Tuesday, 6 November 2007
I'm starting to see the same episodes for a second time now, so regular service should resume shortly...
Wednesday, 31 October 2007
...people with lisps need not apply.
Despite the fact I didn't grow up surfing, and haven't had even a walk on part in an episode of Home and Away (it's surprising how many Brits will believe that one), I find myself missing the beach more than most things. Yes, even Coogee.
Having gone since January without seeing a wave, or even proper sand (Cyprus came close, but just didn't cut it), I decided I needed a beach trip, even if I had to go on my own. Unfortunately, most 'beach getaways' sold in the UK feature horrible resorts, packed with horrible Brits, sporting even more horrible lobster-red tans. So I opted for a trip that offered Spanish language courses along with surf lessons, safe in the knowledge that most Brits would run a mile before speaking in the local tongue.
Turned out I was right. When I made it to San Seb and found the hostel that would be home for the week, almost everyone else booked in was an Aussie or Kiwi. Travelling alone is always a risk (what if you end up sharing a hostel room with a complete weirdo, or worse still, what if everyone else avoids you because YOU are the weird one in the room), but when it throws you in amongst a group of like minded travellers, it can be the best way to go. The rag tag bunch of would-be surfers and linguists quickly bonded over a few drinks, and formed fast friendships during our morning surf sessions, afternoon language lessons, and night-time shenanigans. Personal highlights include but are not limited to: nearly starting a fight in a salsa club by throwing my partner into another couple; eating and drinking ourselves stupid at the cider house; dancing on a floor of broken glass at San Seb's cheesiest night spot; and the blood, sweat and not-quite-tears when Troy and I tried our hand at mountain biking on our last free day.
All in all, a great trip that has probably now ruined Spain for me - no other trip there could match it. Thanks to all my fellow travellers for making it what it was. and teaching me about getting ham sambo'd.
Sunday, 30 September 2007
I obviously wasn't the only one suckered in, managing to find some other Aussie novices to form a team (many thanks to Andrew and Gabbrielle). The running/orienteering session on Saturday evening started off well: we got the map, planned our route (not too ambitious) and set off... we got to the first challenge and I immediately wished we'd run in the opposite direction. The challenge was for the team to eat jellied eel. 3 team members, ergo 3 chunks of eel to be eaten. As soon as we got there, my newfound teammates told me they were vegetarian. So I was left to wolf down a bowl of jellied eel. And then run for another 2 hours. Go on, try it. I dare you. I had to stop every 10 minutes to retch and try to vomit.
The Sunday session started early, and with Andrew on the maps we raced through London on the bikes. After the pain of Saturday's running we'd decided to skip all the orienteering/running sessions. A small taste of the activities of the day included: riding in Richmond Park, barrel rolling at Fuller's Brewery, abseiling off Twickenham stadium, kayaking around Putney, and finally playing hide and seek on the HMS Belfast. A full day in the saddle covering nearly 80kms left me sore and tired and unable to ride my bike for weeks.
Needless to say, we didn't win, but had a great time facing up to the challenge. If you get a chance to do something similar, I recommend it (just do some training first!) - I'm already booked in to the 2008 races in Edinburgh and London...
Friday, 21 September 2007
So another year rolled around and I had spectacularly failed to die, so a birthday had to be celebrated. While the Germans were celebrating my birthday with the opening weekend of Octoberfest, Rach convinced me to party with the Parisians, since the French were celebrating my birthday by playing Ireland in the Rugby World Cup (at the time, this was one of the most anticipated match ups of the tournament).
After a few hiccups (nearly missing the flight, then arriving at our pre-booked accomodation at midnight to find ourselves locked out and with no-one at reception... my month spent learning French in Villefranche really paid off at this point), we settled in to Paris. We did all the usual Paris things: strolling along the Seine, visiting Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, getting drunk with Canadians in kilts at Trocadero... you know, the usual.
That night, we all headed out to the Stade de France... most of us without tickets. Jono and I managed to score grade purple tickets a few minutes before kick-off by making a deal with some dodgy scalper types. The match was great fun, but didn't really live up to the billing, mainly because the Irish were so rubbish.
For post-match celebrations we headed to an English themed bar of all places, and even made it there despite the pick-pocket on the train and Tim's directions. The place was absolutely heaving, with girls even dancing on the bar, while the barstaff just kept serving the punters between their legs... a crazy night and a great way to see in another year.
Monday, 17 September 2007
Sartre once said "Hell is other people." It’s a sentiment with which I tend to agree, especially since I spent most of my formative years with my family. Even so, it’s a sentiment that is brought to mind when you spend any time staying in a hostel, as I did on a recent trip to Ireland. The funny thing is, after a few days travelling alone, I couldn't wait to get to the hostel…
For various planning reasons beyond my control, I ended up spending 2 days solo in Ireland, staying in a hotel. Armed with an iPod loaded with tourist walks, a Lonely Planet guide, and a copy of Ulysses, I thought I would have no trouble amusing myself for 48 hours. To be honest, finding things to do wasn’t a problem. I drank Guiness and read Joyce, wandered around Trinity College and drew some sketches, plugged in the iPod and wandered around the city… it’s just that after a while, you get a little sick of having no other conversation apart from "That’s three euro, thanks." Your mind starts to wander. You start getting lost in your own thoughts… and that’s one dark abyss that I’d rather stay out of.
To distract myself, I found a comedy night in a bar, thinking "ooh, this’ll be great. I’ll see some home grown Irish comedy, in Ireland. Brilliant!" And half the acts were English, and one Australian. It was perhaps the most half-arsed thing I’d ever seen. The first act was going to do an audio-visual type comedy thing (based on the cartoon Hammer-man) using the projector, which the venue had recently sold. At intermission, the MC ducked out to buy everyone biscuits, but couldn’t get the right ones. All the same, it was brilliant. The headline act (who’s name I forget) was so good that he told a joke in Gaelic, and I still laughed. Just so you understand how good that is: I don’t speak Gaelic.
