Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A picture's worth a thousand words.

I call bullshit on that.
What if it's a really big picture? Or a tiny little one like when japanese people scratch pictures onto a grain of rice? A thousand words? More like four words: "TOO MUCH SPARE TIME"


Ah, right... So here's some pictures. But seeing as I don't think they're necessarily worth a thousand words, I've added some of my own.

Sunny days in Czech Republic. And some guy with a cross. Religion is a popular pastime for everyone there. Except statues, they don't do a whole lot. Posers.

Charlotte partially obscuring a sunset. The alternative title for this was 'Sun? In England! Quick, grab the camera and take a damn photo!' Or it could be called 'The Water's Blue, You're Just Colourblind, You Dumbshit.'

The trumpeteer. He also plays saxaphone. He looks like Homeless Busker God.

Remnants of ads in the underground. One bit looks like it's part of an old ad for Giant Strangle Hands™.

The excitement of Liverpool St station. It's usually busier than this. Maybe everyone ran away because the building appears to be being held up by pick-up-sticks.

More statues in Czech Republic. Statues are like Jesus to them. Wait, the statues are Jesus? Oh, it's all starting to make sense now.

London. From Southbank at night. Through a foggy lens. Crap.

Everyone's favourite public holiday: Sit On An Orange Bench With A Stranger Near A Big Fuck-Off Spiky Green Bush Day.

More with the silhouettes and the contrails. At least there's no statues though. Bet you're relieved.

The whimsical land of The Carnies. PS: It's not Frankston. It's a fair. I even got through this night without being pickpocketed, acquiring a giant panda or winning a shitty prize. What is it with Carnie prizes though? Yes, I got some balls to go in some hoop or something, it was damn hard and all you're giving me is a shitty lunch box from some cartoon that hasn't been on tv since 1995? Fuck you and your Captain Planet lunch box.

A study in cement. LAX is a boring, boring place. Especially when all you want is a fucking sandwich and no one sells food unless you count the beggar who'll give you some gum for a tenner. Which i don't.

Most. Boring. Job. Ever. Since when do straps go above your chin? Is that even practical? I say no. I didn't tell him this though as he had a knife stuck on the end of a gun. That's the weapon combination I always choose to not mess with.

Because everyone associates lions with water. Tie your boat up to a lion holding a ring in its mouth! Poor lion, all green and trapped in a giant brick with nothing to eat except a big circle.

Canary Wharf. On weekdays, home to a specific group of wankers called 'analysts' or 'brokers'. On weekends, home to sweet fuck all, apart from this here bridge and some seagulls. THERE'S NOT EVEN ANY CANARIES. YOU LIE LONDON! YOU LIE!

Fireworks. Or a cut scene from a movie representing some kind of sexual occurrence.

In London this is called an 'adequate measure' when combating a boring street-scape. Blue chairs. Wow. Inspiring. "Hey honey, what you wanna do today? We should totally go down by the river and sit on a blue chair! How awesome would that be?... What do you mean 'No, you're a loser'? "

Don't be alarmed. It's just an installation I saw once. How alarming... No? Umm.. ... Err... They weren't real alarms- it was a collage, so i guess you could call them false alarms?
I don't know any more alarm jokes. Ooh, wait: The gallery was such a rip off, we had to pay alarm and a leg to get in.
That is all.

The little spikes stop the birds from shitting on it. Also, what's with the dude pulling shadow puppets down the bottom. He's all like "This one is a rabbit. Kind of. Damn, I need more fingers."

Best shop name ever. Although I don't think any of the lay-deez would take too kindly to the offer of a dance at the fishcotheque. But they have wicked bass! Gettit? Bass!
No Jeremy, shutup. You're lame.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Italian Job

(Or "Things I screwed up royally, but then fixed and they turned out to be pretty damn awesome.")

This little story begins with how I won the fuckwit of the year award.

You see, I'm the guy that plans to take his girlfriend away for a few days skiing/snowboarding in Italy. I'm also the guy that gets up at 5.30am this morning, makes sure he has all his gear packed before heading out to airport.
Then I'm the guy that puts his girlfriend on a plane by herself because he FORGOT TO TAKE HIS FUCKING PASSPORT.
That's right. I'm that stupid.
So angry....
We got to Gatwick Airport, Charlotte grabbed her passport out of her bag. I see her do this and my stomach leaps into my mouth.
"Got your passport?" She asked.
"FUCK!!" I'm panicking.
"You're kidding aren't you? You can't be serious?"
"No, not kidding. Fuck it."

