Thursday, 27 September 2007

Ah, Woollahra ...

25 and 26 (and 27!!!) September – Had to steel myself for a facilitator led marketing and brand seminar that made me choke up all my reluctance towards corporate led brainstorming and motivating exercises ... The fact that it started with me having to declare what my ultimate car would be did not bode well (nor a wary stand off with a weekend warrior who’d better learn his place) but was eventually drawn in and even managed to be rather fascinated with the reality of the mythical WiMax which is due to hit the airwaves sometime before the end of the decade.   Far too much running around without enough achievement – first work function in the evening, a night at the Imax (a heck of a lot better than the neck cracking experience of the 300) which was followed by a christening that took far too long to realise.  A few gains, a few losses, a few stresses ... I think I might have cracked something but I’m not sure if that’s alluding to something physically breaking or perhaps a new revelation in the world of the Interactive.  Another evening of labours – not very strenuous labours and liberal relaxants were applied to ensure that nobody was hurt but learned a few more bits of the world of web development and learned that wireless routers are a lot more tricksy and varied than they appear on the outside.  Hottest jaffal ever ... A decent cheese, a decent ham (probably not free range) and a good dense bread with liberal dosages of hot English mustard ... Unbelievable – I’ve eaten mustard many times and I’ve eaten many variations on the theme of hotness but nothing that burned so hot and so quickly ... The Blue Giant jaffal.
Stumbled back into the workplace again, intercepted a cyclist who was probably trying to escape 200 killer wasps (???) only to be accosted by the CEO pressuring me for those numbers ...
C: I want those numbers on my desk by noon, Johnson!
M: But sir, I’m not Johnson ...
C: No more of your excuses, Johnson, if those numbers aren’t on my desk by noon you’re out ...
C: Gladys, did Johnson get me those numbers?
G: No, sir.
C: Fire Johnson!
An interesting announcement that was good for some and not so good for others – managed to survive another day – took a journey out to the western world to apply my cultural learnings of PJ to make benefit great company of SGB – got it done, at least some of the niggling bits and pieces, I never promised anyone that I was an expert at this stuff ...

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Parking, Sex and Broadband

23 and 24 September – Hangovers are not my favourite way to start a morning but when they’re coupled with pancake mix that just won’t solidify it almost becomes too much to bear.  All the ingredients were there but maybe there wasn’t enough flour or maybe the frozen blueberries were lowering the surface temperature – they wouldn’t firm, they wouldn’t flip, they wouldn’t do anything that they were supposed to and I had to temporarily turn over the reigns in order to maintain sanity.  McMahons Point to Woollahra is a cool 26 minutes when nothing slows you down – the Stanley/Chester slope could cause some future injury so one will have to be careful.  The bed is now in one piece – not a screw to spare (or missing praise be) - and will be hopefully be used at some point in the near future.  Unfortunately my discount code couldn’t be found and despite calling the call centre and asking her to ransack my drawers unsuccessfully this meant further delays on breaking one of my long help principles but that day will come soon.  
First morning ride out to work from the new homestead was relatively successful – took a relatively direct route but a bit too steep up and a bit too steep down – there are many other ways to go and I’m sure I’ll try all of them over the coming weeks – bit of a blur but pushed through the day and followed with an evening seeing Mugh McKay and some shonky pollster who we’d been warned were presenting contradictory views on social research (qualitative and quantitative) but were so self congratulatory and in agreement on just about everything they had to say that I wasn’t really sure what to think afterwards – especially as I didn’t agree with Mugh’s view that we’ve been living in a dreamy world of backyard blitzing and self improvement obsessions and have been completely unaware of the world that’s passing us by.  Maybe that wasn’t what he was saying but it was a relatively pleasant way to spend an evening – think I made a mistake afterwards in the post talk wrap-up but I’m apparently very good at that.  I’m sure forgiveness will come – it usually does (eventually).  And finally, after a tremendous delay I’ve visited a prostitute.  Well, close enough.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Around The World In Six Hours

