Saint Andéol, 30th June

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30th June 1999, Morningish, Weds. St. Andeol, kitchen. Hyperactively cloudy.

Yesterday was fun. We left at about 12, walked about 1km, got a lift all the way to Monestier. We sat in the park for an hour, playing on the swings, waiting for the bank to open, then went and had some Heineken until the shops opened.

We bought cereal, milk, biscuits, Gran Marnier, red wine and Kronenbourg, and pasta. We had lunch in the park (couscous again, but this time with raisins!) and after shopping started (what we thought would be) the arduous trek home. After passing our 'lucky corner', we succeeded in getting a lift off a serious candidate for 'Miss France' (1999, 2000 and the foreseeable future) who was about our age, a psychology student in Grenoble and told us, as we swung around the tenuous mountain bends, that she had just passed her driving test. Call me a transparent opportunist, but I was considerably more enthusiastic in my attempts at French conversation on the way up with her than I had been with the kind gentleman who gave us a lift into Monestier that morning.

She said she was on her way to meet a friend, so I didn't ask her in for a cup of tea or anything, despite the fact that I wanted to. Gemma burst out laughing at me as soon as the car disappeared around the next corner. Humph.
Anyway, Gemma came up with a chesnut:

"Where charm and good looks fail, a cup of tea and some cookies won't," or something to that effect. I’ll bear that in mind when I get to Warwick in October!

Hmmm.

I Didn't Know I Was Here

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So I'm not taking my Mum to Greece after all. A few issues and rearrangement of holiday times and voíla! We have an alternate summer plan, one which, unfortunately, does not entail me gaining a tan which beats Krissa's but is still hanging in there for me not to have exceeded my holiday allocation by the time I bugger off to the States.

Which is a good thing.

Honest.

In other news, Polish sausage is still the flavour of the month, my webmail is still porked, Victoria the Venus Flytrap seems not at all well, Khalil and I have been discussing the relative merits of becoming drug smugglers, Krissa and I have been drawing each other stuff, Dave has been so distracted by some floozy that his blog has decided to go blank in protest, and the next two weeks will go far too slowly.

Saint Andéol, 29th June

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29th June 1999. 0654hrs, Tuesday. St. Andeol, kitchen. Just past dawn.

‘The rising of the sun, and the running of the deer...’
It might be a Christmas hymn, but it sums up my day so far.
The rising of the sun was somewhat muted by the untimely arrival of some cloud, but I still feel good to have seen it. I spotted a reddish animal sprinting down one of the fields on the other side of the village – I took it for a fox, until my sense of perspective (and of location) kicked in and I realised it was a deer. It was too far away to have got anything but a photo of some trees, a field and a reddish-brown smudge or dot, but it didn’t matter- it was still a sight poetic enough to evoke a sharp intake of breath and a glow inside. How many people wake up and see that in the morning?


0710-The sun has outpaced the clouds for now, so I’ve taken up residence on the balcony with my (‘if I’m going to get up at this time where’s the coffee?’ screams my metabolism) coffee and journal.
One of the things about this trip so far is that it hasn’t involved enough early mornings. To me, early mornings and travel go together, an effect of those gut-wrenchingly exciting mornings before I was ten years old, when the family would pack our suitcases in the car and head for Gatwick, bound for somewhere in the Mediterranean – Mallorca, Ibiza or Crete. It seems a shame to have lost that gut-wrench, the extreme excitement that comes with an unfettered imagination and untainted enthusiasm. Being here now, I’m starting to get to feel it again, if only slightly; the effect of building up anticipation for Italy over this two weeks’ break.
‘Italy’ is laden with meaning.
Rome, The Romans, Pisa, Leonardo da Vinci, the renaissance, Sicily and Mount Etna, Pompeii, a football mad population, snazzy dressers, spaghetti bolognese (had to come in somewhere, I suppose), the Punic Wars (Romans again), lire, Latin, too much detail on the Mezzogiorno region from oh-so-many GCSE geography lessons, and crazy drivers in tiny cars. And that’s not all.
Greece is packed with so many associations that it’s hard to describe. I’ve always been interested in Greek mythology, I covered Crete’s ruined palace at Knossos on the theme ‘Labyrinth’ for my GCSE art exam, and the idea of doing a bit of island hopping in the Aegean grabs my sense of adventure by the lapels with both hands and screams, “COME ON THEN, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!” in it’s face. To put it one way...
We’re bound to have three or four early mornings yet- the overnight ferries from Brindisi in the south of Italy to Patras on the north western face of the Greek coast, and from Athens to Crete, will see to that, but there’s still something anticipatory about a really early morning that defies definition.
0850 – We’re going to Monestier de Clermont again today, to shop for our last few days here, to buy a present for the McCarthy’s but mostly to have a drink at the pub. A rather ominously grey looking cloud has just edged its way over the face of the sun above where I’m sitting in the garden, but I think I can see blue sky behind it, so hopefully it’ll just pass over.
One of my chief worries about coming away was that Gemma and I wouldn’t get on. Thankfully, we’re over six weeks into the trip and apart from one or two occasions when we’ve both been under stress ( possibility of a missed connection, sort of thing), and we’ve both got a bit snappy, it’s been great fun. One thing that does rankle is her indifference and/or lack of urgency. When we discuss what we want to do, (in a country, for the day...) Gemma’s contribution is always ‘I’m not bothered’ or ‘Whatever’. Fine by me – we do what I want to do, but that does make me feel a bit dictatorial and responsible for whatever happens. I came away to do stuff, see sights and meet people. When we only get around to doing one thing in a day because we slept in until 11, or because we didn’t plan what we wanted to do (usually me not wanting to enforce anything) so we end up mythering, it frustrates me. Although if I’m honest, I do like being able to sleep until 11! I wish she’d be a bit more passionate about the fact we’re travelling, we should be seizing each day and wringing the experiences out of every one them. Doing this would probably mean sleeping for about five hours a day though. When we set off from here on Thursday or Friday, we’ll be well rested and ready to paint Grenoble red, or whatever colour they have available and is relatively cheap...
So come dance the silence down through the morning...
The ling.