Rach arrived just in time to save me from myself, and to attend her friend’s wedding – the reason behind our visit. I’d tell you all about the wedding, except that it was an Irish girl marrying an Australian guy, so my memories are hazy at best (I even ended up on the dance floor…). All I can remember is that the speeches were actually funny, even to the point of making jokes about the recent stroke of the father of the bride. Brilliant.
The next couple of days were spent driving around the south east of Ireland, spending the night in quite possibly the cutest B&B in all of Ireland in Wexford, and most definitely the crappiest B&B in all of Ireland in Bray. Bray is also the home of the Porterhouse – an Irish micro brewery that brews a range of boutique beers, including the Oyster Stout (not suitable for vegetarians), which is quite frankly the best stout I’ve ever had. If Sydney oysters weren’t so prone to poisoning people, I’d be buying the franchise rights right now.
After a painful search for a petrol station, we finally made it back to Dublin and dropped off the car as the crowds started to roll in for the All-Ireland hurling final. Walking back down Drumcondra St, we saw some people selling spare tickets, and emptying our wallets, managed to pick up two tickets for the match. Kilkenny were strong favourites for the match against Limerick, and put the game away with 2 early goals. The Limerick fan next to me was so disgusted he left at half time, but I loved just being in Croke Park, watching the game. I was sitting with Limerick fans, and therefore had to back the losing team, but still… brilliant.
I was then left to my own devices for the last night, and went out to another comedy night to run from my own thoughts, and ran into the most bizarre evening of entertainment. There was a ‘comedy magician’ who did some of the most basic routines, corniest jokes, I’ve ever seen, along with the occasional impressive trick. Another guy (the star of ‘Jesus: the Guantanamo years’) did his stand up routine sitting down… but the true highlight was the woman who headlined. She was drunk before hitting the stage, hadn’t prepared her material, and descended into making quasi-racist comments about a Polish man in the audience… cringeworthy, but brilliant.
At the end of the show I was getting ready to return to the hostel, and the random collection of strange people with whom I was sharing a room, when the only other Australian (well, okay, Tasmanian) in the room (I had stupidly answered the MC’s "where are you from?" question – although telling him I worked in cancer research moved his attention elsewhere…) invited me out for a drink. Although I’d been downing pints of stout all night, the chance of conversation that didn’t involve the phrase "here’s your change" made me go out to the trashiest club in Temple Bar and stay til closing time. The stumble home included a randomly collected chorus singing along to a busker playing ‘Wonderwall’, and pissing off every other person in my dorm room as I came in at 4am.
Hell’s not so bad when you’re one of the demons. Brilliant.
Friday, 10 August 2007
People back home have begun asking me when I'm coming home... the routine and cost of London have started to bite... and, frankly, I've been tempted.
If I were back home, no doubt the funk would be dealt with by a drunken night out in Newtown with friends and some bad karaoke (is there such a thing as good karaoke?), but here that's just not an option. Instead, I've been fumbling from day to day, barely managing to keep it together, feeling hollow and... grey. There's even been a mini panic attack one afternoon at work. I'd say it was textbook depression, but I think it may be down to hormones in the drinking water here... it hasn't just been the mood swings, I've also had to start shaving more regularly. And I hate shaving. Perhaps it’s all due to the extra razor nicks.
For a while I thought there might be something behind the hormones in the water idea... perhaps an evil conspiracy run by the British government, or even Richard Branson (I’ve never trusted him. No one is that smug). But recent events have shown me that the Brits couldn't organise a piss up in brewery. They are incompetent at everything they attempt... even when they're trying to collect money from you.
First up, council tax. For those not familiar with this concept, council tax is the money you're forced to pay for simply living in London. In theory, it pays for rubbish collection, recycling services, and traffic wardens in your local area. Considering that rubbish collection consists of having to take my own trash to a large dumpster on the street, recycling services are practically non-existent, I can only assume that all the money goes on traffic wardens. Since most of the people you walk past on the streets of Westminster are in fact traffic wardens, I think I may be on to something.
Last Saturday (4th August), I received a reminder notice (dated 27th July) informing me that I had failed to pay my council tax, and that unless I did so within 7 days of the date of this notice, there would be unspeakable repercussions - spotted the problem yet? I was quite surprised, given that I never received the first notice.
When I call them and point out the flaw in their little scheme, that they never sent me the first notice, and the second arrived a week late, their response is: "Well yes, there HAS been a postal strike..." as though I should have known that there was mail coming to me, and gone down to the closed, picketed post office, and found it myself.
That would have been a bad enough start to Monday, but then I also had to deal with British Gas. In the same post, I also received a power bill for 79p. Yes, I know that's a fair bit back in Australia, but over here it won't even buy you a bottle of hormone-free water. I figured that I could actually afford to pay this, and dutifully went to their online bill payment system, verified my identity with a gruelling set of personal questions (does it really matter if someone else pays my bill?), handed over my card details and hit 'PAY'. The system responds with 'I'm sorry we cannot accept payments below £2.'
Ha bloody ha, I think to myself, how very amusing. I then call the British Gas bill payment phone number, and after about half an hour I finally get to speak to someone and the problem. He laughs. Once he collects himself, he tells me that I can’t pay anything less than £5 over the phone. The best he could suggest was simply not paying the 79p, and letting it roll over to the next bill. Sounded reasonable. Knowing that nothing is ever that easy, I ask him if my non- payment will result in threatening notices, late fees, or even disconnection. I know it’s only 79p, but I also know the British relationship to bureaucracy. The guy on the other end of the line, still laughing, says “The reminder notices and threatening letters are all sent automatically, but they won’t actually act on them for such a small amount." - I breathe a sigh of relief - "Probably” he adds before I hang up.