21 and 22 September – Had committed being back to Australia by this day and I made it with weeks to spare.  Some people are easy to please (albeit expensive but easy).  An international evening - Japanese food, French champagne, German chocolate and Slovakian sweetmeats – how can you go wrong?  Well, you can get it wrong in one way but am sure that will not cause too much issue.
Once again, far too soon after the last one, I found myself again playing real world Tetris on Moving Day – a lack of liquidity in the moving karma pool meant it was just me and AJ for the lion’s share of the move – crack of dawn pickup and out to Annandale for a Balmain truck then Gordon where I liberated some but not all possessions, Meadowbank where I had to repossess refrigerator and couches (felt a small pang of guilt at forcing Toby and Madoka to consume their reserves of frozen party pies, ice cream and yoghurt) then to Redfern to cut remaining ties with one particular individual (hoo-f**king-rah) where we were intercepted by Ade who was very disappointed at our spatial awareness and he let us know by moving one of my bookshelves into the fourth dimension in order to allow it to fit into the truck.  Back to Woollahra where we unloaded then returned truck, returned me, returned AJ to family life so he could go deliver his second born child.  Great thing about Moving Day is that unpacking boxes can reveal lots of things that were once lost – pictures of my lost friend Dave brought a tear to my eye, pictures of me brought a cringe to my heart and dad’s old Porsche sunglasses made me regret I was no longer a messenger.  Took delivery of the bed in latter half of the afternoon – did not envy those delivery guys but at least they didn’t have to take it to any of the previous places I’ve had to live in (ground floor living does have its advantages) and then set myself up for hours of grown up Meccano play.  The wonders of Ikea design are not in the appearance of their products (which can actually be very nice – at least for the first few years of the items life) but the intricacies of how they can convert a real world item to a bunch of disparate flat pack components – the infamous construction instructions and lack of a proper screwdriver meant assembly wasn’t as rapid as I’d hoped but did the majority of it without too much frustration.  Eventually decided that enough was enough and made my way out Surry Hills way for a surprise party for someone I barely know – a rather lunch social group of predominantly mono-ethnic demographic I’ve had some involvement with in the past – I’m not sure but I think most of their parties (of which there are plenty I’m presuming) are all pretty much the same thing – same people, same music, same vibe just with different venues.  Still, had a time although I drank too much.  I drank way too much.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Forsooth, You Rascal And Ne'er-do-well!

19 and 20 September – One coffee is good, two coffees is pushing it, three spins me out until noon.  It’s a good thing I had some arts and crafts to distract me as well as baffling numbers that revealed a bit more of their mystery in the afternoon (which has to be a good thing).  It’s all happening it seems – blurs of activity amid a haze of cigarette smoke and caffeine – at least its something I believe in (to a point).  Things got progressively better and progressively worse but can only presume that it will start to make sense in the end.  Some tough decisions were to be made in the evening in relation to sorting out a bed – took an effortful drive out to Rhodes to one of the more unpleasant economic models – what could have taken 10 minutes ended up taking hours as we traipsed around and around in circles of the Swedish home ware giant, was forcefully reminded that I was one of the masses and I was not a delicate unique snowflake.  At least when it was located in Gordon (or even Moore Park) they came to us and we didn’t have to go to them.  And I didn’t even get to play in the balls.  Still, found an unexpected bargain at the end which made the whole thing bearable.  Just.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Forecast For Today - Sugar, Sugar and More F**king Sugar

17 and 18 September – Confidential stuff can be rather stressful at times – its great to be given gossip at any time but sometimes it feels like I’m being used as a hole that’s going to be filled up and planted with reeds (read your bible, heathens) - it’s nice to see a CEO who reacts so heartily to statistics but not so nice when you’re the one producing said statistics and you’re still not sure how the hell the numbers are being generated and what actually goes into them.  Was very glad to find out the exchange rate for the AUD-CND despite knowing that now that the wheels are in motion one of them will take a dive or a spike and leave me in the lurch, certainly some time over the next 4 to 6 weeks which is the estimate for how long the processing of international cheques takes.  Also nice to see that with smaller banking institutions internet transfers still go through even if you put in the wrong account number (must be the human touch or something like it).  After fleeing from the windswept offices where I was being pummelled by the intricacies of strange formulae and the arcane sci-art of the contact centre I found myself in the middle of a birthday party and a malformed cake that was quite delicious despite the fact that it needed a haircut – still, it afforded a brief respite from the sci-art which carried on far beyond the time it should have carried on to, seemed to transition into the next day with nary a subconscious thought to distract me.  More of the same which is not really a bad thing – a bit more confusion about things I don’t really understand followed by more birthday cake in place of a promised luncheon followed by sugar fix candy whistles and Weis ice cream (I’m taking in more empty calories than I did when I was working for Hermes).  Unexpected praise, unexpected responsibility.  What’s my world coming to?  Despite the faith apparently being shown in my ability I still don’t seem to have the common sense to shut the door properly – well, at least there is balance in the force.

