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: