We are Manchester United – for the highs & the lows!

I wrote an article a while ago at a low point in Manchester United’s rather illustrious recent history. I wrote it because I believed that a team I have watched and supported for 20 years was not playing to the clubs expectations. They were not giving what I expect players of a club like this to give, every minute of every game.

I see some fans have lumped this current period into that same genre.

I actually appreciate this hardship United is going through, don’t get me wrong I don’t like to lose, far from it. But I believe we had become fat on winnings as United fans. We had forgotten what it feels like to build and sweat and strive for each inch. We had that luxury under Sir Alex. We had the luxury of knowing that there was a maestro pulling almost every string. Those days are gone, very much gone.

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We cannot expect David Moyes to step into Sir Alex’s very well worn shoes and pick up where he left off, we cannot expect the trophy’s and the success to be as easy to come by as it has been for so long and we, most importantly, cannot expect to support our current management any less than the previous!

We would never dare, even in our darkest of times, question the leadership of Sir Alex and we have no right to do so with his hand-picked successor. David Moyes is embarking on what we hope is a career for the rest of his life with one of the biggest clubs in the world and to write him off after seven games seems like something City or Chelsea would do, it’s not what Manchester United does.

We are all in this together, we are all fighting to make this team become as great as it was under Sir Alex but it takes time and for us to be turning on each other is merely putting smiles on the faces of other premier league teams and their fans.

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Being a part of this club in any capacity comes with a responsibility, one that requires us to pull together and back each other in any time but most importantly in the tough ones. Never will this club sink to the level of so many others in professional sport that expects quick wins, bought success and harsh punishment if they don’t get it! We will never expect this because we know that kind of hollow victory doesn’t build legacy, it doesn’t build legends and it doesn’t build a club that is revered and feared in equal capacity. It has never been the way we build at Manchester United!

We are Manchester United and we stand together, you will do well to remember that every time you have the privilege of watching this club play. You can debate team selection in pubs and on couches, you can bemoan poor decisions and on field antics but you dare not give your full support each and every time it’s called upon.

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We are Manchester United and we will always be proud of who we are, what our club has become because the sweat and tears that built this club will never be dishonored by fans who do not have the courage to help pull the club out of the lows. If i believe for a moment we are not successful tdue to lowered standards and poor work ethic i will be the first person to call them out, as in the afore mentioned article, but this moment in United history is certainly not one of those times.

We are Manchester United, remember that always!

 

 

I missed my life for a minute until home came for a little visit and a beer festival!

A few weeks ago I had a moment where I missed home like never before. Its funny how things get triggered I guess.

We had some colleagues / friends over for dinner and as an ordinary South African male I put on some music, got a variation of well marinated and prepared animals and fired up the braai. Glass of red wine in one hand and tongs in the other, almost a cliché out of any SA’n story and yet, as would be common practice at home, no one came to join me at the braai. No one offered to help with a second pair of tongs, hold the torch due to a light being out, not even the social comradery of standing over an open fire. My shoulders drooped and my heart sank, I missed home desperately.

It’s in moments like these, and there are not too many, but when they do come you realize how powerful the calling of being in a similar culture really is.

Let me clarify, it’s not that these people were being rude or not enthusiastic but they just have a completely different culture. Braaing to them was the same as two people going to stand around the oven while a chicken roasts, to us those moments around the fire are of almost the same enjoyment as the meal itself.

Fortunately for me there was a little piece of home round the corner, and a much needed connection with the feeling of being ingrained in something rather than just sitting on top – it’s difficult to explain. However little did I realize the ensuing few days would take me back further than just being at home but perhaps closer to being at university.

The Qingdao beer festival (Pijiu Jie)

The second biggest beer festival in the world after Munich and close to 3 million people in 2 weeks pass through these massive tents, stages, halls and open areas. One would assume there would be a fair international presence yet being one of, I’m sure, only twenty total Wai Guo Ren in the place it started to feel a little interesting, and with a small crew of people who had almost 30 hours of travelling combined with excitement it felt like rabid dogs waiting to be let of their leashes.

