Saturday, December 31


It's new year's eve and I'm watching a Mahler concert on TV. They're taking their last opportunity to mark the centenary of his death. I'm loth to take my eyes from the screen, where the English subtitles make it possible to understand the Bavarian lyrics for once.

Who would have thought so much gloom and death could be so beautiful? When I was a third of my current age and I heard it for the first time, I was stoned and tried to dance to it.

Listening last week to a Mahler radio concert, I heard the (Australian) announcer's mispronounciation of Kindertotenlieder. He changed "songs on the death of children" to "songs on the cakes of children", much more seasonally appropriate. It's actually quite common for the Aussie slapdash approach to yield random new meanings, which can add to the richness of language. But is it art when it's purely accidental?

(roboPhone post)

Friday, December 30

headroom for blissheids

On the walk last week, we came to a cave in the cliff, with a narrow opening but a massive inside.

Ivan said that when he were a lad he walked the coast for a couple of weeks with his mates. On their last night they found this very cave. Delighted not to have to pitch their tents, they made a fire in here and slept on the floor. Imagine!

The cellmate's standing on her own, and you can just see two more of our party at the very back of the cave.

Ivan and another rellie, outside the cave:

I took the pictures with the wonderful TopCamera app, well worth the $3. I've been able to delete several different free camera apps, since TopCamera does everything (and more) in one app.

BTW, my least favorite app, of the 700 apps on my iPhone, is the one called Phone. As an applied misanthropologist, what would I need that for?

(iPhone post)

Wednesday, December 28

palindromedia - old dear and her wee sister

It would have been the old dear's birthday a few days ago. This was her and her sister in about 1930.

I know I can

I think I will! I'm going to do it. I know I can! I'm going to open the 8.5% Schneider Doppelbock. I may be some time.

BTW, Albert has twat a link to an article about ecstasy and depression. I can't embed links from this phone, so you'd have to paste it into your browser:

(roboPhone post)

Next day: I'm sorry but I could only get half way through the bottle. That stuff's only godd for getting blootered.

Monday, December 26

one down, one to go

Yesterday at the jamboree that we had to host, I drank a whole bottle and a half of beer, but amidst all the hooha it was impossible to tell if it had any effect. Some pleasures are best enjoyed alone.

On the plus side, the left over food will feed us for days. Someone left a whole bowl of trifle.

Today boxing day it's all repeated at an outlaw's place. This photo from yesterday is all over the place, appropriately.

Sunday, December 25

holiday reading

One thing I enjoy about spending the holidays away from home is knowing that, if I open the diary app on the phone, instead of the usual jumble of reminders and appointments, I see a whole week of NOTHING!

Yet to the cellmate, that idea's a terrifying vision of hell. No people, no distractions.

I've been reading books from the shelves in the mother outlaw's house:

My first Alexander McCall Smith - gentle but meandering, only interesting for all the references to Embra. I won't read any more.

Tear His Head Off His Shoulders by Nell Dunn. This is more like it. The friendship between two middle aged women. Riveting and real. And raunchy, especially when you remember it was written nearly forty years ago. Sexual desire from a woman's point of view. Hot! And there's an impromptu Gestalt session in the middle of it. What a writer! My favorite book in a long time.

A Life Like Other People's. Alan Bennett's memoir about his parents, especially his mother's mental illness. I prefer his fiction.

Now I'm just starting The Weekend, by the Bavarian guy who wrote The Reader.

There's a dearth of computer manuals in the mother outlaw's house, but at least I've loaded a 700-page programming textbook on the iPad, which I have actually enjoyed dipping into, in preparation for next year's work.

Santa brought me nearly nothing, which is appropriate as one gets older. I wish you guys the same, just good health.

Friday, December 23

jogging first steps

Yesterday I went jogging through the neighborhood, for more than five minutes (not necessarily consecutive), and without activating any injuries.

The mother outlaw's house us in a Maori area, where most people are built like tanks, and I don't think they had seen a jogging skeleton before. There's a drug dealer's house next door, which some people might find handy for Christmas presents.

This morning I feel as if I've run a marathon. Jogging must take a different kind of fitness from long walks.

The outlaws are quietly churchy and not very material, so in the spirit of anti-consumerism, I wondered what roadside junk I could make into presents.

I found some colourful gifts for a one-legged new mother.

Safety knife.

Organic clothes brush.

For Albert's stocking

Thursday, December 22

more NZ attractions

Staying at the mother outlaw's place, it was cold to start with, but I found some warm clothes in a wardrobe. The cellmate wasn't pleased with me wearing her mother's gear. Not because of the cross dressing aspect (she's used to that), but because of the disrespect to someone who's not dead yet. Fair enough. Tact doesn't run in my family.

Yesterday 5 of us went out to the coast for a walk. I tried out the excellent free Photosynth app by Microsoft, for pasting together panoramas from several pictures. You can get multiple fingers into one shot.

Last night at the brother outlaw's place I tried another new beer. I wonder how it got its name. It was stronger than Albert's home brew, and more bitter.

If the excitement ever flags, we'll have to use this coupon:

Wednesday, December 21

the Deid Folk Remembrance List

I was telling someone recently that there's only 4 people on my list of dead people I often think of with love.

1. The most recent addition to the list is the old dear. She did her best to look after me when I was wee. Even if she wasn't that good at it, and she wasn't really a very nice person, she still gave me a lot. And since she died, I'm awash with empathy.

2. There's the wee old lady with polio who loved me unconditionally (and when she died left me three grand, back when that seemed a lot).

3. There's Denny, wife of my body, who left me mind blowing loving memories, that'll be with me to the grave. I think of her every day now, even though people would say she's the least deserving on my list. Killed herself or wasted away, the jury's still out.

