Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mister Benn versus Tin-tin and procrastination

I've just finished reading Dom Joly's latest offering, Scary monsters and super creeps, a pretty good book that shows the impetuous and naive side of the author's personality. That said I felt that the fundamental love of travel and experiencing new and exciting places was clearly evident. Taking on a trip that proves difficult and beyond any expectations and assumptions is, for me, the whole joy of broadening horizons. In my experiences, when the going gets tough, lost in Timbuktu aimless in Serbia or stranded in Shetland, someone unexpected always popped up and restored my faith in humanity.

I really loved the self deprecating honesty that was clearly evident when expeditions went awry, the lack of preparation caused some hazardous scrapes where Dom was lucky to not only escape but to end up in a ludicrously vastly improved situation. Although privileged with a modicum of celebrity status which allowed exposure and support from organisations and individuals beyond the reach of most of the populace, Dom Joly does write well and conveyed his experiences with a particular bent.

One recurring analogy in the book is Dom Joly's obsession with Tin-tin citing a number of the Belgian writer and artists books e.g. Tin-tin in the Congo and Tin-tin in Tibet, during his travels. To my mind, on my travels (a pale reflection of Dom Joly's journeys) I feel more like Mister Benn than Tin-tin. That is more like a middle-aged, middle class man bored with work seeking adventure rather than a 1930s latent homosexual Belgian journalist travelling the world with financial impunity and mentally ill associates.

As far as writing the book is concerned, I was going to get up early to crack on but as yet, 1030, have not written a word. I will kick my own arse this afternoon to at least get the overall structure completed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Un-funny television etc.

It could be my age, or it could be this combined with the quality of comedy I was brought up with but the latest crop on the Disney channel have made me consider whether or not to apply for the job of Hermit on Saint Helena. I assume that programmes such as Jessie, Good Luck Charlie, Wizards of Waverley Place, Two Kings, Austin and Ally etc. etc. are intended as comedies, otherwise why the dubbed laughter to remind us which bits are supposed to be funny. The characters are interchangeable, formulaic and dull. Making shit TV must be so cheap today, bloody digital revolution. Also, what is the  teen obsession with vampires? My boyfriend/girlfriend/babysitter/courgette/ring-piece is a vampire, most have been used.

What makes this worse is that my own flesh and blood, i.e. Eddy and Beth, use the TiVo to record this nonsense, sometimes the same episode several times. My Saturday mornings will now be spent rising early and deleting most of the recorded bollocks on my TiVo hard-drive, then topping it up with British comedy shows from the 70s, 80s and 90s, changing the password then returning to bed. I have to, a series link would enable thousands of episodes.

And then there are the paranormal investigation programmes. There are now so many ghost hunters roaming both the UK and the US that there's barely any room to shoot any reality TV shows. There's one where they visit places where serial killers may have visited or lived and a psychic manages to connect with the spirit of the murderer. Sometimes the said killer is not even dead. Now ghosts, of the living, can frequent places visited from some brief period of time. If this is the case then you have to feel for the mediums, they must be able to witness this phenomena everywhere. It's a wonder they manage to get any shopping done, or anything else for that matter. Thankfully most of these shows have to screen the disclaimer, 'for entertainment purposes only'. There is something in that. it is entertaining, but for the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Sausage Trail, a reflection, well a small one anyway

As previously mentioned, now that the sausage trail is finally over the hard work of constructing a coherent book arises.

Once again, as it was when my journey began, it's British Sausage week, which I will celebrate before the final date of the 11th of November. From the Shetlands to Vegas my journey has created contacts with many, for whom, the humble sausage holds more than just a passing fascination. Along the way  I met up with old friends and made new ones, I found myself thrown into the limelight and travelling in complete isolation. There were disappointments, surprises and revelations. When I am asked 'was it worth it?' I have to say that it most certainly was, I have learned a great deal and met some fascinating new people and seen a new side to old acquaintances.