So if Branson’s evil scheme goes according to plan, it won’t be long before I’m left sitting at home in the dark, developing man breasts, and crying myself to sleep.
Friday, 6 July 2007
Anyone who was at Glastonbury and missed Iggy and the Stooges on the Other stage on Saturday night would no doubt be kicking themselves when they read the music press on returning to civilisation. You can't blame them: you could understand not wanting to see a bunch of decrepit senior citizens trying to recreate their 15 minutes, the risk of disappointment was high. But, as I have been reminded, Iggy is actually a terminator-like robot sent back from the future to save rock. And on that Saturday night, in the middle of a field in Pilton, he may have done just that.
Clad in his usual uniform of skin-tight jeans and nothing else (at least he wasn't in his other uniform of just nothing else), the Ig-bot came onto stage and did his damnedest to save us from our future of tasteless pop-rock and manufactured groups of beautiful people with no talent (unfortunately, Ig's work may have been for nothing, as the Spice Girls are reforming. Booo!)
A ripping rendition of 'wanna be your dog' opened proceedings, then Ig began calling people to come up on stage, and yelling 'Let them up!' when security tried to stop people answering Ig's call. You may as well have tried to stop the tides...
With what looked like a couple hundred people jumping around on the stage, and Iggy wandering among the crowd, it looked like the set might be over after the first two songs. At this point Iggy changed his mind, and started calling on the 'muddy motherfuckers' (Ig's words) to get off the stage. As you can imagine, having gained the stage, these people weren't about to leave in a hurry. It took nearly 20 minutes, and Iggy singing 'The shadow of your smile' acapella to get the young ragamuffins off the stage. Iggy clearly wasn't happy with the way security were dealing with some of them, at one point yelling 'You can't do that to a man dressed as a clown!'
While other punters were muttering that Iggy must have been pretty stupid to invite the crowd on stage after only two songs... geez, doesn't he realise that he'll have to get them off the stage before the next song? all those drugs must have addled his brain... I on the other hand recognized Iggy's true genius: it was a sublime piece of showmanship to fill in the time that The Stooges probably couldn't fill with songs. My supposition was confirmed when the encore consisted of a repeat of 'your dog,' but it was that good it deserved to be played twice.
Now, the great thing about Glastonbury is that there's so much on there's always something you want to watch. And the worst thing about Glastonbury is that there's so much on there's always something else you want to watch somewhere else AT EXACTLY THE SAME TIME! To make matters worse, the programmers also saw fit to keep some of the performances secret, so that you can't even make an informed choice as to what it is you want to see.
The worst case of this occurred on the Saturday night after Iggy had done his damage to the Other Stage. The official programme said that 'Special Guests' would be playing at Lost Vagueness (Las Vegas? geddit? it's a part of the festival grounds that I didn't even get to over the weekend, that's how big this thing is). An Irishman in the portaloo queue said he'd heard rumours that the Special Guests were none other than Madness. I weighed up trusting the words of a drunk Irishman trying to cut ahead of me in a toilet queue, and the reality of trekking to an unknown part of the farm at midnight across a mile or so of mud... I chose to go back to the tent and sleep. I later found out that it was Madness playing that night, and it was incredible, and it was the absolutely greatest moment of the whole fucking festival!
And that's the last I want to hear of it. Ever.
I could also complain about the mud, the loss of the original hippy ideals to consumerism and wellington-boot price gouging, and the fact that people are no better than selfish, thoughtless pigs when it comes to choosing between walking along the muddy path, or tramping their muddy boots all over your tent... but I won't. Much.
Where to begin? At the beginning is probably a good idea...
Modest Mouse: were overshadowed by all the Smiths fans simply there to see Johnny Marr. So I left to see...
Gogol Bordello: only saw half their set, but they crammed a whole weekend's worth of energy into that half. Mind-blowing gypsy punk. If you get a chance, see them. So good I've pre-ordered a CD on the interweb (they don't have Fish records stores over here). 3rd worst act to see if on a bad acid trip.
Amy Winehouse: Not sure if you'll have heard of her in Oz... think 'The Nanny' with self mutilation issues. Highlight was bringing out a few members of the Specials and performing a few covers with them.
The Hold Steady: Like Gogol Bordello, I only caught a fraction of the set, and like Gogol Bordello, I wish I could have seen it all. A lot of press called theirs the set of the festival. Big call, but they could be right. American suburban rock done right. Springsteen would be proud.
The Cat Empire: still kick arse live. They had every Aussie in Pilton crammed into the Avalon tent, and funnily enough, it was the only time where I was a victim of and acted out my crowd-rage - apparently we ARE complete pricks when overseas. If you're too drunk to stay on your feet don't push in front of people and try to dance, cock-head. You know who you are, and I don't regret pushing you over.
Bjork: 2nd worst act to see if on a bad trip. She's freaky. Don't know why, but the stage show reminded me of 'Where the wild things are.'
Josh Pyke: love his songs, but his performance didn't really fill the small 'Park' stage.
Lilly Allen: made the sun come out with Smile. Cameraman went for the cheesy shot of a toddler singing along to '...and it makes me smiii-iiiile, yeah it makes me smiiii-iile.' I think he missed a trick in not filming the small girl singing along to '..girl on the guest list's dressed like a cunt'
Guillemots: the absolute worst act to see on a bad acid trip, from the freaky stilt dancers with reversed heads, to the song with the repeated chorus: "they're coming and they're trying to steal my face" (very catchy tune by the way).
John Fogerty: Rach's favourite performance of the weekend. Made me think of the Simpsons gag:
Marge- 'Quick Homer, perform CPR!'
