Wednesday, December 26

nietzsche christmas

Looking for some holiday reading, on hotters' recent recommendation I downloaded some Nietzsche - Beyond Good And Evil in the English translation. I got as far as page 1 and a half. Dearie me!

The leading deifheid dudes are all out of town, so the obligatory two days of Xmas socialising has been less painful than usual. Of course the food's still the usual: designer dips, tortured chickens, and dry turkey. Sugary desserts that are too sickly even for the kids. I avoid most of the food, and fill up on decent stuff when I get back home.

Cellmate Santa gave me three concert tickets for next year. I got two presents from Albert: a blogging app that allows proper HTML with links. And Spinal Tap de luxe blu-ray edition. Recently I watched a Black Sabbath documentary, which reminded me just how accurate was the Spinal Tap film. If anything, the Sabbath story was even funnier.

Santa decided I didn't need one of these, seen recently on a toy shop shelf here:

Monday, December 24

swimming with the fishes again

Caution - this post is rude in parts, and without photos for obvious reasons.

Christmas Eve was spent snorkelling again, this time at a nude beach so Kev could show off his snorkel. For the record, Albert was in a wetsuit.

It was an unspoilt beach, away from habitation and with absolutely no facilities. Not crowded. A couple of families, several gay couples and singles, some musclebound Mediterranean types, and some very sporting nude babes.

I like to chill, but Kev likes to be active. So while he went walkabout I sunbathed on a towel. Soon, a new couple arrived. They had the whole beach to choose from, yet came over and stood about a foot and a half from my head, talking non-stop in Hebrew or Arabic, and rubbing sunscreen into each other. It went on and on. Finally they lay down, still strangely close to me but at least they quit talking.

Later when I told Kev, he said "yes, they do that all the time, the Islamics, it's how they start riots". Kev's world view is unorthodox to say the least. I suggested it was culturally-different ideas of respecting private physical space, and/or the couple simply needing their heads examined. Reminded me of the the lesbian couple with the screaming baby choosing the table right beside Albert.

After lunch we went rock-scrambling barefoot (not just -foot in Kev's case). Kev, who's every bit as sociable as Albert isn't, chatted along the way to spear fishermen, and to a guy with a plastic kayak that comes apart at the middle (for transport and in case you want to insert an extra mid-section to make it a 2-person kayak).

Whenever we walked past nude babes or a nude couple, Kev with his customary tact would swivel his head and pop his eyes out, and say loudly "that Sheila's got a nice ####". You have to remember he comes from Australia.

We passed a leathery guy lying alone on a rock. Kev said "ask him what he's got on his c@!#". Right enough, the guy had ... well, not so much a cock ring as a whole set of interlocking Chinese metal puzzles. The guy rolled over, and Kev said out loud "oh look! he must want people to see what's wrong with his anus!" And truly there was something unusual there, but mercifully I only caught a glimpse, so there's still a chance I won't have nightmares tonight.

Friday, December 21

swimming with the fishes

Yesterday I went snorkelling with Cap'n Kev. My first time. A great way to lose your bearings in all three dimensions at once. Comfort zones are gone. You inhale water until you get the hang of the snorkel.

But eventually you're floating calmly, like flying way above the colourful sea-bed, and you soon forget all about sharks. I saw rays, and started following a fat grouper around. They don't get spooked. Kev jabbed one with his finger, and it turned round and stood its ground.

Back on land afterwards, I was quite disoriented - not physically, but for a while it felt like re-learning how to stand, walk, and converse sensibly. It was not unpleasant. The coffee was like my first cup ever.

I have to do it all over again on Monday.

birds nest fern

I used to wonder how the Birds Nest Fern got its name. It's not as if it looks like a bird's nest.

My workmate Q keeps chickens. Although there's a perfectly good hen-house, some of them have their own ideas about where to lay, and the most popular nesting spot is in a birds nest fern.

Tuesday, December 18

the day after

The pub evening with Kev and his cabin girl went off okay. I got over-animated and spilled my pint, and I managed a few insults without trying. Since the old dear died I seem to have stepped into her shoes as family chief of tactlessness. But I managed to stay sober enough not to be a total twat.

I got a present from Kev. Two bottles of wheat beer from Australia. And a bag of hotboyesian yogurt or pizza, I'm not up on the technicalities. I can re-gift it as a stocking filler for Dances.

Cabin girl:



Sunday, December 16


Day one of the summer holidays! I walked someone else's dog, a strangely pleasant sensation.

The last few weeks have been a weary stagger to the finishing line. First there was the heat exhaustion after sand papering the outside of the house for hours in the sun. Then there was the frenzy of chaos at work. Excessive multi-tasking and task-switching wound me down to a befuddled paralysis - actually a new experience for a Bavarian toilet-trainer.

To drive myself onwards at work, I resorted to drug abuse - swilling so much tea that I could barely taste it any more. What a waste! And when that stopped working, I moved on to coffee.

Tonight I meet Cap'n Kev for our usual Xmas blooter. 2 or 3 half-price half-pints in happy hour. After that, my diary's free till next year. Hurray!

I just remembered, Dances is on his way over here to be a bad influence. To this day, his old mother still believes that I was the bad influence on him! Just because I gave him some orange sunshine I was too feart to take.

Saturday, December 15

scientists un-discover phantom island

A South Pacific island identified on Google Earth and world maps does not exist, according to scientists who went searching for it during a geological expedition.

The sizeable phantom island in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google maps and is supposedly midway between Australia and New South Caledonia.

"It's on Google Earth and other maps so we went to check and there was no Sandy Island. We're really puzzled. It's quite bizarre."

A New South Caledonian commentator pointed out that the recent hurricane was named Sandy, just like the missing island. Coincidence? I suspect the hurricane blew its own island away, to balance things up.

Friday, December 14

riches and riffs

At the allegedly auspicious 12 minutes and 12 seconds past 12 on 12/12/12, we were in our first-ever meeting with a financial planner. We're obviously going to be rich! Or at least according to the guy, we'll never be poor enough to be entitled to a state pension. Good news which is also bad news - I had always consoled myself that one day I'd get something back from the government.

We began our new life by paying him several thousand caledonian dollars for his advice. Of course, just being still alive is the best riches you can have. At 20 I couldn't imagine living to 30. Then at 30 it looked like I'd be lucky to make 35. Now that I'm umpty and time's running out, the main challenge may be how to blow all the gold before I kick it.

The music of Queen always struck me as just a blue-collar 10CC. Hyperactive warbling for listeners who like the idea of liking music but find this is the nearest they can get, because really they only understand visual pomp. But recently I enjoyed a documentary about Freddy Mercury, who seemed like a really nice guy - shy, sad and self-deprecating. And you have to admire his energy and power on stage. I even caught myself singing along with most of the awful anthems.

When I was about 25, I would escape Edinburgh most weekends, to stay at Dazzle's estate. One Saturday night I had to share the living room floor with Dazzle's pal Rich, just back from a long job on an oil rig. You know how certain people can cause an instant dislike? An extreme deifheid with no interest in what anyone else had to say, he kept me awake half the night with stories of the concert he had recently been to, raving about some guy Freddie Mercury. From then on I decided to avoid both of them.

