Suck the Marrow Out of Life - Part 2

The state of the Manchester United nation . . .

Sport

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN ABOUT A WEEK AGO AND CERTAINLY BEFORE THE WONDERFUL VICTORY OVER THE FAR TOO SMUG ARSENAL!

I’m not a good loser, I fucking hate it, it’s that simple but I am a pretty good winner I think. I don’t really gloat, out loud, or violently abuse the losing side, during the game yes, but once victory is sure there is something to be said about quiet enjoyment of it.

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This is why I find it so amazing that every person I know who has supported a team that has stood in Man United’s shadow for the last twenty odd years as I’ve supported them, is now smug with United’s currently transition struggles. I find it incredible that those Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and whatever relegation contenders are supporters there is some supreme delight in the currently embattled United side. I never realized just how down trodden you all were all this time.

I also find it incredible how disastrous this picture of sudden gloom has been depicted.

This is the adjustment period, it may take a season, maybe two maybe three but fans on both sides of the fence if they know anything about football will understand this. We are building the next generation of United greats, it doesn’t simply happen.

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While I can understand how the other teams fans are enjoying seeing United nowhere near the top of the log I cannot believe how pathetically the United fans are taking this period. The lack of support and faith in club that has delivered pretty much everything we have asked for 20 years must now stand and deliver or face brutal abuse? This doesn’t seem like the club and the supporters I’m part of. We are not City, Chelsea or the like that want to immediately buy success, we fight for it, we build it through sweat, hard work and years and years of practicing and pushing ourselves.  If you think this simply can be switched on or off you firstly know nothing about sport and second about building a great legacy.

I hope that the powers that be at Old Trafford are constantly giving this message to David Moyes.

As my father used to tell me this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are building for a generation, in this view the last 10 games mean less than nothing. It reminds me of the 04/05 season when United finished out of the top 3 or 4 and everyone was calling for Sit Alex’s head. It’s amazing what ‘support means nowadays.

We should be ashamed when we hear boo’s echoing around Old Trafford, this is not what we do as part of this great club.

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Can we be frustrated, angry and disappointed at results, absolutely no question. Can we debate and disagree over signings made and lost and a lack of cohesion, sure. We are supporters, that’s what we do, we argue over decisions and substitutions, we bemoan the referee and his decisions and we scream at the opposition but we never, ever at Manchester United outwardly project a negative image of our club and of our players. We are Manchester United and we stand by each other all of the way through the good and the bad and if we look at the last quarter of a century we are pretty damn lucky with what they have given us.

 

 

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Shiny Shanghai . . .

The wonders of China . . .

I don’t think this is quite as cool as the other videos I have posted about Shanghai but this city, put to music, time lapsed in video has got to be one of the most magnificently vibrant cities on the planet, I call it home!

This is Shiny Shanghai . . .

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

Sport

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!

 

 

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

The wonders of China . . .

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!

 

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How Apple got it so wrong, especially in China!

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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!

 

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I never was a resort kind of person . . .

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. . . 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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The season to come . . .

Sport

Written this week for The Pundits

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As a United fan, I find myself in a very unfamiliar position at the start of this season. For as long as I’ve watched United, about 20 odd years, I have always felt safe in the knowledge that any preseason trading, games or tours only needed my bar room debate. I had no need for concern because Fergie had it all in hand. He was merely tweaking, testing and perfecting a formula he had been evolving over decades. But all of a sudden everything seems a little uncertain.

I’m not going to debate the merits of David Moyes(DM) as a selection because I believe he is probably the best choice for United. He could, given some luck, some support and some time, build a legacy that could follow Fergie, and I don’t dare say any one could eclipse him, but even just being comparable would be enough for most managers’ careers.

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So let’s get into it then. At the time of writing, United have played a number of preseason games without hitting anything that resembles premier league form. Combinations seem to be slow in coming back, or being made anew. Except for maybe Kagawa and Zaha, fresh from Crystal Palace, who may yet become one of United’s greats, as well as Lingard who really showed off by top scoring on tour, there has been little to show that there is improvement in this squad. Then again they did walk the league last season so massive improvement may not be needed or in fact, possible, without serious spending.