Sunday, 16 September 2007


September 15 and 16 – After a long period of homelessness and joblessness the semblance of a normal life is returning – first viewing of the inside of the new residence (still unnamed) that will be shared with a small but doughty gentleman in the area that may or may not be too sophisticated for the likes of me.  Size and shape seems to be adequate for my needs (but was pipped at the post for possession of the larger room), local café seems to be okay (coffee wasn’t very hot but was nice) and local hills shouldn’t be too strenuous (not sure how long the toe clip saga will be able to last if they are).  After unloading what I had made the journey back to the north side via Cheeky where I took possession of some spare bike parts (decent set of wheels, cranks and bottom bracket that were not needed by the bicycle’s original purchaser).  Tried to replicate the magic of La Magica but just don’t have the dexterity.  A celebration of my return to God’s Country was to be had in the Hills but lack of coordination meant that if Japanese were to be consumed a wait of several hours would have to be endured despite the ‘fluence of some members of our party (if somebody was prepared to put out we may have had better results) but that didn’t mean sizeable amounts of expensive sake couldn’t be consumed while we waited for several hours to eat Italian (which was good but not Berlin good) and feel guilty for tempting individuals away from tobacco abstinence.  
A new variation on the pancake saga had relative success (buttermilk is an excellent variation on the theme but I've got to be careful when adding frozen berries to the mixture as despite the flavoursome enhancements they prevent the tops of the cakes from solidifying prior to flipping which can cause a slight mess which somebody else has to clean up).  Ventured back to Surry Hills to retrieve the vehicle which prompted praising for my responsibility in not drinking and driving from a local resident and an overall feeling of well being for my foresightedness.  Afternoon was strangely stressful as we ventured down the Crows Nest Sleeping Alley in search of a new bed – the fact that I spent half the afternoon lying down testing out various incarnations of inner spring, latex core and visco flex mattresses meant I should have been relaxed and free of worries but I wasn’t.  A hefty investment is never good for the soul (especially my soul) and after trying out many scores of them at the end of the day I had even less of an idea as to what I wanted than when I started.  This was not helped by the shenanigans of the professional bed salesman I encountered (Ah, so you’re buying a mattress first then a bed?  You, sir, are doing it the right way around ... You must be an expert on buying beds!; I’ve been selling beds for 34 years and nobody else in the business offers a comfort return guarantee like me!; this mattress has won the LGA Environmental Award!  What’s LGA?  It’s ... Um, it’s ... <<hitting the Google>> it’s ... In Dutch, but it’s a very good thing ...) A bit of an internet search afterwards made me thankful that I wasn’t tricked into paying exorbitant retail prices but the extra choices on top of the ones I’d seen throughout the day put me in an even worse state of mind.  Maybe sleeping on it will help (huh?  Huh?  I can hear crickets).

Never Say Never Again

14 September – Life in the 512kb lane has its ups and downs – high level executive meetings (???) and low level one-on-ones – took some sage advice from a venerable man of bidness but still had trouble bringing up what needed to be brought up – personally, I’d rather chat about WoW and Bioshock but some things just need to be said.  After escaping the world of wireless broadband I found myself back with the men (and woman!) of the road (and I’ve really got to stop reminiscing about my ‘time on the streets’ - people always seem to think that I was homeless when I was really just a man of the class).  Not much has changed except a few new faces, a couple of old ones and the continuing game of musical jerseys.  Avant moved to Crisis.  Bonds to Toll.  Crisis to Toll.  Call to Crisis.  Crisis to Call.  Crisis to Bonds.  Nobody leaves this job – they just leave companies.  Does this mean that I'll be back one day?  What was the name of that James Bond movie?  The one with Sean Connery returning to the role after he’d abandoned it – there was a different Q in it as well ... I can’t remember – but Octopussy is still my favourite.  The Breakfast Club has a lot of inexplicable dancing.

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Green Road

12 and 13 September – With great power comes great responsibility and it is only the wise who know how to handle that power.  This occurs on an economy of scale.  Pantaloons are reaching the end of their life but I cannot let them go – I run a grave risk of allowing them to bare more of me than should be bared but, right now, there are no other options.  After escaping the farm to go and see ‘Forbidden Lie$’ (I think it was called Forbidden Lie$ with the rather dated usage of non alphanumeric characters to represent letters – if the director was going to do that why did she have to be so Austra-Yankocentric?  Couldn’t it have been called Forbidden £¥€$ ???), a rather interesting film about a pathological liar/con artist (it seemed rather familiar to some of the people I’ve known over the years but that’s another story) where a great number of the attendees seemed to be interested in the last three days of my latest sojourn (How was Cairns?  Hi Sax, how was Cairns?  Sax .. How are you, how was Cairns???)  I just circumnavigated the globe and they’re only interested in the bit near the top of the country ...  Someone must have briefed them.
After much cajoling and much preparation I finally managed to get a certain individual to take the green road to work – all the excuses had run out and there was nothing for it but to brave the traffic that has the worst drivers in the world and verticalise ourselves into Redfern – rolled back into work where I found myself rather busy but also rather scared of having to be confrontational (managed to delay the worst of it until the next day) and before I knew it it was time to head back to the inner west to bully that certain individual back home via velocipede – the hardest thing about teaching someone to ride in traffic it is trying to convince them that forcing themselves into the fray is actually safer than sitting on the sidelines – if you push yourself to the front and take the lane then it’s much better than hiding on the edge – no car (generally) is going to ride up the back of you but many cars will sidle along the edge and take you out with a wing mirror.  In any event, a safe return was had by both (still can’t bring myself to ride down the driveway though – I feel like a child again – how grande).  My parents tell a lot of stories, I've accumulated a lot of crap and I love Canadia (especially the Canadian guvverment).