Homer- 'uh okay... I see a bad moon risin'...'
The Stooges: see The Iggy
The Marley Brothers: What's better than one Marley performing the songs from Exodus? Two Marleys performing the songs from Exodus! Sure, it ain't Bob, but they had the trustafarians in the crowd on cloud nine and puffing away so hard that you could hardly smell the portaloos anymore.
Shirley Bassey: Rach's second favourite performance.
Manic Street Preachers: much better than I expected - they've written a lot more anthems than I gave them credit for. Probably deserved a better spot than 6.30 on the Sunday, but apparently they bad-mouthed the festival last time they played it. Definitely made amends.
KT Tunstall: proved that Scottish lasses can give the lads a run for their money too. Another of Rach's favourites.
The Who: Did passable covers of the CSI theme and that song on you tube by the Zimmers.
All in all, a very muddy weekend. The nightmare trip home on the Monday is another story all together
Monday, 2 July 2007
Security (while copping a good feel of my ankles):
Do you have anything sharp on your person?
Me (grimacing in pain as I try to keep my mouth shout):
Nothing except my wit.
With sincerest apologies to Oscar Wilde.
Although the security man didn't bat an eyelid, let alone smile, he must have appreciated the joke, otherwise I would have been taken aside, strip searched and possible anal probed to find the 'wit' I had admitted to carrying... but that's enough toilet humour for today.
Or is it? In all matters punning, I must bow to Joe who recently sent me the following email exchange (I'm sure the guys working at CERN had this in mind when they first developed the idea of an internet)...
Subject: Re: training
All I can say is that last time I looked at the BOM site it said, and I quote, "Make yourself an ark of cypress wood! Make rooms in the ark and coat it inside and out with pitch. And this is how you will build: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, her width fifty cubits, her height thirty cubits." Needless to say that I was just a little alarmed. I'm just happy that things are looking up and all us heathens are not going to be destroyed in an upcoming flood.
From: Pietro Di Ciaccio
Subject: RE: training
How big is a cubit, anyway? We should go back to using them...
From: Joseph Greensmith
Subject: Re: training
less than a culot...
From: Leon Franklin
Subject: Re: training
shocking, just shocking. How long have you been waiting to use that one
From: Joseph Greensmith
Subject: RE: training
Suffice to say.... I was fore-armed Ouch.
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
So here it is, the 3 day festival summarized in 3 words... not worth it.
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Monday, 4 June 2007
I've been a bit lax in writing of late (it's the fault of RTW - if you have to ask, you wouldn't understand). So no doubt, you're just gagging to find out the latest miraculous and fantabulous things that have been happening. Yes, I realise I am writing assuming that there's a reader, which I very much doubt, but Simo responded to something I posted a while back, so I live in hope...
Due to the universal and unconquerable force of poverty, my adventures have been reduced to things that come for free. So I've been missing lunch a lot. Surprisingly, London's not too bad when it comes to free stuff, provided you scour the street press for the tiny notices that point you to it. More surprisingly, the free stuff turns out to be pretty good! My taste of free-dom came in the form of a free gig to celebrate a trendy music magazine that managed to stay in print for a year...
It's been so long that Corey Haim should have released a single entitled "Whatever happened to the Thrills?"... in fact, he should sack his agent for not jumping on that opportunity as soon as it appeared. But it's too late for Corey now (no, he's not dead. I checked.), because the Thrills are back. Courtesy of the one year old magazine, and the trendiest indie-music venue that you could shake a skinny white man in even skinnier jeans at, I got to see them play a short but sweet set in Camden. Despite all the fashionable poseurs in the afore-mentioned skinny jeans, strange hats, or bracers, everyone was there to enjoy the music, and enjoy it we did. To the point of dancing on the chairs and bar (see the blurry photo above - that's pretty much what my vision was like). The Thrills belted out the faves that everyone wanted to hear, as well as a few others and promptly called it a night. The crowd loved it, sang along and danced and generally had a great time.
OK GO apparently did a DJ spot in the upstairs bar, but when I checked it out there weren't any treadmills set up, so I didn't bother sticking around for it.
Sunday, 3 June 2007
Ever since I first heard about this, it has been number one on my list of dairy product races to attend. Surprisingly, I wasn't the only one. I thought there would be a small crowd of drunken travellers trying to compete on the day, and that I'd have no problem joining in. I had no idea how popular idio-tourism has become! (In case you haven't heard of the new phenomenon that is idio-tourism - and I'd be surprised if you had, since I just made it up - it's the term to cover all those weird events that people decide to go to after a few too many drinks, like the running of the bulls... or university exams.)
To begin with a bus driver lied to us and told us the event was cancelled. After spending an hour in Gloucester, and faced with the prospect of another 7 hours to spend there, we decided to get on the bus and go to Coopers Hill anyway. This was followed by a 40 minute trek up hill and down dale, across muddy fields, over barbed wire fences, and around herds of cows. By the time we got to the bit of the hill where the race was held, the place was packed and there was no chance of fighting my way to the top for the privilege of tumbling all the way back down. To be honest, seeing the hill 'in person', I was kind of glad. I think the Aussies we saw on the train had the right idea - get drunk beforehand (hmm... perhaps that's another rule of idio-tourism, not only should it be conceived in drunkenness, but should be performed drunk as well).
Long story short - ok, not short, just not as long as it could have been - I didn't get to run, but I did get to witness an event that reminds you that there must be a god, and that he's a mean bastard with a cruel sense of humour. In the picture above, you may notice that the cheese has gone a little off course, and is heading straight at the one person not watching the cheese - the cameraman. There's also an 'after' shot, with the cameraman doubled over in pain. Truly a great moment, and made all the greater for sharing it with several hundred strangers in the middle of nowhere on a muddy hillside... there's something magical about the sound of all those people wincing in unison.