4. And there's Dazzle who was a proper friend and an inspiration. I abandoned him, but years later he gave me shelter when I was lost. He died young, and I didn't. A guy who never did a single malicious deed ever. I can remember his voice and his repertoire of laughs - choking, screeching, or braying.

That's a total of three women, and one alien.

But wait! There's more! How could I have forgotten the others? Three males. It all balances up.

5. The old man. He's been dead 20 years, and I think better of him now than I ever did when he was alive. If you don't grow to love your father some time before you die, there's something wrong with you, not him. And you would never take pride in the ways you're like him. Ideally, you would be able to love him while he himself is still alive, but you can't have everything.

6. The uncle who was going to leave me all the gold bars one day, even though that's not going to happen. (I sold his gold watch to a pawnbroker last week, for $100). But he gave me insight into how men of power engage with the world. And I admire things about him, though he was nothing like me. He was terrified of death. I'm not bothered if I die tonight, I just don't want the loneliness of a lingering demise.

7. Reluctantly, I sometimes think of the stepfather who died this year. I don't think I ever liked him, but he took care of the old dear for 30 years, and that deserves a medal.

That's my list.

I think the Japanese have this elder-respect at the core of their lives, or at least the Shinto ones do. I used to see it as a repressive tendency, but now I reckon it's also a kind of ongoing meditation, or maybe contemplation.

(roboPhone post)

Tuesday, December 20

NZ for and against

So far, some of the best things about NZ: real apples, proper cheese, chummy people. Ice cream you could eat by the bucket. The mobile broadband is so fast! Possibly because there's not enough people living here to clog it up.

Some less good things: the tap water is disgusting in Auckland, with a nauseating smell - imagine athlete's foot ointment mixed with swimming pool water. The TV is on a par with Bavarian telly, and a good excuse not to even switch on. The only Bavarian beer I could find was big bottles of Schneider Doppelbock - 8.5% alcohol. I would have bought some, but it would only have made me drunk. Local beer here tastes like lemonade.

PS I went back and bought the Doppelbock, but am I man enough to drink it?

Sunday, December 18

a new year resolution

I've got about 100 hours of jazz radio tapes that I made when I lived in jockland. I know all this music so well. I really love it. Listening to it nutritionates nutrifies neuters I mean nourishes my soul. Makes me so glad to be alive.

Ten years ago I copied it all from tapes onto CDs. It took a while.

Yet I never play it! It's always too much trouble, or else the cellmate doesn't like it. Next year I'm going to listen to all of it at least once. Then all the classical stuff too.

In fact, I'm going to play some of the music over the P.A. at work, while I'm with the clients. I'll retire soon anyway, and it's hardly even a sacking offence.

On a related matter, I had two successes at work this year.

One was taking green tea to my work with the clients, despite there being a "no food or drink" sign on the wall.

The other success was when I met my boss last week and he told me what work he had allocated me for next year. I said I'd happily do the tasks I like, but that I wasn't interested in doing the other stuff. This week he fobbed the unwanted jobs onto someone else, and filled up my timetable with more stuff that I like doing.

This last bit might be relevant. I visited the mother outlaw in her old folks home today. She's better than when I saw her in hospital earlier in the year. But drops off every few minutes, at least when I'm there :) These places impress me as an argument for euthanasia (voluntary, but with incentives to make it appealing to the executees). Make it a respectable social ritual.

(roboPhone post)

Thursday, December 15


On the plane yesterday, I watched Midnight In Paris by Woody Allen. Marion Cotillard plays a gorgeous wide-eyed character, reminiscent of a stoned young DB. Recommended but silly (the film, not the DB).

Great to be away for two whole weeks, even if it's not the most exciting place in the world. When I was only 40, I backpacked here on my own, and scrounged a bed in a rural village. There were no curtains in the bedroom, and the view from the bed kept me awake most of the night. Looking down the valley in the moonlight, you could watch the cloud formations unfolding below you. Astounding. The Maori name of the country is Land Of The Great White Cloud.

The first thing we did when we got here was visit the telecoms shop, to buy data for the pocket modem, and SIM cards for the phones. Get the priorities right: land in another country, and immediately cling to the rest of the world. Pathetic really. On our first night here, we played Internet scrabble between bedrooms.

(roboPhone post)

Thursday, December 8


Albert has insisted I post some of his recent animal studies.

The first is a well-fed pigeon.


This chap is called, I think, a water dragon. He's worth clicking on, to see his full majesty.

water dragon

Here in NSC, we have lizards too, and there's currently a fat healthy one resident in the garden. He's got no tail, probably thanks to the dog. For him, the dog's death must be a big relief. It all balances up. I'll get a photo of him some time, but meanwhile here's one of his mates on the road in front of the house. The dog's saying - it wisnae me! Or I'm sure you can think of a caption.

Wednesday, December 7


From a recent walk in the park. These birds live up to 120, mate for life, and are pretty smart. Albert's dog once killed one in the back garden.

reunions, re unions

I've been sent some photos of the recent class reunion. The bad news is that the biggest basturn now looks incredibly well-preserved. The good news is my old friend from my teenage years, whom I last saw when I was 17, looks well-preserved in the sense of having spent a lifetime pickling himself. Hats off to him though, it must have taken a lot of stamina. It would be disloyal of me to post the photo.

Albert used to defend capitalism as the least worst system ever, but the big banks have been an eye-opener, and as a protest he now keeps his gold bars in a hole in the garden. But Albert's about to experience business ethics at first hand. His employer is playing hardball with its thousands of staff, bringing in a specialist hatchet man to eff everyone around until half of them get pissed off enough to leave. Avoids paying redundancy money. The background is even more sordid and devious, and probably best told in an email. I don't want to cause Albert even more grief.

Meantime, Albert says his viewing tonight will include a documentary called My Strange Addiction: "A thirty-one-year-old woman has been addicted to sleeping with her blow dryer since she was eight years old, and another woman has admitted to eating half a roll of toilet paper every day." He's going to tape it for me.