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Remember, Remember, the 11th of September

11 September – Finally, after many weeks of suffering through the Western and Eastern States of Old and New Europe, I was granted the boon of a Palms piccolo latte – and a finer coffee couldn't be had, even if a substantial portion of it ended up on a fine pair of trouser.  More fascinating but confidential aspects of the contact centre industry were shown to me – new responsibilities, interesting methods of ... Motivation, some benefits and some of the most baffling spreadsheets I’ve ever had the misfortune to try to decipher.  Am I capable of what has been bestowed upon me?  Well, time will tell.  Seemed to be a bit forgetful in the evening – on the way of to Link Plastics was rolling along Miller St (or maybe it was just BPR but it was very close to Miller St) when I felt on top of my head and was surprised to find the cloth of a silly hat rather than the fibreglass of a helm.  It wasn’t that far to go back to retrieve it but it was a bit hilly for my liking – really not confident negotiating McMahons Point with toe clips just yet – skidding just doesn’t come naturally – so I took myself down the road sometimes travelled for an eating and a webbing session (as I’d forgotten some other key pieces of equipment work went slightly slower than planned but we at link are like Jack Daniels - don’t like to rush).

Life Goes On

10 September -  A new day, a new job and a new residence (although this will not be occupied for a little while) - supposing I should probably wear something slightly smart meant Chevette wasn’t needed in the morning (which is good, because she was in pieces and wasn’t much good for anything) and I took the Ducati vehicle instead which got me into the new place that will take up my days on time (?).  Once again, confidentiality is key – however, have to say that I got a much better feeling about this place in terms of its potential for soul destruction (relatively low), friendliness of coworkers (very friendly ... Almost TOO friendly), zaniness of environment (this is the bell that gets dinged whenever there’s a successful resolution (which is applauded every time???), this is the throne that the best CR gets to sit in (is that a punishment or a reward?), belief in statistics (that’s got to be good for me, right?) and overall relaxedness of situation.  As with anywhere, there’s a bit to be desired, but one has to think in relative terms and I’m going to go out on a limb and try something I don’t try very often – optimism occasionally has its place.  Bumped into a few people over the day – nothing seems to have changed much while I’m away although apparently a nemesis (not icy cold angel of death) is vacating the city, life is going on as it does.  And so it goes.

Monday, 10 September 2007

All Good Things (Again)

9 September – Well, it had to happen – the last day of the holiday and as we were flying out around midday there wasn’t much to do except try to get the last money’s worth of the breakfast and try to find a decent coffee.  Once again, best laid plans to get to the airport on time were thwarted by dodgy taxi companies but, once again, all worked out in the end – was rushed through check in and loaded onto the plane to hit the rubber chicken circuit and watch a crappe movie – Next may have been an interesting short story but like many of Mr Dick’s tiny tales it didn’t really work when stretched – plot and execution of the sci-fi phenom were laughable as were the bizarre action scenes where Mr Cadillac’s foresight allowed him to dodge bullets and fists of fury with fits of fury but I was on a plane and it was something I hadn't seen before and now I never have to see it again.  Upon arrival the weight of being in the city of the Politician’s Olympics started to take its toll – the logistics of what awaits me is slightly overwhelming but reality beckons.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Hangover, Handover and Passing Over

25 and 26 July – Went to work with a hangover closely followed by a handover.  My replacement in the insurance industry seemed like a nice enough fellow – slightly older guy and I don’t think he really knows what he’s in for.  His experience seemed a bit more suited for doing a real job and not the glorified admin assistant which the role currently seems to be – couldn’t work Excel like me which might actually work in his stead – I kept on wanting to grab the f**king mouse off him but soon enough he’ll have it to himself.  At least it meant I had something to do ...  On the way over to Coogee for PJ’s ‘Lemmings’ premiere was intercepted by Dottie and went via Woolloomooloo and a nice dark route through Centennial – enjoyed the film more the second time, gave it a favourable review and had a very nice lamp rump with balsamic marinade before riding homeward to fulfil other pleasant duties.  A lot less to do when there’s no handovers but caught up on the wikisphere and plugged a few more numbers and words into spreadsheets and handover documents and had a choc top.  Had to get out of there earlyish to go do some other couple duties – delivered a pizza to the after school day-care (are you the sitter?  No, I'm not the sitter ...), got rid of one child and had the lion’s share of a Capitanos pizza with the other.  Am I being domesticated?  Never.  Chevette is in pieces at the moment and that’s awesome, I hope Hermaphrodite is up for the journey on the morrow.