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So far, United have done nothing exciting to date in the transfer market except make a massive deal out of Wayne Rooney’s tantrums and currently trying to pry Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona’s bench! If this falls through, United may push hard for Lewandowski from Dortmund but he has made it clear he wants to go play with Pep and the new wunderkinds at Bayern. This leaves United potentially with nothing except the child prodigy from Palace to show for a summer worth of transfers. The potential of getting a quick cheap replacement for Patrice Evra in the form of Everton’s Leighton Baines seems unlikely and unreasonably expensive, and the prospect of Mario Fellaini heading to Old Trafford, hair and all, seems even further away than when the manager first joined.

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How does the team line up? Well, De Gea has all but cemented himself in goal, even with the fans. The back four – Rafael,who despite one or two hiccups has recently come of age really well; the aging Patrice Evra; at fullback, the aged Rio; and lastly NemanjaVidic – it could be a strong and attacking back four for United. But given the length of the campaign relying on them to all stay fit, it seems a bit of a pipe dream and with Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones as cover,it doesn’t fill me with massive confidence, except for maybe the latter. Then there’s young Buttner who could potentially turn into something useful in the event of a wing back injury forcing him into the first side more often. I, unfortunately, have a feeling we will battle to keep our first choice, and some of the second healthy, and the switching combined with lack of real depth, will cause us major problems in defense leading to a very small count of clean sheets.

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In midfield, Anderson has failed to prove himself for too long now, sadly, because he really had potential or the possibility of it. Tom Cleverly is developing into a fine young player and I believe he has a magical career ahead barring injury, he and Michael Carrick will again be pivotal in the stabilization of the United midfield this season. Antonio Valencia is due another great season and with his ability he will be difficult to stop, while Nani, unlike Christiano Ronaldo, never developed the ability to finish or deliver the final ball. He, like Anderson, must either find a new club or be used exclusively as a silent mannequin on the website. Ashley Young, who showed so much promise when he arrived at United, has battled with injury and accidentally tripping on the field but I still believe he may yet add some serious lift to the United flank this season. Kagawa has slotted sensationally into midfield but the formation of playing him together with Carrick and Cleverly has yet to be perfected, if it is this season it may be magical to watch. Giggsy will be there for stability, calm and confidence in the biggest of games and just when we need it, a touch of magic he no doubt will deliver as he has done for almost 20 years. His new role as player manager, I think, is a genius move from DM keeping all of the experience; culture and presence that you never want to lose in legendary players.

Lastly, I have to mention that not being able to watch Paul Scholes hammer a perfect cross-field-torpedo pass half the length of the field directly into the striker’s full-paced path leaves me almost teary. Hopefully he will join the rest of his peers as part of the ‘United old boys coaching society’ soon. The sobering fact is that without Michael Carrick anchoring midfield we are completely rudderless let alone nearing classy, and unless we sign a really strong midfielder who can deliver defense cutting passes and a bit of stability, we will have the same uphill battle as the last few seasons.

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Up-front remains to be decided. I mean after RVP that is. So much again will rest on the Dutchman’s aging shoulders and if he keeps fit, he may just have the season of a lifetime! Danny Welbeck started to show just a slither of what he may turn into at the start of last season but since then I still class him as a non-finisher. And The Little Pea, Javier Hernandez, also doesn’t seem to be reaching the same levels he did coming off the bench or starting a few seasons ago. Then there’s Wayne Rooney who I believe, if he is happy and settled is one of the hardest working footballers with the heart of a United player, but sadly those days seem to be gone. His body, not in peak shape last season and his ego, beaten by RVPs glorious arrival, he looks likely never to wear a United shirt again. If there’s maybe just a slither of a silver lining, young Jesse Lingard, has shown on tour he could be a talent, although without some serious injury I doubt he will get much game time – perhaps a loan spell?

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Then there is of course the introduction of an entire new coaching squad. David Moyes has of course brought a whole host of back room technicians that he trusts to master their trade at United and while they all work well together, the defining thing will be how fast they can gel with the players. I am happy to see Phil Neville rejoin the club in some capacity and again the aforementioned Giggs will continue to do officially probably what he has been doing ‘unofficially’ for a few years. All of these changes, I really believe are positive and in the coming years will create a new era of United players BUT I just cannot imagine it’s possible to reshuffle the entire club and expect to pick up where we left off 11 points ahead of everyone last season.

