bit!

(All photos are click-able).

 In April, we went to Maui with our friends Colleen and Jim. For 17 fun-filled days, no less. The nights weren’t bad, either.

 We stayed at a lovely place in Kihei called Luana Kai. Fab location, on the ocean, with all the facilities you would expect from a top notch resort.

 Spend the day at the beach – or golfing – or both, throw in a bit of ‘shopping’ and then wander back with great succulent slabs of the fresh catch of the day, crack open a cold one and get grilling by the side of the pool. And that sizzle when you squeeze on the fresh lemon juice... Mercy!

 Throw a salad of fresh local organic produce together, slice up the warm crusty bread and only one thing left to do… open the vino!!

 We could either dine down by the pool, in the condo, or around the table on our spacious Lanai (Deck). We supped everywhere, of course. Variety is the spice ...and all that.

 After dinner, drinks and mellow conversation follow, while the warm breezes gradually fade as the sun goes down. Our view was incredible:

 Here’s our view at evening time:

Before I get into a couple of the favourite places (And there were many) that we went, I to have mention one of my favourite things. Getting back after a roasting day on the beach, with fond memories of that lovely long lingering lunch, body coated with bits of sand and dried sea salt, pouring a large cocktail of choice and hitting the shower!

With fresh, clean, cool clothes and smelling of shampoo, soap and after sun, it’s time to look forward to the exciting events of the evening, none the least of which is another cocktail because the first one tasted so good.

And of course, thoughts of supper!

Our friends are such good cooks that we ate in a lot of the time and even I got into the act a couple of evenings. With fresh mangoes, avocados, sweet onions and lush local tomatoes, the salad almost made itself.

And with something fresh to grill, like Mahi Mahi steaks and some local spices that really got the palate singing, the cooking was as much pleasure as the eating. Maybe more, come to think of it because there was always someone making sure your glass was topped up :-)

On one particularly memorable evening on the Lanai, copious amounts of vintage champers flowed, as everyone kindly helped me celebrate Charlton Athletic clinching promotion to the Championship that day, many thousands of miles away….

We still went out to eat, of course and choices were plentiful. Julia and I were lucky because Jim and Colleen were Maui veterans, well compared to us, anyway and knew the best places to go.

The 5 Palms, for example:

How about a Green Curried Seafood Stew? (Prawns, scallops and fresh island fish of the day, udon noodles and fingerling potatoes).

And their ‘Surf and Turf? (A perfect marriage of the Filet of Beef and Macadamia Nut encrusted fresh Catch of the day).

Ok – one more. How about  Rack of Lamb? (Maui Onion mash potato, ferns and Miso Blue Cheese sauce).

Sat outside, almost touching the beach, as the ocean glowed golden from the setting sun, we were treated to a first rate feast served by the attentive and very professional staff. Thanks, Colleen and Jim. That was a meal and a half!

Mostly, we ate lunch out. Either by our chosen beach of the day or at  the golf course we were playing.

I’m sure all will agree that Fred’s Mexican Café, just across from one of our favourite beaches, rates up there in our popularity.


Walking in from the roasting beach, to quaff down a pint of cold fine local brew while waiting on the ice-cold jugs of Margaritas and then munching on their natchos and fresh salsa before the fresh fish Taco’s arrived, was a mid-day treat that we found never dulled from repetition!  and breathe...

One day, though, I surprised all by taking some lunch to their supine selves on the beach. I’d nipped over to the 808 deli   and got some hot dogs.

Only these were no ordinary hot dogs. They were huge beef Smokies in great big long soft rolls, which had been filled with avocado slices, sweet onion and smothered with home made fresh Mango salsa. Oh Baby!!

The words of appreciation swiftly turned to grateful (and mouth full) grunts as said items were devoured with a passion. Boy, were they good!

We enjoyed all sorts of beaches. There were posh Resort ones, which were bizarrely deserted because the apparently affluent preferred to lie down cheek by jowl on the beds around the pool or in the gardens, jammed in literally inches from the people either side of them. Perhaps there is a charge if any sand is found in their suites?

There were remote beaches with no bar within strolling distance. Really. My complaint letter is in.  Beautifully natural, rugged and serious surf, though.