Next week there's a documentary about Black Sabbath, whom I saw before they were famous, at the Electric Garden with my school chum Dances. Long before the wonderful riffs of Paranoid. They were a blue collar band too, on a mismatched double bill with Rare Bird, whose claim to fame was their one morose hit, Sympathy. In those days the audience sat on a bare floor. Nowadays concert halls have proper seats but everyone stands up.

The groupie grannie at work has become a raver since her old dear passed away. She went to concerts almost every night last week - Devo, Blondie, Simple Minds (who started out playing outdoors for free across from my place, and I had to listen to them whether I wanted to or not). Best of all she saw The Stranglers (who in the 70s fell out with The Damned and Sex Pistols - probably because the Stranglers could actually play).

If you haven't yet seen the dogs taught to drive a car around a race track, google something like NZ Dog Driving Test.

Friday, December 7

two fingers

First, a quick thank you to the late Dave Brubeck, for the joy of all that music for head, heart and feet.

Last weekend, I agreed to go to yet another deifheid affair. This one had fawning catering staff bring the finger food and champagne to you, so there was no need to tear yourself away from the endless conversation. Oh joy!

I only consented to go because it was promoted as pre-Christmas drinks, just 2 hours out of my life. But in my particular corner of New South Caledonia, all deals become void as soon as you walk in to a party, and I was trapped yet again in an endless hopeless tunnel of waste of time. And I was driving, so I didn't even have the alcohol option.

After the first hour of listening to the usual random snippets of self-promotion, I went to talk to the cat, before settling down on the front doorstep with a good e-book and a cloud of mosquitoes. Like a good chauffeur, I waited patiently for my fare.

Three months ago I left a deifheid dinner party right after the meal, offering the genuine excuse that I had to go home and lay concrete. Our host from that time took offence, and snubbed me on Saturday. So I guess I'll have to resign myself to being off their guest list. I'll try and make the best of it.

Friday, November 30

#tweeting in #scotland on #standrewsday

Scots are making full use of Twitter to mark St Andrew's Day.

For a comprehensive overview, I used Trendsmap to research how Scottish tweeters differ from the English.
In genteel England, top Twitter searches and hashtags reflect English civic and national pride. Even so, they manage to work in a reference to Scotland's patron saint (the Duchess of Cambridge met her Prince at St Andrew's University).


Glasgow Twitter topics express traditional Scottish interests:


Over in Edinburgh, what the toffs of Scotland tweet about:


Tuesday, November 27

Sunday, November 18

parties, pints, pipes and plungers

For a while there I stopped mentioning beer on this blog, while some of the readership was drying out. On the way to an xtieth birthday party last weekend, the cellmate suggested, without prompting, that I pick up some weissbier to make the celebrations bearable for myself. She can be a sweetie. Weihenstephaner was on special, at only 6 times the price they charge in Bavaria.

There were only about 20 people there, quite human mostly, so the party turned out to be only mildly unbearable, and I didn't need to open the weissbier, or even get it out of the car. And so tonight I've just poured myself one, as a reward for my hard work on the blocked sewer. But even after several hand washes I've had to forgo the usual salted nuts and nibbles on sanitary/olfactory grounds.

It all began a few weeks ago, with the plumber who put in the new toilet. He has a bit of an anger management problem. He flooded the floor a couple of times, and though it wasn't his fault he went spare each time. You'd think a plumber would be used to spillages, but no: each time, he was wailing and shouting and throwing things. He seemed on the verge of tears.

Then at one point he announced, almost proudly, that he had just dropped a bit of the old sink drainpipe through the hole in the floor, and down into the sewer. He said "I'll need to get it out - can't leave something like that down there". A few minutes later, I went back to ask if I could help. He said no, he had got the pipe out already. I knew it wouldn't be possible to fish it back out through the wee hole, so I said "I suppose you had to reach around through the big (toilet) hole, eh?" At that point he wasn't too sure which hole he'd used. That's when I realised he'd decided just to leave the pipe down there.

The next day, the stench started in the garden, and today I finally got around to opening up the vents at the downhill end of the garden. They were already bulging and popping their rivets under the pressure from below. I'll spare you the details.

I'm pleased to say that the heavy duty plunger that I made out of an old coffee tin and a pole, is exactly the same bore as the vertical shafts above the sewer, and works beautifully, like a giant bicycle pump.

I've cleared the downhill blockage, but there seems to be another blockage back up towards the house.

As a last resort I'm preparing a bathful of soda, for skooshing down into the pipes. If I still have to call the plumber tomorrow, at least I'll know I've given it my best shot. I could enjoy calling the same guy back to deal with his mess, but sometimes it's smarter just to write something off and move on.

I may have told you before of the couple I know who would love to renovate their home, but have chosen not to, purely to avoid having to deal with New South Caledonian tradesfoIk. And I know a guy who bought a second-hand cement mixer to keep in his garden, just in case his house ever needs concreting. So he could do it himself instead of relying on an NSC professional.

Last night I wisely dodged the xtieth (minus 10) birthday party of the grand chief deifheid. I'm in the doghouse of course, but it would have been four hours of finger food with earplugs! Dearie me. The things some people will do just to avoid sitting quietly at home doing nothing!

Wednesday, November 14

how to use #phones to your advantage in #annoying situations

As an experienced pedestrian I have learned to be quite assertive in traffic, despite the obvious power differential. It's even possible to enjoy creative jay-walking, as long as you pay 100% attention and recognise when not to take risks.

I have even been known to stand in the road and stop a car. For example, if a driver signals right then turns left into your path, you can stop dead and face the driver, arms out in a WTF pose. It only takes nerve, and assumes the driver is paying attention.

Surprisingly, when I was nearly run over last week I was actually being completely law-abiding, and the traffic was stationary.

I was walking over a pedestrian crossing, after a bus had pulled up to let me cross. The bus driver may have been in a hurry, or perhaps just decided to have some sport. As I stepped onto the crossing, he started inching across, calculating his speed so that the front of the bus would just miss me as I passed in front of it. So long as I didn't slow my pace. For a moment I was almost tempted to stop in front of him and see what he'd do.

My next thought was to slap the side of the bus. They hate that.

But instead I decided to play it safe and keep moving. As I passed his windscreen I gave him the international digital signal. His cab was high up, so my arm was at full stretch so he could see my finger. I was in the mood for a total meltdown if he wanted to raise the stakes, but fortunately it ended there. If necessary I could have photographed him and his number plate, and asked him to wait while I called the cops. At last a double use for my mobile phone!

I met the second annoying person that afternoon. I was in a shop, and when I took my purchase to the counter there was nobody to take my money. It was a large busy shop, the kind where the casually-dressed staff look indistinguishable from the customers. Normally I would leave the exact money on the counter and walk out, but this time I tried something different. A horrible tinny "music" was playing from a mobile phone beside the cash register. Obviously the shop assistant had turned up the volume so they could continue listening no matter where they were in the shop. (Don't ask me why they hadn't just kept the phone in their pocket where they could hear it without stinging everyone else's ears.) I reached over the counter and turned off the speaker on the phone. The reaction was immediate. From the far end of the shop, a young assistant emerged from the crowd, probably worried somebody had stolen his phone. As he wrapped my purchase in sullen silence, I said with mock-helpfulness "by the way, I turned your phone down, to save your battery".