Speaking of wincing, I can't finish this post without rolling out a few cheesy puns (that's just to warm up)... The event was fantastic, and Coopers Hill is impressive... but I was really disappointed that I didn't get to rennet! (*Boom-Tish*)
Friday, 25 May 2007
On Channel 4, after the champions' league final, there was an informative and enlightening programme entitled Celebrity Sex Tapes Unwound!!!. Nothing wrong so far (apart from the multiple exclamation marks in the title). TV, and most of western society when you think about it, survives on smut and celebrity gossip.
The programme consisted of discussing the top 10 celebrity sex tape 'scandals', by showing pixellated excerpts (no, that's not the wrong bit), along with various talking heads discussing the impact on society these tapes had at the time (still fine, even if it's just a poor excuse to show the tape excerpts).
These talking heads were made up of people you might expect: people in the porn industry, gossip journalists, lawyers involved in some of the cases, and Germaine Greer.
Yes. That's the wrong bit.
Gezza, as I think she should be known, was sitting comfortably in her living room, as though she'd just had a nice cup of tea, when what she'd actually had was a nice viewing of porn. And as usual she let her opinions be known. Just imagine it...
Germaine Greer discussing Rob Lowe's romp with two teenage girls at a political convention (long before The West Wing).
Germaine Greer mouthing off about Paris Hilton's prowess (or lack thereof, in Gezza's view) at giving head.
Germaine Greer talking about Tommy Lee Jones', and I use her own words, "magnificent cock".
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
The only thing that could be more wrong, is the sequel 'porn-umentary' where Gezza shows Paris how to do it right...
I apologise dear readers, but a pain shared is a pain lessened.
On the upside, I like the idea that I might get some accidental traffic to the blog from people searching for "Germaine Greer porn" - muahahahhaaahaha.
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Well actually, I had been dragged along to see DJ Yoda at Koko a while back. I had high hopes that he would be mixing songs so as to put the verbs at the end each sentence in the lyrics, but was sadly disappointed. He wasn't even green. The only high point among the evening of deafeningly loud cheese-mixes was one involving the theme music to super mario bros. You know the tune I'm talking about. That had me excited for a while, but again I was let down. He missed the 1 up on the third screen and didn't even make it to level 2...
But I digress. The night out did leave me impressed with the venue - it's an old theatre now converted for gigs, with the biggest damn disco ball that was ever conceived in a Boy George nightmare (the pic above doesn't do it justice) . Ever since that night I kept noticing review of all the other fantastic evenings at Koko that I would have rather been at... Travis had their new tour/comeback gig there that was a sing-along love-in for all involved... Prince played a last minute quasi-secret gig there not long ago... now finally I've been to one.
You'll all remember Evan Dando as the long-haired slacker at the front of the Lemonheads, the band that had a hit with a cover of 'Mrs Robinson' - came out during our childhoods about the same time as Blind Melon had their hit with 'No Rain' with the fat girl in the bumblebee tutu and another long haired slacker as a front man - you know the one I'm talking about. For some reason I always had the two confused. I think it was the hair. Anyway, Blind Melon went nowhere, Kurt Cobain blew his brains out (possibly the greatest publicity stunt ever), and Evan Dando descended into a world of drugs and meaningless sex (I assume), only to come back stronger than ever. With slightly shorter hair. It's still long enough to cover his face so you can't see his features on stage, but it shows he's cleaned up his act. Just a little anyway.
The crowd in attendance was an odd mix: 30 and 40 year olds who must have been fans of the original Lemonheads incarnation, muttering things about knowing them 'before they were big' while queueing at the bar, as well as pathetic bandwagon fans like myself who only got into them 15 years ago. Since then, Dando went solo, went a little acoustic and a little bit country, but when the band came out and ripped through 'confetti', it was clear the band version was back to being a little bit rock and roll. They stormed through the hits from their back catalogue, and I sang along like a complete tosser (my heartfelt apologies to those people who were in earshot). Dando kicked the band off to have his little acoustic/country moment, and I kept singing along like a complete tosser (apologies again). He left the stage, clearly too early for the show to be over, and although we all knew there would be an encore, everyone clapped and chanted for more like they meant it. The full band came back out, played some more great songs and eventually left. But, and this bit is important, without having played 'Mrs. Robinson'!!!
I was sure that there must be another encore planned, despite the fact the house lights were up and the 'get out of the venue now' music was playing on the PA. I was determined to stick it out to the bitter end, with absolute faith that eventually they'd come back out and play for the hardcore few that stayed. Sadly, it wasn't to be. My gig companions wanted to go home, so I left Koko, stumbled out into a rainy London night and onto a crowded tube home.
Ever since, I've been avoiding all street press, for fear that there'll be a review mentioning the amazing second encore played to only a dozen or so spectators, and although I loved every minute of the show I saw, if there was a minute that I didn't get to see, I'll be ever so pissed. The problem with having a great time is knowing that sooner or later, usually sooner, it all has to end.
But it's all ok now. I looked up the line-up for Glastonbury, and the Proclaimers are going to be there. I'm going to start apologising for my singing now (anyone who's seen me at karaoke will know why)... I'm sorry. Truly.
Wednesday, 16 May 2007
William Napier 'Attila: the scourge of god'
Standard swords and sandals fiction that has unfortunately become much more popular but much less good in the wake of 'Gladiator', 'Alexander' et al. The usual mix: historical inaccuracies, sex, stereotypical characters, violence, and more historical inaccuracies. This is the first of a trilogy. You can almost hear Napier or his agent trying to sell it to a third-rate Hollywood producer if you listen carefully.