One of these was Baldwin Beach, across the island from Kihei. With the surf pounding in, it was great fun to get in there and get bashed about- but you had to time the entry and leg it pretty sharpish on the way out, to avoid getting sent flying!  (And all that sand up your...well, everywhere.)

Mind you, One of us had a different way to enjoy the surf:

Best seat in the house...


I also had a go at the snorkelling lark on another beach – much to the amusement of certain persons. As I was about to finally clamber into the water, a voice which sounded suspiciously like my missus, boomed down the beach, "Careful now, Ken – that’s a Whaler!” (Top right of picture). Bloody cheek, eh?

We got to do a bit of golf as well and that was good because I had hauled my clubs all the bloody way down there. It might not look like it from the next picture but we did enjoy it – honest!

“These $#@&ing bent grass greens will be the death of me”

......But who cares about bent grass when you look as good as this, eh?

Anyway, to avoid 'banging on', I’ll just mention one more 'Joint'. Pretty swish as well. It’s the Grand Wailea Hotel. Stately construction, huge manicured grounds loaded with pools and places to eat and drink, (We didn’t bother with the pools). A visit here has to be a ‘must do’. And here we are: (All dressed up ;-)



There’s one more ‘Must Do’ for us....... and that’s going back to Maui.

Barbados Blitz

Last week, I went back to see Uncle Jim in Barbados.

This also involved some golf because he had organised a Tourney at the lovely Barbados GC.


He called it ‘The Ken Jennings BC Salmon Open’. That made me the ‘Official Sponsor’. So I had a travelling companion……. A wild Pacific Coho.



As always, Uncle Jim’s impeccable organisational skills were in full flow. (Except the bit about getting to the airport on time to pick me up…).

I got in on the Tuesday night and we played the first round early Wednesday morning. The event consisted of three rounds, Wednesday, Friday and the following Monday. There was to be a random partner draw each round and a ‘Better ball’ format, counting six drives from each partner. The individual player takes their team score into the next round. That was the plan, anyway.

It was destined to be a remarkable tournament, for in the very first round there was a momentous occurrence!  On the 13th, one of our participants got an Eagle!!

Now, the 13th is Par-3, so that means.….It was Hole-In-One!!!

And the ‘participant’ was none other than….Uncle Jim!!!! Congratulations, mate.

And fair play to him. Following the round (and all the noise around the course), he kept the whole clubhouse extremely well lubricated. And for the rest of the week’s stay, I awoke relishing the prospect of the day’s reminder(s) of his amazing achievement.

By the start of the third round, some of us were ‘a little behind’ the leaders and so we had the highest scorers partner with the lowest.

It was thus that I had the honour of playing in the final group with Kevin, who started the round 3 shots back of the leader, Denzil. Colin, the Welsh wizard of the short game, partnered him. I have to say, that final round was one of the most enjoyable I have ever played. And the fierce wind definitely added to the entertainment. (At times, it was at least a 3 clubber!).

Not only was it such fun, we all played pretty well too and the ‘high scorers’ did not let their illustrious partners down (Well- Colin didn’t). At the turn, Kevin and I had pulled back two strokes, so Kevin was just one back of Denzil. Exciting stuff!

On the 10th, a 170 yard uphill par 3, over a large coral gully up to a long, narrow green, Colin and Denzil sprayed their tee shots into goodness knows where and Colin had to hit a provisional, which he also sent way left, like his first one. Mine came up short (Blamed the wind, of course) but Kevin’s made it to the left of the green, on the mounds just off the fringe. As I picked up my ball and headed for Kevin’s, things were looking good for at least a two-stroke swing with Kevin taking the overall lead.

Amazingly and after much searching (I’m sure there should have been a time penalty – but Denzil would not have had any of that ;-), Colin’s “first” ball (oh sure) was found, way off to the left in amongst some shrubs and tree roots – and still in bounds. Even more amazingly, Denzil chipped out of there and came up about 8 feet from the pin. What a shot! Then they made the putt for the par. An incredible up and down.

And that was as close as we got. Over the next eight holes, Colin and Denzil got the two strokes back and both teams finished with a 76! Not too shabby, eh? And the best thing was that the win was earned. Neither team gave a hole away.