Sounds of Silence

7 September - Finally, after much travelling, I finally got a chance to enjoy a decent inclusive breakfast - managed to spill some cereal which earned me a vicious snarl from the waitress but survived her attack long enough to consume cereal, yoghurt, eggs (not like Marias), bacon, sausage, hash brown, toast, lamb (i think it was lamb ... I hope it was lamb) and pancakes (did they have the magical ingredient? Of course not) and I was sated. No luck with fixing the bike chain and after consulting with the local bike shop it turned out that it was my fault that I broke the chain in the wrong place and he wouldn't be able to fix it until Wednesday but, like all good bike mechanics if they realise you are of the class (or at least of the brotherhood) he suggested a workaround which worked beautifully. So learned a new trick - and also learned that adding table salt to soap is very good for removing grease (who'd have thought?). With Chevette in good repair we hired a cruiser and took ourselves up to Trinity Beach (think it was Trinity Beach) where we swam in crocodile infested waters for a very brief period and then took ourselves back to town to recover from the ordeal. Some required more recovery than others. A joyful search for free wifi hotspots in town culminated in late success (the city is absolutely full of them but all seem to be on a plan which is against my deeply valued principles) and this was followed by another fascinating wander through the tourist filled town in search of something to eat which was actually rather successful in the end with an excellent dinner at a cliché filled Greek restaura' (they even smashed plates ... That being a Greek custom and all). Also, in preparation for a possible entry into submerged waters i'd taken the opportunity to make a booking with the medical establishment to collect some material for making candles (last time I went underwater I couldn't hear for a week which actually might have been advantageous for what awaits me in Sydney upon my return) and now, with the pathways cleared, i've actually got no choice but to listen to people. You'd never believe what people say sometimes.

Wonder Wall

Date: 8 September 2007
Time: 12:30 PM
Location: Wonder Wall, Upolu Cay, Great Barrier Reef
Maximum Depth: 13.1m
Time Underwater: 30m
Notes: Saw giant clams, lion fish, clown fish, bat fish, bunch of other fish ... Didn't see turtles, didn't see sharks ...

Where's Nemo? Oh, There He Is ...

8 September - Good thing that i'm still crossingtime zones because it meant relatively little difficulty in getting up in time for getting money's worth from hotel breakfast before heading Marina way to be picked up by Ocean Freedom tours for a journey out to the Reed (which reef? There's only one worth mentioning around here) - typical tour group (mixture of Irish, Australian, Asian, Spanish and loud mouthed Americans) and typical tour operators (token English included) with typical tour patter (the sharks mainly eat humans with the occasional fish ... How many times have you used that one?) - one thing was noticeable was that they all seemed to be very good with remembering first names (my suspicion was that they were doing it so they were aware of the individuals who were on the boat so they wouldn't make the mistake of leaving anyone behind which one of the competition apparently did several years ago providing excellent fodder for inspiring a fairly decent movie) and they were also pretty good with providing refreshment throughout the trip (although pricing was fairly deceptive on activity and extra refreshment but they are tour operators so you can't expect too much) - did a rather pointless sojourn on a glass bottom boat before putting on snorkel and fins for a fairly average wander through the shallows (all very pretty but nothing I really hadn't seen before in Vietnam) before heading off to slightly deeper waters where I finally got a chance to put my certification to use. As the tour specialised in basic supervised dives for the uncertified it turned out that I was the only one with Open Water under my belt so I got a special escort through the deep - Lee took me down to 13 metres through some very pretty other worldly seascape but, once again, there was nothing particularly new about the dive - saw some lionfish, clownfish, giant clams and a smattering of other species and a whole heap of coral but a definite lack of mega fauna was slightly disappointing but i'm not one to complain. A bit more snorkelling afterwards including a guided tour through some of the more boring bits where our friendly guide was probably thankful that none of us were marine bioligists who could correct her on some of her mistakes but a pretty excellent day trip regardless. Heat induced exhaustion meant drifting off as we drifted back to land - couldn't really muster up enough energy for much more than duties and pizza and movie afterwards but it was a decent movie and decent pizza and who's ever going to complain about the duty?

Saturday, 8 September 2007

I Wanna Fly And Run Until It Hurts, In ...

6 September- Whilst my mind might have a general Awareness of the current date and time I think my body does not. Transferred to Brisbane Domestic and onto Cairns without too much trouble (all things considering flights back were relatively seamless although rather punishing). Refreshment included a very nice friand and one of the worst apples i've had the misfortune to eat in a long time - is there anything worse than hoping for a mouthful of crispy goodness only to be betrayed by mush? But evetually, I was in the resort and not long after that I passed out in a hotel room (a far nicer one than some of the places I stayed at on my travels too) and it wasn't long before I was awoken by someone who I haven't seen in quite some time - joyful reunion? You could say that - in my worldly travels hadn't had a chance to do certain activities and that was rectified at first opportunity - ah cairnes, ...
After wanderingthe resort town and eating and havingto be physically restrained from beatingthe hell out of the RSL barkeep went back to the residence where I tried to enter the blissful state of Zen that only comes from bicycle maintenance but a new task that had never been done and which I mistakenly assumed would be as simple as its reverse proved to put me in a decidedly unbuddhalike state - how the hell do you put the pin back in a bicycle chain? Taking it out is easy - but the clearance between the outer chain and the pin is next to nothing and the piddly little thing just will not go in. There's got to be a catch but after an hour of playing with it, spreading grease all ove my hands (and later, inexplicably all over my body and all over the bathroom I had to concede defeat). Frustration sets in.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Stuck In The Middle With You