I aim to have the book finished by March with the first three chapters in a suitable form for my agent by Christmas. This will give me a publication date of June/July 2013. This coincides nicely with the start of the serious training period for the trip to Everest base camp, best fund-raising trousers at the short trail.

Not one to stand idle, the next book is in discussion. This time I will be forming a writing partnership with my wife Charlotte. We will be writing under the combined, using her christian name and my surname we will be writing under the name of 'Charlotte Gledson' (As ridiculous as this approach sounds it how Nikki French describes her writing partnership). Seriously though, we are planning something. There are a few ideas, one of which is to visit some of the most sinister deserted towns in the world. More on that later.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Still awake, jet-lagged and awaiting a curry

Stupidly after landing I drove straight to work. The flight was as good, or as bad, as any economy long-haul flight could be expected to be. I had, fortuitously, landed myself in an aisle seat, great for a large bloke with dodgy knees. My two travelling buddies turned up, young twenty-something female types, both carrying shopping bags containing two pairs of Ugg boots. I must admit that my assumptions towards their superficial and shallow leanings were unfounded as they both remained quiet and respectful throughout the journey. I did become irritated a few times when they visited the toilet, as a couple, but I realised that they were probably trying to minimise disruption to me.

I watched a couple of movies, Batman; The Dark Knight Rises, again, just as good the second time but without the trepidation of a rogue gunman in the cinema when the bullets began flying. The second, which I managed to sandwich in between the shabby excuse for breakfast and the entertainment system cutoff, was the new Aardman flick, Pirates. This was possibly the best film I have seen in years, great comedy, soundtrack and story, WATCH IT!

The usual ignorance ensued as we disembarked, the first to leave the aircraft seems to be as important as how early it is boarded, all pathetic and nonsense but it earns money for the airline companies irrespective of how hideously insane it may be. I will not bore or bring down the atmos with a description of mobile phone messages, fuel consumption nor the speed of my journey back to JOakhanger.

My time at the establishment of much mirth and consternation was thankfully short, especially as I did lose my temper a tad and left.

I am now writing this, a bit tired, watching Aardmans Pirates, again, and drinking Champagne. The celebration of the end of the Sausage Trail was to be a rather cheerful affair but, a certain female member of my family ensured that this was not the case.

No matter. I will post the Vegas conclusions and thoughts.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Leaving Las Vegas

I did actually finish the 40 oz novelty tankard of frozen cocktail last night, it was a struggle but I polished it off just before midnight as the movie I had downloaded came to an end. A quick note on the film I watched; Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, sounds so naff and rubbish that I was swift to dismiss ever watching. That’ll learn me, although not a classic, it was entertaining and more than held my attention throughout, recommended. With no itinerary and nowhere to be today I took my time packing, showering before checking out, with which came a surprise. I had pre-booked this trip and pre-payed, or so I thought. When I swiped my credit card on the ‘quick check-out’ terminal a bill for $100.80 was displayed, tax evidently. Thoroughly disgusted at this I failed to tip the baggage guy when I dropped off my pack to allow me to explore the shops and have some breakfast. MacDonalds has a completely different menu for breakfast here, I tried something new to me; breakfast burritos. A tortilla wrap containing egg, cheese and bacon served with a sachet of mild chilli sauce, and a Pepsi. Not content with this healthy option I went further and indulged in two decadent doughnuts with coffee, a major sugar overload. I managed to get a few gifts for Beth and Ed and still managed to save a hundred dollars to change back to sterling later in the week.