If we look around at the rest of the preseason contenders, Chelsea look like they could win anything at this point. They are firing, they have taken to their new / old manager like a pair of worn in boxers and they have settled Super Frank back in for another season…plus they may just pinch Wayne Rooney to spearhead their attack. But as we all know from previous seasons,Chelsea coming out firing may well be a good thing because it often causes them to peak far too early. Arsenal look like their usual self and may just be doing some big business this off season but so far nothing of great substance, on the field or off. I fear there shall be another season of ‘what could have been possible’.  Spurs are in the middle of a Modric-like saga AGAIN with Real Madrid and could be selling Gareth Bale for cash, players, hookers, cars and whatever else Levy dreams up – but his influence, not only in goals, but in morale for Spurs may be too big a loss for them to compete at the top properly this season. Then there’s City. They have a new coach in the form of Manual Pellegrini and have done good, big business early to strengthen what was already a great squad. They got rid of the Tevez’s bad influence and they have a point to prove (as well as probably the coolest away kit of the year) and I fear if they keep a fit squad, Vincent Kompany who is majorly pivotal in it, they may well be the favourites for title revenge.

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Finally I think we will see very quickly what United are made of having to play Chelsea (H), Liverpool (A) and City (A) within the first six weeks of Moyes’ new tenure. All this, in-between a few champions league games. Not exactly what DM wanted to see to ease him into one of the toughest jobs in the footballing world.

Predictions, I would love to say United will repeat but I think there are just too many variable changes that will keep them off the top. I think Mourinho and Chelsea will be all kinds of class this year followed by Pellegrini’s City, who will then get the boot for not winning the Champions league, the FA Cup, the world cup, Wimbledon and any other trophy Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan knows the name of. United will come in third and reasonably close but then I think there will be a bit of a gap to, hopefully, Spurs then Arsenal.

Whatever happens it will be a phenomenal season of heart stopping moments, emotional outbursts, screaming, swearing, ref hating and player snubbing – I CAN.NOT.WAIT!

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Cruising the ancient Yangzi . . .

The wonders of China . . .

I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now, well that’s actually a lie if I’m honest. I’ve been thinking about writing it for so long but I’m not sure exactly what to write about this trip.

I guess there are a few disclaimers.

First I haven’t been on a cruise since I was thirteen and my family was part of a global organization that basically organized an entire ocean liner through the Baltics, so not exactly a fair point of reference.

Second, cruises are for old people and the more luxury you go the older they get – this one was like a scene from Cocoon!

Three, I had no idea what to expect cruising down the Yangzi river for a few days other than rural ancient magic.

So all I can really say outside of the pictures is that somehow when you are sailing down an ancient river through some of the most breath taking scenery in the world you gain a sense of perspective, a sense of calm and a renewed energy that I don’t think any pool villa suite can bring, not that I’m going to give that up but I think the combination of experiences is important.

This trip was sensational and the Zen like sense of power I felt when I stepped off the boat seems so far away now I can barely recall it. Even when I look at the pictures now  I get a small feeling of what I remembered it to be like but alas, work, stress and 40 deg heat daily have squished the Zen master right back out of me!

Enjoy the sights of the Yangzi river . . .

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Cities in the middle of no where rising out of the banks of the river – the only thing i can think of that i can compare it to is QARTH from Game of Thrones!

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Some of the maybe 100 massive bridges I saw during the trip – all built quickly and designed superbly to increase efficiency (sounds like China’s motto) DSC00912

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An ancient fishing village probably thousands of years old, living off the land, incredibly beautiful!

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The Three Gorges Dam, the largest power station in the world. Responsible for the government forcibly moving 1 500 000 people to other parts of the country during its construction. Words cannot express the size and power of this thing!

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Just going through the locks of this amazing man made thing was an incredible experience. The efficiency of rising 100s of meters in mere minutes just sensational engineering (again could be China’s motto) !

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Just some of the ancient sights, blue skies (in the autumn all the water is apparently aqua – I can only imagine) green hills towering over each side of the boat – just sensational!

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Off the big boat into small row boats, the gorges get far too narrow for even a medium sized boat – only these tiny row boats with poor modern day ‘slaves’ paddling along with stupid Laowai tourists screaming Jaiyou at them to encourage the racing!

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Some of the most amazing sunsets of my life on this boat –  perfect calm, serene, oranges and reds reflected in the water. Pictures cannot capture what your eyes experience here!