4 or 5 September? - Well, the days blur into nights and the nights blur into days when you're crossing time zones, especially when you're flying into the future - tomorrow always comes too soon. Accordng to the messengers the Flying Scotsman was a film that was aparety sommethng that had to be seen but i'm quite sure that the messengers mmustnt have actuay seen t because messengers don't come across very well - the 'experienced' messenger gives dishonest and useless advice to the hero and pretty much admits it's a thankless job that he's ashamed f (n as many words). And apart fromthat t pretty uch fiit the bill of most inspiring sports movies - young nobody wiith prodigious talent rejected by the establshment goes on too make his achieveets aganst the odds battles personal demons blah blah blah ... Was relatively well entertained for the first leg, at least until we got a smokingn break in Dubai and we were trasferred to the saller and less technologicall advanced 777 where iwas stuck ith a crappier selection f mvies wth no control over when they wr played ad anothr seletion of overly takative neighbours ith me stuck in the middle again). I also a. Comng to thereluctdnt concluion that the life f the Guide (and his magificet kyboard), the best traelling tool there is might b coming to an nd. My speling realy isn'tas bad s this post migh sugest. Rest of the trip involved trying not to get too anonnoyeed by mmmmmy neighbour who ay or may not be getting a Czech mail order bride, trying to get a few hours sleep as I crash through the timezones, sneaking in dubious cigarettes whenever we got off the plane at the myriad stopovers and eating far more calories than I was burning. Eventually made it to Brisbane International where I managed to sneak several bars of highly illegal German chocolate (some with cocoa levels well beyond what is acceptable in Australia) through quantine - i'm hoping Chevette made it through without too much damage - she managed to survive being ridden by another man (with permission so it wasn't too aldulterous) although he definitel used the front brake as the carbon scoring would suggest - her box wasn't looking too good when I found it but I won't really be able to make a judgement call until she's back in one piece.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Last Chance To See ... But I Don't Think I Will

4 September - Well, as has been stated many times in the past month 'all good things' - an 830pm flight out meant most of a day to hang out in London but i've been here and done that so couldn't get myself excited enough about anything to make a proper venture out to the city. Even the first female Beefeater couldn't do it. That, combined with a slightly nauseatingly sense of worry due to the fact that most of the city's tube system was down due to strikes and I had a vague feeling that tryg to escape the coutry woud be a trying task. So, my deciisio to go to see The Bourne Ultimatum was probably not the wisest - I was feeling quite strung out by the usual fear of a long haul flight as well as the premonition that it would be a difficult one and Mr Greengrass is quite adept at producing a taut (?) political thriller so I was really not feeling terribly comfortable throughout the afternoon. The Ultimatum was decidedly decent - i'd given up on the books long before we got to this stage in Mr Bourne's life so it was all new to me, all very exciting and action packed and there were more Icy Cold Angel of Death Nemeses that you could poke a stick at (which is a good thing, unless you're worried about making a flight that afternoon). Now, despite having arranged a taxi the previous day I had a naggingfeeling that there might be a problem with the tube strikes and the expected traffic so I thought I should get in touch with the taxi company just in case to bring the journey forward a bit but somehow i'd managed to squander all my phone credit (probably because I was forced to engage in so many wasteful SMS conversations) and also all my English change - had a heattd exchange with a f**king prick of a shopkeeper who wouldn't exchange coinage for a 10p piece even though there was one sittingon the counter (i dson't have to give you a reason not to change it! well, actually we live in a society and you f**king do you f**king c**t [I didn't use all of those words]) but despite eventually getting in touch with said taxi company they told me that there were issues due to the tube strike but they would do their best - every time I saw a black cab pass near i'd get a sickening feeling n my stomach because I knew I should just grab it but I knew that if I did then my taxi would turn up (which really isnm't a hug eproblem because it's not as if i'm going to be in country to face the punishment of abandoning a late taxito its fate) but the time crept on and when it eventually turned up it was over an hour after I asked and even that would have been pushing it. The taxi driver was slightly annoying wouldn't give me an answer when I tried to ask him whether it would be quicker to take the express train or get driven to the airport and was also fairly critical of my originalc choice of taxi company (who had ended up farming my trip out to his) - seriously mate, I don't care whcompany I use or what route I take - i'm leaving the country and I need to get on this f**king plane! Decision was made to get off at paddington and take the train (which was provbably quite wise) which was fairly direct in getting to Terminal 3 - upon arrival I was rushed through check in because I was so late but I then had to sit in security check queue for half an hour which meant sprinting through the airport to get to the gate - good thing i've got such good lungs and legs (????). After boarding we then waited for 1.5 hours for the baggage to be loaded (maybe it was my baggage ...) before we could take off. Well, it may have been 'conomy but at least it was Emirates with excellent food and an awesome entertainment system - pity my seat had a broken table, dodgy headphone socket and was stuck in between an overly talkative old man (who was very nice, i'm not complaining ...) and a slightly obese woman - the worst part was seeing the short wankers in the Emergency exit seats - even if you did stretch out you wouldn't hit the seat in front of me you deluded morons - seriously, those seats shoiuld be allocated by height - i'm very happy for a collosus to take the seat over me but seeng a midget just makes me see red.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Sample - Not For Resale

