Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Totally addicted


This blog comes direct to you from Sanlucar la Mayor near Sevilla in the southern Spain. Rather than putting off writing this week's edition of The World Of Hagg until I return to the UK I thought I would use some downtime to write up this week's news.

Status Update
As my summer vacation to the USA approaches and the impending excitement of gambling in Las Vegas mounts I am reminded just how careful I need to be otherwise I may come back totally broke! In advance of my trip I have been tipped off about a rewards scheme called M-Life.

M-Life is essentially a free scheme where you earn points by gambling that can be redeemed for experiences at a number of participating hotels on the Vegas strip. If you are so inclined you can buy reward points to be reclaimed at a later date, but for all those who just want to save a bit of money there is an online game where you can earn rewards. The game itself is linked through a Facebook app, so super handy, and takes very little effort; just press a button, watch the colours spin and hope for a big win!

So, for the past couple of weeks I have been spending my free time clicking 'BET' and watching as my money shoots up only to be gone a few spins later whilst my reward points mount. I can already reclaim some free drinks, but if I keep going I can get enough points for free meals, tickets to shows and if someone was truly dedicated they could get enough points to pick the music they play during the world-famous Bellagio fountain music.

With only 6 weeks to go I am going to be devoting a large part of my evenings and free time to racking up the reward points and getting some extremely cool free stuff to help make some memories that will last a lifetime. If you are going to Vegas or even if you think that one day you would like to go my advice to you is sign up to M-Life now. Not only is it fun, but when you finally visit you could save a tonne of money. My only concern is that my addiction turns very real when I touchdown in Vegas and start betting actual money.

Haggy's Hols
After spending endless amounts of hard-earned money on travelling up and down the country to Stansted Airport on previous holidays I thought I would give public transport a go. Somewhat nervously and with a great deal of trepidation I pre-booked megabus tickets to London to catch a train at the other end.

My previous experiences of megabus would be well described as cramped and uncomfortable. Some may even say the Ryanair of the road (the same colours help the comparison too). The buses are too often old, stinky and loud so to arrive at the newly designated bus stop in Newcastle and be greeted by a double decker bus was a huge relief. I found myself a table and settled in for the long haul. I sat down to overhear some random conversations about conspiracy theories but there is only so much one man can take and in went the earphones!
The journey itself was smooth and quiet so I had a bit of time (6 hours) to pass sleeping and listening to music. All told the bus/train worked well and if flight times are reasonable it may well be something I do again. Time will tell, but for now my wallet can breathe a sigh of relief as I don't need to make this journey again for a couple of months!

The Mushrooms
It seems that each time I visit Seville I discover something new and I am yet to venture into the truly touristy destinations of the Catedral de Sevilla or the Real Alcazar. There is just so much to see and so much to do! One day I will have done it all and may be able to create some kind of tour guide for beginners, but I wouldn't inflict the world with that, after all my blog will suffice!

This time out we wandered up the main street and headed towards Metropol Parasol aka Incarnacion's Mushrooms. The Mushrooms Seville is a city full of tradition so to find huge modern structure is totally unexpected, but that is exactly what The Mushrooms is. Claiming to be the world's largest wooden structure it stands tall amongst traditional buildings and casts an impressive shadow on the surrounding area. The foundations of the building sit atop some old Roman ruins that are backlit by mood lighting that changes colour to create varying atmospheres below ground level. As contradictory as it sounds the marriage between old and new seems to work somehow. The building seems to fit effortlessly and without fuss into central Seville and brings a new modern edge to the place, creating a cooler and trendier vibe in the immediate area.
(fake as this may look this is genuinely my picture)

We paid a minimal fee (1.35euros) and took a lift to the viewing level. From here you get great views of the city and really get to explore the structure via a snaking and sloping pathway that meanders around the top of the building. I don't think I can really do it just by describing it, so I will let some pictures do the talking. My advice though is to definitely check it out if you are in Seville, as it is great for those on a budget and you can still pretend to be all kinds of cultural and brag to your friends about being so intellectual! I can't because I am not...