Spontaneity Rocks

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So it's a run of the mill Tuesday morning.

*yawn*

My Mum was talking to me yesterday about how she doesn't think she's going to be able to have a holiday this year (again), because of her illness and Dad's work commitments. Jokingly, as she does, she asked me if I wanted to go to Greece. I joked that I could call into work one morning and pretend I'd gotten there after a night at the pub, with no recollections. We laughed, and moved on.

I was chatting to Krissa last night and mentioned it.
"You should," she said.
Have I mentioned that I love this woman?

Now I've been saving hard for the move to the US. Once there, things with family will be different. Not less in touch, because this here internet thing works wonders, but more...distant. So I thought...yeah, hell.
Why not?

So I'm sorting it out, and this time next week, I could be nursing an ouzo on the patio of a seafront café while my Mum sunbathes by the sea, absorbing five times more solar radiation than a normal human being should be able to.

Because.

Let It Change

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I'm not being derogatory, but Mother Mary may have been wrong. Who knows?The Beatles may have misheard. Knowing the Fab Four, as Mary walked or floated in, music was playing, it was smoky, the boys were having a laugh...she could have been forced to raise her voice over the hubbub and who knows what chinese whispers we've had sung to us.

Poor Mary. It' had been all right for the angels so far. It's one thing to deliver pearls of beauteous divine wisdom to prophets in the desert or to the chap at the head of a procession of nomadic families, or to whisper them in a sleeping ear in the cricket-riven silence of a Cairo night. After being added to the divine wisdom-delivering-posse, she probably wasn't expecting John, Paul, George and Ringo. Poor lass.

So I feel the lady is due some leeway.

'Let it be' is the great pacifier. It is the maxim which leads us to accept that the world is full of difficulty and strife, that nothing is perfect, and that things will come to pass which we cannot control. It helps us to accept these things, and, whilst all this trouble and imperfection and evil is going on, it brings a level of personal peace.

I think it is a cop out. The easy route.
The acceptance of change is wrapped up in 'Let it be', but not the confronting of that which should change, not the objection to evil, not the understanding that the only constant is change and that only in controlling it or directing it or having the courage and awareness of all that change brings in every spinning growing day of this world can we improve things...that isn't there for me.

'Let it change' can be prescriptive, or it can be accepting. If you can look at everything in your world, in your life, in your power, and say, fully and honestly, 'Let it change,' then you accept everything, you acknowledge the driving force of time, but in that you can also come to understand what control you have over what changes happen, and how.

Only the syllable is slightly too long for the rhythm section and it doesn't rhyme with, 'Mother Mary came to me.'

Saint Andéol, 27th June

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27th June, '99. Sunday 1930hrs. St. Andeol, kitchen. Stormy.
The day before yesterday, Friday (get brain in gear, Stuart) I walked to Gresse-en-Vercors. Partly for the walk, partly for supplies. We had begun to run low in the essentials – bread, milk, cereal and BISCUITS.
2025hrs. Less than an hour after I started writing this entry, and our valley is totally transformed. Wraith-like tortured clouds scud up the valley and the dolomites are lost to view. Rain thunders down and our familiar surroundings are reduced to grey shadows of their former selves. The fierce winds lash the rain onto the roof, mimicking the thunder. We are in the heart of the storm. I’m counting the houses that are struck by lightning – two, three...
Gemma is out in it, under the eaves of the house. I was with her, but decided to go out from under the roof into the garden to look around, (make that four houses) got wet and came in. Gemma has just followed suit! Tea’s up, radio’s on, and the kitchen is toasty warm. I’ve changed out of my jeans, and my khaki trousers remind my of the pub in Marrakech – they’re stained with red wine where Madalin knocked the table. They also have a square rip in the crotch, sewn roughly up. I think I’m going to have a scar from the manhole drop incident. Not exactly one I can get out for the family to coo at, though. I’m not entirely sure I’m ever going to see it, considering where it is...