On the bus home, I sat beside the third annoying person. The rush-hour traffic was at a crawl, and it would be a long trip. The guy beside me decided to fill in time by phoning friends. When I heard him say "I'm stuck in traffic" I couldn't help snorting. By leaving out the words "on the bus" the guy was trying to give the impression he was in a car!

Phone calls from a bus are invariably so banal that it's funny. I took out my own phone, and considered faking a call of my own, and saying "sorry, it's just the annoying guy next to me shouting on his phone". But instead I decided to record his call using the (excellent) WavePad app. Maybe I would get enough material to start a regular podcast of idiots on buses.

When he finished his call and complained because I had recorded him, I said "I quite understand - you probably don't like the idea of other people listening to your private conversation."

Actually I made up the last bit.

Phones enable people to be annoying in new ways, but phones can also help in dealing with annoying people. The phone giveth annoyance and the phone taketh away. It all balances up.

Thursday, November 8

books, #aboriginalart, and #freelancetaoism

The philosopher student prince only stayed twice as long as he said he would. It was nice in many ways. Unfortunately I grew so resigned to the idea that he'd be here forever, that I kept putting off taking the photo I planned, until it was too late. I wanted to capture him in his designer shades, engrossed in the text book he was using for his essay - "Must We Mean What We Say?". To which the answer is - not if you're some of the people who live around here.

When I met Cap'n Kev for beers last week, I told him that the cellmate and I had just bought a couple of aboriginal dot paintings from Australia. He nearly choked on his pint.

One of the things I like about Kev, is that he has unorthodox or unpredictable opinions on most things. Which offers me a useful balance to the doctrinaire ideologies I'm usually surrounded by.

I borrowed a book called something like How Aborigines Reinvented Modern Art. The idea being that neglected ancient cultures have ironically managed to reinvigorate western modern art.

Kev's take on this would turn the argument on its head. Western art progressed over the centuries and became increasingly refined. Until the dumbing down kicked in. Now art has become so vacuous that prehistoric painters suddenly seem geniuses.

I embrace neither Kev's view nor the cellmate's. As a freelance taoist I like to hold both views at the same time. The emperor's got a lovely suit and he's bollock naked. Perfect balance. Quantum aesthetics.

PS - this aboriginal art's a delight for the eyes.

Wednesday, October 31

life in #balance

(I'm experimenting with hashtags in the post title. This blog auto-announces on Twitter.)

One reason I try not to have friends, is to avoid getting sidetracked. Even cyber friends can take over your life.

My northern hemisphere friend Hotters gave up the drink. Purely to balance things up and keep up the drinking averages, I've had to start going to the pub with Cap'n Kev. Last night after a couple of beers we went down to the basement where they make the stuff, and chatted with two of the brewers.

It was pure luck that I insisted on paying for one more round, and discovered my wallet had disappeared. This is why I shouldn't drink - I get careless. Eventually I found it in a dark corner behind my chair.

This morning I read that Hotters has undone all my good work, and gone back on the drink. To balance things up, he too lost his valuables in the pub. I wonder if he checked behind his chair.

Another northern visitor to this blog is a Brian Wilson addict. Yesterday I channelled him when I spotted an obscure Brian Wilson CD at a second-hand record stall. I had to buy it, even though Brian Wilson is about as much use to me as a meditation book.

Honestly! The things I do for my friends!

PS- a neighbour is selling his kayak.

Saturday, October 27

australian aboriginal art

I went with the cellmate to visit a guy who imports Australian aboriginal artworks direct from the outback. He's an art expert who visits certain communities and deals ethically with them. Apparently in the past, unscrupulous white Aussies would swap beer for art. Early death of the artist from alcohol abuse would increase the artworks' rarity value.

The cellmate wants a big painting for her living room, but we're both clueless about art, so we took along an art teacher chum.

The guy let us take home our four favourite paintings, to get to know them and decide which one to buy.

What do you think? The cellmate likes the second one best. It's also the most expensive:

Saturday, October 20

Dee's story continues

In a recent post we began Alec's story of sex, drugs, incest, madness and death. Today's instalment involves snooping, police, prosecution and punishment.

Just to recap, Alec was pretty sure that the person who sexually abused Dee was her brother 1, the marine commando.

In Alec's own words:


When I visited the old country, I hired a car and drove to Dee's grave, in a wee highland village.

Walking in the town, I passed a little art gallery, and the first thing I saw in the window was a picture by Brother 1, so I went in. Pretending to be an art buyer, I got a lot of information from the wee lady about Brother 1, including his address just round the corner.

Getting right into character now, I started haggling over the price, and beat the gallery down from £90 to £70. I was about to hand over the money, when I thought - what the hell am I doing? Why would I want to put money in the pocket of Dee's abuser? And then have a reminder of him in my home?

So I explained to the wee lady that I'm from the UnHeard Of Islands, and sadly wouldn't have room in my luggage. She said never mind, the artist would just be pleased to hear that someone from down there had been so interested in his work.

As I drove out of the town, I put my foot down and was immediately flashed by a speed camera. Damn!


To summarise: Alec saved £70 by not buying a picture; then immediately lost £60 on a speeding fine, paying for a picture of himself. Funny how things balance up.

Saturday, October 13

multinational meatball megastore

I'm a cheery, glass-half-full kind of person, unlike Albert. It all balances up. For instance, here's Albert's latest whingeing email:


I've been knee deep in a home renovation project for a couple of weeks, and this morning I'm in the meatball place to buy a plumbing fixture.

It started promisingly in the restaurant. There's free wifi!

But it's broken. I try connecting with a pod, a pad, and a phone - all are locked out, even though they worked here last week.

Still, there's free refills of tea and coffee!

But all four machines are out of order, with a queue of customers lined up behind the repair guy.

It's getting too noisy in the restaurant anyway. Flocks of mothers and toddlers like starlings.

Later at the main store checkout, there's a promotion on, and they deduct the price of my $20 breakfast from the stuff I've bought!

But then I still have to stand around in the Merchandise Pick-up area, where they have a dole-office type of queuing system, and even the same social security robot voice on the PA.

There's a TV screen on the wall, to show the changing Job Status of everyone's order. That's encouraging.

But I wait 15 minutes before my order number even makes it on to the bottom of the screen.

Eventually the display says my order is ready for collection, but the poor meatball guy is dealing with a queue of impatient customers. There's no way I'm going to join the end of yet another queue, so I walk into the warehouse and lift the item I want. I wave my receipt at the security camera on the way out. Self service to the max. I've used a similar technique before. In newsagents and chemists, if you have the right money but there's nobody to serve you, put the cash on the counter and walk out. Transaction complete. The only drawback is that you don't get a receipt.


Thanks to Albert's story, I know where to go if ever I want the sensation of a crèche, a dole office and a novelty shop all at the same time.

Tuesday, October 9

life getting better

Struggling through a 1000-page cultural history of Germany, (written by a Brit aware the war is over) I wandered into the chapter on Emanuel Kant. This guy is the real deal, a proper genius thinker. I'd like to tell you about some of his ideas - they went in one ear and out the other, but they made a lot of sense on the way.