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It wouldn’t be China if you didn’t see some very random stuff on the river, a giant head on the side of a mountain (above) and a transport ship of all men standing half naked outside (below)

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Finally I do have to say that if you are going to cruise, like an old person, then do it in style and these dudes certainly do it well on the Yangzi explorer. The boat is relatively small compared to the other monster ‘pack-em-in types, the suites are stunningly beautiful. The food is exceptional and the service is phenomenal. Just go have a look at this boat!

Certain things you do stick with you for a long time and what I saw on this trip, as with so many trips in China, will stay imprinted both visually and emotionally for a long time!

 

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The power of a simple song!

The arts

I don’t quite know what it is about music. It somehow triggers emotions in the brain so easily and creates a feeling so quickly and so powerfully that it’s impossible to stop. I wish my brain could do this by itself as easily!

After listening to Tim Noakes speak in South Africa when I came back for a few days recently I’ve started to use my mind to visualize and be more focused on seeing things I want to achieve, mostly fitness related but I suppose there’s no limit if it works. For some reason I’ve been doing the opposite my whole life, I think I took the ‘a watched pot doesn’t boil’ a little too far. Of course the bloody thing will boil whether you watch it or not its simple science you idiot. Took me 30 years to work this one out.

I’m drifting a little.

It’s not easy to get your mind to see something that isn’t there. It’s not easy to focus your mind well enough that it can tell your body its not tired and hot after running 30 minutes in 40 degree heat but somehow music can transport you instantly out of a world and into a memory or a place, it can change your mood, make you smile and send a wave of invincibility over you. Funny how easily it does it.

I guess that’s the magic of music.

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It’s interesting how tough life becomes sometimes (the fact that its 40 fucking degrees outside everyday doesn’t help much) but some days work gets over loading, small things become big things and before you know it you’re screaming mad about something you’re not even sure is right at someone who you never even want to raise your voice to.

Sometimes I get to this point, I guess we all do, when things start to get more frustrating than we are used to tolerating and they build on each other until your default mood becomes aggressive for a while. Its points like this that music can so incredibly melt it all away and allow you to regain the power within that you are so used to.

It’s been a rather long preamble to this story but a few weeks ago I was in Singapore for a supplier conference (sounds so boooooorrrriiiinnnggg and yes these types of things usually are) but this was for one of the biggest consumer goods companies in the world and we were one of 70 suppliers out of 180 000 globally who were invited so the guest list of 350 people was really sexy (well as sexy as this industry gets).

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This client produces some of the most spectacular advertising on the planet (they just cleaned up at Cannes for one of their brands this year) and their intro video to the conference was about their strategy, their focus and their passion and this song was the backing track. It somehow struck a chord in me that ignited a feeling, I guess that’s what great marketers do. It set the tone for the next few days but more importantly it gave me a piece of music that could create that feeling of power that I’ve been lacking somewhat lately.

I recently rediscovered the song (coincidentally at the same place I heard Tim Noakes speak – we stole it for our own event). I think I’ve listened to it 100 times in the last few days and slowly it seems to be restoring my, well I’m not sure what its restoring but every time I listen to it, it gives me that feeling that everything is still possible, that I’m capable of anything still and the passion with which I believed I could make a difference on a global difference when I came here is still alive.

Yes a long preamble I know but turn the sound up, loud, and close your eyes and just embrace the power that this song resonates!

 

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What is to become of South Africa . . .

Local is / is not lekker

I’ve been thinking a lot about what will happen to South Africa, I guess when you move away from home for a while you start wondering if it’s the right place to go back to. For as long as I’ve been alive SA has been on ‘a knife edge’ according to most people. It could have gone off a cliff so many times now based on the tongues of the northern suburbs elite that I myself continue to be paranoid that one day it will all come crashing down, even though I know how untrue that is. As if one morning I won’t be able to get to work because we will have turned into Syria overnight and I’ll have to defend myself with a sawed off shotgun like a post apocalyptic waste land of some sort?!

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DSC04077The truth is it doesn’t ever happen like that, the rot doesn’t come over night, it comes slowly, creeping and infesting. The corruption and lying and stealing start to erode away money that is destined for schools, roads, hospitals, police stations and the like, and before you know it you are living in a place that resembles a geriatric invalid that cant wipe its own drool.