Ian Rankin 'The Flood'
I'm normally a fan of his Rebus detective books, but this is Rankin's first published novel and in a different genre. It's got all the hallmarks of a first novel from someone coming into their own in a 'young' literature (in this case Scotland). It reminded me a lot of so-called 'Australian literature', only being Scotland the weather and characters are much more depressed. Nevertheless, it's not bad. Has stuff to say, says it via an interesting narrative. Apparently this gets studied at university these days. I doubt this review does it justice. This book serves to remind us that even successful writers write adolescent, trying a little too hard, should have stayed a short story, novels.
Dean Koontz 'The Taking'
This book serves to remind us that even successful writers write absolute drivel.
Saturday, 12 May 2007
I'm back in London, back at work, and back feeling poor after a week in Cyprus. Selected as a holiday destination based on the daily average temperature and lack of rain. Staying in London too long can really get you down - the locals comment that all Aussie Londoners need a dose of UV from time to time, having noted the seasonal adjustment disorder like symptoms we get over here... anyway, I wasn't really expecting much from the destination except somewhere to swim and get sunburned. My one week impression of the place: it's the Bali of the Mediterranean.
Staying in Ayia Napa, I quickly became a little homesick - the beaches were just like at home... completely covered in lobster red Brits smoking and nattering away on their mobiles. How it made me yearn for Coogee! The town was made up of traditional eateries and taverns such as "the Queen Vic"... it really gave me a chance to experience another culture.
Actually it wasn't all that bad. We managed to get out of Ayia Napa and visit Nicosia (the split capital shared with the unrecognised North Cyprus, where you might have to go through a UN check point to get dinner), Paphos (with a heritage listed archaeological site by the harbour), and Petros tou Roumiou (the fabled birthplace of Aphrodite), so I managed to get some culture aside from my morning yoghurt. We still went for the cheesier tourism too, spending a day at Waterworld (claims to be Europe's largest waterpark, where you can haggle 2 pounds off the entry fee if you just ask for a discount).
Reading travel diaries is a bit boring, so here's my Cyprus cheat sheet:
- Cyprus is apparently renowned for its cats. You can buy calendars of them. Not nice cats, but mangy moggie strays that circle you at restaurants hissing at you for food. Not an ideal destination for dog people.
- If you were to risk your life, pick up one of these cats and swing it, you wouldn't be able to for all the churches. Every one horse town has at least 3 orthodox churches, and is probably building another one as we speak.
- The beaches are disappointing: most are pebble, some rubble, and a small few are sand. The rare sand beaches are covered with sunbeds, bars and Brits and are much less enjoyable than lounging by the resort pool. And if anyone tries to tell you that there's good diving and snorkeling, don't believe them.
- Classics buffs will enjoy the ruins and history of the place, but you're probably better off going to Greece or Turkey proper.
- War buffs might like the idea of being able to see a UN no-go zone, but it's really not that impressive. The locals use it as a rubbish tip.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
I spent the last weekend in France, visiting the folks in Verneuil.
For those who remember the email about the last time I was in Verneuil with my parents, you'll understand why I was a little apprehensive when they insisted on picking me up from Tours...
On top of that, my parents and I hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms when I left Sydney (the words "I have no son!" weren't actually uttered, but you get the idea), and apart from the occasional email there hasn't been much contact, so I wasn't sure of what sort of reception I should expect...
As if that wasn't enough, this was also the first time my parents and Rach would meet. And my mother has very little time for vegetarians.
You can already see that this weekend has disaster written all over it. I decided to look on the bright side, and was at least looking forward to the opportunity to write about it on the blog and complete the neat ring composition, linking the original email to the new tmafaopie incarnation - after all, you're meant to suffer for your art... so you have no idea how relieved and pained I am to write that the weekend was actually quite nice. Everyone got on. There was no screaming or yelling. We were still on speaking terms by the end. I'm as confused as you are.
Of course, there was a slight incident with the blender and gazpacho soup, but that's only to be expected. Seriously, who serves gazpacho soup? It's just tempting fate...
Anyway, only a brief post since I'm off to Cyprus now.
*if anyone still has the original tmafaopie emails floating around, could you send them to me? I thought I had them archived somewhere... but apparently not.
Sunday, 22 April 2007
If you bothered to click the link, you'll notice that it's not the socceroos (although the people in the video are a touch faster than most of our backs), and the only reason I'll be in the Australian squad is because I'm creating it... I always knew that I'd make it in to a national sporting team provided I found a pond small enough to make me look like a big fish... It's just a shame that the pond turned out to be a bog.
So far recruiting people for the team has been much easier than I thought it would be (the key to selling swamp soccer is: get people drunk!), so the biggest challenge I've got is coming up with a pun-tastic team name, or fancy dress theme. Suggestions of note have been:
- Bogan's Heroes (cheers Dyalan)
- Swamp Donkeys (from who else but Nath)
- The Marais Men (Alessia's)
- Bog-di Surf Life Saving Club (need the caps)
- Steve Irwin uniforms (some people think it's still too soon - pish!)
At the moment I'm leaning towards keeping it simple... just good old "Australian Swamp Soccer Team"... a bit plain you might think, but I like the idea of having shirts made up with
across the back. Or is that too cheeky? (BOOM TISH)
Tuesday, 17 April 2007
Once again, I managed to have a great time on the weekend... by getting out of London.
Rach and I travelled to Bath to basically crash a party - it was the birthday party of a girl who's sister we had visited in Leeds because Rach met her when she was living in Australia a few years back... that doesn't sound tenuous at all, does it? These people had no idea who I was, but they welcomed me and threw an awesome party anyway! It was held on the family 'estate' outside of Bath (due to some poor planning, we didn't actually get to Bath, so I'll have to head back there another time to make a nerd pilgrimage to the eponymous ruins).