Cue much swearing, mad rushing and trying to shift flights, but there's no time so put Charlotte on a plane and then proceed with much discussion with lady at Easyjet desk.
Apparently the only other flight to Milan today is full, so my only option is the flight tomorrow morning at 6.50am. But the only transfer I can get from the airport to the resort is at 3pm, meaning I don't arrive at the hotel until 5pm tomorrow afternoon.
We changed our flights so we can stay for an extra day and night, but fucking hell....
Nice way to sabotage a relationship/holiday.

So, after that little...err... mishap, I finally got on with the holiday.

Having had a day to dwell on my stupidity, I wrote myself a list of everything I needed to walk out the door with. Passport was written in capitals on top of the list. I ate some soup and went to bed.
(An aside: Later on I came up with the idea of having a velcro suit made, then sticking the corresponding velcro to all the important things I need to take whenever I'm travelling, ie: my passport. This would mean anytime I was had to go somewhere, I could just roll around in our room and everything I would need would be stuck to me. I could also have a suit made in the opposite velcro, and then put the corresponding velcro on all the items I need to say, go to work. If I rolled around our room, then I'd only pick up the items I needed for work, and my travel items, such as my passport wouldn't stick because everyone knows that the fluffy bits of velcro won't stick to each other. Man, am I a problem solver or what!?)


So I awoke with a start at 10 minute intervals from 2.00am through 3.20am, each time thinking I'd slept through my alarm and had missed my plane.
I rose at 3.30am. Got my stuff together and set off for the trusty night bus.
London at 4.00am is an entirely different creature. The air is crisp and there's a calm in the air. I felt energised as steam billowed out with each exhalation. I felt good finally being on my way.
In the back of my mind I worried I'd be caught out down 'Stab Alley', (the lovely little slum street near us) and mugged, however the closest thing to a threat was a wily fox that coolly snuck behind a fence as I approached.
I caught the bus at 4.07am. It was almost empty, warm and I felt really relaxed. Much nicer than my usual Friday morning commute. At Turnham Green a man boarded the bus wearing the fluorescent threads of a tube worker. Smiling, he greeted the 8 or so of us that were sat on the bottom deck of the bus and proceeded to hand out a Metro paper to everyone, accompanied by a cheery 'good morning!'
It was actually a really nice journey in as I had time to compose myself which I needed considering the past 24 hours' overload.
Getting to Victoria, I caught the 5.02 to Gatwick. Arrived at the airport at 5.47, checked in early and had a seat in the departure lounge and waited for boarding.
Had a chat to a nice Aussie guy from Adelaide called Andy and then caught a transfer bus to the plane which was waiting for us in what seemed to be a vacant field.
I was asleep before take-off. Which is weird because I particularly love the take-off part of a plane journey.
Waking up, I find I'm squished between an insurance broker named Emily and an unnamed man in a leather puffer jacket with the most porno moustache and hair I've ever seen.
Still tired, I put my rolled-up hoodie behind my neck and drift off again.

I rouse as we are passing over the alps and the view is amazing. I think I'm weirding the insurance broker out as she is in the window seat and I'm peering across her at the mountains which look like cream that's been whipped into firm peaks. I never realised the alps were so vast.
I expect I look like a small child, peering out the window and grinning foolishly. Insurance broker lady asks if airport is near Milan city centre and I explain how far from Milan it is in kilometres, minutes, how much the average cab fare is, how much a shuttle bus costs and how far away Milan's other two airports are. She looks bewildered and scared and I explain that I know this due to my frantic attempts to sort out the whole 'forgotten passport/trasferred flights' conundrum.
She finds this hilarious. I'm still not ready to laugh about it, so I nod and force a smile.

We touch down in Milan. Finally, I set my feet on solid ground in Italy. Relief.
On the horizon, I see the rocky, snow capped peaks of the Orobie Alps and all my tension, stress and anxiety dissolves.

A disinterested customs official punches my passport and I head through to the arrivals lounge where I know I have a 4.5 hour wait for my transfer to Presolana.
I buy an overpriced lunch panini, a water and some gum which is called Vigorsol. I chewed two pellets, read the label and then worried I'd end up with a four day erection. I swear I've had spam email with the words 'Discount Vigorsol' in the subject line.

