Archive for June, 2015

Planes, Trains and Autobuses

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

My wife and I have just returned from attending a wedding in Mexico, and it’s quite bizarre how different another country’s wedding ceremony and reception can be.

We flew from Atlanta to Mexico City on Friday morning which was the easy part of the journey. We then caught the train from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 in pursuit of the bus station. The third leg of the journey made me very apprehensive about agreeing to take this trip.  We were embarking on a four hour bus ride to Orizaba east of Mexico City, and I had a stereotype view that the bus would comprise wooden benches, packed to the rafters with the sea of humanity, and a few goats and chickens thrown in for good measure.

I was delighted to discover that my concerns were unfounded. The accommodation was bordering on luxury. The seats were very comfortable and reclined if desired. The bus was fitted with air conditioning and two rest rooms.  Videos were available from several screens  for the duration of the journey, but they were in Spanish, and I only understand gracias, si, pa favor, and how much for the woman? Well you can’t have everything.

We arrived at our destination on time, and were able to walk to the hotel a couple of blocks away. After settling into our room we decided to explore what  Orizaba had to offer. It’s not exactly a tourist destination, but it’s a colorful, lively town with a population of approximately 100,000 and several places of interest to keep us occupied.*

The wedding invitation indicated that the ceremony would take place at 7.00 pm (in hindsight make that “seven-ish”) with a reception to follow at 9.00pm (nine-ish) until late. My wife insisted on ordering a taxi at 6.00pm and she can speak reasonable Spanish to tell the driver our destination. However she was taken aback when the taxi driver appeared not to have heard of the cathedral where the wedding was taking place. It was luckily lost in translation and he dropped us outside the venue ten minutes later.

We were rather early and unsurprisingly there were no other guests to be found, but as the  The cathedral clock struck 6.30pm a few other guests were mercifully milling around the Cathedral courtyard.  The flowers arrived on the back of a truck at 6.45pm while evening mass was still taking place inside the cathedral. The courtyard was now beginning to fill up with more guests and at 6.50pm the bridegroom strolled into the courtyard all alone with a big smile on his face, but perspiring feverishly in a tuxedo.

It’s the bride’s privilege  to be late for her wedding and she duly obliged. The bridal car, a cream colored SUV adorned with ribbons driven by the groom’s nephew, pulled into the courtyard around 7.10pm while stragglers from the mass were just leaving.

The groom then helped his bride out of the car, paused for a few photographs, and escorted her into the Cathedral with 400 guests bringing up the rear. The bridal march was substituted for a Mexican folk song and we were left to find our seats. There were no bridesmaids, no best man, groomsmen, ushers or father of the bride, but The flowers looked very pretty.

The service was naturally held in Spanish, but I was impressed that the happy couple had memorized their vows. Gazing into each other’s eyes and holding microphones, they reminded me of Peaches and Herb as they exchanged vows and slipped on the wedding rings.

They paused for several photographs at the altar and walked out of the Cathedral, but with no music accompaniment. I was tempted to whistle Handel’s Wedding March but I was suffering from bronchitis and couldn’t hit the high notes.

The reception was being held a couple of miles away but we had  no intention of repeating our earlier faux pas of  being the first guests to arrive. We furtively turned up at 9.30pm and joined a long queue which had formed at the entrance. Somebody had the bright idea of inviting guests to finger paint on a “wedding tree” and sign the damn thing. We were shown to our seats around ten after ten.

The bride and groom reappeared about 10.30pm as the first course was beginning its rounds. Now I’m all for gentle background music playing while I’m eating a meal, but a saxophone player paraded around the dance floor attempting to play the  “Kenny G” box set before they cut the cake.

I had heard that Mexicans love to party, but remarkably there was no alcohol served or available to purchase at the reception save for a glass of pink champagne of dubious quality to toast the bride and groom. We decided to take our leave around midnight, and as we walking out the door, I swear I saw a number of bottles of tequila being pulled out of a drinks cabinet.

“Okay amigos, we can  get the good stuff flowing now. The gringos are finally leaving……..”

Footnote: Seriously, it was an honor to be invited to the couple’s wedding. It was fun and enjoyable experience and a weekend  I will never forget. The bride and groom dropped in at the bus station to see us off and they didn’t leave the reception until 7.00am.Sure sign we’re getting old.



That Was The Week That Was

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015


The first week of June has proved to be quite eventful. Earlier in the week it was reported that Charles Kennedy the former leader of the Liberal Democrats had died suddenly at the age of 55. Mr. Kennedy was an MP for 32 years until he recently lost his seat to the SNP avalanche at the General Election. Mr. Kennedy was quite unique in politics; he was honest, personable, articulate and very intelligent.

He had the courage to oppose the Iraq War and was vilified by all around him who collectively stepped on the Bush/Blair bandwagon. He never lauded over lesser souls when he was proved right to oppose the war, and his leadership of the Liberal Democrats was a decisive factor in the party winning 62 seats at the General Election in 2005. Sadly he was a victim of the demon drink and was forced to resign as leader as the cracks began to show.

Later in the afternoon, breaking news revealed that the corrupt  weasel, Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA had announced his resignation. Four days earlier he had been re-elected for another term despite five of his cohorts being arrested on corruption charges. It would appear, but not confirmed, that the wolves were circling the 79 year old demi-god and he decided to jump before being pushed thus ending a despicable 17 year reign. However, he will remain in office until a new President is elected in December which is quite inexplicable.

In the newspapers on Wednesday, the 40th Anniversary of Leeds United’s appearance in the European Cup Final was recognized when they lost 0-2 to Bayern Munich. Critics will argue that they were the victim of poor referee decisions, but I have no sympathy for that club. They were cynical, unscrupulous, dirty, and deservedly received their comeuppance.

Cracks are beginning to show in Brendan Rodgers’ control over Liverpool FC. They failed to qualify for the Champions League having spent millions on mediocre players in the summer and Steven Gerrard has retired to earn mega bucks in a cosey environment at LA Galaxy. The American owners of Liverpool assured Rodgers his job was safe for now, but unceremoniously fired assistant manager Colin Pascoe and first team coach Mike Marsh.

I can’t imagine Liverpool’s former legendary manager, the late Bill Shankly, allowing his erstwhile assistants Bob Paisley and Joe Fagan to be fired by the Board in a similar manner. Rodgers who is never short of a word or two has some explaining to do.

We are a few days away from celebrating the bi-centennial anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo; a battle which changed the course of world history.The other day, I came across a giant statue of the Duke of Wellington astride his horse, Copenhagen, located in a nondescript park on the outskirts of Aldershot. I believe he deserves a more prominent spot in the confines of a London square or outside the Houses of Parliament to receive similar recognition as the Nation’s other great statesmen Winston Churchill and Horatio Nelson. 

I was driving passed Stonehenge and was caught in a traffic jam. Nevertheless it gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at the giant pig farm which abuts the A30, and is located less than  half mile from the World Heritage Site. I’m not a pig hater by any means but I thought it incongruent to allow a piggery so near to Stonehenge. They can’t really argue that the pigs were there first, can they?

The week ended with a flourish with Barcelona deservedly defeating Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League Final, and American Pharaoh becoming the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown of American horse racing: The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont. Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the losers.

Footnote: Wellington’s monument was originally placed on Constitution Arch in the City of London, but regarded as a bit of an eyesore by Queen Victoria. It was later moved to Hyde Park and eventually found its way to Aldershot, home of the British Army.