As I sat watching the stereotypical casino tourists pass by, yippering and yammering like chimps, something flipped inside me, an emotional switch of sorts. That was it. I had done all I had come here to do, it was time to go home, (has that tourism tagline been used yet I wonder? ‘Where to go? Togo! Genius). Within minutes I had collected my pack, this time overtipping the bar guy, and was in a taxi on my way to terminal 3 of McCarran International Airport. Las Vegas is surrounded by craggy peaks which are tantalisingly visible from the city. The appeal of these mountains and Lake Mead and Valley of Fire country parks may entice me back here but the bright lights, neon signs, show girls, casinos and other brain numbing attractions will not. If I do manage to get some interest from those I have met on my journeys the past year to compete in the ‘World’ food championships then I may come back for that too.

As I sit here, flight side, at the airport, trying to spot the Brit, I feel somewhat ambivalent towards returning to my real life. I am looking forward to everything I have missed from all members of my family, even the difficult bits, but I am not tremendously happy about all of the aspects concerned with my professional life. I will attempt to get as much sleep on the plane as possible so that I can return to work as soon as I can.

With an hour before embarkation I will watch the remaining bits of Derren Brown’s Apocalypse, part 2 and watch the minutes tick away.

Beer and clothing in Las Vegas

Well it’s over. Tonight the sausage trail came to an end. Last November saw me taking my first trip to the Shetland Islands, tonight I witnessed the final of The World Food Championships. Oh, and if you’re interested the final table drew together the winners of all seven categories to be judged by a panel of professional food critics, judges and celebrities (what the f*** is a professional celebrity?) who finally chose the sandwich category over all others.

Once again I am too far ahead.

I did attend the breakfast buffet this morning, très occupée by any standards. I opted to try some new selections, breakfast spectrum (or something) which looked like a suet based mixture of everything, which was awful. I also finally tried pancakes bacon and syrup, which was awful, far too sweet with no substance or taste to the bacon. As I left the buffet area the queue was immense, I was so glad I had left it until after nine, or had I?

Since I arrived in Vegas I had fallen into the habit of early rising and equally early attendance at the event, usually well before anyone else had really bothered to turn up. I was determined to ensure that today, the last day of the event and also the final event of The Sausage Trail, would be different. After breakfast I downloaded a Red Dwarf episode, watched it then had a snooze for half-an-hour until noon. Satisfied that I had wasted enough time and that the ‘Final Table’ event would be well underway, I showered dressed in the best clothes I had saved for this final event and departed.

I feel that I must state at this point that the my dissatisfaction with Vegas, my jaded gloom, had grown to such a point that I could have quite easily, and happily, stayed in the room downloading TV shows and ordering room service. Moments after I awoke I looked out of the window, my curtains were open, at the gaudy, coloured towers of the hotel facade. My heart sank, more than ever, more than anything, I wanted to be at home. Still, this was the final push, as Catpain Blackudder would have said, so I brushed my hair and combed my teeth, steeled my resolve and set off for Caesar’s Palace.

I had, yesterday or the day before, I forget, stopped using expensive taxis and started using the cheap and impressive monorail. The service runs from The MGM Grand in the South to the remnants of The Sahara in the North (the hotel not the desert). Today I rode al the way to The Flamingo, a rather tired and sad reflection of the glorious, shiny and shallow superficial nonsense it once was. I wandered through yet another casino and mini-mall before traversing the rat-run walkways that link all of the strip hotels and finally arrived at Caesar’s Palace.

The event was cordoned off in a car park between the plaza and the strip. The ubiquitous competition tents were present as were the bars and VIP area. I ordered a G & T as I scoped out the joint, availing myself of the VIP food, fantastic fare, especially the duck and pasta. DJ chef was manning the, whatever DJs man, and gave a running commentary. Evidently the event and judging was due to start at 3PM, I checked my watch. ten minutes to go, yet there was no movement either from the teams or the judges. It then struck me, what a nob!! The outdated colonial approach in this backwater nation was such that the daylight saving happened a week after ours. I WAS EARLY AGAIN! ARSE....

Over the road was the faded grandeur of The Flamingo. The frontage visible from the Palace car-park contained non other than ‘Margaritaville’, the inspiration of Jimmy Buffet. How could I resist? I didn’t. A rum and coke and an opportunity to use their free wi-fi later I was a tad happier and closer to the start of the final judging over the road.