I should mention at this point (Because he will not forgive me if I don’t) that Uncle Jim and his partner, Goody, shot 75 on that final round. Well done you chaps.

Denzil won the Salmon. (Which was just as well because his missus had told him not to come home without it!). His three round score totalled 230. Second was Kevin with 233 and Goody came a very close third with 234. Uncle Jim came next with a seriously creditable 238.

The awards lunch was well catered by the Barbados Golf Club as

The Clubhouse

well as the Banks Brewery. And if you read my previous Barbados post, you are aware of my opinion of Banks beer….

It was a genuine pleasure to meet everyone who took part. A great group of guys who, to a man, entered into the spirit of the event.  And thanks again to Uncle Jim for making it all possible. I hope the next one will be as much fun.

And speaking of fun, there was a whole lot of that happening for the duration of my short stay. (Short for me and probably excruciatingly lengthy for Uncle Jim).

We had rounds of golf in between the tournament days and I got some decent beach time to boot. A dip in the ocean in late February is a real treat, I can tell you.

The weekend was quite spectacular. On Saturday, Uncle Jim’s friends, Dave and Lucy, treated us to supper at the Harlequin and Keith, the owner, threw in a round of drinks. Blimey, what a treat! As always, the food was super and the ambiance magnificent. I love that place!

Of course, word of Uncle Jim’s triumph had spread across the Island and a whole procession of folk arrived at the table to offer congratulations and advise of their drink of choice. (Keith sent them all).

All approaches were smoothly dealt with, as one would expect. Uncle Jim thanked each one and then advised there was a Statute of Limitations on the ‘Free Drinks’ requirement. Otherwise known as the ‘You have to be there ‘ rule.

And on Sunday, Uncle Jim took me for lunch to Fisher Pond. WOW! Up in the hills amongst a sugar cane plantation, the setting is spectacular.

Lunch, which is internationally reviewed as the ‘Best Sunday lunch in Barbados’, is served in the Plantation house and if you so choose, as  Uncle Jim did when he booked it well in advance, you can get a table in the beautiful grounds.

On arrival, a casual cocktail is offered and then a choice of soup. After that, you will be invited into the house to be served a generous taste of each of their seafood appetizers.

Then you get to go back in to help yourself to mouth-watering main courses and scrumptious salads. Uncle Jim, being a pro, was a great guide. We made a separate trip for each. I managed some wines to go with them…..

After that, another trip takes you to the incredible dessert table, with cheesecakes, bread puddings, rum cakes and trifles. And the coffee served was the nicest I have ever tasted in my whole caffeine life!

Those of you that have seen Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of Life’ will understand exactly what I mean, when I say I waddled out of there  feeling like ‘Mr. Creosote’.

Funny how things work out. Being so full and all, we had to call Laura and Kevin to say we would not be able to make it to visit them at their beautiful beachfront home that afternoon. All we could do was lie down.

However, on Tuesday, the day before I left, they repeated their invitation and this time I got to go down and see their pad. Uncle Jim said it is one of the nicest homes in Barbados. All I know, is it’s fabulous ‘with all the trimmings’ – and it is right on the beach. And of course much more importantly, they are really nice people to hang with!

After a few cold ones, we all headed up to Chicken Rita’s Rum Shack for dinner. (See previous Barbados post). It was very busy and as we drove up, Jim stopped and told me to go and get a table for four, while he found a parking place.

I couldn’t see a spare seat in the ‘yard’. Let alone a table for four, so I went in the shack to see about a reservation. No one behind the counter – and certainly no sign of a Maitre’d. So I walked lamely outside to wait for Uncle Jim’s arrival.

I met him as he approached. “ I haven’t been able to sort anything, sorry”, I said. He walked straight past me without commenting and entered the shack. He picked up a solitary white plastic table, carried it outside and plonked it down in a spare spot in the yard. That’s what he meant by ‘Go and get a table for four’. Who’d have guessed? I did at least get the message and found some chairs at the back of the shack.

It was a great evening and a totally fitting last memory of my Barbados Blitz.

I flew WestJet for the long journey. My first experience and I was well impressed. Flying them again in a couple of weeks. This time to Maui. Maybe worth another blog.