I'm paranoid I'm going to miss my transfer, so I do all I can to stay awake. I decide to venture outside, however there's only carparks and no footpaths, so I return to the arrivals lounge to partake in some people watching.
I was of the impression that Milan was the fashion capital of the world. I think on an episode of America's Next Top Model that Charlotte was watching the other night, they described the style as 'Italian Sexuality'. I saw nothing that equated to anything even vaguely similar to this description.
Apparently if you're a man, you have to wear zip-up, roll neck knitwear, jeans with huge D&G embroidering all over them, a racing style leather jacket complete with Shell and Penzoil sew on badges, aviator sunglasses, nike runners (not stylish ones, but like cross trainers or something) and some unholy arrangement of facial hair.
If you're a woman, you must wear horribly cheap looking hooker boots, jeans with huge D&G embroidering all over them (perhaps they're unisex?), something that displays your adequate stomach protruding over said jeans and again, aviator sunglasses.
Oh, also you must be so orange that you'd outshine a bag of carrots.
The fashionistas and fasionmisters were all horribly unfashionable. there was no 'Italian Sexuality' unless sex in Italy is usually conducted in charity shop drop-off bins.
Watching these people, the time passed rather quickly.
Charlotte sends me a few messages lamenting the language barrier, the lack of ski lessons and the uphill walking in ski boots.
I make guilty apologies and vow to be there soon.
A ray of sunshine enters through the automatic doors as Carlo, my friendly transfer driver walks in carrying a piece of paper with my name on it.
I jump up and resist the urge to hug the man that will finally take me to my intended destination. (Hmm... I expect this may turn up some hits from people searching for homo-erotic literature)
As we travel through Milan and into Bergamo, I pull out my camera as the alps loom higher and higher above me.
I learn about the local textile industry, the river and the abundance of activities the resort offers. Seamless salesmanship from Carlo.
I arrive at the hotel at 5.40pm. For those of you who don't follow maths, that's 14 hours since I left home.
By this stage I am so excited, I rush out of the van, and attempt to check in at the reception desk. This proves difficult as the lovely man behind the desk doesn't have the greatest command of the English language.
Carlo brings me my camera which I left on the van. (Note to self: Need the velcro suit)
Hands are shaken, Carlo leaves and I head up to our room.
Charlotte arrives back at the hotel a short time later and I sit on the bed with her and laugh as relief washes over me and I'm so happy to finally be there.
Showered, clothed and feeling fresh we decide to descend the mountain for dinner.
We go to Pizza il Rustico for dinner and we eat the best pizzas I've had. Proffering a mashed-up Italio-English-mime-a-thon, we also manage to order a nice bottle of red and tasty dessert.
Full and content we walk back up the hill to our hotel, and fall into bed where I sleep like a narcoleptic on Ambien. Which is extremely well, in case my analogy reads stupidly.

Morning, and I open the shutters to reveal a sun kissed mountain peak surrounded by thousands of pointy green pines.
We get our stuff sorted, head downstairs for breakfast of fresh mortadella, cheese, rolls, home made croissants and coffee.
We then dress and catch the ski-bus (which I thought Carlo was calling the 'caboose') up to the slopes.
It's sub zero temperatures, but there's not a cloud in the sky and the sun is warm on my face.
We hire Charlotte a snowboard and then trudge up the hill a little way where we go through the basics and then begin the potentially volatile process of me teaching her to snowboard.

What can I say. She's good.
When I was working at the ski resort in the US, I usually ran a lift on the beginners slope so had a good understanding of the steep learning curve involved in snowboarding. As such I had expectations that like most beginners, she'd spend the most of the day skidding on her butt, be completely disenfranchised with snowboarding by lunch time and possibly have called me all manner of bad words and left by 2pm.

After an hour and a half, Charlotte was getting up on her own and was doing really well...
I put it down to my superior instructional methods, although I'd be lying if I didn't say she did really really well. I was the proudest person on the mountain. Also, I had the sorest knees on the mountain from kneeling and explaining things on hard snow.

So we snowboarded, we rode a lift up the mountain (much to the dismay of Charlotte who upon boarding, remembered she really didn't like lifts at all, but still calmed herself down very bravely) and we sat in the sun and ate lunch.
I haven't had such a good day in a long, long time.

Sore, bruised and tired, we retired to the hotel where we rested a while before heading out for a stroll around the lovely village of Bratto. We went for ice cream, wandered past shops filled with cured meats, fresh made pasta, all manner of cheeses and then found a nice place to have a coffee. (Sure, it sounds like something out of some gay romantic foreign film, but I promise you I didn't have a jumper tied around my neck.)
We sipped on tasty lattes (Boy, does that sound wanky or what?) and watched in no particular order, a burly man pump endless euros into a slot machine, a waitress casually chat with her friend at a table, said burly man drink shots of grapper/ouzo and a midget come in with a friend to order something I didn't understand.
Not being one to racially stereotype, I suggested to Charlotte that the midget was the Mario you start out with in Super Mario Brothers before you punch that second brick and get the mushroom which makes him go bigger.
She shook her head and told me I was a horrible person.