One of the few advantages of being hemibavarian is that you get to correctly pronounce Kant in mixed company, and they can't touch you for it.

Last night I caught up with Cap'n Kevin. It was happy hour, in a pub where they brew their own weissbier. I got plastered too quickly and started to slur, making even less sense than usual. Fortunately Kev was equally incoherent, and we had a fun evening talking shite.

The day before, I spent the afternoon with one of the best conversationalists ever. A woman, naturally. We used to share an office until we fell out a few years back. There's been much water under the bridge, and now we're best chums again. We were in a cafe full of media celebs - we were almost the only normal people there.

One afternoon wasn't long enough to talk about everything, so we planned part two in a few weeks.

The cellmate's boy is staying here just now. Today was her birthday, so as a special treat she was allowed to cook a special birthday breakfast for the two men in her life. My brother rang on Skype, so he was able to watch the present-unwrapping on video. The cellmate likes puzzles, but even she had trouble deciphering some of the presents from Albert.

For example, this was cheapskate Albert's promise to take her out for a meal. Can you guess what's on the menu?

Saturday, October 6

Dee's story - family matters

Albert has given permission for me to tell you the first instalment of his story, as long as I change all the names. I'll let Albert, I mean Alec take up the story....

My name's Alec Bronson. Once upon a time I was crazy about someone, let's say her name was Dee. It lasted 2 or 3 years, in some ways the most loving years of my life.

Dee was the youngest of three siblings. Brother 1 joined the Marines and stayed single. Brother 2 was the only one who married and had a family. Dee was the baby of the family. All of them were alcoholics.

Dee's best friend called me with the news she had died (alone in middle age). "And by the way, did you know Dee was abused by her brother?"

Well no, I didn't know that. I thought back to the times when I stayed over at Dee's place, and Brother 1 would sometimes turn up at her door late at night. She would have to get out of bed and cook him a meal or whatever. At the time I thought - what a close loving family! Sometimes I would get dressed and go home, rather than just lie there till she was free again.

On a recent trip to Scotland, I visited Biffo, a chum from way back. His wife overheard us talking about Dee, and said "hang on - I recognise that name". She works in patient records at the psych hospital, and had dealt with the files on Dee. She says there was some debate about the cause of death. Apparently Dee wasted away to nothing, with no clear organic cause except multiple drug use (legal and otherwise) plus alcohol and mental illness.

Back in the day when Dee was in perfect shape, we were all getting out of a taxi after the pub, and Biffo fondled her bum on the way out. Which was more than I had ever done at that point. I went on the huff, even though Biffo was gay in those days.

Tuesday, September 25

SAMe "improves mood in older people"

Because some of my daily work involves product testing, I sometimes get roped in as an unpaid guinea pig. Doctor Bob has asked me to test a safe natural antidepressant, available without prescription.

The pills, called SAMe, are  said to improve mood in older people, without side effects. The US Department of Health's in-depth study of SAMe found that it significantly improves mood in older people with no negative side effects. Over more than 40 clinical trials conducted since the 1970s, SAMe has delivered remarkably consistent results. It is also claimed to reduce chronic pains such as arthritis.

Despite not being an older person, I started taking the pills, initially in addition to my regular bliss pills, but when the effect proved too strong I cut the bliss pills.

First the good news - I suddenly found I couldn't care less about most things. in addition, the usual minor aches and pains seemed absent. 

And there was an increased ability to observe myself with detachment. An example: when I got a wood splinter under a fingernail, extending half way back towards the cuticle, not only was it fairly painless, but I was able to perform minor surgery on myself without suffering pain. I inserted my antique Edinbra scalpel under my fingernail, and cut a channel back through the nail to the far end of the splinter, so I could lift it out with a pin.

There was still pain, but I could simply dismiss it. If this is a generalisable effect, think how it might help oldies with arthritis!

The only bit of bad news - the pills made me so comfortable that I can't be bothered doing anything. It's a wonder I could even be bothered writing this post.

Disclaimer - this blog does not recommend taking or stopping any medication. See your doctor.

all-day walk

Some people suffer from a lack of empathy, while others like me have more than or fair share. When Albert isn't getting on well with Mrs A, I really feel his pain, so yesterday I took off on a walk, not knowing where I was going.

I was passing a library where my card is valid, and borrowed 3 different books, figuring that at least one of them might lift the spirits: a book of quotes by Hitchens; some humour by Sedaris; and one by Eckhart Tolle, a Bavarian who has made a fortune, arguably by repackaging spacey spiritual theories for the Oprah crowd. One book reviewer dismisses his "spiritual mumbo-jumbo", but another reviewer wrote, "Tolle's clear writing and the obvious depth of his experience and insight set it apart".

I stopped a couple of times in cafes, where I read a few pages of the Tolle book, describing ego as an "illusory sense of self" based on unconscious identification with one's memories and thoughts. It may just have been the tea, but suddenly the world was clear and simple again.

Walking on, I got lost a few times, and discovered some areas new to me, including a great park, and a ukulele shop. 

Under blue sky, I crossed the big bridge into the city, where there's another library with armchairs. You can read the daily papers from around the world. What fortunate creatures we are really.

On the bus home, I overheard a young Bavarian couple loudly discussing, in Bavarian, how to find an address they were looking for. So I offered, in Bavarian, to help them with their map. At first they were a wee bit stunned to hear their own language from a New Caledonian, but the conversation got going and I was even a little sad when I had to point out their stop and say goodbye.

Friday, September 21

place names

Auchallater, Birkscairn Hill, Dolphinton, Garvald, Carriden Woods, Keltneyburn, Inchgarth, Pheiginn, Braes of Foss, Catstone, Fadden, Craigengar, Lochcallater, Carn an Tuirc, Tillicoultry, Kinpauch.

The All Year Ramblers, based in Edinburgh, are a continuing source of new place names. This weekend they're going to Edinample. Who would have thought there's such a place?

Their current schedule offers a day's climbing every few days, for a 5-month period, with full details of public transport for each jaunt. I'm impressed that a volunteer organisation can plan, organise and advertise a detailed programme, and so far in advance! It would never happen here, where most folk can hardly manage to plan the next few hours ahead.

Wednesday, September 19

the diary of Mr PF

Albert has given permission for me to tell you this story, as long as I change all the names. It has nothing at all to do with Albert or the pension fund.

The three main people in this story are Alec, Mrs PF, and her long-dead husband Mr PF.

Mrs PF recently caught out one of her chums in a lie, and took delight in lecturing her and making her squirm.

Meanwhile, a posthumous state investigation is going on, into alleged wartime comments by the late Mr PF.

Alec persuaded Mrs PF at last to tackle clearing out her late husband's personal effects, and together they found his wartime diary, documenting his travels across the continent for the Special Scouts. Mrs PF had hoped it would reveal evidence exonerating him - until she came across a sentence along the lines of "we're clearing out these j__s at last". Alec pretended shock that she now plans to destroy the diary. He said innocently "I do hope you won't be prosecuted for withholding evidence from an inquiry".

I get the feeling Alec's going to get some more mileage out of this. In the light of Mrs PF's recent lectures to her friend about dishonesty, he'll innocently enquire - "I wonder what your friend would think about the diary-shredding if she knew".