Anyway, I was writing about walking to Gresse-en-Vercors. It’s nearer than Monestier de Clermont, at about ten and a half kilometres, compared with Monestier’s 12½km. Friday was very hot in the sun. I set out at around 12ish, and after following a road which existed solely for house access, rather than the more sensible option of the road out of the village, I found myself following a track which was supposed to be the piste, or path for Gresse-en-Vercors, but wildly varying in the directions it chose to take. After about quarter of an hour’s beating through heavy brush, trees, brambles and scree, all on dangerously steep slopes, I cut my losses and headed for the road, emerging onto it about two minutes’ walk from the house. I arrived at about two fifteen, to be confronted by, as it is in most French villages and small towns, a hugely prominent graveyard. Past that, and Gresse was a lovely little town. I think a good indicator of the size of a town or the size of the area it serves is the height, girth and ornamentation of its church tower. Even without walking through the town, it was apparent that Gresse was much larger and in better repair when the church was built. The life blood of Monestier is its road. It runs from Avignon to Grenoble, and the inhabitants may complain about the amount of heavy traffic pounding through the town, and campaign for their ‘La Grande Deviation (Vite!)’, but if the lorries take it, then it’s likely the tourists will take ‘La Grande Deviation’ as well. There are ‘gîtes’ in all the small towns, but Monestier and Gresse-en-Vercors have the only hotels in the area. Gresse doesn’t have the major road, and the difference is startling. I was in the shop (note ‘the’) for ten minutes, hopping up and down and making loud noises before the chap came out to take my money. He didn’t look too bothered, either. ‘Laissez-faire’ is French, after all.

It’s something I’m beginning to notice as we travel around. From the happy tourist facade of Alicante which deteriorated inside of a block into a building site the length of the esplanade, to the mixed blessings of tourism in a place like this area of France. There is the way the area is on its own, the way the area is portrayed and the tourists expect it to be, and the way the area is after the tourism. These are all drastically different...

Geography, it would appear, is a hard habit to break. The rain has abated, the wind ceased to be quite so forceful. There is one, completely flat layer of cloud in the valley, which is at the height where the grass dies out and the bare rock begins. It’s strange looking out of the window, and knowing that there’s more valley and cloud above this base. It’s so flat, it’s like the whole valley is underwater, and the cloud base is the surface of the water, the mountains just blurry shadows above.

I’ve finished another book; Paul Theroux’s ‘Jungle Lovers’, and started a business revolution book – one man’s De Bono-ised view of the way business have to be in the 90s. It’s quite interesting, if a tad repetitive: Crazy times call for crazy organisations. If (Rudyard Kipling here we come) I get out of Warwick with a degree of some description, if I don’t have any sponsorship obligations to fulfil, if I do, that I fulfil them, if I’m not too laden with student debt, if the opportunity exists and I’m capable (strange thought), I’d like to start a business – preferably in renewable energy, or whatever area I grow into over the run of the course. If (just to reiterate) I do, then this book will be a great help. Hmm. Bit contrived. Saint Andeol has so far proved to be a great move. It has provided a bit of stability after a hectic month, without removing us from the travelling mentality completely – we still have to speak French if we’re to be understood. As for understanding – no chance! The local accent not only changes the way the words are said, it seems almost incomprehensible to us. If only everyone were as clear as Radio ‘Energie’ (the jingles and adverts, and even their playlist has becoming annoyingly familiar!) or the Moroccans with their French! The Moroccans seemed to apply that quality of careful pronunciation that most people do to their second languages. The Moroccans thought WE sounded French – how much more of a linguistic compliment do we need?

After tonight’s dramatic storm, we plan to have another lazy (ish) day tomorrow and then go for a little shop on Tuesday, just to tide us over till Thursday, and to get a bottle of something for Philip and his above-drinking-age family.
Today I’ve read ‘Tom Peters’ Seminar’ and Gemma and I went for a walk across the village and up the seemingly little hill where the local karate club trains. From the village side, it is little. Behind the trees on the other side, it drops.
And then some.
It has a really spectacular view. It’s possible to sit on the edge and dangle you legs over (so I did) which makes you feel like you’re hovering above the landscape. There were some large insects flying around sipping nectar from the wild flowers up there. We mistook them for hummingbirds until we got a closer look at them – they were really strange.
If the weather is fine, I shall go up there tomorrow to write – a letter, or whatever.