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It dawned on me during my most recent trip to India. The slow rot sets in and the politicians steal as fast as they can before there’s nothing left, the rich build bigger walls, hire more servants and develop services to protect their perfect bubbles, and the poor, well the poor get poorer, more desperate, more pathetic and more disillusioned. The shacks and shanty towns spread from minor locations to spots all over the city like mildew behind a most old cupboard, and the streets fill with rubbish, feces and sleeping homeless bodies.

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It seems like a frightening picture but when you see Mumbai you realize just how possible it all is. In a place where the trusted leaders are more focused on lining their pockets than living up to a responsibility that they have been given to look after a nation, that’s when infrastructure starts to break and nations descend into darkness.

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The very real future for SA I believe is the same as India. There will continue to be rich, mega rich, middle class and poor. There will be fantastic hotels, holiday spots, massive vacation mansions, world class restaurants, magical scenery and exclusive places for the rich to play BUT there will be decay on the streets, squalor in too many places to pretend it’s a small problem and beggars with children they’ve crippled, standing in groups at the traffic lights begging for anything to survive.

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It won’t happen overnight but when you blink Johannesburg will be a very different city one that we will look at with disbelief as to how rotten and filthy it has gotten. Sadly I think this will be the future of SA unless something is done to stop the absolute disregard for the country’s long term health. I know it sounds defeatist and pathetically sad but with all that has gone on recently and what continues to transpire with no responsibility what so ever, you try and deny its possible!

 

 

 

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The place they call Naked . . .

High Flying!, The wonders of China . . .

Like pretty much every Laowai that comes to shanghai I’m going to post about Moganshan. I’m posting for every new Laowai that arrives and wants to know whether they should go to the Naked Retreats or not.

Its very simple, you must and here’s the picture proof why!

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Being in Shanghai I miss the wide open spaces, I miss the feel of being at Inyati and while this doesn’t exactly have the same variables to work with it is one of the most amazing places I’ve been.

Firstly praise has to go to the South African who had the giant balls to go out and setup something like this in the middle of rural china, I mean I sh1t myself when I have to present to an all Chinese audience, this dude built a luxury camp out.

Second the feeling of sitting in rural china and having a braai, with a bottle of vino and some home made boera almost brought me to tears.

This place is truly special for anyone but for South Africans  it’s a ‘home oasis’ in the middle of a Chinese desert, one that’s not needed often but when you come across it you sink to your knees and drink it all in!

If you are coming to Shanghai, live in shanghai or are passing through this place is not a suggestion but an absolute must do place filled with biking through ancient towns, tea fields, horse riding, relaxing and disappearing into the forest canopy! Sensational!

Go check their site for the full show!

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This is Shanghai!

The wonders of China . . .
I took this photo :)

I took this photo :)

On Instagram I’ve sort of adopted the hashtag #mycityShanghai. I’m proud to be a Laowai living in Shanghai and I love this city. I love the energy, the vibe, the ever changing landscape, the cars, the chaos, the madness, the lights and the people (I also hate it all equally but that’s a whole new discussion)

So when I watched this video it filled me with a sort of borrowed pride for an adopted city I have come to love. I have never seen a better video representation of the powerhouse that is Shanghai, just watch a little (soundtrack is too cool as well)

This is Shanghai from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Bizarrely enough a few days later I got sent another video. A video that gave the the complete opposite feeling ot the first one! A video that made me sad for the loss of an old city with so much character and soul, a city that must die for a new more modern metropolis to be born!

It’s not that I don’t agree with the growth and the progress, shit I’m the last person to let nostalgia stand in the way of change but at the same time it made me appreciate what was being lost. I drive past the houses being torn down every single day in one part of the city or another and my immediate reaction it is how progressive china is, how fast they are evolving and it comes with a sense of admiration. Now after seeing this perhaps the admiration will be matched with empathy for those who are losing their history to make way for a new generation

The most poignant part of this video is when he says, “Why? There is no why in China”. This is the side that the world harps on always, I see it as progress, that’s maybe because I’ve never been on the worng side of it!

Ill post my Yangzi River cruise in the next few days but there is a stop at the worlds biggest dam // hydro plant. It was the correct decision to build this thing but literally millions of people had to be relocated. No discussion, no query, no WHY? It just is what it is sometimes in China and if you are on the wrong side it doesn’t help to ask why, it just is.