Just to make you jealous there is a really cool little cocktail place at the base where you can sup on a classic or watermelon mojito for 3euro. You didn't here me complaining!

Food Glorious Food
Any holiday to Spain demands that you must eat tapas. I mean it is like visiting coastal France and not eating moule frites, Germany and not eating Bratwurst, Italy and not eating Calzone or coming to Newcastle and not drinking Brown Ale - I mean straight up, no holds barred, wrong!

DIY Tapas
This week I have eaten some fabulous food as always, but instead of telling you about all my foodie goodness I thought I would use some culinary know how to recreate a dish I had and share it with you. Filled with flavours you wouldn't normally associate with Spain I was taken aback when I saw 'ternero a la mostaza' (veal in mustard sauce) on the menu, so of course had to try it! I was not disappointed. So without further ado ladies and gentlemen here is how to make your very own simply but delicious tapa.

Thin beef steak 
White Onion
Wholegrain mustard
Finely slice the onion
Sautee in oil over a medium heating until the onion softens
Add the steak and brown on all sides
Stir in a heaped teaspoon of mustard
Drizzle over some cream
Warmth through
Enjoy with some crusty bread. 

I Scream, You Scream...
One last thing. Whilst in Sevilla I came across a fantastic ice cream parlour called La Abuela ( This is no ordinary ice cream as whilst you can choose standard vanilla or strawberry goodness you can also sample some more abstract flavours. Ranging from Ferrero Rocher to lollipop and cheesecake to a Spanish classic tarta nata (cream cake). Personally I went for a combo of one scoop White Nutella and one scoop caramelised pine nut ice cream. Both rocked my socks, but the Nutella was particularly spectacular.

Hagg's Hockey Corner
Last week, as you know, the Ball Hockey season came to a climactic end. My Dekstars team came so close to taking home the national champions title, but we didn't and we move on but it still hurts and I am still kicking myself for not having the guts to take a penalty shot - never again! Anyway...having devoted a lot of time to Ball Hockey over the past couple of months I am taking a bit of a rest and a weekend away from the game. I will be back to it next week, but over this time off I have been able take stock of the season and have set myself some fairly hefty challenges for the coming year.

In the off-season I aim to keep fit and learn more about Ball Hockey seeing as I only started playing in October last year. However, my biggest personal target for the year is to attend Team GB trials and not totally embarrass myself and hopefully get a look in on the team. I feel I have played well in the Open tournaments and at nationals and have the potential to continue to develop in the sport, but you can never tell what a coach is looking for. Hopefully whatever it is I can bring it!

I cannot describe how jealous I am of my friends and team mates who made this year's squad and it is a mere matters of days before they fly out to Newfoundland, Canada. They have been training hard for months now, working on strategies and team fitness. Obviously not being a part of the squad I can't give you a great insight, but I know one man that can - James 'Leafy' Dixon. He has been blogging on his exploits and I wholeheartedly encourage you to read more about it here on this newly designed site - The Geordie Geek
For those of you who are interested I hear a rumour that some of the games may be televised at some point and if I can I will be finding a link and posting it so that you can find out more what Ball Hockey all about. Good luck to Team GB, we are all proud of you, give them hell!

Run Haggy Run
What's Run Haggy Run I hear you say?! A new element of the blog I cry! A little while ago I mentioned that I had been lucky enough to be given a ballot place in the Great North Run. I haven't exactly done much training to date, but not that the off-season of the Ball Hockey season is upon us I can start to focus a bit on running. To help me along with it and to keep you updated I thought I would add this section to my blog.