Thursday, December 1


Had to go and farewell the departing clients at the pub last night. One of them, the worst of the bunch, had the cheek to suggest I buy a round for all 20 of them. Fortunately one of the sensible ones bought me my first drink, and set an example.

Lovely to sit with well groomed Asian lovelies, and talk rubbish to each of them in turn. The pub's so loud, you have to lean forward and shout in her ear, but on the plus side you get an eyeful of fragrant cleavage. On the minus side, it's so close up, you'd need reading glasses to focus. Another reminder it's all downhill from here.

(roboPhone post)

Wednesday, November 30

then and now

The cellmate's out late, so I'm off duty and can do whatever I want. It's 9p.m. and I'm really looking forward to crawling early to bed. To read and then sleep like a babe with the chain across the bedroom door (not against the cellmate, but any random psychos who might rush the front door as she gets home).

Meanwhile, my old school friend (not the transvestite one) has bravely booked to go to the class reunion. He emailed me the guest list.

Colin will be there, my chum for a few years, while dating two schoolmates from a girls' school. He was a scallywag and ruffian but without malice, an up-market Rab C Nesbitt, and helped me get started early on fags (at 13), then girls and booze a couple of years later. I still have the Stones single he gave me. I'm hoping one day it'll be an antique like me.

I went along to one reunion, last century. Once was more than enough, but I'll still be interested to hear about this one, and whether one of the folk there is still a total ****.

Johnny will be there, at whose teenage party I dimly recall meeting Gregor Fisher on downers (me not him).

therapeutic effects

For weeks, the life-enhancing tea had unfortunately been enhancing the OCD too. But I've been off tea now for 4 or 5 days, and am gradually starting to enjoy life again even without the wonderful cuppa.

Albert's botanic garden passed the inspection yesterday. The Glaswegian nurse who inducted him was a joker: "hello Albert, you've won a prize - would you like it with or without?" Albert chose "without". "OK Albert, we'll give you it without anaesthetic".

When Albert came round after the anaesthetic, he felt a million dollars.

I've noticed this phenomenon before. It's as if the experience of being cared for by a room full of benign strangers, while you surrender everything (even your consciousness), has the effect of breaking your depressive or obsessive patterns.

This has a lot in common with ECT (except for the electricity). And I wonder if part of the therapeutic effect of ECT is nothing to do the equipment.

Actually, I've just realised something. In the recovery area, they gave Albert a cup of tea, which he drank without remembering he had given up tea. So now my theory's kind of contaminated by an extraneous variable.

Monday, November 28

don't mention the thingy

I gave up tea again on Friday. As a result the weekend walk was pathetic. Hard going all the way, and none of it pleasurable. What a difference a tea makes.

Tomorrow Albert gets his botanic garden inspected, so today it's the great hosing out.

Never willing to be upstaged, his cellmate has decided to take to her sickbed. She's supposed to be the driver tomorrow.

Please note, this post was written without the aid of any mention of toilets.

Tuesday, November 22

long march

Saturday. Today we did our longest walk ever, 20km through forest and scrub, and along beaches, all in semi-tropical conditions. I couldn't have done it without the Chinese marching weed, green tea. I had a big flask of it with me, and when that ran out we used cafes.

At the place where we had lunch, the builders were doing alterations with drills and a power saw. They're great planners, the New South Caledonians, always managing to cause maximum inconvenience and reminding the paying customers that they're not a priority.

Conversation was impossible, the cellmate was getting a sore heid, and my tinnitus was going off the scale. But we'd ordered lunch and we were too starving to start looking for somewhere else to eat. Rather than accept things as they were, I nipped out to a chemist and came back with paracetamol and orange foam earplugs. Perfect peace.

Now, the cellmate is quite a bit younger than me, and in some ways fitter. But I'm pleased to tell you that by the end of the day, after 5 hours of walking, wading and scrambling she was stumbling and semi-incoherent, while I was ready to do the whole thing over again. When we got home, she went directly to bed, while I did my yoga routine, to ward off cramps and stiffness. The Thai fish curry I made was a big success, and now I'm in bed with the fan on, too hyped to sleep.

Some of the beaches we passed were chockers with power-boat folk, drinking and lying around on deck. I took some pictures to show you how clear the water was (don't let the boat people distract you).

Just to be clear - this is the part of the photo that you shouldn't let distract you:

These people were in serious discussion. There was a person in the water behind the boat - all you can see is a hand, holding a cigarette up to keep it dry, a conscientious smoker.


Saturday, November 19

cold wars

Meanwhile, Mingers has reminded me about an old Beach Boys song, which I first heard on Fanny's record player when I was about 14. To me the lyrics seemed almost blasphemous at the time. Wouldn't It Be Nice To ... sleep together. The idea of waking up beside your own real live woman (girl really).

In those days I believed that the reason I enjoyed hanging out with Colin and George was for the smoking and the drinking and the Stones records, but really it was because they were babe magnets, and got me into the company of Fanny, Elaine and Moira. The joy of kissing and minor gropings, and eavesdropping on the chat of girls - I remember them going into a swoon over God Only Knows.

In those days there was a Cold War on, and we sometimes liked to imagine that the cellar where we hung out could become our fallout shelter, where we could snog our way through a nuclear war.

Artist's impression of a mutated albert:

albert mutated

Nowadays, Albert may be entering a new cold war. Obama has just been visiting his place, and announced that he's opening an American military base in Darwin. Now that the middle east is no fun any more for the soldiers, it's time to ramp things up in South East Asia, with Australia as one big U.S. aircraft carrier.

While he was in Oz, Obama lectured the Chinese, telling them to grow up and float their currency. If I was China, I'd start asking for their loans back.