I sat in, what I believe are called here, the bleachers, with another G & T and watched the proceedings.

Seven plates were brought out and sampled as the cooks/chefs were interviewed by Adam. Then the elimination began. One by one the categories were sent on their way. First chilli, then recipe then BBQ then side-dish then chef leaving burger and sandwich to contest the final. (I have not checked notes not corroborated my thoughts so I may be wrong with the order of elimination).

Amidst much whooping and additional consternation the awards were made and then it was all over. I was somewhat disappointed that the recipe category, which was based on lobster infused with butter and god knows what else, was left on the stage looking lonely and ignored. Shame about my gout otherwise I would have snaffled the ‘kin lot.

With the event finished, the celebrities shuffled off to have their photos taken with the contestants, organisers and other celebrities. I sought out Casey and Jeff to express my gratitude. Casey was very interested in the sausage trail and sort of introduced me to Harry, the BBQ entrant from Holland. He was a great guy who was struggling to bring the American approach of BBQ to Europe. We exchanged details, when I say that I do of course mean that he had prepared and gave me a business card and I did nothing. He did agree that sausages should be included. Casey then urged me to talk to the CEO of MMA Creative, the man who had made the whole event possible. I waited and finally spoke to Mike. He was obviously preoccupied but was interested in my suggestion that a sausage category is included next year and that this will increase the international appeal. Of course I offered to form the exclusive front in Europe for this...why do I do these things?

That opportunity aired I left.

The journey back to the hotel was confused by a fault on the monorail leaving only one side of the track working. On my return I was pleased to see that my room had been refreshed. I dropped most of my shit, grabbed my Mac and headed for the bar.

Which is where I now sit, writing, and drinking Bud shite as I watch THE game. It’s the Denver fundamentalists against the Atlanta racists, it’s not I’m just illustrating my ignorance. At half time there will be a raffle, I have two tickets and most honestly hope that I do not win whatever football paraphernalia is on offer.

Back to The Sausage Trail. I do feel slightly deflated and sad that my journey is over. I would like to set off on another adventure immediately but what would be the point? I need to document and journal the past year in an evocative, empathic and entertaining manner. I am highly fortunate in that I have a professional editor on hand to stop me making a nob of myself.

So that’s it. I guess from now on my blog should only be called; ‘Pirate Badgers’.

Happy? No, not really. The way I feel now I wish I was with Emma and the monkeys.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chilli judging and bad reception

Predictably I woke on the hour every hour from 5AM. I forced myself back to sleep until it was necessary to arise around eight-thirty. After the leakages yesterday I opted to omit breakfast deciding instead to let the chilli form my morning sustenance. Once more I arrived at the venue far too early finding myself sitting in the warm sunshine until it was time for the judges briefing. This could not have been more different from the burger judging. Where yesterday the atmosphere had been jovial and light with playful banter and comments throughout the judging process the chilli category team leaders were deadly serious. 

They outlined the rules and regulations and reiterated that they would be enforced with, ‘zero tolerance, shock and awe ‘ or something similar. I had discovered that the Wiston hotel had the most powerful Wi-fi transmission known to modern science, managing to surf from across the six lane highway and in the middle of the vast parking lot set aside for the event. I was somewhat aggrieved when the announcement came for the chilli (they spell it chili, can’t afford the consonants Carol?) judges to assemble at the tent. I handed in my precious laptop bag and stood poised with my spoon, silent and deadly at my allocated table. My fellow judges were similarly poised and ready, eight judges to take on seven chillis (sounds like a line from the Lord of the Rings, nah does it bollocks).