Sunday, September 9


Glasgow Seb has borrowed a couple of dogs for the weekend, to add to his own two. He sent these photos.

Albert hasn't persuaded the cellmate he needs a dog again. Her reasoning is she wants to keep her new living room carpet hair-free.

Seb seems to have solved the problem by moving the carpet outdoors.


The people who don't know what that means, are the very people who need to know. And vice versa. It all balances up.

Most people don't believe in reading user manuals. When they get into difficulties, they curse and fume before giving up.

I not only use manuals, I read them BEFORE using the product. Sometimes before even BUYING the product.

For example. Thanks to someone who lives with Albert, we need to get a new TV. As the only techno-competent inhabitant, I've been comparing features on consumer websites. And for more precise information I've downloaded several manuals for competing brands.

But I've had to take deferred gratification to new extremes, even for me. The cellmate has commissioned a piece of built-in furniture to house books and equipment, with a big space for a TV. But once the furniture has been installed, it'll be too late to wire up the TV behind it. So I've got the job of visualizing the length and variety of cables, buying them and bundling them, so the furniture guys can insert them now. All before we even know what kind of TV we'll have.

It's good to remember that these are only first world problems. How fortunate I am really.

Tuesday, September 4


Amazing number of people around me getting cancer! Albert was wise to get in at an early age, and get it over with. He's going to live forever now.

Saw a fascinating documentary about the Ukrainian boxing brothers. One of them's even going to run for president. Good luck to him, though I don't think he's enough of a bastard to succeed there.

I had to go to a luncheon for the deifheids last weekend. I took Hotters' advice and used real beer as an anaesthetic. And I had the foresight to arrange to lay concrete in the afternoon, so I couldn't stick around for the conversation.

Saturday, September 1

off air

Since I got back, for various reasons I've had neither the time nor the will to blog, but I'm still reading other folks' blogs when I can.

Things have been challenging here, and I have become uncentred on occasion. On the plus side, I'm developing a great capacity to meet other people's incompetence or hostility with amused detachment.

I hope youse are well. I will get back on top of the blog eventually. I've got some most unusual stories to tell.

Saturday, August 18

what I have learned

The trip's over. Time to consider some of the things I've learned.

For one thing, I now understand why a couple of guys I know prefer solo travel - you get to do exactly what you want. (Mind you, with a travelling cellmate you sometimes discover other things you would never have thought of.)

When walking in a strange place, the GPS in your smartphone is a big help. You see yourself as a moving blue dot on the map.

I've discovered at least one way that I'm turning into my old dear. When she travelled, she couldn't care about sightseeing - she was happiest just hanging out in a hotel. She used to get teased about it, but now I'm going the same way. It doesn't have to be a luxury hotel (although that's nice when you can get it). It's just great to have no chores to do. Nothing at all to do.

Not having responsibilities is a wonderful thing. No job, housework, gardening, phone calls, bills. You get time to let your life empty, and time to select what to fill it with.

But everything balances up, and when you get home at the end of a holiday, suddenly life is filled to overflowing - first you rediscover cooking for yourself, then suddenly there's cleaning and repairs and the garden and the job. And all the wee chores you've been putting off for years stand out clearer than before. Dreadful!

I have also been reminded that you can't afford to trust anyone whose services you're paying for. A travel agent won't necessarily tell you which visas you need. An unknown house painter won't necessarily do the job properly (Albert would put it in stronger language).

Another thing I've realised is that there's no point in fighting it any more - my name is Albert and I'm a tea-oholic. Green, brown, black, red, twigs, in fact anything from the camellia sinensis plant. I got hooked when I was a kid.

Britain has the best black tea of anywhere, and Bavaria has the worst. In Scotland last month I grew sick of the pension fund nagging me on the phone to get her some draw-string tea bags. The hunt around supermarkets became a drudgery, and although I bought several boxes for her, I forgot to get any tea for myself! Doing something under protest, resentfully, is never productive.

And I learned the simple formula - around 4pm it's best to stop tea and flip the switch to Erdinger.

Thursday, August 16

cost of living, here and there

CHEAP. When I arrived in the country, I changed enough money to live for a couple of days where I come from. Well it's been a week, and I've still got all these notes to spend, but there's nothing I need. Even several massages a day won't get rid of much. If I can't make more of an effort, I could always make a beggar's day.

EXPENSIVE. Including lost wages, this trip has cost me NSCal$ 20000. Still, that's less than the cellmate has blown meantime on our redecorations. Which is the worse bargain?

Tuesday, August 14

therapeutic matters

Breakfast here is from 6 to 10.30. I had two breakfasts yesterday but ate much less than in one. You stick to fruit and juice for the first one, so as to leave room for number 2. But on returning at 10 you find your appetite's disappeared, and the room's so full of (very nice) Asian folk chattering, that it's like being in a flock of starlings. Thank goodness for my airtight headphones.

So today I had just a single (2-hour) breakfast. Picture a cavernous breakfast room, almost empty. A lesbian couple with screaming baby chooses the table right beside Albert. What's that about? Just curious.

Later, I went exploring in hot sun, and wandered into hundreds of dirty roadside stalls selling knives, Valium and Viagra. Not sure why tourists would want knives. The Valium is maybe against the jitters when you come down after an allnighter, and I gather the Viagra is to recharge you as soon as possible for the next whore. A nice business model - fleece people for sex, then sell them drugs that let you fleece them again sooner than they really want.

It was my gym night again tonight - I have been using a great abs machine, and learning how to better use a cross trainer. I wonder what machines they have back in New South Caledonia.

Today's example of balancing up: in Scotland, people with a free bus pass go on the buses in winter for a free heat. Here, I keep being driven onto yet another cheap train for the aircon. Or into a chilly shopping mall.

Monday, August 13

bobby goes to colditz

(written while still in captivity)

On my last night at pension HQ, I've just broken the electric motor on the security shutter of my window. There'll be hell to pay in the morning when the eagle eyed one notices. It couldn't just be a random breakdown of course - it has to be my fault for pushing the switch in a non-Bavarian fashion.

I've been here for a week now, on dirty protest as usual to avoid the whole drying-the-shower argument. After a humid sweaty day I'm gasping for a shower, but I daren't let her catch me in the act or the fuss will start up again. She's taken out her hearing aid and gone to bed, but I'm waiting for the sound of snoring before I venture out to the bathroom.

It's like Bobby Sands in an episode of Colditz. With a little luck, I'll be safely on the train tomorrow before she discovers the busted shutter and wet shower.

Sunday, August 12

disaster adjustment and recovery

One thing about being an old person is you take longer to adjust to sudden changes, and so my first day in Thailand was a bit of a daze, half-wondering how I got here and what I wanted to do here for a week. Naturally one thing I'll need to do is have a massage, after some market research to avoid the obvious pitfalls. I was amused on the phone last night when the pension fund warned me against getting AIDS.

Yesterday I set off to explore, and got only as far as two shopping centers, where I had several meals. Great food but they believe in eating small portions and often, possibly because of the heat. I also bought dinner provisions for the kitchen. Swam in the full size outdoor pool which is like a jungle scene from Apocalypse Now. Hoping to get further afield today.