A couple of years back I set myself the challenge to run 5 half marathons in the course of a year. It was a year filled with training, injury setbacks and fancy dress, but ultimately very rewarding. I got the opportunity to run in some great cities and even managed to make the local news dressed in a skin-tight tiger onesie! I also set my personal best half marathon time of sub 1 hour 39 minutes in Dublin and got to celebrate with a Guiness...perfect!
I think I am still fit enough to run the distance, but I need to get out there on the streets and put the miles in. I know the Great North Run is not ideal for setting a personal best because of the amount of runners, but I would still like to achieve a modest time of perhaps 1 hour 45 minutes. One thing I know for sure if before actually doing the Great North Run itself I need to get myself some new running shoes. As much as I love my current pair of Asics I have run them into the ground and they know offer less cushioning than the retro Green Flash I wear out and about! I have found this out to my detriment after completing an easy 6 miler and bit more up tempo 3 miler over the weekend because I am now sporting a fetching in-step blister. Thanks for the sympathy in advance.
Before I run I will be asking for you all to donate to a charity very dear to me - the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Having lost someone close to me to Cystic Fibrosis I always run for the Trust because they put in some great work to raise awareness of the disease and undertake research to tackle it. Breathe easy for now because I haven't set up my fundraising page yet, but it will be coming so be warned!

For the time being though please keep yourself updated by following me on Twitter @adzhagg or using my super special hashtag #runhaggyrun

Have You Heard What Haggy's Heard?!?
To me, HYHWHH is what my blog is all about, but for the past couple of weeks I feel it has lost its spark. Whilst the main body of my blog needs structure I think this part really benefits from being off the wall and random. It is a section designed to bring new things to your life, make you smile, inspire you or at least give you something to distract you from the day-to-day grind called life. So, with all this in mind I am going to stop doing set things each week and just share random parts of my life with you, much as before!

This week the bods at Microsoft launched their next step in attempted world domination: the Xbox One. I swear it is all one big rouse because I had only just updated the software on my console and then the dreaded Ring of Fire means I am now sans console and yearning for gaming related fun. So it has been with heightened interest that I have watched both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 be announced over the past couple of months.

To be honest with you both Xbox One and the PS4 have left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed and disappointed. They promise much in regards to developing new technology and syncing up our ever increasing technological lifestyles, but I just don't get what they want to be any more; are they a gaming platform or something else? Call me old fashioned, but I have a laptop to go on social networking sites, Sky to watch TV and I want my console to plat games with and I don't want to mess with that. Gone are the days when a console could sell itself by merely announcing exclusive rights to upcoming games and instead we are now heading into the murky waters of social networking and web browsing. My fear is that combining everything could result in a reduced gaming experience as designers are asked to be able to include ways to 'share' progress on Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty rather than develop some killer levels.

Don't get me wrong I will no doubt crumble to peer pressure and by one of these consoles when they are released, which will depend on who can give me the best gaming experience and hasn't totally lost its way in the ever confused market. If you are considering buying one please let me know which so it may steer my choice and I can compete against you in some kind of online death match at some stage!
Argh just show me games!!!

Grammatical correctness
In light of the recent SAT tests where children are tested on their ability to identify and use grammar I have become a bit self-critical of my own writing style. I know I use the exclamation mark far too much but I think it is because I am so excitable and I just want to put that across. However I do like that we are continuing to teach grammar in schools because too often I see spelling mistakes or the wrong use of a Don't get me wrong grammar has always been taught in schools I just find it slightly amusing that it has made it to the news recently. What I don't get it that instead of people seeing the English language changing and evolving we are being forced to learn archaic language. What next, Latin again? Thank God I missed that period of schooling!

Whilst we are on funny grammar things check out this video from the one and only Lonely Island - Semicolon; part of the YouTube Comedy week and their impending new album Wack Wednesday.

Crazy story
This week well known musician (even though recent records make this debatable) George Michael fell out of  a car doing 70mph on the M1 and walked off with a few cuts and bruises. Looking at the pictures of the aftermath I am sure a fair few people are cursing this latest stunt because it closed the M1 down whilst emergency services attended the scene. I am not quite sure what he is trying to prove by doing this, but all I know is I would sign him up to be a stunt man in the next Die Hard movie! Check out the the full story and the cracking headline "Scrape me up before you go slow" from The Sun here

So I am not going to let you down and not give you some music, but I haven't heard much new stuff this week given that I have been in Spain where today's hits are yesterday's hits over here. I am however looking forward to the release of Drake's third studio album called 'Nothing Was The Same'. There is not a lot known about the album, but having heard "Started From The Bottom" I am hoping for more of the same.

See y'all later! Love.

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