Regardless of the dichotomy of this country I find it tremendously exciting (and then I watch the first video again)

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On the road again . . .

High Flying!

So I have a rather hectic travel schedule coming up. A few countries in a few weeks (including 72 hours back home YAY!). I haven’t traveled in a while and after 4 years of almost 100 flights a year it feels a little weird being on the ground so much.

Never the less it’s starting to move again, I guess after my move to China I had to feel solid ground for a while before I could fly again, after last week’s drunken post I guess that time has come.

My new policy though is that while there is work, a lot of work, there must be some fun in between and if you disagree and think the straight and narrow is the only way, well then, read on and tell me if you still think this way at the end!

Here’s the next few days!

A bit of work in Vietnam (very very excited just to get there – I want to plan a 3 week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia for CNY next year!)

Once the work is done a few days to relax at the Nam Hai near Hoi An are in order.

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As you can tell this is going to get boring quickly so maybe a bit of time experiencing the World Heritage site of Hoi An.

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Back to Ho Chi Minh City for one night and day sadly but just enough to have a superb dinner round the corner from the Park Hyatt and relax by the pool for a bit! A quiet drink in the bar downstairs might just be in order :)

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From there its back to work but in a rather magnificent park of Singapore, the Marina Sands (I don’t have the first day to laze with some friends around their epic infinity pool overlooking the city!)

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There shall be some entertaining of course and I get to catchup with my brother (hopefully both!!) at the W Hotel (you know I love the W) for a dinner at the brilliant Skirt in Sentosa!

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Then back home for a few days to get the shirts washed and ironed to pack for the next little adventure!

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The Pandas and the Buddha . . .

The wonders of China . . .

I’ve waited my whole life to see the Pandas, I could’ve gone to a million zoos in some or other country but to see them in the ‘wild’ has been a life long dream, a bucket list cross-out if you will. I don’t know why I love these creatures so much but to be able to see them just naturally playing, eating and relaxing was soul food. They are ancient, innocent and the epitome of a species that should never have survived this long but are a rare beauty because they have. You can almost feel them laughing as they stuff their cute little faces full of bamboo and give evolution the middle finger simultaneously.

Its literally almost impossible for them to procreate on their own, the mothers are rarely attached to babies and they don’t hunt or really do anything other than eat, sleep and relax – I think that’s what makes them the most fun creature on this planet.

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For a small fortune you get to hold a baby one of these buggers for all of two minutes. It is rationally a complete waste of money but there are few things that are more incredible. I dont know why but feeding this fat little thing honey coated bamboo shoots while it sat on my la was truly an incredible experience and worth every penny!

The main reason to go to Chengdu was the above but an added life enhancer was the giant Buddha at Leshan. This is basically a stone Buddha carved OUT OF A MOUNTAIN 100 stories high. It took almost 100 years to complete and is hundreds of years old.

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At the bottom of this shot on the left are his toes!

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To stand above this gigantic expression of one mans dream and to think that he started a process to create this that he knew he would almost never certainly see complete resonates with me somehow. To have the faith and self belief to know that your dream is so powerful that even if you are not there to do it, someone will carry it on just to see it finished. Incredible.

This magical monstrous sculpture took my breath away from literally every angle, some of them a single foot path of hundreds of steps to climb down the side of the Buddha and then back up the other side.

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Just past his head – those tiny little colored dots – those are people!

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Same as the above pic – look at the people past his head!

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This is taken on the way down from the tiny narrow one man line of stairs!

4 May was my birthday and spent climbing to the top of Qingcheng Mountain that has a 1000 year old Taoist temple. Misty wet and surrounded by something that is truly ancient is an incredible feeling. Its barely describable but when you are walking the same steps that millions have walked over 1000s of years is a most calm and peaceful place, rounded off by lighting incense to mark the day and to hope for more incredible ones to come.

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At the top of this mountain sits a pagoda with a view literally in the clouds and with banister after banister of locks from people who have come up to the top, engraved the names and locked them over years onto these poles to show love and friendship.

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Lastly there are a few things I have to say about Chengdu.

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It has a quaint charm I have found in small corners of China. It has the greatest spicy Sichuan food on the planet (I now own enough Sichuan peppercorn to last a few generations). The people they say are like Pandas, they are lazy and like to sit in the sun, drink tea and play Majong – if you had to say who was winning at life, I really think they are!