Thursday, November 17

albert at work and play

I may have to try meditating. The cellmate's having a tooth pulled at the dentist right now, and I'm having sympathetic nervous dread. Usually I use the out-of-sight-out-of-mind philosophy, e.g. if she's out driving late at night I just go to sleep and assume she'll be there in the morning. I think it's the only way to handle an extremely independent partner. But now suddenly I'm developing excessive empathy. Maybe this is what happens in a long long relationship.

While I'm standing by with the painkillers, here's some of Albert's photos from the last few days.

Working double shift

Camped by a billabong

The Buddha on his summer holidays

Thursday, November 10


4 a.m. Unusually, I woke up screaming from a nightmare. It's always nice to come around into a real life that's better than the dream. Pity the people who wake into the reverse. Cancer patients, for example.

When you open an Erdinger, it tastes like a whole new world, like going from monochrome to colour. The second bottle is never as good, so the trick is to stop after the first one, or in my case the first half-bottle. The guy in the photo is about to take his first sip.


Sunday, November 6

yet another day

Compared to some people I don't get out much.Today was an exception. In the morning I met Cap'n Kev for breakfast. Later we drove to the foreshore for coffee with several of his chums - I was the youngest one there, and the only one still working. I got a foretaste of the social life of old guys.

After all the coffee/tea in the morning I was full of energy. This afternoon I went with the woman across the road, and her dog, for a walk along a different part of the harbour shore.

Back home: light weight training. Mowed lawn and weeded.

In the evening, the cellmate had all her fem chums for dinner, so I was off duty. From time to time I crept into the kitchen and stacked their dishes into the dishwasher. None of them are domesticated. Untamed as a matter of principle.

At one point, the cellmate suggested I go to the living room and say hello to everyone, but when I do that it always feels like being sent downstairs to kiss the adults goodnight.

Another day gone. Sometimes I can hardly believe how long I've lived. And still never broken a bone or had a crash (except once). Like many people, my ambition was never to have a job, but to my surprise I've ended up not claiming the dole since the 70s. Amazing. It's been an easy life, apart from the black spot and a few other disasters.

Monday, October 31

reading and writing books

After I enjoyed reading The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, I looked for articles on the web. In one interview, there was a list of Amis's advice to writers, for example:

• "Don’t start a paragraph with the same word as the previous one. That goes doubly for sentences."

Everyone who reads this blog has written a book, except me. I wonder if I have what it takes to write. Looking at the rest of Amis's tips:

• "Watch out for words that repeat too often."  I think he forgot to add that words like "it all balances up" are so important that you can never have too much of them.

• “Never use ‘amongst.’ ‘Among.’ Never use ‘whilst.’ Anyone who uses ‘whilst’ is subliterate.”   I couldn't agree more.

• "You write the book you want to read. That’s my rule."  What if you want to read pornography?

• “You have to have a huge appetite for solitude.”   I rest my case.

So on the evidence, I could easily write a book. I can only see one problem: a writer needs to be an effed-up sort of person. All creative people are riddled with addictions, contradictions, and mental problems. A normal well-adjusted joe like me is happy just getting on with normal things.

I read another book recently called Are You Boys Cyclists? I couldn't put it down, as they say. Actually I had to put it down, but only to eat. I continued reading on the bus to work, laughing aloud. I hope nobody was reading the graphic parts over my shoulder. A hugely enjoyable book by someone who knows how to write. Honest and depraved. Who would have thought a postmodern novel could be so much fun!

Tuesday, October 25

good call, albert!

When I turn down a deifheid invitation and the cellmate goes on her own, I sometimes get a nagging suspicion that I may be missing out on something wonderful. Maybe a world class jazz muso would have been at the dinner.

Turns out that the dinner was everything I thought it would be, and more. Even the cellmate, the most optimistic and charitable person I know, came home indignant. Apparently there were two alpha deifheids present, and the competitive self-aggrandizing filled the stage.

Kindly, the sweetie deifheidette sent me a piece of her home-made pecan-pear-chocolate cake, so I was still able to savour the only positive part of the affair. Good call, Albert!

Saturday, October 22

friday night

When summer hits these shores, air conditioning systems take a few days to catch up. After working all yesterday in a boiling building, I had to go to a stifling theatre at night. Sitting bolt upright to keep the back in tune, I blocked the view of the folk behind, but maybe they enjoyed puzzling over the lumps out of my head.

It was an Australian play, apparently an old classic. What can I tell you? I didn't pay for my ticket. And there were two intervals. I stayed on in the bar after the first interval.

An empty theatre bar during a performance is a spiritless place, but at least you can enjoy the private soap opera between the bar staff. I found a table under a fan, and read The Independent on the phone. After finishing my beer I started on someone else's half-empty bottle. In the tropics you need to keep up your fluids. At the second interval, our little group emerged wilting and sweating.

I went back in for the third act, and was able to pick up the story perfectly. Is that the mark of a good play perhaps? This time I stood at the back, by the draught of an open door.

Today we're going to do a repeat of the recent 3 hour walk round the lake, and this time I'll remember to take photos. Now to fuel up on carbs and black tea. Things are looking up. Tonight's the night I don't have to go for dinner at the deifheid place.

Thursday, October 20


I had to go away to a hotel for the weekend, for the cellmate's birthday. I behaved myself, except for a few bedroom beers - a whole bottle and a half on Saturday night, and I finished the second one in the morning.

My companion was at her best. I don't have her permission to publish any details, but here's a disguised image at the seaside cafe breakfast.


She ordered some kind of seafood creation, and I read the paper.

One good thing about going away is the coming back home. Even going back to work on Monday is good, especially when you know you've got Tuesdays off. And Thursdays. And Wednesday mornings. Hurray for the ebb and flow in the job.