Coming Home

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It is raining, and strong gusts of wind are teasing the tops of the trees outside the thin windows of my parents' house. It is great weather for sailing as long as you don't mind the rain, and it is the day of the Round The Island Race. Because conditions have been conducive to speed, the sails of every tint and size passed Ventnor hours ago, and the sea is salt-green and grey tipped with blown white spray.

The tree outside my old window has been brutally shortened. Fresh cut pale yellow wood stands out starkly as I look down to the garden. That tree held generations of wood pigeons who used to call in the morning and I would lie still, silent and comfortable in my bed and listen to them while the light strengthened around the curtains. I heard their hooting calls again this morning, but they have moved to another tree across the street, and the sound was muted by the wind.

My Mother is not well; she has not been for over three and a half years. Her indomitable spirit has coped through the pain of fibromyalgia and the energy-sapping frustrations of ME for all that time, and she is still so quick to laugh. Keith is exhausted from work - he is newly qualified as a teacher, and works long hours both in the classroom and assisting the organisers of the course he recently completed so ably.

So things are quiet here in this old house. It is a grey and rainy Saturday afternoon, and I am at home.

That's All Folks

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The Autoblography Summer Festival 2004 will come to an end today at approximately 3.30pm British Summer Time, marking seven full days of fun and frivolity.

If any of the participants want to get another post in, come on - quickly, quickly!

A big thank you to everyone who took part, commented, read the posts, and mistook people for me.

Whatever passes for normal service will be resumed on Monday morning. I'm off home to the Isle of Wight this weekend.

That was good, wasn't it?
We might have to have a Winter Festival too.

Training Day

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I spent the day on a training course today.

That was fun.

Allow me to introduce you to Captain Tourettes. He sat opposite me muttering swear words under his breath every 30 seconds.

Oh! And here’s his sidekick Nutjob Bobby! Bobby told me all about being in the army, being homeless for ten years and doing six years in Parkhurst for GBH, while I was trying to enjoy my lunch. I was also privy to inside information on the building site accident that buggered up his back, his sexuality, the knee injury that forced him to leave the army, and his former crack and heroin habit. And let’s not forget the graphic demonstration of the fight that got him slammed up – “So I just walked up to him right, and grabbed him like this and BOSH – nutted the fucker. Broke his nose I did. Then I really got stuck in – broke him in about sixteen places.”

THANKS BOBBY! That really put me at my ease.

The course didn’t teach me much, but my fellow students were a real education.


I'm might start a comic strip called Captain Tourettes and Nutjob Bobby. That'd be cool. I can't draw though. Anybody want to have a crack?

Moi? A bastard? Ok then..

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So due to my monumental failure to successfully woo[1] any nice women in ages, I have come to the conclusion that women are attracted to guys who lack integrity. Now I have taken pride in my integrity for many years - till now...

After a discussion about women and how they like bastards[3], I have decided to become one. So after a little inventive discussion with Jess down the boozer I now have an ex-wife from Aberdeen with two kids and a wife in Bristol with one kid.

Not bad that. Four pints and I've had sex at least three times with two women from different parts of the country, gotten hitched twice and in the eyes of a lot of people round these ere parts I'm the biggest bastard on the block. Mind you in terms of woo success rate it's a big improvement - even if it's all virtual..


[1] A term applied to convincing a potential lovemate that you're a good bet through gentle courting. Not to be confused with pulling[2].

[2] A term applied to blatantly trying to get a shag in a pub somewhere when wearing the old beer goggles.

[3] This was the term I used to describe men with no integrity after about four pints of loverly ale.

Please not Cliff

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I mean Cliff Richard is bad but isn't this a teensy bit drastic?