The party was great, with a bizarre range of people in attendance - from a German South African devoted to internet gambling, through an ex-city worker now training to be a physio, to an engineer with the Royal Marines, who, as he puts it, "blows stuff up." On arrival, we discovered a croquet course (is that the right word?) set up on the lawn and got into a friendly game with the gambler and engineer. The first round went to the Australians, showing that we're naturally great at all sports, no matter how unfamiliar or ridiculous. However, we lost the rematch, which was much less friendly, and a decider had to be played on Sunday. This was an absolute nail biter, and it came down to the wire as shown in the photo above - to save the game, I had to defy all laws of physics and get the pink ball to hit the black one hiding behind the pole. I would have made the shot if they'd let me chalk the mallet.
As you can probably guess, I'm a bit of a croquet convert now - and why wouldn't you be? It's a sport that you can, nay must, play with a drink in hand, and unlike golf or beer cricket there's very little actual movement required. I can't believe it hasn't taken off back home. Oh, that's right, you need to have a lawn... dirt croquet doesn't have the same appeal does it?
I've already had a few nasty comments about my rapid Anglicization (as demonstrated by the constant whining and use of the word 'crisps'), and my new found love of toff lawn sports won't help my defence. I have to admit that it's gotten worse - like all the 'locals' I was running around with my shirt off on Sunday, but only for medical reasons. But unlike all the topless Brits in Hyde Park, my pasty whiteness is at least minimised - I still haven't regained the weight lost from my bout of food poisoning on arrival, and I haven't had a packet of crisps in weeks.
Friday, 13 April 2007
As I walk to work each morning past Madame Tussaud's, with crowds of people queueing at 8am to spend a few hours gawping at wax likenesses of celebrities that are probably more realistic than the person it's modelled on, it strikes me that the people of this once great land are a touch obsessed with celebrities. I know that the people outside Tussaud's wax emporium are unlikely to be locals, but with all the 'personalities' who take up most of the column inches, news minutes and conversation topics over here, it's fair to say that Brits love their celebs.
I admit, we're not entirely innocent back home, what with all the stories about the latest movements of 'our Nicole', 'our Kylie', and 'their Russ', but at least they've achieved something. Sure, they haven't cured cancer, or helped society in any way, but they are at least very successful in their chosen professions.
A Brit celebrity, on the other hand, doesn't even need to have a profession.
When I first got here back in January, there was a race debate raging in the media. Nothing wrong with that, since it's an important issue: the UK has to open its borders to European workers, and people fear the cheap labour from the east... but that wasn't where it started. There are tensions based on religious and racial conflict being played out around the world and in UK towns in microcosm... but that wasn't where it started either.
Where it started was Celebrity Big Brother. I shit you not. Apparently, racist insults had been traded in the big brother house. Perhaps if Germaine Greer were still in there, and she'd been banging on in offensive terms, it might have gone unnoticed. But no. The racist taunts were uttered by people so important that the whole nation had to take notice. Jade 'I'm on celebrity big brother because I got famous on regular big brother, but have otherwise done nothing of note in my life' Goody and Danielle 'I'm famous for being the girlfriend of a fairly ordinary footballer, and am so unimportant Pat can't remember my surname' Somebody got into hot water for insulting Shilpa 'big in bollywood apparently' Shetty about being Indian.
Look, racist insults are unacceptable anywhere, but why does no one think about an issue until some no-talent 'celebrity' brings it into the spotlight? Until Jamie Oliver decided to tackle British kids' poor diets, everyone was happy feeding the tubby little things crisps all day. Until Bob Geldof decided to fight global poverty, no one realised that people in Africa weren't just on a severe diet to make it as a model. Until Peaches Geldof started mouthing off about Posh Spice and Charlotte Church, no one realised Bob had a daughter.
And why are the British celebs and heroes of today of such poor quality? These days, if a lad can half kick a football he's a national treasure, and if a girl gives a footballer a blowjob in the lav' of a Camden pub, she'll likely get on tv as one of the WAGs (wives and girlfriends - they have their own reality tv show, and they're less believable than the characters on the fictional Footballer's Wives).
Time was, British heroes were made of sterner stuff. You had to actually be pretty decent with a football, slay a dragon, or win a war. St George got famous off the back of his dragon kebab skewers. Footballers like Charlton and Best won titles. Churchill recognised his shortcomings as a footballer, couldn't find any mythological beasts, so set about winning a world war. Thatcher also recognised her shortcomings as a footballer, decided slaying herself would be a bit self defeating, and set about finding a war to win. Now the Brits look up to David Beckham (sure he can take a free kick, but when have you seen him do anything?), Jordan (Mrs. Peter Andre), and their cricket team (nuff said).
No wonder the youth of today are running around shooting and stabbing one another... they live in a world devoid of hope. All they can aspire to is becoming famous, and that's simply not based on ability or hard work. The person to really pity though has to be Tony Blair. Nearly a decade in power, he found a war but didn't really win it, and I don't fancy his chances on the pitch. Unless he gets on celebrity big brother, in a few years he'll simply be known as the former husband of Cherie...
Wednesday, 4 April 2007
I should stop whingeing. From what I've written, you'd think I hadn't seen sunlight or a decent meal since I left Sydney. And that simply isn't the case - we managed to see some blue in the sky and get some really nice food... when we went to France for the weekend.
I guess people were right: the best times you have while living in London are had outside London.
Friday, 30 March 2007
Luckily, I did get paid as promised. This was no small surprise given my past experiences with the personnel department. So once again, I'm flush with funds.
Once I deduct rent, bills, and a few entertainment costs, I'm back to living off less than £1 a day for the next month. Admittedly, the 'entertainment costs' are a week long trip to Cyprus, and tickets to Glastonbury. Getting tickets to this festival is more difficult than getting a passport - you have to pre-register online, which includes submitting a biometric valid passport photo, just for the privilege of being able to try and buy tickets this Sunday. I'm expecting the only attendees to be industry types and terrorists who thought they were applying for a UK passport.