Needless to say when in the first tent you get served, literally, body sized beer mugs and skyscraper like towers of beer you know it is going to be a big 72 hours, that is before the old Chinese man in the corner offers you all a dried Cicada as a welcome to China snack.

It felt like so many times at home where before a particularly big night I had the feeling of excited nervousness as if we would again end up in some police station begging for our freedom but at the same time appreciating the joy of an epic night – the 2am group naked swim in the ocean, and I NEVER go into the ocean during the day let alone at Jaw’s-time at night, confirmed night one had been successfully dealt with!

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The next 48 hours were somewhat of a blur of big champagne and lobster brunches, outstanding street / stall food, laughs, lots and lots of laughs and much beer, but it was only about half way through night two that we thought we had done half the number of tents on the rotation when we saw a big set of stairs and lights coming over the top. Thinking it may me a good place to see the city and get some aerial shots of the festival we climbed to survey the half territory we had conquered. It turned out ‘our’ map had included probably a third of what there actually was, our faces looked like the scientists in Jurassic park when they first see the dinosaurs on the island, and sorry for the archaic reference I just watched the re-mastered one in 3D here the other day, a mixture of curiosity, excitement and fear. Turns out we were staring at one of the biggest set stages I’ve ever seen, think a flat version of U2 360 deg tour, and just banquet table after table filled with beer, food, people and chaos. This all surrounded by more halls, tents and side bars than we had even seen at our previous part of the festival.

We may remember night two as the one that broke us all.

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When you wake up after three 12 hour drinking sessions, plus two massive nights before we started Qingdao, and you open your eyes normally the pain coursing through your body is enough to put you in the fetal position in the shower. On this morning though it was different, through the pain I was smiling. Certainly not because I felt good but rather because it felt like home for a few days. Its a funny thing, the concept of home.

Im not sure what it is really, its not a place, but a feeling. A sense that there is no need to pretend, no need to impress, no reason to do anything but just enjoy the people you are with and the time you have together. Its a feeling like the jokes they get and don’t judge or take badly, its a feeling that you just are as apposed to most days in Shanghai where you are trying to build and make and be.

The few days with friends, that i have purposefully left pictures out of to avoid some serious embarrassment, is just a perfect rest and recharge no matter how much damage was done to the body.

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This beer festival is a the most bizarre mix of people, events, food and fun but i have to say although it may feel like the twilight zone most of the time – it is certainly well worth a visit!

 

How Apple got it so wrong, especially in China!

I’ve been the prophet of doom when it comes to Apple for some time now. It didn’t start, like most people, with the death of Steve Jobs, because I believe one man doesn’t make an entire organization – even though in this case it’s almost certainly the truth.

The reason I’ve been so pessimistic is that I live in Shanghai and I get the opportunity to watch Chinese consumers in action every day. Such is the pull of China that if the consumers here switch you off you can almost kiss the next ten years of your business goodbye.

apple in chinaApple has been hanging on to the innovation they once found so plentiful, by a thread while Samsung has been delivering it in abundance on a regular basis to the world. Samsung has engaged and courted the Asian consumer while Apple has released new innovations late, after sales serviced poorly and outright just ignored the retail environment here, and finally, the Chinese are just not taking it anymore especially after this last effort at ‘innovation’.

As long as Apple keep delivering products that are sexier than the competition they remain the phone to be in everyone’s hand, and here I mean EVERYONE. Their safety was secured by virtue of their brand status, which in China is absolutely everything. This recent launch of the 5C however has done severe damage to this once impenetrable brand.

I’m pretty sure it all made sense by the numbers – someone in Apple worked out how many phones, in theory, they could sell if they brought out a ‘cheap’ phone, worked out the profits and then sent to whoever for approval of this new project. Somewhere along the way though they found out they couldn’t make it that much cheaper and so they skimped in the places the Chinese consumer least wants its, outward appearance!