Saint Andéol, 23rd June

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23rd June ’99, Wednesday, 1440hrs. Sunny. Chalet, Saint Andeol.
Okay! Bit of a backlog. On Friday, our thirteen minutes changeover was achieved because the other train was late as well, and the next change was a more-than comfortable half-hour break. We arrived in Grenoble at around 2350, and were thankful for booking a hotel close to the train station (if a little expensive at 190F).
The additional cost was more than made up for by the en-suite shower and TV! Watching a late-night French-dubbed episode of the X-files, we fell asleep. Next morning we woke to a magnificent view of the Alps from the hotel window, and Grenoble. Despite only being in it for a night, it struck Gemma and I as a really nice town. Electric trams, refreshingly modern, slipped quietly past the water fountains through which ran a man and his young daughter on a tricycle, playing just outside our hotel and the station. Add to that a clear blue sky and the sight of distant snow and you have something approaching our impression.
We caught the 10 o’clock train to Monestier-de Clermont, the nearest town of any size to Sant Andeol, and arrived at around eleven, bracing ourselves for a 12 ½ kilometre uphill struggle with our bags and a couple of day’s worth of food and shopping. After about 1km, we stopped for that most serious of reasons – LUNCH> Which consisted of couscous, crisps and water, but was very nice all the same. After finishing my crisps, I stuck my thumb out at the first car for around twenty minutes, which duly stopped, startling Gemma who was still eating! We bundled in, and got a lift as far as St. Guillaume, at around the 7kilometre mark. Not believing our luck, we thanked the chap and turned our attentions to the remaining 5, rather more vertical kilometres. After about one and a half of them, we stopped for a dink and so Gemma could finish her lunch. I went for a wander. After about two minutes I heard a car, and yelled for Gem to stick her thumb out. The sounds of an engine revving down reached my ever-so relieved ears as I bounded back the way I had come. That lift got us all the way to St. Andeol, and the Vallier’s house – the key holders.
We were shown up (very up) to the house and let in. I was pleasantly surprised to see the size of the place – three floors and a cellar, a large (necessarily terraced) garden, piano, guitars (as yet unused by us) and one reasonably stocked bookcase (thank god!). The electrics were on, but the water wasn’t. We hunted for about two hours for the mains valve without joy. The younger Vallier had no idea where it was either. We found it after a phone call from Philip, the owner, who is currently in Dubai.
When I turned it on, water began to gush with alarming force from three places in the cellar ceiling. I switched it off and assessed the damage. A couple of pipes had ruptured their joints, and another had completely come away. The Winters are harsh up here, it seems.
Our total water consisted of the remnants of the drinking water for the day, and a bottle of Aquarius. After filling up a few pans despite the deluge in the cellar, Monsieur Vallier came up to see, and contributed a couple of 10 litre bottles. The next day being Sunday, no plumber could be had, so we survived on our supplies. Monday (when we’d planned to go to Monestier to get a week’s food) the plumber, a carpenter and M.Vallier senior appeared. The plumber, after much seemingly heated debate with M. Vallier, sorted out our problems. The carpenter did some work on the external stairs, and left. By the time they’d gone, it was too late to go shopping. (We reckoned about three hours to walk down, and four to walk back).
Yesterday we went. It took us about two hours (with a short lift) down, and about ten minutes (with one big lift from a very fit girl with a big dog) back up. I spent the evening doing some Greek from a book I found in the house. I’ve always wanted to learn either Latin or Greek, and I had to choose, so I went for Greek, seeing as it promises to be more useful imminently!
Today, I got up and moved the bench from the cellar into the garden, and started reading a new book- Kingsley Amis’ ‘Take A Girl Like You’ (after having already read Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ and Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘For The Good Of The Cause’, and numerous Garfield books!)
The scenery round here is breathtaking. The house is on a glacial kame terrace, under a continuous series of rounded mountain peaks that form an escarpment over eight miles long on one side of what was once a glacial valley. Even now, in late June, patches of snow cling to the earth, in rock crevices or shaded areas. The slopes are heavily wooded, and the views from each side of the house stretch for miles. In the distance over more hills, permanently snow-capped mountains can be seen. It’s fantastic. It may be June, but out of the sun it’s still quite cold – especially in the house. Basically, I’m stopping writing and going back into the garden.

We were well set up in our resting place for the next two weeks. The marker between two Interrail tickets - a wonderful chalet on dramatically sloping ground in the tiny mountain village of Saint Andeol. The village had no shop, no bar, and consisted of about ten or fifteen steep-rooved houses dotted around the elbow of a hill at the end of a u-shaped valley bordered with alpine trees and flowered meadows, lined with jagged peaks.

Seeing the wood for the trees

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Sometimes it terrifies me how much that google 'knows' about me:

Google search for 'relly'

This is because I spew out a non-too-selective lot of bile and crap in my blog and have been doing this in one form or another since about the tail end of 2000.
However, my blog has stopped being the medium of expression for me that it once was - I used it as a way of saying what I'd done and keeping up to date with other people's news after we had left uni and gone our seperate ways - and now I feel the urge to delete (or archive offline and then delete) lots of my posts from way back when.

I wrote about my depression as a depressed person would, you know in a kinda depressing way. I wouldnt want someone to dig it up in 5 years time and say 'jesus!'. Because obviously depression is indicative of a messiah figure.
I wrote about boyfriends, and anger, and old jobs and hopes that are now dead.

Now I wish to refine my writing. I love it but I have fallen out of practice into laziness, through laziness into not bothering, through not bothering into just not able to express myself creatively anymore. My well has dried up. Real life has stymied my creativity and cynicism, derision, fear, loathing, experience and hearsay (yes, the band) has stopped me reaching out and trying to 'be'. I don't bother to write. I find it hard to write for pleasure these days. I feel that I can't. I compare myself to others and fall short. I'm ashamed.