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The obligatory marriage market!

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One of maybe 50 activities going on in the park from games to dancing to skateboarding etc

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100 year old tea house next to the river

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Thermas’s of hot water continuously refilled for hours of tea drinking

The Shangri La (depending on when you read this) is massive, as all Chinese hotels are, salute to decadence and luxury and the Horizon Club is magical. There is something completely civilized about sitting on the 35th floor of a building, eating canapes and drinking champagne while looking over and entire city!

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Every night Champagne and canapes . . .

A panda cake waiting in the room for my birthday from the brilliant team at the hotel!

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Lastly a few places you need to put back on your list of things to do if you haven’t yet.

Jinli old street is a bit touristy, it’s a little cheesy but at the end of it, it has the best selection of street food that is well worth the walk-through abuse you get from markets in China.

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Peoples park you may think is just a simple waste of time but just seeing the people dancing, playing games and relaxing by meandering rivers really makes you re-evalute what the hell you are doing rotting away in an office every day!

Like all Laowai there are certain things you are ignorant too, how many types of Tofu exist and how many kinds of Bamboo there are. There is a park with 100s of types of bamboo, some that I swear are not of this planet. It’s a small walk through, very quiet and peaceful and quite magical in a way.

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Lastly the face changing show that’s held in the local outdoor theater  it again is packed with tourists and you wont understand half of whats going on but to see Chinese theater in action (plus you can watch the put on the make up / costumes) is really spectacularly interesting, even if you just go for the shadow puppet guy!

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If this place is not on your list of China TO DOs then you need to re-evaluate your priorities I fear!

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Sometimes inspiration just smacks you in the (drunk) face . . .

High Flying!, The wonders of China . . .

So I’m taking a leaf out of another bloggers book, not of the same courage, not of similar personal perseverance to triumph, but of impulsive unedited spontaneous feeling driven writing!

lovelife

Let me give you the 20 second summary and background.

I sucked at university, so much so that it almost took me double the allotted time to complete my degree. Since then I have been a merchandiser (shelf packer) , sales rep, manager, director, created the biggest dedicated sales force in the world and now Shanghai-I’m-not-sure-what-CEO-type-thing!

Today, I was playing golf with probably three of the most important business people in my universe (I manage about 15 000 ppl and they pay most of the bills). So I was slightly nervous at 10am this morning at tee off. I didn’t shank the first drive but I certainly didn’t find the fairway. After a year of non-golf you will excuse me!

So now I’m drunk, very drunk (each hole had to include a beer but drunk quickly every four holes – its raining and playing golf in the rain is shit so you get it).

So currently I’m in my Buick people carrier driven back to Shanghai by my seriously cool under 30 driver who is the epitome of Chinese new age nonchalant cool (whose mom made me Zongzi over the Duanwu Jie when he went home this week and I went cruising – soon to be written about).

We’re going off track (I did warn you I am drunk)

So the reason for my post is I’m listening to a playlist of song from a world class friend of mine, one of which is ‘Pursuit of happiness – Kid Cudi’ – the kind of track I like to stand in the middle of the dance floor hand in the air when the beat drops and just standing still enjoy the moment as the music, light and people all move in slow motion around me.

(this is the remix im listening to – the video is from a movie called Project X that you should have seen by the way)

This feeling is slightly older, slightly more limitless-pill, the feeling a sense of calm, happy and power. One of small victories and self satisfaction. The fact that I’ve come to place I cannot understand and cannot begin to comprehend but now, a year later, am playing golf with the most important people in my economic world, I have friends, I have and amazing lane house (post to come) and I have a ‘power-base’ that I took so for granted in SA.

Do I miss my home, fuck yes, do I miss my friends and the fact that I would be on the course with them today instead of anyone else today, no question but as so brilliantly said in the Godfather ‘This is the business we’ve chosen’ and so I must live with these decisions but so much as to say, I’m doing well, I’m enjoying life and I’m really starting to feel like I’m standing on grass rather that in the waves of the beach feeling the sand seep out from below my toes!

The moral of this rather long laborious story is, enjoy life, enjoy the shit adjustment phases of new days and enjoy the intimacy of knowing and learning new spaces – love it all and like I’ve said so many times before, when you have a small victory, embrace it, enjoy it and appreciate it!

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