3 September - Decided to use the first part of my last full day in London to get the last of the shorpin out of the way - probably didn't get the best deals on everything but a few choice items that are just unavailable in Australia needed to be purchased. And this little journey also represented a temporary end to one of the most frustrating quests of my journey (in fact, a quest i've taken with me since Canadia) - yesterday's flight into London from Prague almost resulted in the confiscation of my ageing contact lens conditioner as it was above the 100ml threshold allowed and despite finding a pharmacy which had stolen my idea (albeit undeveloped) for selling sample size containers of all bathroom products (with clear plastic baggies for transport included) I seemed no closer to findingRGP solution in the appropriate size, dropped into a fair few London optometrists to try to find something to solve my dilemma to no avail. At least they had the solution compard to the Eastern Bloc although one optometrist even told me that he always tried to steer patients away from RGPs unless they absolutely needed it. But, on Old Compton St in Soho, the journey ended - a little chat with a potentially unexperienced dispenser (and therefore someone with a human soul) sold me a couple of Saufon starter packs for a fair price - the quest is not over yet, I still have to continue the fight against the Australian contact lens industry but for the moment, I am happy. Got a bit of culture in the afternoon from the NPR and afterwards probably got a bit of a culture growing inside of me from some dodgy Chinese - just because it's cheap doesn't mean it should be eaten.
The early evening had what will probably be the last of the reunions on this side of the world (although you can never be sure), young Don (the Artist Formerly Known As Danilo) and me finally crossed paths at the last minute at an overpriced but rather nice Japanese joint in Soho followed by a drink or two at Comptons - that historically seedy venue which still hasn't cleaned up its act. The fact that he's already starting to sportsomething of a London accent (after two and a half years here) made me realise just how long its been since i've seen him - but apart from accents, some people never really change.

International Man Of Business

2 September - Despite staying at the first hotel that might actually provide a good breakfast and not just the horrors of the loosest claims to a Continental one this side of the pond was woken by the friendly concierge and had to run out to the airport and board long before the first slice of toast was even put in the toaster (not that toast seems to be a fixture of Eastern European breakfasts - the barbarians) - similar flight to coming in albeit a much smoother landing and a few hours at my favourite of the International Airports where I ensured that dad got onto the right flight before wandering off to the Bidness class lounge for I am a Bidness man (i want you to get out there and do some business! At the speed of business! And when you go back home I want you to analyse some business! Oh, god help me ... but, to this day, even amongst the high tech corporate travellers the Guide still draws longing glances and jealous attitudes because no matter how much power they carry around in their shoulderbags my toy is still much smaller than their toy). After spendng the last hour in the airport in a slightly hazy Becharovka induced daze I found myself sitting in a chair with ample legroom, choice of meal (blue cheese stuffed steak no less!), my every whim catered for, even an armrest that you don't have to fight your neighbour for! And nothing but resentment for the man who put me there. You get a little taste of what this whole flying thing can be like then it's gone at the speed of burned away jetfuel. Interesting to be surrounded by English speakers after I once again negotiated my way back into Ye olde England with nary a stamp on my passport - it's easy to forget what it's like catching split second snippets of conversations of the people around (and whilst I've always been nosy and like to catch a peek into the lives of others it's actuallyquite pleasant to have that isolation).
After lugging the baggage (which despite my best efforts has ballooned on the journey (must be the masses of presents i've bought for people back in Australia ... ?) back to 'ackney where I found my splendid cousin in good spirits where I managed to convince him of the benefits of going to an overpriced cinema theatre to see the film I considered boycotting but knew I would see eventually - the Simpsons may have been 20 years in the making but it should have come 10 years ago when the show was still good (and allowed the movie to end that most amazing cultural phenom on a high note) - that said, it seems that the writers must have been storing away 20 years worth of gags to stuff into the 90m film and it was pretty f**kin' awesome. Almost worth the 9 pounds (approximately $A234.20) it cost to get in. Finished off with an overpriced hamburger (which was one of the better burgers i've eaten in this fine nation but not a patch on Burger Fuel - but, seriousl, what is?). Also played Bioshock when I got home, i'm not the biggest fan of the First Person Shooter but this could potentially change my mind.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Don't Just Speak German, Act German