Cliche - Has it really been that long?

Damn right it has .. July 2011 speaks for itself.

But I have done stuff. I have just not felt like writing about it.

August saw me jetting back to the U.K. Seeing my mates for our Clarendon Hotel lunch in Blackheath. Funny we call it 'Lunch' because we meet in the pub late morning and we keep at it until well after lights out.  At various venues, I should point out. And in fairness, the Clarendon does figure around midday. Their house champagne is excellent.

I won't mention anything about he who fell down the hotel stairs at the end of the afternoon, taking his unfortunate 'minder' with him  - because he has too much on me. I'm just glad I wasn't one of the bravehearts who witnessed the ambiance of said fallers room the following morning..... The rest of us went out for the evening and had a few more pints and an excellent curry in the village.

Then of course, there were visits to the 'Valley' to watch Charlton disappoint and frustrate. Why should anything change, eh?

I also trekked over to see my old uncle in his care home. He just doesn't want to know any more and despite the efforts to fancy it up and the incredible amounts they charge, it still looks, feels and acts like a hospital.

The flights back and forth still involved the same old airport nonsense, with minimum wage souls acting like they are the FBI if they find an undeclared hair clip in your carry on.

The flights themselves were more comfortable because I had spent enough money on my 'Aeroplan' credit card and had suffered sufficient miles for Air Canada to anoint me with the 'Elite' designation.

I must confess, when I got my 'Elite' bag tag, it was like the sword touching my shoulders at Buck House.

So I got enough credits to permit me to 'Apply' for an upgrade. And lucky me, there was room on the way home. I didn't know until I got to the boarding lounge and went to the desk at the gate. We'll be boarding in a while' the lady said. 'Oh that's fine' says me showing my boarding pass, 'I was just wondering if I got my upgrade'.

She looked at my plebeian boarding pass and then shuffled through a small pile on her desk, took the one from my hand and replaced it with one bearing the magic words, 'Executive Class'. I was 'IN'.

Barely containing my self satisfied smile (This had taken me years to achieve), I placed the boarding pass in a safe pocket and glanced out at the plane. I was dying to sink into one of those 'Big Seats'. 

From the lounge window I could see directly into the cockpit. It was about 30 minutes to flight time and there was a guy in orange overalls sitting in the pilot's seat.

Oh Oh! The pilot does not usually wear orange overalls. Mechanic types do. Five minutes to take-off time and the driver's seat was still filled with orange. Then the announcement came. 'This is an announcement for all passengers on flight blah blah blah - mechanical issues, delay and all passengers should now leave the departure gate and return to the airport lounge area..."

Eh? - At Heathrow, that's only about a mile or two from this gate. And to make it easier, they put in moving walkways. very helpful. But of course, they only operate in one direction - to get passengers TO the departure gates. Going back? - get the hiking boots on buddy!

At least for me, being a designated 'Elite', I got to go and recuperate in the toffs lounge where you can eat and drink as much as you can stomach while you wait.

Two hours later, we are told to go back to the gate. We board the plane. The man in the driver's seat is wearing a blue outfit with more gold rings than an Admiral of the Fleet, so that is a good sign. Everyone is on and the doors are closed. Expectant eyes turn to look out the window to see the world moving forward as we back out from the gate. Nothing.

OK, read a bit of the magazine and look again. Nothing. Twenty minutes later, magazine discarded and eyes glued looking for the faintest movement, they haul us out from the gate because they need it and then  leave us sitting on the apron for another half hour before we finally get rolling in the queue waiting to take off. That's what happens if you miss your slot at LHR.

The airborne show all went to schedule. I got to play with my electric fold out seat and watch movies on a screen I could actually see something on. Wine was very good. Food was not. So I just stuck with the wine.

With the delay, the connecting flight was missed but full credit to the ground staff at Air Canada for having everything sorted by the time I was ready to move on. The lady even showed up at the luggage carousel to re-tag my bags for the later flight over to the Island. It sure feels good to be 'Elite'.

Then a few days after getting home, I got to participate in the annual 'Island Cup' golf tournament. It is a partners event (names drawn from a hat) and goes for three days of carousing on Vancouver Island. Golf is also involved. My old mate Jim won this year, along with his partner...ME!