Then next weekend there's an invitation to dinner at the complete and utter deifheids' place, to hear ad nauseam about their 6 week euro tour. The pretext for the invite is a belated celebration of the cellmate's birthday, but I reckon if they chose to be overseas at birthday time, that's their loss. I'm too old now to waste a single evening, so I've told them to go ahead without me. Last weekend I was on birthday duty, now it's their turn. Of course now I feel a bit mean, and it'll be a shame not to see the female deifheid, who's a sweetie and only deif by association.

PS - newcomers to the concept of the deifheid may wish to consult the Taxonomy Of Deifheidism.

Monday, October 17

a deifheid taxonomy

The specialist literature describes three kinds of deifheid.

CLASS C - a Class C Deifheid is somebody who's physically deaf. The modern term is hearing-disabled. Some of them are clients of mine, and I think I usually get on well with them, perhaps helped by the fact that, with my speech disability and accent, I already rely on body language and hand signals all the time. Class C deifheids are the only deifheids deserving of compassion.

CLASS B - Class B Deifheids are musically disabled. Through no fault of their own, they have no taste at all. Fans of Black Sabbath, or Barry Manilow, or Pachelbel's Canon - they're all Class B. The jury's still out on Brian Wilson. Surprisingly, Class B's can still live full and useful lives.

CLASS A - this is the gold standard. A Class A Deifheid is somebody who's empathically disabled. Sufferers lack the ability to listen to anybody except themselves. Put several of them together in a room, and there's turmoil. Each one wants to self-publicise, none of them can bear to listen.

A Class A deifheid is a hopeless case, a waste of space, someone trapped in infantile narcissism. It is generally accepted that the worst thing you can do with a Class A is to listen to them. You'll only feed their affliction. You can't advise them either, since they can't take in anything you say. There's nothing you can do for them, and the prognosis is poor.

Class A Deifheidism is often diagnosed with other behavioral disorders ("dual diagnosis"). For instance, many Class A deifheids suffer from NPD too. Indeed, the jury is still out over whether they are two discrete maladies or one.

Wednesday, October 12


Albert's got a hole in his head. I'd better explain.

This is what an electric hair clipper looks like with the comb attachment fitted:

But when someone forgets to fit the attachment, it becomes a shaver.

I'm not at liberty to tell you whose fault it is, so I'll just say this: never mix a domestic argument with a home haircut.

I suggested he could make the best of a bad job, and shave it all off, but for some reason he doesn't want to look like a complete blissheid.

Sunday, October 9

3 hours out of your life

Last night we had to go for a restaurant dinner. Thankfully, it was with only one other couple, and they're not deifheids at all, lovely people really. But it was three hours crammed in a noisy environment, where everyone's shouting while cupping their hands to hear better.

And when each course arrives, people ooh and ahh theatrically, as if you've just given them socks as a christmas present.

To me, restaurants and cinemas are only bearable when they're nearly empty, and when you can leave after an hour and a half.

After 3 hours sitting in the same seat, you end up despising the world and everyone in it. But at least you know it's going to end eventually. Imagine the poor criminals in prison 24/7! No wonder they go mad and stab each other to get some peace and quiet in solitary.

Last night I tried the hotboy technique of getting drunk to make it slightly less awful. But then you wake with a sore heid at 3 a.m, and blog about it on the phone. Dearie me! But I've downloaded the new hotboy ebook, also on the phone, and I must admit I'm enjoying it a lot. So I might sign off now and get back to the book, or maybe read some blogs.

Wednesday, October 5

another walk

Did a three hour walk on Saturday, all the way round a lake. Even though there were only few points where the lake was visible from the track, what I enjoyed was the variation of scenery along the way. You know (or maybe East coasters don't) how they say Arran is all Scotland in miniature? Well this was almost every kind of New South Caledonian terrain compressed into 9 kilometers. By the time I realized I could take photographs as proof, the walk was nearly over.

Unlike most national parkland here, where dogs are banned because they eat the indigenous wildlife, this one allowed dogs. The bloghound would have loved it.

Tuesday, October 4

hols again

(written last week before rain stopped play and Albert retired hurt, and we all aged another week)

I've got a fortnight off now. An hour's weeding each day should clear them all. With headphones and an audiobook or podcast, I actually enjoy weeding.

Swam twice - slightly shorter distances but faster than ever since I worked out how to get more oxygen with each breath. The pulse reaches 120, and my heart occasionally goes spastic for a second or two. I'd get it checked out, but I'm hardly in a high risk group.

Reading: short stories by Alexei Sayle. Diary Of A Madman by Gogol. When I first read it decades ago, it seemed an accurate portrayal of insanity. This time round, it's like any day in the life of Albert. I started Will Self's Liver, but gave up on it - like a smart alec Martin Amis, but too grotesque and too clever for me.

Videos. While on the treadmill with light dumbells, I've indulged myself with The Thick Of It, and e.g. The Pink Floyd Story.

Saturday, October 1


Went mad yesterday, mowing, feeding, weeding, pruning and shearing. Had to put my clothes on at the end, to trim the hedge beside the neighbour's living room. Probably just as well anyway, on safety grounds.

Managed to reactivate an old shoulder injury with the shears.

In the night I heard the possum on the roof pause at the edge, as it realised that its favourite landing zone of tree branches had disappeared.

One year, just after pruning, I heard a possum jump off the roof into where the branches had been. The thud as it hit the ground, and the crying and wailing, was awful. Kept me awake so it did.

Sunday, September 18


The cellmate is in NZ again. Meanwhile I'm coming off tea this weekend, cold turkey.

To take my mind off the cravings, I walked the neighbour's dog, a good-looking retriever.

I'm trying to get enthusiastic about a cup of rooibos tea.

Over in Piddledorf, there's been excitement over a cultural highlight, a visit by a touring British band.