When were given the go ahead there was definite reticence to be the first to dive in, I was not surprised after the militant approach to the rules. After the second urging we dived in. Unfortunately the first one I tried was the best, a squid chilli more reminiscent of a green Thai curry, it was amazing. Unfortunately there were no recipe cards required for this category so I couldn’t crib ( I did take photos of all the recipe cards during the burger judging). Slowly we rotated counter-clockwise round the table tasting all the chillies, a nice touch was that there were bowls of sour cream set around the table to refresh the palate, it really works. My inability to withstand spicy food is legendary, well it’s not really but I like to think it is, and as such I was concerned that in a competition where chillies were taken very seriously indeed I would not be able to pull my weight. I need not have worried as one of the firm rules was that there were not to be any ‘painful’ experiences. All of the chillies I tasted were excellent, especially the squid one, although I doubt that the other judges shared my enthusiasm for the only seafood that does not aggravate my gout.

We all silently filed out of the tent and collected our Kraft goody bags, it reminded my of Alan Partridges ‘fun pack’ from the Dante Fires episode. It contained:

Three sachets of ketchup
Two sachets of A1 steak sauce
A ‘mac’n’cheese fun bendy pen
Some nuts
Some nuts
Some nuts
A card with instructions on how to bring Kraft products into your life
A liquid water enhancement solution? (liquid water as opposed to dehydrated water)
Some post-it notes
And probably some other shit

I took some bit sand dumped the rest then took the monorail back to the MGM Grand hotel where I got lost.

I had skipped breakfast and had been denied topping up on the chillies I had liked so was beginning to feel peckish. I opted to visit the hotel buffet where I had meatloaf, sausages, mac’n’cheese and beans. I also did something I don’t normally do, I had dessert, I won’t make that mistake again. The cheesecake was like polyfilla, rubbish. Full and tired I snatched an hours kip. AH, it’s obvious now why I can’t acclimatise to Vegas time; I keep sleeping in the afternoon, what a twat. I awoke a twosie state %100 and only just made it to the shitter. This happened twice more, I even considered not going to the reception. I did though.

I had missed an email from Julie earlier and through that an opportunity to talk with her. Annoyed I decided to attend the reception and see if she was there. She wasn’t. Adam was accosted by punters at an alarming rate, the Northern English couple showed no shame and dived in for their photo opportunity, embarrassing as they had nothing to say to him. Other than another English couple banging on loudly about how shit Vegas was there was not much more to report. I returned to the hotel.

Andrew did say that every hotel has it’s own particular clientele. The Excalibur is a sordid little Chav hole with wall to wall Jez Kezzers from the UK, rednecks from the US and gang bangers from Mehico (I know). I attempted to catch up with my blog in the lounge but a band, “The Klique’ were playing very loudly. They were playing music I ‘kin hate so I opted to take my ridiculously large, 22oz, Dick’s Colada to my room and write there. This I have done for an hour and I am only halfway through the bloody rum cocktail (it has an extra double shot of rum, $3, what can I say?)

I will finish and sleep, if I can.

Blog up to date, happy as an oyster.

The first judging gig...and meeting Alan Rickman.

Once again I find myself in the Lounge bar in the bowels of The Excalibur Hotel indulging in a well earned G & T reflecting on the long day.

For some unaccountable reason my body just will not adjust to Vegas time. I intended to finish this but didn’t I went to bed instead to rest up before the main event of the day, The World Burger Extravaganza. So, once more I end up writing retrospectively whilst continuing with the Great Vegas Adventure.

I won’t bother updating my location as I write as it will change, taking, as it were, every opportunity to get my thoughts down when I can.

