A cheap holiday in Sharm El Sheikh turns into a delightful surprise

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

I don’t see myself as stingy, but for some reason I’ve always been attracted by ads for cheap holidays. As a businessman I work hard for my money, and a quick budget break now and again does wonders to restore my zest for life.

Last year during the winter months I found a super deal for a seven nights all-inclusive holiday in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Everything was included, even the airfare. And the total cost per day for me and my then partner worked out less than I would have paid for the hotel alone if I tried to book it myself.

To be in Sharm El Sheikh during the European winter was heaven on earth. The azure seas, the lovely white beaches, the virtually unlimited entertainment and food – everything contributed to make those seven days some of the best I’ve ever spent in my life.

For curio hunters the town is a treasure trove of handmade gifts and works of art. I usually don’t much care for wandering through flea-markets where all the stalls sell the same cheap plastic kitchenware, but this was something totally different.

At night the place truly comes alive, with a surprising number of bars, restaurants and nightclubs.  We dined at a different restaurant every night and were quite surprised at the variety of food, both Egyptian and international, on offer.

The days we spent either on the beach or exploring the town. There are also a number of tours available for those who want to explore the surrounding desert. And the Egyptian people were delightful – if one could learn to cope with the fact that they all seemed to be master salespeople.

All in all it was a very satisfying experience and I certainly wouldn’t mind doing it again. In terms of value for money it was virtually unbeatable.

Read More

A visit to my grandparents brings new perspective

Posted on Aug 24, 2013 in Family | 0 comments

I’m lucky enough to still have a living grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side. I guess I am rather old-fashioned in this regard, but I really enjoy visiting them from time to time.

I’ve often wondered exactly why I enjoy a visit to my grandparents so much and apart from the fact that we are family, I think it’s because a visit to them forces me to forget about my busy life and concentrate on the things that really matter.

Normally I would rush from one meeting to the next and even at night I often have business dinners or have to study to keep abreast of developments in my field. So when I visit the grandparents it’s like moving to a different era and being forced to stand still for a moment.

They don’t welcome me with a glass of Scotch or wine. For them it’s still tea or coffee. And after enquiring about my health (elderly people love to talk about their health or the lack thereof) they very often start talking about the weather. That’s another subject on which both of them are experts.

If I visit over a weekend, I usually have no option but to stay for lunch. Anything else and they would be highly offended. And I have to be honest, my grandma is a master chef. Her stews in particular are so delicious that I regularly overeat myself when I’m there. I just miss a glass of red wine, but hey, you can’t always have it all can you?

When I drive back I often get a little philosophical and think about what makes sense in life and what not. One day, when I’m their age, how will I feel about the choices I made today?

Read More

A conversation about music

Posted on Aug 19, 2013 in Music | 0 comments

Music bookOver a few glasses of red wine and with a fire crackling in the fireplace, an old friend and I had an interesting conversation about music the other night. His taste in music is somewhat to the left of mine, in the sense that he likes heavy metal and rock. I also love certain types of rock music, but I can equally well enjoy a brilliant piece of classical music.

As the hours went by the conversation drifted on to how certain types of music could withstand the test of time and how others simply faded away over the years. While many people of my age still enjoy the music of the Beetles, Pink Floyd, Queen and Abba, the music created by the generation before them seems to have disappeared from the airwaves.

I might be wrong, perhaps there are still people listening to Jim Reeves and Bing Cosby, but I don’t know any of them.

I remember my grandma used to listen to these tear-jerker old 78s telling stories of lost love, pain and melancholy. That’s what I remember of the music of that generation: it was filled with sadness and grief. Maybe it’s because they lived through the suffering of a World War, something which I hope we never have to endure.

Next we reminisced about a holiday we spent together in South Africa two years ago, where we came into contact with what the people there call ‘Boeremusiek’ – melancholy tunes created using a concertina and one or more guitars. At its very core it’s folk music carried from generation to generation by a dedicated group of followers.

We put on a CD we bought at one of those performances and sat listening to the strangely emotional sounds deep into the night.

Read More

The importance of continued education

Posted on Aug 17, 2013 in Education | 0 comments

Education RocksI don’t think we always realise how much the world has changed over the last 150 years. Not only did my great-grandfather grow up in a world without aeroplanes, unmanned drones, Internet and tablets, he also grew up in a world where one could choose a career, complete the required studies and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your knowledge for the rest of your days.

In today’s world that is simply no longer the case. Somebody who completed a bachelor’s degree thirty years ago and who never did follow-up studies will no doubt find that technology has made a significant part of his knowledge redundant.

Thirty years ago people still used typewriters and when they wanted to keep record of their customers they had little index cards containing the name and address of every customer.

Nowadays we store all this information in electronic databases. We can even program the system to send an automatic email to a customer when it’s his birthday.

The downside of all this rapid development is that there is simply no other option but to become a perpetual student.

Luckily technology comes to our aid in this regard. With modern distance-learning universities, students can enjoy virtual classes where teacher and student interact like in any ‘real’ classroom. They can also interact with other students via social media websites and if they have a problem with a topic the lecturer is only an email away.