Saturday, September 10


These days life's a bit of a treadmill, even though I only work 3 days (and evenings) a week. On the other days there's always housework or DIY or gardening. True, I do get time to read and watch telly, and I get a bit of exercise walking back from the supemarket with a backpack, but I want even more time for everything - I've got stacks of books to read, and I need to get back into swimming. And one day get another dog. Probably I'm simply aware of life running out before I've had enough.

I've borrowed 3 massive library books. 1001 songs to hear before you die. 1001 albums to hear before you die. And 1001 beers to drink before you die. I'm going to have my work cut out for me.

This morning on the dog walk sans dog, I set the iPod to play all songs alphabetically.

Atom Heart Mother by Pink Floyd, takes me back to Pollok Halls innocent naughtiness.

Always, by Nilsson Schmilsson, one of the old man's favorites.

All The Girls Love Alice, by Elton John. Lynda and I were introduced to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road on Friday night dinners down Leith Walk with a Canadian couple. He was a clinical psychologist and she was a young beauty whose brother murdered their father.

America by The Nice. When Leonard Bernstein heard it, far from being flattered, he was disgusted.

I've only just begun on the A's. If I'm going to savour the whole musical alphabet, it's going to be a long life.

Sunday, September 4

day trip

Saturday. The cellmate had been pressurizing for a weekend away. For the sake of balance I had been resisting. I'm dreadfully hard to winkle out from home. Today we compromised on a day trip.

An hour into the trip we had a destabilising row, which continue to simmer during the morning bush walk. I would tell you who was in the wrong, but I'm too much of a gentleman.

But then we happened upon a wee village tucked away in a corner of the forest, just out of reach of urban hustle, and everything became simple again. Fish and chips for lunch, and I had a pint of proper beer. Great waitress (at my age, I think one values friendliness and professionalism more than looks - though Albert would disagree).

After lunch we went for a second walk, discovering a beautiful long curving beach, almost deserted.

Then we walked inland through weird dense forest growing out of sand. There were funny little flowers and coloured fungi. I wanted to take some photos to show you, but the cellmate was setting the pace and I didn't want to risk the mood by stopping.

On the drive home through endless suburbs of red brick, we spotted an improbable cafe inside a seedy antique shop. So we stopped for superb tea and cake. Once again, the waitress was warm and attentive. In that part of the world they all seem to be happy, expert and friendly. It can really make a difference to your day.

Back home, I had one of the home made beers with alcohol in it, and the cellmate cooked a beef and veggie stir fry. Good TV, climaxing with a one-hour documentary about the first Doors album.

It's been great to get away for the day, I'm so grateful I was persuaded. And tomorrow we meet a non-deifheid couple we know, in the only art gallery I love.

- iPhone post

Friday, September 2

a whole day

Spent most of the day cleaning the kitchen as a surprise for the cellmate, while listening to some wonderful jazz tapes from the 70s and 80s. This is the kitchen we had installed a couple of years ago, against my better judgement and at some expense. I don't like cleaning, so I wanted black surfaces because they don't show the dirt, but was outvoted by the designer and the cellmate. So we went with a white benchtop, because "white's so easy to keep clean." It turns out that means "easy to see all the dirt when you're forever cleaning."

But after 5 hiurs' work it eventually scrubbed up nicely, and I retired exhausted for a nap. When the cellmate came home, she noticed nothing, then later she spilled redcurrant syrup across it. I handed her the Ajax and a cloth.

Sunday, August 28

who's willy?

Some time ago, a bloggy chum was wondering who on earth William Robertson was.

Well, I happened to find myself reading Bothwell's Life Of Johnson, as one does. And I read a reference to the very same William Robertson. (Incidentally, Robertson also featured in the novel Alma Natter).

For your edification, I reproduce the passage here, double entendres and all.

- iPhone post

Saturday, August 27

hot stuff

One of the nice things about winter is that you really enjoy your food, especially warming breakfasts, and desserts in the evening.

There's been a tapioca shortage in the shops recently, but then I tracked down a couple of bags.

What bliss! Hot tapioca pudding, with vanilla and nutmeg. Oh the joy! Better than sex. The only thing better would be eating tapioca during sex. I've used custard in bed before now, but just imagine eating tapioca off your partner! All those little bubbly bits would give it the edge over custard. Too bad I'm too old to try it.

- iPhone post

Thursday, August 18

oh happy day

Pretty good day yesterday. Sauntered in to work after lunch, only to show my face and then go out shopping. Bought some really wonderful Wakame seaweed (Korean so presumably plutonium free) and some coarse miso.

Back at work again, I succeeded (after a couple of years' of occasional attempts, all unsuccessful) in connecting the iphone to the wifi at work. So from now on I can blog and play scrabble during work time.

After a superb fish and tofu stir fry in the Chinese place where I've been eating for decades, I worked for the evening but was still able to finish up and go home early. Got a lift home from the cellmate. Today, my day off, I've done various bits of useful pottering. What a wonderful world it is sometimes.

Haven't had a beer for a week, not even a freedom ale. I thought about opening a weissbier tonight but I can't be bothered.

Wednesday, August 17

rioter's prayer

I saw this alternative prayer posted by a shameless lass on facebook.

Our father, who art in prison,
my mum knows not his name,
thy riots come, read it in the sun, in birmingham, as it is in london,
give us this day our welfare bread and forgive us our looting, as we're happy to loot those who defend against us,
lead us not into employment but deliver us free housing, for thine is the telly, the burberry and the barcardi, forever and ever...... innit..?


Sunday, August 14


It's nearly spring again here. To mark the end of the cellmate's return from exile in NZ we took a long walk today, to try and get reacquainted.

Because this place used to be a penal colony, they still believe in fencing everything in. Just in case.

- iPhone post

Thursday, August 11

bavarian thinking reaches NZ

The outlaws in NZ are squabbling about whether their old dear is dying or actually getting better.