1 September - Having enjoyed my time in Berlin so much I decided to take the adaptation of being a jelly doughnut to the next level so after waking and fortifying myself with a light breakfast of eggs and bread with home preserves I gathered up the troops and invaded Poland. A little bit of trouble at the border with one of us travelling on a foreign passport but after a fair whack of scrutiny we were waved through with minimal resistance - of all the places we could have tried to secure we ended up in Kricyna (i know I spelt that one wrong) which is a spa town (like Bardejov!) and ski resort (a lot of good that does at the tail end of summer) so not really a hell of a lot to do except drink some local chocolate and then withdraw back to the home country where our hapless Australian suffered more delays from the border guards (i think the guard was just doing a bit of mental vacationing at the long list of Eastern European tourist hotspots that were plastered all over the passport). And as I always say, if you consume something or excrete something that is not the air you've visited that country so one more added to the list (does that make 20? It has to be more than that). Spent the afternoon with the family having a fairly satisfactory lunch at one of the strange local eating establishments (i really don't think you call them restuarants) before having to say that inevitable goodbye that happens at the end of any reunion - one of the better visits to the home country partly due tothat it is technically the home country now and the next generation has truly come to a contemporary stage with language barriers slowly being broken down (not really due to much effort on my behalf I might add - if anythifng my slovak has become worse than the last trip if that is possible). Had to return to the site of one of my greatest failures in order to reunite with one of my greatest quasi-pseudo relatives but bad memories are worth dealing with. After leaving the paternal to deal with a contemporary I found the Ambassador Café for the rendesvous with my pre-stopmother who was as beautiful and elegant as always yet still has a fair number of babushka mannerisms that just don't gel with the outside appearance - took some sage advice from her before dad found us and took us up into the mountains (well, uup a hill out of town) for a fair meal in an isolated, almost empty, almost The Shining like hotel where I had some deer and finished off most of dad's meals whilst catching up and trying to enjoy the last of what Slovakia has to offer - always difficult conversing with a couple of trilinguals - constantly drifting in between english, slovak and russian - with the occasional translation made for me when appropriate - I think dad hatts the responsibility of acting as translator but loves the power. Very pleasant night eventually but ... Like the rest of the enjoyable periods of the trip, all good things ... Headed back to the rather luxurious hotel (which I would say i've earned after some of the sleepingconditions i've had to deal with in the past month) where I tried once again (and promptly failed again) to work out how to use a bidet. I'm sure there's something on the internet to assist. That place has a solution to everything.


I didn't want to put the beer in the fridge otherwise it might get cold

Saturday, 1 September 2007

When In Bardejov Visit The Spa

31 August - Maybe it's being back in Slovakia for the first time in several years or maybe it was just a result of my body trying to process the gargantuan amount of calories over the night but fitful sleep was not to be had - kept on dreaming of being lost in various parts of Europe before waking up to the relative security of Bardejov then drifting off and starting all over again. Bardejov hasn't changed much in two years ... In fact, it hasn't changed much in 10 years. The square is still the same, the buildings haven't changed (much) and the Slavic and Romani population seems pretty much the same as well. It's quite painful to see the state of the local gypsies - very reminescent of the native situation in Australia and Canada and not one that seems to be on the improve but this is something I can't really judge as it's only the surface that I see. Still being fed far too much than is comfortable - i'm just not burning enough to be able to enjoy Slovak food with impunity - the saga of the RGP solution continues unsolved but some technological problems have been surpassed. As one seems to be obliged to do when in Bardejov, I had to visit the local spa - got the bus out there and it had a decidedly old person smell about it (that mix of mothballs, hospitals and ... I don't know how to describe it as anything other than an ingredient in old person smell) - thought that drinking a local pivo would have better benefits than drinkingthe spring water and, you know what, I did feel better after that. After this also headed down to the remarkably well preserved local cemetery near the Polish border to pay some respects - it seems that there ar more Chief Towers buried there than are left in the world right now (i don't reallythink that's a good thing - but more recent google searches seem to be unearthing some of us).
A rather confusing start to an evening out with mixed messages as to what the plans were but after watching a few indeterminable hours of the Slovakian version of Idol (is reality TV a valid cultural experience when it's in a foreign language? I'd like to think so) I found myself being escorted by Shani and Sascha and a few other contemporaries (including Michael (i'm sure there's a slovak spelling) the nicest little local chap you'd ever meet) out to the town centre for a few pivos. This is obviously a confidential post as one of my young cousins and his cohorts happened to be underage. However, it was the last Friday before they were heading back to school so I wasn't going to be the wowser who stopped them from havinga good time (that's the parents job apparently) and I was relatively responsible from keeping them from getting into too much trouble. Bardejov's nightlife was remarkably energetic when compard to the sleepy little town that i've generally experienced during the daytime with the older generation - did find myself gettingrather stretched when the other cousins turned up - there were spirits to be drunk and some rather intense locals to deal with - something approaching a street brawl seemed to be on the verge of spilling out of the pub, a wild hatted IR student was intent on ...something and I had the one of the strangest conversations about whiskey in my life with one local girl who I seemed to set off when she mentioned she'd just come from Islay and I happened to retort, 'Oh, that's where Ardberg comes from' ... 30 minutes of lecturing on the fact that malts are nicer than blends and 17yo whiskey is prettier than 19yo and malts are nicer than blends and nobody in Slovakia knows anything about whiskey and malts are nicer than blends and there ar only 100 bottles of 17yo something or other and malts are ... But hey, the teenagers need to let off some steam before heading back to that most wretched of institutions and i'm not going to stop them. It also gave me an inkling of what my forebears got up to when they went for a night on the town in their youth - a new insight? Probably not.