Xiomi have innovated faster and delivered better in China + thei APP store has twice the downloads per person as Apple!
Xiomi have innovated faster and delivered better in China + thei APP store has twice the downloads per person as Apple!

The fact the Apple actually thought a cheaper phone would start taking back market share from local companies like Xiaomi or Huawei just shows how little they understand and how out of touch they are with their consumer here and really just how far behind they have actually fallen. It is said that ‘poor financial performance is a lagging indicator of a bigger problem’ and their lack of ability to even understand the Chinese market let alone develop a product for it shows exactly that.

The new 5C that I’m sure was hailed in its theoretical concept as a money printing machine, I can almost see Tim Cook rubbing his little paws together in eager anticipation of his first major mark on Apple, but sadly the current view of the Chinese consumer is that it’s a seriously large amount of money to pay for something that looks like a colorful potato peeler.

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This is not the beginning of the end for Apple because even Nokia is still alive but this is certainly, if you weren’t convinced before, a strong indication of how far and fast they have fallen!

 

I never was a resort kind of person . . .

. . . I guess I just always thought they had to be like a bad old run down Club Meds from the 80s where there was a program for every minute of every day and some over friendly person smile-f@#$ing you all day long into doing events or crafts when all you want to do is drink over ambitious cocktails all day by the pool or on the beach!

Then one day we ended up at this place for a week – just to give you an idea Beyonce & JZ checked out of the villa next door a week before.

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The food was Michelin starred every meal (I mean tasting menu for breakfast and designs on the cappuccino every day), a sauna and steam room in the hotel room and an infinity pool on the edge of a cliff that in the everyday perfect sunshine, looked like this! A private beach on call butler 24 hours a day, bijjillion fiffillion inch TV and the list goes on and on.

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Needless to say my outlook on resort holidays had changed somewhat.

Now still I believe that some holidays are meant to learn (and play) some are meant to discover or be active and some, like the one above are just meant to chill the hell out, read, get drunk and eat. So when the opportunity comes along, like having to present in Vietnam for work on a Thursday there really is no reason rushing back to Shanghai (well actually on to Singapore cause the work doesn’t stop) especially when just a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City is a magical little place called Hoi An, packed with resorts and at the top of them all is a place called THE NAM HAI

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This resort may rival the best I’ve been to. I won’t go into a long drawn out schpeel about what it has and doesn’t – you can take a quick photographic tour of it all. Most of them are my pics but I have supplemented a few here and there!

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Perfect views from every restaurant, every pool (assuming you leaving the one in your villa), every piece of the place. Then if you step out either from your room or from any part of the the resort there are miles of untouched private beach . . .

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Then if you feel like a hint of a private relax (again if your villa is not enough) you can have drinks at sundown and dinner on the beach, like so . . .

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Now, all of this is assuming you actually want to ever leave your villa. By villa i mean two separate houses basically with, on one side a fully stock liquor cabinet and wine rack, table for 10, TV lounge and porch. Then on the other side bedroom, lounge, bathroom, shower in and out . . .

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This is just the entrance to the Villa . . .

Then there is ‘house one’ designed for eating, watching TV and lounging . . .

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Liquor cabinet (below this is a wine rack of about 50 bottles – i like the way they think :)

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That is ‘house one’ then there is the ‘bedroom house’ . . .

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 Then there’s the ‘bedroom house’ . . . .

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The room at night gets all the lace curtains closed so it turns into a Bedouin tent bedroom (this is the only kind of camping i like)

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This is certainly very close to my happy place – laptop, paradise view, pool and a small Vietnamese coffee . . .

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Finally as this has been more a punt on the joys of Villa living rather than a travel post I have to talk a little about the small town of Hoi An.

This magical little village is filled with lights cobbled streets and authentic, well as tourist authentic as you get, restaurants. I’m not sure what it is about small towns, narrow streets and a good feeling, I felt very similar in the old parts of Seville, but it just seems to relax you and make you want to sit, eat, drink and soak up the sauna like heat for the next 10 years!

Here are some of the pics of this great little place!

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