As I tend to do I turned up at the venue far too early. I had been awake since 5AM, even with a longer than usual breakfast and shower I was ready to hit the road at nine with nothing expected to happen at Bally’s until at least 10AM. I checked in at the judges/volunteers booth, which was as difficult to find as anything official had been for this event. I received my tee-shirt and an appointment at the judges tent for burgers at 10AM sharp. This meeting lasted approximately 5 minutes with the morning session judges to return just before eleven. I was not due to judge until 4PM. Killing six hours in Vegas is not a hard thing todo, but, I reminded myself that I was here for a purpose and as such would try my hardest to spend the time constructively and without blowing hundreds of dollars. Walking around the areas set out for the championship was interesting for a couple of hours, taking in the aromas and sounds and seeing the equipment required for top competition cooking was a real experience. The units for the barbecue teams are a complete kitchen as a trailer, including the smoker, grill, sink, water storage, gas storage and fridge. Some of these trailers must cost tens of thousands of dollars and there are no shortage of them either. There are several categories at the championships, I must confess I struggle to keep up with what is actually happening. Apart from the obvious BBQ, chilli and burger categories there are: sandwiches, side dishes, chefs challenge and recipes, I think. As I do not fully understand the competition cooking scene I will stick to what I have been allocated as a judge and comment on that. I will say, however, that I have not seen any sausages included in the competition and a time is now running short, I doubt that I will.

I wandered until I had had enough and, as has become normal this trip, felt knackered around 2PM. I decided to check out the ballroom ,which evidently had been booked by the organisers for the duration of the competition. It was completely empty. I set up my Mac and gadgets, made myself comfortable and attempted to doze. 

This was on the whole successful but I was interrupted twice. The first time some bloke drifted in looking for a friend, the second time a Northern British couple breezed in looking to pick up their tickets for the party at Ballys pool the following day. I gave them some advice, to basically nob off and leave me alone, then tried to snatch thirty-nine winks or so. Eventually the steady hum of the air-conditioning and the occasional sounds of staff moving around in the lobby outside ensured that not a wink was to be had. The rumbling in my trussocks worried me somewhat, predictably a brief series of the squirts began, less than an hour before I was due to judge I had teh ‘kin Trotts. Finally empty I found myself sitting on some stone steps facing the burger judging tent until it was time, thankfully my twosie situation was feeling, if not resolved, then better.

What can I say, the burgers were wheeled in, we tasted, rated and left. Fifteen minutes tops. I immediately leapt in a taxi and returned to the hotel. Thirty minutes later I was safely asleep in bed, after a quick G & T, hence the opening paragraph.

I was determined to collar Adam that evening and the low key reception gave me the ideal opportunity. We spoke about the popularity of sausages in the US and football, proper football. He is more knowledgable that I am about the game, asking my opinion on the Newcastle line up past and present. Looks like I chose the wrong season to lose my interest in the game. I had been joking all week about gettin ghis name wrong and asking him how he liked filming Harry Potter, really stupid thing to do as I nearly DID call him Alan at one point. 

The organisers had booked a couple of women in show-girl costumes for the look of the thing and I took the opportunity to chat and have a photo. I did take the piss a bit and I think it may have been lost on them, but they were nice enough and even collared me later for another chat and 'a hug', obviously endeared at my best Michael Palin impression. I hate myself to admit that following said 'hug' I checked my pockets to ensure all items were present and correct, I am such a prick at times.

The guy who operated my camera turned out to be a great guy. Andrew Chai from LA had won a competition on the website YELP and was, like me here on his own. We chatted about food and travel before having a couple of drinks and drifting off as the evening drew to a close.

I had the taste for a few G & Ts so trawled the bars in a mini pub crawl of the Excalibur. After an awkward conversation with a stereotypical redneck in Dick’s Last Resort I had one more then went to bed, after a burger of course. I do feel it necessary to mention that this guy had been in town for SEMA (or something, it was about cars though) he proudly showed me pictures on his iPhone of engine blocks and exhaust pipes, riveting.

Chilli judging loomed in the morning, as I fell into yet another fitful slumber visions of giant beans and armadillos dancing with Simon Cowell leapt into my head.