Solo tourism has a lot going for it, you can do whatever you feel like - no need to negotiate, ever!

I have two great books about the country, not travel guides but rather contemplations on the culture, by Brits who moved here. Reading them gives much more depth and fun to the process of walking around. For instance, one reason why Bangkokians or perhaps Bangcockers are so impressively well organized, and the street stalls are so portable yet compactly designed - in the days of old Siam they lived, traded, and dined from little boats, where space was at a premium and they developed stowage into an art.

Similarly, the hairs-breadth weaving of motor cyclists can be traced back to boating skills. It seems that Thai traffic and rivers both obey the laws of fluid dynamics.

I caught my first glimpse of the olympics on TV yesterday, I think someone was running faster than everyone else.

Okay, time to get up for breakfast now at 6. I might manage a second breakfast at 10 using the cellmate's voucher.

PS - a motorbike taxi driver taking some time out:

Wednesday, August 8


One of the many benefits of leaving Piddledorf for good yesterday, is looking forward to normal toilets - the one at pension fund HQ has an inspection ledge that makes you wish for stilts and a gas mask.

Getting her car out of the garage to drive me to the station, the pension fund made her usual sequence of forward and reverse manoevres, ending up in the same place each time. Eventually, she seemed to come to a decision, and rammed decisively backwards into the gate post, smashing her lights. My smugness lasted until my own idiotic disaster, a few hours later.

On the train to the airport for the flight to Shanghai, I emailed Rodders about his Chinese trip. He replied in minutes, and I discovered that I need an entry visa for China, which I would have applied for long ago, had I known. The travel agent had only ever told me to get a USA visa (unnecessary because I entered via land).

Still on the train, my Internet allowance with the phone company ran out just after Rodders' email, so googling for solutions became impossible! Eventually I got the cellmate's discarded SIM card to work. The Chinese consul here was already closed for the day, and anyway they have a 4-business-day delay in processing applications. Arrival in China without a visa is treated as a crime, so my Chinese holiday would have been in a cell pending deportation. Well if they want to make it so hard for people to visit, eff them!

In a long, noisy and expensive phone call from a cafe, I notified the airline, but the (very bavarian) staff said they cannot amend my booking, that only the travel agent (fast asleep in another time zone) could do it.

I ended up staying up all night (in a hotel so awful I wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway) finding a solution. Around 4 am, just as I dropped off to sleep, a call came in from the travel agent, all chirpy "hey, you're off to Bangkok".

I lost my hotel deposit in Shanghai, but the hotels in Bangkok are cheaper. On the other hand there's the expense of insect repellent. It all balances up.

There were a couple of other disasters yesterday, but now things are looking up - in the past hour I found a 5 euro note on the ground, and gate-crashed the first class lounge for a 3 hour pig out on fine food and endless weissbier on tap. I'm just about full now and there's still cream cakes and organic Darjeeling to be tried. Then at last I'll get some sleep on the plane.

Monday, August 6

good deed

On the way to the cemetery before breakfast, I saw this cute creature on the cycle path, and moved it to safety before a tyre could squash it.

I've just been to a concert in the middle of nowhere, by Norma Winstone MBE, the British grande dame of modern jazz. A little anodyne at the start, it swung in the last hour, and there were several encores. I used to hear her on Radio 3 last century.

Now waiting for the last train back to pension fund HQ (in receivership). Tomorrow I'm going to make a break for it.

On the way to the uncle's cemetery before breakfast, I saw this cute creature on the cycle path, and moved it to safety before a tyre could squash it.

Sunday, August 5

windmills of my mind (what's left of it)

While setting up this shot, I fell head first into a ditch full of nettles, losing the phone in the process. Rummaging among the nettles to find the phone, I thought: is this any way to live?

Thursday, August 2

flag waving

On Friday, Olympic opening day, I witnessed several patriotic displays. First there was the Red Arrows flying overhead as we walked back from Arthur's Seat. Then there was this ornamental window-dressing in a beauty salon in Stockbridge (ahem). Amazing what you can do with nail varnish and cosmetics.

Tuesday, July 31

strip scrabble sauna stockade satori

Slurping a tall glass of 0% Schneider Weisse, trouserless at an outdoor table. Followed by strong assam tea and a big slice of cream cake. A whole day to myself in the sauna stockade.

Don't call me antisocial - fast Internet on the blogPhone delivers incoming scrabble moves from South Caledonia. Clients and cellmates.

Can it get any better than this? Not within the realms of decency.

Saturday, July 28

help for jet setters

Thanks to a delayed take off from Edinburgh I missed my connection and am stranded in Dusseldorf airport for 4 hours. As a result I won't get to the pension fund till midnight.

Though I feigned outrage at the transfer desk in order to get a free meal voucher out of them, I don't really mind hanging about. In a sense, all life is just waiting around for death and it doesn't really matter where you wait, so long as you're comfortable and can get online.

If you're a smoker, being trapped in a smokeless zone is a trial, but you can still enjoy an e-fag.

borderline behaviour

On Thursday I had a dramatic and expensive day in the borderlands, involving a graveyard, sexual abuse and the military. And a speeding fine. It was like an episode of Taggart, or maybe more Dr Findlay.

The story continued the following day when I met up in Stockbridge with the delightful sister in law of the long-dead ex, who was able to offer corroborating evidence as we caught up on the last 35 years.

I walked all day yesterday, a.m. with Glasgow Seb, and p.m. alone (bumped into the DB in waitrose), on a near-empty stomach. Then in the evening I had a room picnic after moving into the next B&B:

Two packets of Waitrose sandwiches reduced from £2.40 to 69p:
• Prawn cocktail
• Camembert with grapes and red currant chutney.
Three types of Olive.
A bucket of Strawberries, plus vanilla yoghurt.

Then I dozed off and missed the whole Olympic ceremony. Did you see it?

I've just woken up with my first ever Erdinger hangover, partly just dehydration from all yesterday's exercise.

Tuesday, July 24

balanced diet

I left the Falkirk Wheel after a fun afternoon with Vinnie's Moll (as well as the engineering and architectural marvel there was a display of tame eagles, flying and diving, with a running commentary on what they were doing and why). I was itching to get to the next hotel and get checked in.

I got to Glasgow and, after taking ages to find the B&B, there was no parking at all (a blessing really as it's in a slightly seedy area where you wouldn't want to leave a car). I ended up parking in a supermarket car park and ferrying my gear to the room by hand in dribs and drabs. Irritating.

The B&B itself is pleasant, but some of the residents look rough as guts. Feeling slightly out of my depth. Thank goodness for the happy pills and herbal sleeping pills.

Next day - First night in new hotel wasn't as bad as all that. Sure, each wave of returning drunks was clattery, but soon settled down. Staying in lots of different places is making me a bit more tolerant of other people.

Yesterday's menu courtesy of the B&B, and meals at two old friend's places was scrambled egg breakfast, omelette lunch, quiche for dinner.

Monday, July 23

east-west bed and breakfast

Staying in B and Bs means I don't have to feel I'm imposing on kind friends who say "do come and stay" but then understandably add so many ifs and buts that it's more trouble than it's worth.