I have just passed over the stewardship of the Trophy to Jim, so he can have our names engraved.

Now I have some new ventures coming up. The first is the" Ken Jennings BC Salmon Open" which takes place next week in Barbados.

I fly into Bridgetown next Tuesday evening at 9:30pm. The first round tees off at 8am Wednesday (5:00am my time).
The second round is Friday at 7:30am (4:30am my time) and the final round starts on Monday at 8:00am.
I leave  Bridgetown on Wednesday at 9:00am.
And as the designated sponsor, I have to come up with the Trophy. So I now have to travel with a bleedin' salmon....

And to make matters more sobering, I did not fly enough miles with Air Canada last year so now my designation has been degraded to......'Bum'. No more 'Billy Big Time' for me. Can't even get in the toff's toilet, never mind about the lounge...

Oh well. I'm flying WestJet anyway...

Got some other trips coming up after that. I'll keep you posted.

Prediction Ponderings - A whole new ballgame?

In December 2010, Charlton Athletic FC were taken over by a consortium of businessmen, fronted by Lawyer, Michael Slater, who is Chairman, along with former Newcastle United vice-chairman, Tony Jimenez. The 'Money man' behind the scenes is believed to be Kevin Cash, a multimillionaire about whom very little is known. It is clear however, that he is not 'throwing' money at the club and there is a tight leash on the Board's spending. If he gets turned off, so will the tap.

The move brought much needed financial resources to the club, which, we are told, was in serious trouble and headed towards Administration. Third Division revenues do not support Premier League infrastructure and the loss over the previous three years  was in the region of 7.5 million dollars a year. The much loved Chairman, Richard Murray was literally digging into his own pocket to service the debts.

Given the lack of funds, a team was cobbled together from other third division rejects and some players who were seeing out their contracts - some still getting Premier league wages. They did remarkably well under the guidance of recently appointed Manager Phil Parkinson, who had them in the promotion play-offs the previous Season and when the new owners took over mid way through the 09/10 Season, Charlton were level on points with second placed
(an automatic promotion spot) Sheffield Wednesday and just 4 points behind the leaders, Brighton, having just taken a point off them at their home ground.

A few weeks after taking over, they fired Phil Parkinson following a brief dip in team performance. After their first choice bailed on them to join a Championship club, they appointed a former Charlton player, Chris Powell who at the time, was at Leicester City FC, as assistant manager under Sven Goran Ericksson, the former England manager. Powell had also been the President of the Professional Footballers' Association but he had not been a football club manager.

As a player, Chris Powell is a Charlton 'Legend' and to most supporters he is afforded Hero status. But despite this degree of popularity, a lot of the same supporters are concerned about his lack of managerial experience and whether he can do the business. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that, after winning the first four games in a row, luckily in some cases it must be said, the team went on a dreadful run and finished the season in the lower half of the division. It was painfully clear that most of the current crop of players were incapable of playing the type of football Powell was attempting to introduce.

Then the owners recruited Jeff Vetere from Aston Villa. Vetere was their chief scout and is regarded as something of a genius when it comes to spotting young prospects. It was quite the coup for a Third Division club to get him. It also showed there was a bit of money back in the club at last (As well as some old boy connections).

Chairman Michael Slater announced recently that it is the Board's intent to get Charlton promoted as quickly as possible, with the ultimate goal being a return to the Premier League. By moving up a Division, Charlton would see a huge increase (in the millions) in TV revenues and getting back to the Premiership would see TV revenues in the region of 120 million dollars a season. They currently receive a couple of hundred thou'.

Mr. Slater said there would be 'significant investment' to support those aims but it would be controlled and sensible spending. They did not renew any out of contract players and there has been almost a complete change of personnel. They are also trying to offload two of the in-contract players but both refused deals at other clubs. The club will likely loan them out as they cannot refuse that. Details of the current squad status can be viewed HERE

In the past few weeks, in preparation for the new season, which kicks off on August 6th., the club has recruited players with the aim of not only winning promotion this year but competing in the 'Championship' with the same players. (Or having another realistic tilt next year if they are unsuccessful). There has been some 'Cherry picking' of talented young players from other third division clubs, eg. we now have the Division's top scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips (actually, they declared their intent by bringing him in soon after they took over the club) and they have added to the fire power by beating a number of other clubs to sign Paul Hayes, a very useful player. They have also recruited some promising midfielders and defenders. They are all early 20's, hungry and with something to prove. Fees have been paid to their former clubs where necessary. Most have been given 3- year contracts on decent wages by third division standards, no doubt with provisions for add-ons in the event of promotion.