Friday, 2 November 2012

World Food Championships, inaugural reception

It is later, but not that much later. After a couple of beers and a blog update I returned to my room, the intention was to grab a quick hours snooze, have a spot of lunch then off back to Bally’s for the press conference. It didn’t quite turn out like that, I slept until twenty past four, that left me just over half an hour with which to get dressed and get to the hotel. A very friendly Ethiopian taxi drive got me there with ten minutes to spare. He also informed me that the president (no capitalisation) had been in town campaigning, ah well.
 The Skyview ballroom is on the 26th floor of Bally’s overlooking the strip. I met with Jeff Morris wand was awarded my ‘access all areas’ media pass. The access granted also included the VIP events which meant that essentially I had wasted five-hundred dollars, or maybe not, time will tell.

Adam arrived and the press conference began. There were prepared words from Mike McCloud the chief organiser from MMA Creative, then the expert board were introduced, this included my Vegas contact Julie Hession. Then Adam had his say, I attempted to get some pictures and capture some of the proceedings but an irritating journo sat right in front of me and performed as though his was the most important one in the room. He blocked most of my shots and placed his equipment directly in my line of sight. It transpired that he was from so perhaps he was the most important one there. Then the reason why I should not put my trust in gadgets became evident, the memory on the cam-corder filled up and my phone crapped out. From tomorrow it’s back to low tech pen and paper, and my Mac.

Afterwards we dispersed I found myself sharing a lift with Julie, I refrained interrupting her conversation to introduce opting instead to wait until we were on the casino floor. I then approached her, for all the world probably looking as creepy as any crazed internet stalker. She offered to meet up on Saturday to answer a few questions, rather than press the matter I faded back into the crowd and set off for the opening reception at The Paris.

Arriving early and showing both my media and VIF passes confused and baffled the staff manning the entrance. I won’t go into any great detail about the reception as I bloody hate the things but will instead content myself with saying that the pickings were slim indeed. Within minutes I had exhausted my free drink allowance, there was no sign of Adam, I turned my attention to the food. Small portions, no more than tasters, well prepared and flavourful but not enough to satisfy a Chinese field mouse, as the saying goes. When Adam did finally arrive I was drinking the free coffee. The speeches were made, not dissimilar to that recently witnessed at the press conference, more thoughts on the content later, perhaps. Adam then peeled away with his PA or agent or someone allocating his time anyway. They had a brief discussion, then the hordes descended. I was quite close at this point and could have easily joined the throng to await my chance, but, after watching for a few minutes as punter after punter peddled their tenuous links to Adam then had their photo taken with the celebrity, I felt somewhat jaded by the whole affair. I have access to all areas and all VIP receptions so thought it prudent to leave any contact, hoping not to seem too creepy when I eventually do take the opportunity, until a time when he was not so pressed.

There were a number of other ‘celebrity’ foodie types there none of whom I had ever heard of, they are probably all very good at what they do but with my level of interest in the toilet, I left, caught a cab and returned to the Excalibur. A couple of beers and a cheeseburger will ensure I feel better.

I have a judging commitment tomorrow afternoon so I’d better learn the rules before then.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The food event is about to begin

My intention was to write this at breakfast but for some reason I found myself suffering from a hangover, I blame the jet-lag and the rubbish beer. Breakfast was the same excellent affair as yesterday, with added biscuit and eggs Benedict. I lay down for a short snooze which turned into an hours deep sleep. I awoke exactly at ten, my body clock still appears to work in a pre-programmed alarm mode. I checked my email from the events organisers,10AM registration for VIP tickets at the Pacific Ballroom, Bally’s. Right, time to hustle, as I believe the Americanism goes, or, more correctly time to get my sweaty arse into gear.

Whoa, just realised that I am getting ahead of myself. What did I do last night, how did really come to have a hangover and why are there dead bodies in my room? The last bit was just put there to keep the readers interesting and to confuse the invisible angels that live in my pancreas. Following a wander around the strip, checking out some the casino floors between The Luxor and Caesars Palace, I returned to the hotel, freshened up and set off to find somewhere to eat.