Yours in pauperism,
Tuesday, 27 March 2007
Yes, the likes of the spice and 'suga' young females were spawned on this island, and like the British Empire, they had their moment of glory ruling large parts of the world, but with the constant scrag in-fighting and the real risk of starving themselves to death, it was only a matter of time before Darwinian principles came into effect and knocked them from the top of the pop evolutionary tree. I mean, the same thing's happening to Britney - mating with another pop wannabe is a bad idea, there's clearly something detrimental on the processed pop gene, and soon enough they should breed themselves out...
Which of course begs the question: in such a musical gene-pool vacuum, what will replace them? Well, I'd been predicting it and praying for it for a long time, but now finally the time has come. Like a mutated wild type virus thought long since dead (the plague is making a come back you know), 90's pop is back again! Of course, for the true believers, it never went away. But with the triumphant return of the Proclaimers to the UK #1 spot, it can no longer be denied.
Yes, that's right, 500 miles is back again thanks to a spot on comic relief (an annual charity event over here that is rarely comical, but we're all relieved when it ends) with the chaps from Little Britain. Dyalan claims that this is all thanks to his work:
Hmmm I don't believe that they are back at the top thanks to some shitty charity comedy gig, I prefer to believe that I brought them back. After all, I have been listening to my proclaimers tape in the car for the last week, and although one of the speakers isn't working I play it pretty loud. All it would take is one British tourist to have heard it, then he'd get a craving for more proclaimers. Upon returning home he'd pass it on to a couple of friends, who'd pass it on to a couple of friends and so on - then pow! back to number one.
and if so, that makes Dyalan the Ebola carrying rhesus monkey that has led to this outbreak. Well done, that man!
Unfortunately, not all 90's acts were as fortunate as the Proclaimers - Right Said Fred, undeniably the greatest ever aerobics-instructor turned musician act are now reduced to spruiking laundry detergent.
So, despite the plain food, the expensive cost of living, and the miserable weather... at least English music is here to cheer me up.
Hold on - aren't the Proclaimers lads Scottish???
Tuesday, 20 March 2007
"Glad to hear you haven't died. If you had, the political fallout might have forced us to pull out of England. And god don't we know it, England needs Australians there, on the ground, keeping the peace, helping it become a civilised country again."
I mean even the English cricket team can't seem to behave in a civilised and dignified manner at the world cup! (okay, perhaps comparing the behaviour of our national XI's isn't the best way to win this argument...)
Friday, 9 March 2007
The first few weeks living in this country have been less than ideal. It's surprising that an Australian can feel so unwelcome and out of place in a nation that shares the same language, heritage and 'policy bitch' status with the US... nevertheless, I find myself feeling more foreign and unable to understand the strange local customs here than when I watched people drinking wine with snake penises in it in Vietnam.
Vincent Vega be damned! The little differences I can handle. In fact, I think mayonnaise on chips is fantastic (but serving carbs cooked in fat with a dollop of more fat for extra flavour does seem a bit excessive, and maybe, just maybe, has something to do with the UK's 'obesity pandemic'). My problem is with the great big stinking differences. And I don't mean the weather (although that is incredibly shit too).
The greatest shock so far has been the ubiquitous incompetence encountered while trying to find work: recruiters who promise you half a dozen interviews then stop talking to you; recruiters who do talk to you, but send you to an interview without forwarding you the position description; companies who interview you in January, promise to get back to you in a few weeks, but still can't give you an answer in March; HR departments who take a week to send an email; another company who actually want to offer you a job, but forgot to do so because someone went on holiday... the good news is that I have a job offer and start in a few days. But I still haven't seen a copy of the employment contract.
Given that any employer will end up having to give me money, I can understand their reluctance and inertia. But when it comes to me paying people money, I'd have thought that they'd be a bit more pro-active. My flat hunting experiences demonstrated that British incompetence isn't subject to economic theory - it's bred in, or in-bred if you prefer. So far, the letting agency we're going to be renting through has managed to mismanage just about everything, from messing up the reference checks to bungling the moving-in date... the good news is it seems like everything's sorted out now. But we still don't move in for over a week.
Everything should be fine soon, in a matter of days I'll be employed and in a place of my own.... famous last words? I'm not holding my breath.
On top of the job- and house-hunting shenanigans, London lowlights have included, but are not limited to:
- spending my first day praying to the porcelain with food poisoning received on the Thai airways flight here;
- returning from a weekend in Leeds, only to be told 5 minutes before my train left that the service was cancelled, then spending the day in 'amazing race' mode to get back to London for a job interview;
- another job interview where I was literally told to go read a textbook (this is a LITERAL 'literally' Joe, I know how you feel about the word's misuse), and, to my disbelief, was then invited back for a second interview that was even worse.
It hasn't been a terribly auspicious start. About as auspicious as inspecting the entrails of a bird, then realising as you study the liver that the bird is a turkey from a Bernard Mathews farm in Hungary (sorry guys, a little Latin studies/British bird 'flu joke there). I guess the good side of all this is that I must be getting over my culture shock - I'm already fitting in as a whingeing pom.
One of the few moments of mirth provided by this bleak tumour of a city was the sight of a morbidly obese man in Tesco. This chap was seriously diabetic, in an electric scooter, with scabs covering his legs up to his knees, and a naso tube to assist his breathing. (No Leon, that's not the funny part). He was wearing a simple black XXXXXXL t-shirt with the slogan "I beat anorexia!"I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, and was almost tempted to ask to have my photo taken with him. I think that man has a message for everyone living under London's leaden sky... stop stuffing yourself with chips and mayonnaise!