I hope the poor old thing gets another of her cheery days today. But if she doesn't, and gets the awful pain and vomiting, well there's usually a better day around the corner.

Important for the family to remember though, the overall trajectory is downwards. We're all dying but some of us are closer to the head of the queue.

Tonight's the night I get my belly laughs from the new series of The Thick Of It. The Peter Capaldi character's fantastic. Oh to be him for a day!

Thursday, August 4

seaside violence through the years

In Piddledorf, I found these old photos.

The old dear (on the left) in the 1920s, with her chums at the beach:

Here, her pals seem to have turned on her:

Her sons at the same beach in the 60s:

After that photo, one of them took a shovel to the forehead of the other, severing a nerve in the process.

Tuesday, August 2


Spoke to Dances again last night via Skelp.

All systems are go at his end.

Monday, August 1

workplace formality

Since my old office-mate moved out in a huff and a hurry, I'm still getting to know the new office-mate.

I really shouldn't have bought that bag of chestnuts, they give me gas as if a dog's done its business in my pants.

Yesterday I left the office for a couple of minutes, and on returning I found the office-mate standing with his head out the open window.

I could have apologized but I just brassed it out. With a bit of luck he would think I assumed the smell was him.

Friday, July 29


Just been watching round one of Britain's Next Top Model. There was nothing else on, honestly. And the girls had nothing much on either, as it was a lingerie photo shoot.

One contestant gets kicked out each week. The one I was supporting was the most articulate and was also the first one to exit. She actually quit during the judging, deciding to become a teacher instead. What an all-round sweetie! In solidarity with her, I won't be watching the program again.

You know you're getting old when your interest in these young things is only avuncular.

Wednesday, July 27

please can I come out now?

To while away the time in Piddledorf I sorted through a few of her old photos.

- iPhone post

Tuesday, July 26

films in new south caledonia

Watched 2 interesting films last night on TV. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood), a feelgood revenge movie. And Final Cut (Robin Williams, 2004), a flawed execution of an interesting idea - memory implants etc.

On DVD, I caught up with Gone Baby Gone, directed by ... (senior moment while I rake around in what remains of my brain) ... Ben Whatshisface the actor, and starring his brother. Very good.

But the best movie was Animal Kingdom, a harrowing plot about a Melbourne criminal family. Funny how the best Aussie films (Albert would say the *only* good Aussie films) are about crooks and bastards. Wolf Creek was another mesmerising Oz shocker.

But the very best thing in my mini film fest here was Mad Men series 4. Watched the whole 10 hours over a few days with the cellmate before she went back to NZ. I hope they make series 5, otherwise we may have to start watching from series 1 again.

Sunday, July 24


On the last night in Europe, i had a long phone talk with Dances. I can only assume he's on the bliss pills now. He asked how the job of clearing out the old dear's flat had gone. Specifically, he wanted to know if I had discovered any skeletons in cupboards.

So I told him about the step father's cupboard full of Playboys and Penthouses. And the "acquired" airline stuff - Pan Am plates, BA briefcases, Concorde cutlery. Drawers full of company notepaper. Perhaps 100 dictionaries.

I reckon clearing out anybody's house would reveal their particular brand of insanity. They should build a reality TV show around the idea (maybe they have).

- iPhone post

Friday, July 22

anchors away in frankers

The last night in Bavaria, and our hero's back where it all started in Frankers, filling the minibar for a night in.

Sadly, this time I didn't have time to find a Lidl for the dirt cheap weissbier, so had to buy Paulaner at eight times the price. And in fact I prefer the taste of the cheap stuff, perhaps even over Erdinger.

Woke next morning to a Jim Morrison breakfast of left over beer.

At the airport, there were more flight crew checking in than passengers, always a good sign if you're hoping for a half empty plane for the long haul hell.

In fact it seemed as if I was practically the only passenger checking in. My heart lifted. At this rate, I wouldn't just have a row of seats to myself, I could run up and down the aisles screaming.

But when I got on the plane, it was choc-a-bloc. It seems the reason the check in queue had been empty, was that the plane had come from the U.S. and was already full of yanks.

Dearie me! But all was not lost, and I managed to score the only empty row on the plane. Here's how you do it.

While boarding's still happening, you get out of your seat and wander around looking for unoccupied rows of seats. Memorize where they are, and mentally tick them off as new passengers come on board and sit in them.

At the same time, listen and watch for the signs that boarding has finished: did you hear the door being locked? Or have the cabin crew suddenly woken from laid back mode and become busy checking people's seat belts?

That's the moment when you notice the one remaining empty row, and you jump into it. Sit in the middle seat. Mark out the seats on either side with bits of clothing or magazines.

Sit tight until midway through the meal, when everyone's trapped in their seats. That's when it's safe to get up and move your bag and other gear from your original seat.

Lie down with your headphones on. If they've issued you with an eye mask, use it. Sleep or do the breathing.

I've just realized that what I'm describing is a modified version of the towel technique used by German holidaymakers in Majorca, marking their poolside positions the night before. Despicable me. Despicable NPD.

PS, in case you've forgotten, NPD is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Aspergers Lite.

- iPhone post

Tuesday, July 19

die dinger sind heutzutage anders als frueher

Sings ain't vot zey use do be.

You book a bavarian train seat. They tell you the carriage number and the seat number, they even tell you how far along the platform to stand so that your carriage will stop right in front of you. Such efficiency!

But while you're standing on the platform in your allotted spot, the PA yells out: they've had to leave out half the carriages, including yours. The shortened train's at the other end of the platform.

Mad scamper with luggage. You hear another passenger cursing the bavarian railways, apparently things used to be better. I'm not going to make a cheap joke about the Auschwitz trains.

Monday, July 18

next move in the dirty protest

It was my move, so I told her I wouldn't be taking up her offer of a free shower and no need to scrub it after.