I marry the man i love next month (30 days time in fact) and I know I owe it to him to be more than a lady who lunches, or temps, or sits on the sofa all day. Just I'm a very bitter person when it comes to 'trying my best'. That is a whole other story. But it is why I must out the old and in the new. I feel very lonely and memories alone are not good company.

While my past writing about my life in 2000-2003 is doubtlessly 'a record' I increasingly have come to feel it is more like dried flowers: a reminder of something that was once alive, but not a true representative of the beautiful creation that the flowers were. You would not dry a poppy and say 'this is a poppy', it is a reminder of the poppy and the memories that the poppy evokes. Even if to you the poppy is the last remnant of a trip to the fields of Ypres to a passer-by it is just a dead poppy. This dead poppy is found by a passer-by on the web, taken out of context. I wish to write honestly but not personally as I have come to consider it as a hinderence. I feel the internet stifles honesty as much as it allows us to share experience.

I have perspective. My blog is not as horrific as the fields of Ypres. My experiences won't educate future generations. No-one needs to sap my strength and drink from my past misery and disappointment. I will share only what i feel is my best. I will delete all else. Learn from my mistakes. Write with thought and clarity and not emotional outpouring. I alone stand to decide the fate of the information. Internet, you may have these thoughts to share. I will keep the others. I don't want to preserve all my poppies.

Round 2

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Right.

Anna’s asked me to write about the Solstice & Bob Dylan. More of which later.

Stuart’s asked me what I did in Australia (and no I didn’t skin a camel). More of which later.

Bearmaster has asked me to write about my wooing techniques. More of which now. He obviously needs a few pointers.

Wooing is simple in theory. All you need is a guitar, a camp fire and the ability to play said instrument. Cool tattoos don’t go amiss either, but they’re optional and more painful than learning to play the guitar. It is an established fact that (most) women find tattooed musicians irresistibly attractive. Unfortunately, in this country, the opportunity to get a camp fire, a guitar and a group of single women all in the same place at the same time rarely crops up.

And therein lies the source of my woe. I’m fairly determined not to whinge too much about my single status in Stuart’s blog, but seriously – why do the pubs in London have such a problem with me trying to light fires on the tables and indulge in a little bit of wooage?

What a bunch of bastards.

And Anna. Aaaaaahhhh. The lovely Anna. I know nothing about the Solstice, but congratulations on having your last exam on it anyway. Nice. As for Bob Dylan, I understand he was a poet of some kind? Actually, now that I think of it, I have a question for you – did Bob write “All along the Watchtower”, or was it Jimi? Please tell me it was Jimi so I can feel justified in laughing at that busker the other day.

And finally – on to Stuart’s question.

What did I do in Australia?

I spent a lot of time around camp fires playing my guitar.

If it wasn't for the fact I get married in a month I'd happily be a spinster with cats. I have two already. Fizz is 10 months old, a cream and brown flecked tabby with go faster stripes and a head for heights. Emily is about 3, and is a big fat black and white tea cosy with a rattling sinus when she sleeps. She lives to eat and sleeping is a good pastime to, well, pass the time between the fricassee of rabbit and best tender lamb.

My cats live well. They live a life that men slave 60 years for (or 10 in the city). Their food is brought to them, regularly, its always the best available and there's always plenty of it. They cycle between the squidgy sofa cushions, the window sill sun spots, the bed and under the desk. Occasionally this is broken up by a snooze on the fax machine.

Fizz intersperses this with the gentleman's sports of hunting, fishing and shooting - the toy mice, the food out of nearly closed drawers and 'around the flat at high speed' respectively; Emily is how I imagine Queen Victoria was in the Brighton pavilion, ie, available for consultation on matters of state only. As lowly commoners and household staff we do not have the opportunity to explore her opinions on the current affairs of the day but we are granted an audience to tickle the royal belly if Fizz isn't too close by.

Fizz is, in many ways, the thorn in Emily's side. Sometimes literally if we can accept the claw as a suitable thorn substitute. She likes a good fight and tumble with Emily. Emily likes peace. However they do curl up together in a chair and they seem to gossip about goings on. My partner once remarked how nice it is that they live lives seperate to ours. We can be sat on the sofa watching telly, coaxing a purr from Emily, and Fizz will skip past travelling from the study to the kitchen glancing over as she goes to confirm our presence.

They do both have a habit of skulking in cupboards and sometimes springing from tumble dryers and baths, although Emily's 'stealth' days are somewhat over. Unless disguised as a bean bag with ears it is hard to imagine where lumbering sloth will become a skill in the battle against the mighty Fizz for the 'top off the milk'.