I didn’t fancy what The Excalibur had to offer so strayed as far as the Mandalay Bay pausing only for a beer at a Mexican themed bar. I asked for the menu, I had eaten Mexican the previous evening so didn’t really want to repeat the experience. I remarked to the waitress that there were a lot of Tequilas on the menu and that this was somewhat peculiar for an Irish bar. Without a hint of irony she responded that this was not, in fact, an Irish bar. I left.

I eventually ended up back at The Excalibur at Dick’s, a BBQ type eatery. Excellent. I ordered the pulled pork, sausages with mac ’n’ cheese and fries. The sausages were odd, more like frankfurters than bangers, slightly spicy but heavily processed. The pulled pork was marvellously tender and juicy and went well with the mc and cheese. Needless to say that I only managed half of the dish, in my defence I will say that I almost finished the meat  but left most of the sides. I had to as I was beginning to feel sick. Full to bursting I decided to hit the blackjack tables and get the gambling element of my visit out of my system. I had tried the previous evening to use drinking and gambling as a means to beat jet-lag, I failed. This was, I decided, because I was not trying hard enough. I was still suffering from this peculiar affliction so changed $150 into chips and hit the tables. It is well known that in Vegas as long as you are gambling then the drinks just keep coming, this is true but I had an interesting conversation from the grumpiest barman in the world regarding this misconception, I will tell later. I found a great bar that served a good G & T so bought my drinks there in between tables ordering from the wandering waitress when gambling. At one point I was $150 up but this dropped to $50 by the end of the night. I bought a decent bottle of red from an offy then retired to my room to polish it off, catch up on notes and get some sleep.

During the night I was awoken twice, once by an ill tempered neighbour who had been locked out and was hammering on his room door and yelling. The second was a fire alarm urging me to stay calm and await further instructions. I went back to sleep.

Right, that’s last night done. Where was I? Oh yes, getting my arse into gear.

I cashed in my chips, not a euphemism, I actually did and set off for Bally’s.

The walk to Bally’s isn’t far but is awkward when negotiating the walkways between the hotels, there is no such thing as walking in a straight line here, as in all of America, the primary mode of transport is the llama, I meant car, with drive through everything, even weddings.

I wandered around the hotel for some time until I found the Pacific Ballroom which appeared empty. I poked my head around the door and saw a young lady sitting, alone, amidst the vast array of banqueting tables and chairs. It transpired that, as a judge, I did not need to do anything until tomorrow, when I am judging. I did, however, pick up my VIP pass, or as termed by the organisers VIF (very important foodie) and was informed that the media event was at 5PM, I suppose I’ll turn up for that as it’s just before the evening reception.

Back to the hotel, some food and a couple of beers as I wait for the evening to commence. Oh, I am not bloody walking to Bally’s again, I am sick of being accosted by pamphlet distributors, homeless bums, waitresses inviting me to eat etc. etc.

More later.

Las Vegas...well..what can I say?

'The spectacle', as opposed to...'The Horror' the mainstay and the selling factor of the dream and the collection of Mega Resorts. Don't get me wrong, I honestly believe, and feel, that Vegas is an absolutely fantastic and wonderful destination, BUT, not for me. The shiny veneer and publicly facing street illusion makes me want to see what happens behind the curtains. The Wizard of Oz performed his miracles behind such drapes, allowed by his minions and ignored by his citizens, Vegas is such an illusion.

Yet, and yet in fact, it works. The gambling...'Oh my god another casino...' and the shows, go, on and 'kin on like a Brighton or Blackpool with money and no sense of conscience or propriety, yet it is accepted and enjoyed by all. I have been here for mere hours yet I have seen through the facade and have yet been impressed.

The shine and service approach make all who visit very happy, more than can be said for Blackpool.

I will say no more...I am listening to negative music...The crack of doom..................