When she argued, I told her I wanted to save the poor cleaner the job of cleaning it next day. She had no answer to that.

patching up

I won't bore you with the details of my back going out, except to remind you that there's always a silver lining, so things balance up: the aunt has a cupboard full of morphine patches, and is going to give me some for the pain.

A shame I can't take them with me, unless I want to see inside a Singaporean prison.

- iPhone post

Saturday, July 16

strike breaking attempt

On her daily inspection tours, the Piddledorf Pension Plan has noticed that I haven't taken a shower at all here. The shower is bone dry and safe for spiders.

So the PPP said that as a special treat I can shower tomorrow WITHOUT having to wipe down the walls - the cleaner comes the next day and will do that anyway.

She's dreaming if she thinks I'm going to (ahem) throw in the towel now. The strike continues!

Thursday, July 14

dirty protest

The PPP makes everyone wipe down the hand basin (and the shower) after every use. She inspects the bathroom after you've used it, and there's hell to pay if there's a stray drop of water. Apparently wetness damages porcelain and taps. Who knew that!

So I've gone on a shower strike, as a protest and to avoid conflict over wiping down the walls after a shower.

I won't bore you with my aunt's rules about using the toilet, but you can imagine why my uncle used to pee in the garden. And why I choose to pee in the sink.

In the kitchen, the dishwasher is such a high-ranking device that she washes each dish by hand before loading it, to avoid dirtying the washer.

I too was raised with the Bavarian over-respect for machines. When I was young, even just lowering the gramophone needle onto a record used to bring me out in a sweat. Fortunately I was cured via a combination of :

• home DIY, where you learn to whack things, and even if something breaks you can repair it

• grope therapy, where you learn how to look dispassionately at your hangups, and re-program them.

Tuesday, July 12

das then and now

Near Piddledorf, about 70 years ago there would have been thousands of naked emaciated Jewish folk standing about in a walled compound of blockhouses and shower blocks. Many died there.

Today, 70 years later, I thought of those poor bastards as I was part of a group of naked people standing inside a walled compound of blockhouses. This time, the naked people were fat wealthy Germans, presumably aryan. I had a day pass for the sauna centre - 6 sauna cabins all at different temperatures. Showers and icy hoses and plunge pools. There's one bit where you pull a chain to empty a pail of iced water over yourself. There's no actual birching, but once you're really relaxed you can sprawl naked in the sun. Eventually you reach a permanent spaced out state, whether frying at 100 C or submerged in ice water. It all balances up.

I had 8 hours there today, including a couple of meals and an Erdinger with no trousers. I would still be there now if it was up to me, but instead I'm in bed at 8pm after some theatrical yawns.

Earlier the aunt said "tomorrow we're going out for lunch and as a treat you can choose the restaurant". Well of course everywhere I suggested she vetoed, so I ended up saying "you pick one and we'll go there". Well even once I was out of the equation, she went on arguing with herself. Bavarianism!

- iPhone post

Monday, July 11

review of the salt mine

It's the fake inside of a salt mine, located behind a shop front.

The walls are made of salt bricks, from Pakistan, and there's Dead Sea salt gravel on the floor. It's the weirdest, maddest thing. You lie there with a dozen other people, with piped vegetarian muzak coming out of the wall. Crashing waves, seagulls, tinkling bells. The best thing about it was that you get peace and quiet to try some breath training.

It was tacky and naive, and yet I felt somehow proud, that the ideas that were new and wacko when I moved in freaky circles, have become mainstream ways of ripping off flatheids too dumb to meditate but who like the idea.

I took my blood pressure and pulse, before and after.

Before: 101/68, and 72bpm

After: 110/77, and 65bpm

So it sent my deathly low blood pressure up, but my heart rate came down. A good balance. But hey, this is not just about me. How's your own blood pressure?

- iPhone post

Sunday, July 10


First report from Piddledorf.

Escaped all morning to do errands but the interrogation on return was insane and I lost it. Since then she's giving me the silent treatment

Reminds me of the old joke. If you annoy a woman, she'll berate you. But if you really piss her off, she'll go on the huff and refuse to speak to you. So it's worth putting in the extra effort.

Lunch was "lovely" reheated sauerkraut and 5 sausages (salt and preservative flavor).

Having a "nap" in my room as the only way to get some peace. Even so, because all the rooms have glass doors I'm blogging this under the bedclothes to avoid detection and a surprise room inspection.

Later we're booked in for a health-giving session at the local salt mines.

Review to follow.

Tonight, after finally drinking my way through the bottles of expensive but horrible beer that my brother left here, I'm due my first dirt cheap Lidl weissbier. Things are looking up. It all balances out.

Saturday, July 9

modern architecture

I changed trains at a newly-built station designed by an artistic genius. He used ceramics, and avoided straight lines and flat surfaces wherever possible, which makes it particularly interesting if you are old or have a wheelie suitcase. One of the platforms:

You see, Germans only know two ways of being. Either they're obsessively exact, or if they want to resist that, the only way they know is to do the exact opposite. Hence a station that's the antithesis of everything orderly, and a nightmare for passengers (but fun if you're a toddler).

There was a tour party admiring the place, on one of the few level platforms.

- iPhone post

Friday, July 8

auf wiedersehen berlin

Passed Einstein's house on the way to the station. It's in the Bavarian Quarter, where the council has erected new signs on lamp posts, based on wartime and pre-war proclamations. E.g. (translated and paraphrased): "Jews are not allowed to play music or to own record players. December 1942".

The idea is to remind people what happened. Apparently a few locals misunderstood the spirit, saying e.g. "it's all starting up again"

At the station I enjoyed some downtime before the train.

- iPhone post

Thursday, July 7


Thanks to an iPhone app, I was able to visualise how to refuel the car before dropping it off . Because at that time of the morning I was in no state to start searching for a petrol station.

- iPhone post