There are few excuses therefore not to keep abreast of the latest developments in your field of specialisation. All you need is the necessary willpower.

Read More

Holidays: A quick visit to Hanoi nearly turns ugly

Posted on Jul 28, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments

As a business owner I sometimes have to travel. The fact is that I love travelling, but during the average business trip there is unfortunately never quite enough time to really get to know your destination. I try to make the best of the situation though and spend every free minute sightseeing and savouring the food of the city where I find myself.

Recently I had to fly to Hanoi in Vietnam for a few days for an important business meeting. I must admit that I knew very little about the city and its people before I left. I had heard horror stories about the communist regime, so at the back of my mind I expected a dull, grey city with citizens sombrely going about their daily activities.

What I found was completely the opposite. Hanoi is a bustling (and apparently thriving) city with more signs of being a free market economy than one sees in London. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, people are selling things. On the streets, at traffic lights and even while you’re sitting at a pavement café, hawkers will approach you with a kaleidoscopic variety of products.

To me the most interesting part of the city was the area called the ’36 streets’. Here every street is dedicated to the manufacture of some or other specific type of product. On one street you will find small businesses making kitchen products; on another street it will be silver jewellery and yet another street will specialise in bamboo curtains.

The Hoan Kiem Lake in the centre of the city is a beehive of activity at any time of the day or night. There are lots of restaurants and food vendors and every morning a lot of fitness-conscious Vietnamese can be found jogging around the lake.

I had time for a brief visit to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the embalmed body of the famous North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh can be viewed. The long queues clearly show how popular he really was.

The tour leader told us to leave our cameras on the bus, but I had no intention of having my rather expensive palm-sized camera stolen, so I slipped it into my shirt pocket. And that’s where the trouble started, because one of the security guards found it and I was summarily taken to a back room to be questioned by the police. It took them two hours to find an English-speaking officer who then proceeded to bombard me with different variations of the same questions. Eventually they got bored and let me go, but not before I started seeing images of myself being locked up in a communist jail for attempted spying.

I have to add, that despite this experience, the average Vietnamese person was wonderfully friendly and warm. I would go back without the slightest hesitation and if the deal I went to negotiate comes through it might happen sooner rather than later.


Read More

How I discovered the benefits of vaporizers

Posted on Jul 3, 2013 in General | 0 comments

A female friend recently introduced me to the wonderful world of herbs. After talking to her a few times and also reading up on the subject, I became convinced of the excellent medical benefits they possess – and of course many of them emit smells which can only be described as heavenly.

Now there are many ways to use herbs. One can, for example, simply leave a few small open containers standing around and they will fill any room with their lovely aroma.

Another option is to get yourself one or more vaporizers. For those who don’t know: a vaporizer is a device into which you place your herbs (or tobacco or weed, but that’s a subject for another day) and it then heats it up and a vapour is formed in the process. This vapour looks quite similar to the steam you see when you boil a pot of water.

What’s great about the vaporizer is that you don’t actually inhale smoke with all its carcinogenic and toxic by-products, so it’s a much healthier option than smoking.

Another great aspect of a vaporizer is that one only needs a very small amount of herb, so it goes much further.

There are many different types of vaporizers. My personal favourite is the hand-held one. It’s so small it fits into your pocket and you can use it anywhere you go. A travel vaporizer is in the same league.

If you want something for your office, a desktop model is exactly what you need. Of course, it’s bigger than a hand-held model and it uses more herbs, but it’s perfect for a bigger room.

Vaporizers are also often utilized by chefs as a way of applying controlled heat to spices and herbs to release flavours which are normally hard to extract or titrate, or that could be spoiled by overheating during the cooking process.

Read More

Are films becoming more and more irrelevant?

Posted on Jul 1, 2013 in Film | 0 comments

Is it only me getting older and more serious or are movies actually becoming dumber? It just seems to me as if the average movie coming out of Hollywood has less to say and makes more noise than ever before.

I love a good science fiction film and absolutely adored the ‘Star Trek’ TV series. This was intelligent science fiction; it looked at humanity and science and showed us what our future could look like if certain trends continued. Although there was time travel, laser guns and robots, the success of the series didn’t depend on that, it depended on a solid story line.

This is where the latest ‘Star Trek’ movie totally falls flat in my opinion. It relies on high-tech toys and zap guns to hide the fact that it actually has very little to say. I know millions of readers will probably disagree with me and the film will be a major box office hit, but I walked out of the cinema rather disappointed.

It’s not only ‘Star Trek’ that has suffered this fate; the majority of science fiction movies we see nowadays start with a great amount of background noise, end with an equally great amount of background noise and the 90 minutes in between is filled with special effects and lots of war cries without much substance.

As far as I’m concerned I like a film that gives you something to think about during the seven days before you go to see your next movie, but hey, I’m nearly 30 years old, so perhaps I’ve just lost touch with the youth of today.

Read More