(1) - Check-out process at the Auld Reekie B and B. The manager was ever so polite to start with, in an Edinburgh middle class way. Later he became Fawltyesque:

Him: when you come back next week, what time will you be checking in?

Me: I'm not sure yet.

Him: well if it's nice weather I don't want to be stuck behind reception waiting for you.

Me: okay, I'll text you an exact time on the day before I arrive

Him: well, I prefer not to get business calls on my mobile.

Me: okay, I've got your email address so I'll email you.

Him: well if you don't mind it's more convenient if you ring our landline and leave a message.

(2) - The Glasgow B and B check in process:

Me: Booking for McClochendichter. I've asked for a quiet room at the back.

Him: Aye, right, sign this, here's yur key.

Sunday, July 22

nerd's packing list

"Dear guests, before checking out please remember to pack all the belongings that you came with"

One pair of trousers.

One pair of shoes.

Fifteen pairs of underpants.

Two months of bliss pills and life support pills.

One portable wifi router and power supply, one old and disposable 7-inch Linux laptop; iPod, iPhone, several chargers and charging cables; LAN cable; USB cables; mains cables; SIM cards and memory cards; two RCA to stereo mini-jack cables with matching gender changers.

Wire stripper and chopsticks - the complete kit for sticking bare wires into wall sockets in foreign countries.

Thursday, July 19

balancing up over time

Many years ago I worked as a corporate trainer, mostly around Britain and occasionally in Bavaria. They would put me up in nice hotels but I was always too busy to enjoy them.

Now here I am in Berlin, in a hotel where I can tumble out of bed and into the sauna/pool before breakfast. As I saunter through the corridors wearing nothing but a hotel bathing gown, I see suited execs carrying briefcases, all in a hurry to be somewhere.

What a fortunate creature I have become!

PS the cellmate made us a great dinner in her hotel. We've seen a lot of daytime stuff together, none of which I've posted as Albert prefers me to focus in the banal.

Tuesday, July 17

bunkered in berlin

Albert and the cellmate's hotel reunion wasn't without hiccup (or other bodily sound). Snoring on one side of the bed. Flatulent jetlag on the other. Bad feeling next morning, and now they're in different hotels (Albert doesn't know the address of the second hotel). You'd think that in all these years they'd have worked out how to arrange these things, but some people never learn.

Worse still, Albert's room, booked months earlier as an expedia 40%-off flash deal, turned out to be a wifi dead zone, and complaints to reception resulted in an offer of an upgrade to another room, but for a fee. Albert rightly refused, and they provided a wifi booster gadget instead. But you can't boost a 0% signal, so there was still no internet in the room.

Too exhausted to be assertive without risking a total tantrum, Albert set up camp in the lobby and happily used the wifi signal there. As expected, the staff were mortified by his scruffy presence among the suited five star clientele, and hurriedly offered him a free upgrade to a better room.

In a way, it was only fair that both Albert and the cellmate had to shift rooms, and now neither of them knows where the other one is. It all balances up.

PS - Just to show what Blogger looks like when you're in Bavaria:

Monday, July 16

trip highlights so far

Meeting my rellies.

Feeling disengaged with my digital devices, except for:

Listening on iPod to 40 year old album by Glasgow band Cado Belle. Imagine Average White Band with a female singer.

German food and drink and beds and language.

Staring into space.

That's about all.

Saturday, July 14

inside the empire

Quite honestly, the best part of my NY visit has been watching Seinfeld every night in bed, now that I recognize many of the locations/scenarios.

Though New Yorkers can be a bit abrasive, they're a breeze compared with the imperial border guards waiting for Albert when he entered the country by car. Clerks in flak jackets administered the Abu Graib treatment (a homeopathic dose). Unnecessary bastardry. If that's how they treat legitimate visitors, you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of their heroics in afghanistan.

At the start of the flight to NY, I enjoyed watching the pantomime of Americans boarding and getting seated. Slow-motion chaos, thanks to the bulky passengers and their massive "carry on" luggage. They have some kind of constitutional right to take all their baggage in the cabin with them, and the resulting jam in the aisle was almost Marx Brothers.

Checked in almost 4 hours early for the flight out of JFK, so as to make a proper dent in the free lounge food and drink. They have real cooked vegetables! The last ones I had were in NSC.

Friday, July 13

talking to strangers

We had a long wait for niece and nephew in the arrivals hall. My bro had been told to wear a hat so that niece could pick him out of the waiting crowd. He chose to wear a yellow plastic sou'wester. During the long wait for their flight, I got talking to a mother meeting her daughter off the same plane. I heard about her daughter, and I told her all about my niece and nephew. She was very chatty, until I said "and the man over there in the yellow hat is their father", then she clammed up.

In the shuttle bus I talked with a corporate trainer in charge of training Kmart employees. One of those salesy people always convinced their current company is the best thing since sliced bread. She must have been so impressed when I said: "that's a coincidence - apart from my shoes everything I'm wearing is from Kmart!" I gave her permission to use that as a testimonial.

Thursday, July 12

mind in neutral (last week)

A brain disengaged from New South Caledonia is a great thing. Whenever I feel like a change from staring at the hotel room wall, I stare at the TV instead, without taking much in. I could blame the lame American programs, but I think the fault is in the tired brain. Meanwhile the cellmate's packing in the London sights. If I was a normal person I suppose I would be phoning her, but I know what her voice sounds like, and I don't think she needs to be updated on my movements.

Haven't been desperate enough to call the pension fund yet, but enjoyed my first talk ever with Albert's cousin Molly on Skype last night, and I'll meet her and some other cousins at the weekend. If my brain ever clears enough to connect my various devices to wifi simultaneously I'll try adding some more photos to Albert's family blog, as my contribution to the festivities - there's expected to be 24 descendants from 3 generations, coincidentally on Canadian independence day. Cap'n Kev reckons I should be stressing at the thought of being amongst all those strangers who know each other, but I can't be bothered yet. For now I'm thinking guest-of-honour rather than odd-one-out.

I'm managing to take my turns at scrabble without losing too badly. Mind you, I still managed to send three personal scrabble messages intended for the cellmate, to one of my clients, by mistake.

what a family!

Part of my IT work for Albert involves posting a brief history of his old man's family, but it's hard to find enough information. I need the first name of Albert's grandfather, but nobody seems to know. What a family!

(But everything balances up, and his mother's side of the family is the opposite - they can tell you all about the great great grandparents, whether you want to know or not.)

Albert's paternal uncles all migrated to Canada before he was born, and none of them had much contact with each other or with Albert's old man in Scotland, except for Xmas card platitudes. Whatever happened in that family, the ambivalence is still going on.

Monday, July 9

murray v federer

It was hard to think straight in the 38 degree heat yesterday, and I allowed my last full day here to be filled with:

- waiting for Albert's brother's train at Grand Central, where there's no Arrivals board, so I had to cover every platform at once. He had missed his train anyway.

- waiting with the brother and nephew at their hotel, until their room was ready to check in.

- phoning the pension fund from their room

- overeating a big lunch with them

- visiting WTC with the brother - some half-finished skyscrapers and a walled-off monument construction.

- grabbing a cup of tea with the brother (in a noisy pub so he could have beer). He advised me, if I feel like pushing the pension fund down the stairs next week, to tie its laces together first. No point in a half-finished job.