As you might have guessed I'm somewhat fanatical about my feline friends and I make no apology for it. They might disregard our hard work, certainly I hear no cries of delight ellicited from the 'season's choice' limited edition flavour of Sheba (creamy chicken and tender asparagus) and they might hog the best spot on the sofa but at least this is consistent. If you sent your cat an invite to your wedding you know that it would regard it with lofty dismiss. It is, after all, not a rubber mouse. The hard bit is when some of your human pals do the same - 34 rsvp's missing with 2 days to the deadline left! Perhaps I should have included a rubber mouse?

Drinks are Served

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Beverages are here people.

The Euro Coffee Shop open for one day only. We are now serving.
First up, is our resident gloating Scot Gordon who wishes for French Coffee. Does anyone know what Cointreau is? It's got me. Here's to France falling at the next hurdle.

Then along comes are patriotic optimist Adrian who would like a Snowball in Hell English Chance-a-chino. Afraid we're out of those as England are so blatantly going to beat the hell out of everyone I thought it wouldn't be necessary to restock. Would a Milkshake do? I could perhaps bribe you with extra mashmallows?

The Lord of the Manor was next up, asking very politely for an Italian Café Coretto. With it I give you lots of luck, Italy need a miracle to go through to the quarter finals.

Another Italian, lolly wanted a Tottispresso. I don't like the sound of that, spitting in your face. I must say it does redeem itself slightly, it is incredibly handsome...

The Paranoid Donkey is taking the plunge and going for something from Croatia. Sorry, Anna, I've no more clue than you as to Croat (?) drinks, so since you specifically requested something black and alcoholic and I am running out of time, how about a very strong Black Coffee with a shot of Vodka? Original I know.

My my, these handsome Italians are popular, Lily requests a Mocha. Now that I can do and I might just make one for myself while I'm at it.

Then comes the Bride to be and, going back to her roots, the lovely k requests a Greek coffee. Which apparently is just like a Turkish coffee, only with years of animosity and strife. You go girl. Anyway, the Greeks are doing pretty well for themselves at the moment, reaching the Quarter Finals ahead of Spain.

Last but not least comes shivery, who being are resident alcoholic, asked for a small glass of port which, given that Portugal have gone trough, is perhaps to toast their progress.

Woah - late comer - it's Flairy who, we all know is in love with Golden Balls himself and she duly requests a traditional English Coffee. There you go girl. Just in the nick of time.
Drink up Ladies and Gentlemen, and perhaps a toast to Engerland stuffing Croatia this evening?

Big Fish

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The entire class, all 30 of us, were squabbling and calling out to the teacher. She had inadvertently let loose the news that one person in the class had scored 100% in the final school test, the results from which went forward to what we all referred to as 'Big School'. We were all eight and nine years old - it was not a decorous hubbub. The teacher had to raise her voice in order to hush everyone.

When she said my name there was a hot staring silence in the room. And I have to say, I loved that feeling.

When we all took what seemed to be the terrifiying step and turned up on our first days at middle school, there were hundreds of children, some of them as old as 13 who seemed enormous.
And other clever children.
From other schools.
But we all worked (or were made to), and another order emerged, and the order only emerged because it was part of the structure imposed by the school in order for them to judge performance, but even inside that structure, there were areas where I considered myself to be the best.

Then there was another step - to High School were there were a thousand pupils and we shrimpish thirteen year olds were towered over by post-adolescent 18 year olds who drove cars and smoked legally in the school grounds.
And there were other clever children.
From other schools.

Now each of these steps are exactly the kinds of moments in life that people point and start talking about fish, ponds, and their relative sizes.

Big fish, small pond, little fish, big pond...

And at each stage within the boundaries of the schools, that was the pond. It was scarily large, but you could see the edge, even if it was a long way away.
Each time that a step was taken from one pond to another, a question was asked that each of us answered in our own way, and the result of that answer was manifest in the way we grew up in those spaces.

What you gonna do about it, huh?

Many of us don't see the edges any more. There might not be an edge.

But still.
What you gonna do about it?

Coffee Anyone?

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Good Morning

That's right. It's Monday morning. And it's Coffee time.
Today's theme is, suprisingly enough, football and more specifically Euro 2004. So [if you have the energy] pick your participating country [list here] and a drink from that country if not, anything's accepted! and I shall be serving at around 4pm.
Orders please Ladies and Gentlemen.

Right, so I've just been over to the lakes on my new motorbike. All is good with it, it does what I want it to - good milage, lots of luggage space, reliable. It has two aluminium flightcases as panniers, and another one bolted to the luggage rack for more storage space. It's everything a chap heading off round the continent would want - but..