We then sauntered back up hill, taking photos of the sunset all the way to our hotel where we readied ourselves for dinner.
Dinner was a three course extravaganza at the hotel restaurant, cooked by the lovely man who greeted me at the reception desk. Again we mangled pronunciations successfully and had ourselves a three course meal encompassing veal, venison, lasagne, gnocchi, amaretto, pear and chocolate torte and a bottle of chianti.
Thoroughly satisfied, we paid our outstandings, received a complimentary shot of local liquor and headed up to bed full, drunk and happily exhausted.
Waking to the alarm, we packed everything up and got ready to leave. I checked that I had everything. I then checked again, just in case. And I repeated this four more times.
Satisfied that we had everything we needed, we met Carlo at 7am and headed back to the airport.
We ate a horrific airport breakfast, then boarded our flight and sighed as we soared up and away from what could possibly go down as the best short holiday ever.
Like excited school kids, we took photos as we passed back over the alps and then watched quietly as small white coastal cliffs, and then the green patchwork of rural England slid past below us.
We waited for our bags at the 'Wheel of Fortune' baggage carousel. Charlotte's bag came almost instantly, however after half an hour and watching another flight's worth of luggage be spewed up and hauled away by it's owners, we decided my snowboard bag had possibly fell out of the plane somewhere over France and so headed to Lost Baggage.
The guy ahead of me was lamenting his smashed up cello, which had been labelled as 'Fragile'. Unfortunately this probably meant very little to a non-Enlgish-speaking baggage handler in Italy. they might as well have written "Smash this thing up please" on it.
The man behind the counter then explained to me that oversize baggage goes to Zone 10. This isn't made known to anyone at all, so frustrated at having waited for so long for no reason, we grab my snowboard bag and head off to catch a train home.
Train is filled with Chelsea supporters and we cram into the door way. After 40 or so minutes of idiotic, Stella fuelled football banter everyone disembarks at Victoria.
Charlotte and I are walking towards the gates when a shockwave runs through me.
"Oh Shit!"
'What is it now!?" She asks.
"My bag. Where's my backpack!?"
"Oh my god..." She shakes her head. (Again, need velcro suit. Need it now.)
So I rush back to the train, where there is no sign of my bag. I report it to lost property, the train cleaners and anyone else that doesn't walk away from me like I'm a crazy man foretelling the coming apocalypse. I tell them all it contains some books, clothes, my camera (SHIT!) and ironically, my travel insurance documentation.
We resolve to call Gatwick once we get home to see if they have my bag and hopefully avert a bomb scare caused by a suspicious Fitness First backpack sitting on Platform 2.
Walking down to the District Line, the hand-scrawled sign informs us that the District line only runs to Earl's Court and then the Piccadilly only runs to Hammersmith.
Sighing and already lamenting being back in Scuzz City, we catch the District line, change to the Piccadilly, then alight at Hammersmith and join the 200m queue for the replacement bus service.
Around an hour later I walk through the door at home, throw down my snowboard bag and lie on the couch while Charlotte picks up some ciders and falafel wraps for our lunch.
Whilst I'm stressed over the loss of my bag and all it contains, I'm glad to be home and am already recalling the relaxation and fun of the trip.
Charlotte brings in sustenance and we flop onto the couch where we spend the rest of the afternoon and evening.

It was nice to be home. But it's even nicer to be in Italy.
Eventually, I got a call back from Gatwick who had my bag and everything it contains! Hooray for honest people!

I hereby declare that there shall be no more stupidity on my behalf and that I'm not going to forget important things anymore.

I'll post the photos up on Facebook soon and flick y'all the link.

The moral of this story is: Don't travel with me. I'm an idiot.

Lazy bastard

That's me.
Too lazy to post...
Well, not completely lazy- I mean, things have been happening. In fact, all manner of shit has been happening. Christmas for one. That happened.
2007 slunk away into the night like the wimpy bitch of a year it was...
2008 came along and brought along a truckload of goodies including a trip to Italy, (which is to be detailed in the next post) a new house (Whitechapel is awesome and West London is totally herpes) and a whole host of other interesting things.

I'm still kicking away at work... Same old same old.
I now have more time to myself though as I've cut down my total daily commute from around 2 and a half hours to about 40. Hell yeah.
No more leaving home when it's still dark.

Charlotte and I have got a fair bit planned for the coming year. Some more hard work for a couple of months, then we head off around the middle of the year for a couple of months (hopefully) of sightseeing through Europe.

Which will be way more ace than sitting in dreary London.

So,we'll now have more updates, more often. (Say that in a radio voice, you'll sound cool)

Check back for more betterness.