Still, at least I saw Grand Central, and took in Chrysler building and UN on the walk to the hotel.

Appalling hotel-room analog reception here - hard to see the ball. And the US commentator just described Murray as "an Englishman playing for queen and country".

Albert's brother, watching in his hotel across town, has promised "IF MURRAY WINS... we're goin up 5th Av / central park to the swankiest restaurant for a big celeb".

Help me Roger!

Thursday, July 5


The medicalisation of ordinary life continues, with the discovery of a new ailment that afflicts nearly 10% of all children! It's called intermittent explosive disorder. Don't believe the rumors that it used to be called temper tantrums.

Last day in Canada. It was lovely to catch up with Albert's brother and his great, talented kids. It was only a brief meeting, but I find a little random chaos goes a long way.

Meeting all my cousins, many for the first time, has been glorious. They feel like the sisters and elder brothers I never had. They're not loaded but they know how to have fun. And there's a great dog.

Tomorrow I have to move on, to NYC, where I've never been. Suggestions welcome.

PS I've been a bit busy to read other blogs but will catch up in due course.

Sunday, July 1

hotel party people

Last night, the people from the rooms down the hall partied till dawn. Tonight they seem to have ended their revels early. Maybe they're planning an early start tomorrow morning, but even if they're not, they can rest assured they'll be getting an early morning wake up call from Albert.

PS - after wondering if I had perhaps imagined the airbag on the plane, I found some details here:

Friday, June 29


I'm writing this in the plane.

You come adrift from the support system of home/job/cellmate, and tumble happily into the new support system of the airline, with its food, films and waves of booze. You're installed in your own wee adjustable pod/bed, fussed over by cabin crew. For some reason, each seat has an airbag. In a plane? WTF!

Letting go, there's an endorphin rush and feelings of gratitude, benevolence. Of course, from the airline's point of view it's just business. Like a prostitute, they're faking it. But that's beside the point. My gratitude is emotional, not rational, and it's toward the universe, not a business.

If it's toward any individuals, it's probably to the pension plan, who despite being a massive pain will probably bung me part or all of the airfare; and to the cellmate, who despite our many faults has stuck with the unconventional relationship that is our emotional home base. Our elastic ties allow her to head west to Europe, stopping in Asia to work. Meanwhile I head east to meet her, but via North America. When we come together next month, we'll slot into our flawed approximation of teamwork. Then after a week in Bavaria, we split again - she back home, and I to the old country.

I know this trip is an indulgence, an environmental sin, and a waste of money, but I have no other vices and I deserve one.

I'm blootered, by my standards at least. I may have to delete this in the morning, but for now I'll catch up on old episodes of Big Bang Theory until I fall into a drunken sleep.

Well everything has to balance up, and after a short nap you wake to a dose of reality. The crew have turned off the lights and are nattering behind a curtain. Initially they were all smiles and "would you like some more champagne?", now it's "sorry, we've run out of potato chips". The booze has worn off, everything smells of toilet, and you realize you're in a flying latrine. The movies are old and awful - the least boring one on offer is The Sound Of Music!

And the flight attendants on this airline are not exactly Singapore standard. Some are nearly as old as Albert, obviously chosen for their work ethic rather than physical grace, which is kind of as it should be I suppose.

Thursday, June 28

farm zoo

Ever the nomad, Cap'n Kev is minding a friend's farm/zoo, somewhere in Australia. The owner of the place has made it a sort of half-Noah's ark, with one of each species.

Kev sent this picture for publication.

If you look closely you can work out what the white thing is.

Wednesday, June 27

transit between worlds

Started the big trip to the old world, by getting up at 3 am, then took the first bus of the day (breaking in my pensioners pass) all the way to the airport. Even though I use that bus often, I found it hard to recognize the scenery en route. Either because of the ungodly hour, or I've had a minor stroke.

BTW there was a time when it seemed the black spot would do for me, even though it doesn't run in my family. Surviving that may have allowed me to live long enough to meet a stroke head on (which does run in the family). It all balances up over time.

Anyway, I enjoyed staring into space on the bus. And the feeling of lightness. Leaving everything behind. I reckon a good death would feel a bit similar, especially if you managed to die with everything still in working order.

Free breakfast here in the frequent flyer lounge includes all the booze you can drink. What a shame I can't use it, nor send it to bloggy chums who'd know what to do with it.

In the paper they're on about Scotland's coming independence. Then, for the benefit of their NSC readers, they list three great Scots: Walllace, Rob Roy, and Sean Connery.

popular rock music

3rd anniversary of Michael Jackson's death. I watched the film of his last rehearsals. Better than an actual concert, it showed him as a musical director and choreographer. I had always thought of him as just a competent singer of his own songs. Sure, he was wacko, but so probably was Mozart.

I made the mistake of watching in bed, and then the beat kept me awake. The songs are fairly slight if you listen critically, and if anyone else covered them, they'd sound empty.

Somebody, perhaps Guns n Roses, covered Sympathy For The Devil, showing up the song's weakness.

The granny groupie at work told me the Stones are definitely retiring next year.

Sunday, June 24

and still they drop like flies

My former office mate, who took umbrage last year and refused to share a room any more, has just been diagnosed with cancer. We made it up a few months ago, and I hope to visit her on my return from Europe. Makes me think of poor Dazzle who was diagnosed just after I set off on my world tour in 1989, and by the time I got back he was dead.

The office mate could have retired a few years back, but she insisted on keeping working.

I'm ready to go back to part-time work, but sadly I've committed to working full time till Christmas. Roll on 2013.

Thursday, June 21

travelling together, albert-style

I only know Albert's side of the story, so I can't offer a balanced view. Albert says the reason he and the cellmate can never fly anywhere on the same plane or even the same day, is because of their divergent strategies for planning and packing.

For the cellmate, the best way to spend the weeks before travel is:

(1) Go out every night with a different friend. By the time you get on the plane, you feel exhausted but completely connected to everyone in your life. Actually, written down like that it looks quite sensible really! A downside is that you end up doing your packing at the last minute, and forget half of what you need.

(2) Decide shortly before the trip that you need to redecorate and refurnish the whole house. Call in a designer, and make a load of impulsive and expensive decisions at a time when you're both already overstressed at work and at home.

Albert himself prefers the normal travel preparation strategies:

(1) Start packing a month beforehand.

(2) Cut off from other people, spend the last few weeks working on lists and elaborate systems. By the time you get on the plane, you feel completely alone and completely in control of everything. Actually, written down like that it doesn't look quite normal after all.

Monday, June 11


Three weeks after my shoes and walking poles left the Bavarian warehouse, they still hadn't arrived here. And nobody could tell me where they were. Disappeared off the system.

I initiated a formal search by the carrier, and the very the next morning the parcel arrived at my door. I thought: aha! I know what's happened! It must have been sitting on the quayside, while the New Caledonian dockers got on with more pressing matters - poker, their own drug shipments, and preparing strike plans. They only get off their backsides after someone actually complains. Typical!

But then I looked at my address on the parcel - instead of New South Caledonia, it said Tasmania. Those efficient Bavarians had managed to detour my shipment via Australia! What's the world coming to, when you can't even rely on stereotypes?