They have also brought in younger, skilled developing players, such as Cedric Evina, an 18 year old from Arsenal - an extremely pacy and talented left back or left midfield player and a 19 year old wizard of a winger, Spaniard Ruben Bover Izquirdo. They have retained a sprinkling of old hands and have brought in a very experienced midfielder, Mikel Alonso, brother of Xavi Alonso (who plays for Real Madrid)

There are some more signings to come. Another forward and another defender at least.

Can Chris Powell manage them?  I think he can.

So far, in preseason, the new team has gelled very well and while the primary function is to get everyone match fit, they have looked really good. There are another four matches scheduled before the Season starts. The final one, on August 2nd. is at local
arch-rivals and Championship club, Millwall. By that time, Powell should have decided on his starting XI - or close to it but he will make sure his match-day squad all get a run out and a chance to show how much they want to start on August 6th.

For a Charlton supporter this has the potential to be one of the most exciting Season's in many a year.

When looking to predict a result, it is wise to give some consideration to the following:

  • Home and away is a huge factor for most teams.
  • Which three teams came down from the Championship? (They have a point to prove, likely retain a strong squad and want to get back up NOW. At least one will likely succeed).
  • Which teams came up from League 2? (Fourth Division). Bit of an unknown quantity, lots to play for, especially a 'Big scalp' like Charlton, so for them it is like a Cup Final i.e. if our lads are not on their game, surprises can happen.
  • Where do teams come from? The North West of England is a notoriously arduous journey and the teams hard to play against at their home grounds.
  • Which teams have former Charlton players? Traditionally, they pop up and score against us -I kid you not!
  • Which teams in the Division have been close to promotion in recent seasons? Research will show it is the same clubs, so they obviously have something about them and will not be pushovers.

Most teams in this Division play a very direct 'long ball' style and are very physical as they are trying to make up for the lack of technical skills. They are often successful in stifling the ability of the opponents to actually play football - as Chris Powell is trying to introduce. Ball to feet, on the ground, lots of movement and passing. Speed on the wings and accurate crossing.

It is great to watch but unless the back of the net bulges enough times, anything can happen by the final whistle. A 'dodgy' penalty decision or free kick, a wicked deflection, a defensive cock-up and lo and behold, the brutes have beaten the ballerinas.

The above factors are of course expressed in simplified terms. While certain clubs meet the criteria referred to, they may have had player changes or a management  change. Perhaps they are in dire staits and have to sell their better players, etc.

I don't delve deeply. (I won last year, by the way :-)  I tend to have a quick gander at the League 1 news on BBC Sport:

Teams that are expected to offer serious competition this season, for the various reasons stated above and especially at Home, include - in no particular order, Sheffield United, Preston, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and MK Dons. As with all team sports, there can also be the surprise package.

So what do other 'Pickers' think? The Picks of promotion teams sent in so far are HERE:

As for predicting each game result, a lot of us have learned over the years of supporting our Charlton, that they will generally do exactly the opposite to what you expect. They'll have you exploding with totally unexpected joy or withering and numb with totally unexpected failure. eg. Beat Chelsea one day, lose to a non-league side on another. That's Charlton. Or at least it has been. We are in the midst of change. Could we dare court consistency? I dunno. The old much loved regime is behind us. The new guys seem to be ruthlessly efficient. Maybe reasonable expectations will be met and most of us will faint - but it could happen.

I was inspired to write this by Dan. He lives in Victoria, British Columbia. He is a new Addick and was proud to get the shirt. I invited him onto the CAFC Picks and he said, "In my case it will be somewhat akin to throwing darts at a wall."

So hope this helps, Dan. Clear as mud to me, mate.

Good luck with the 'Picks'.