I'm noticing a trend. You see this bike is a Honda Dominator- ita a big off road beasty. It's a big bike, it looks really imposing. People look at it and think "Coo, that's huge for a bike, much bigger than that little sports bike next to it." It sounds impressive, its got 644cc of single cylinder thumpyness to get out of it's twin exhausts. People think "Coo, that sounds like a really meaty bike comming round the corner.." I ride it and it's got enough grunt to burn up most cars, and surprise some of the sport bikers at the lights.

All in all it *should* be instilling a sense of awe into people, making me into some kind of motorbiker chick magnet or at least getting a little look of envy from people.

So why in gods name do people keep asking me to bring them pizza and fries? I mean the other night I pull up at the traffic lights and some pissed up twonk stumbles over and offers me a fiver for one of the pizza's I *must* have in the box. This weekend, I turn up in the lakes to see some friends and the first thing they say is "Did you remember the free garlic bread?" I go to ambleside and get some odd looks from a group of bikers and I can see what's going on in their head..

"We know it looks like a big bike. We know it sounds like a big bike. We can see that no pizza's went into the little box on the back. Do we wave our hand at the biker, or do we ask for a pizza?"

I am not a pizza delivery boy!

um......

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G’day

Peanut here.

Stuart has, rather foolishly, invited me to guest on his blog. I’ve been slightly railroaded in to this by a certain young man bearing the moniker of “bearmaster”. I’m not entirely sure whether he & Stuart know what they’ve let themselves in for, but I’m in now, for better or worse, so here we go.

The problem is that I haven’t the slightest clue what to write about. It doesn’t help that I’m writing this at 9.00 pm on a Sunday and I’ve been drinking since mid day (I would like to point out that this is not a usual occurrence, but I had little choice in the matter since I live with a bunch of Australians).

I could write about the fact that I’ve been drinking since mid day, and all the amusing things that have happened, except it hasn’t really been all that interesting.

I could write about my teenage angst. Except I’m not a teenager, and I don’t really have much angst. I have a good job (for a Charity, but I don’t like to talk about it) and I live in a nice house (albeit with a bunch of Australians). I have my own motorbike and kind of my own car (I paid the most recent insurance premium – that makes it mine in my book).

I could write about the fact that I’m single and a bit fucked off with it. But the logical argument is that I should be out there meeting chicks instead of in here writing about how I can’t meet any chicks.

I could write about the glory days. My 7 years spent as a guitarist in a punk band. My year travelling in Australia. The days when Pearl Jam were cutting edge rock’n’roll. When I was 15 years old with no responsibility and a fit girlfriend. But that was all so long ago.

So tell me. What the fuck do I write about? I’m a blogging virgin, and I need some guidance.

So – post a comment – tell me what I should write about and I’ll give it a bash. Keep it clean though please kids.

If you want to read something interesting, either tell me what you want to read about, or read Captain Chaos (Ms)’s posts.

She funny.

And a little bit scary…….

Leveticus

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It's not usually advisable to discuss religion, but hey, we're all adults right (ok, not you, but most people!)?

Laura Schlesinger is a US radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show.
On her radio show recently she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, as we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Intriguing stuff huh. Right, which one of you sinners wants to burn first?

Big Brother

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Would you do it?

Coleman Balls

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Topical, but my profound apologies to any football widows out there! I love a bit of it I do!

Today's Times has an article in which "The Plain English Campaign" defend the language used by football commentators saying "[they] do a very good job and make relatively few errors for the amount they say". The article then goes on to print some of the better colemanballs...

"The World Cup - A truly international event"

"That shot might not have been as good as it might have been"

"Nobody could have counted the number of moves Alan Ball made. I counted four or possibly five"

All John Motson

"He sliced the ball when he had it on a plate"

"He's treading on dangerous water here"

"He really has gambled all his eggs"

"I never comment on referees, and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat"

All Ron Atkinson

"If England get a point, it will be a point won as opposed to two points lost"

Mark Lawernson

"Football's football: If that weren't the case it wouldn't be the game it is"

Garth Crooks

"Southampton have forced Manchester United into a lot of unforced errors"

Steve Claridge

"Thistle need to score at least once if they want to win this game"

Sandy Clark

"The most vulnerable area for goalies is between their legs"

Grenoble, 18th June

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18th June 1999, 1525hrs, Friday, Partly cloudy, Between Biarritz + Toulouse.
Yesterday was interesting when we got to Biarritz at around 8ish. I met a Swiss guy, Andreas (another one) and yet another Canadian girl ( NOT complaining, she’s gorgeous), Amanda in my room and they, Gemma and I went out for a pizza and a drink, and then came back to the Hostel bar (!) for another. It was fun, and it’s about time someone took the piss out of us for our accents! We got up and breakfasted together (coffee! Hurrah!) and then said our goodbyes.
On reaching the train station, we sorted out a route to Grenoble today and found we had an hour (ish) to play with, so I went back to the hostel and emailed home and Sharon.
1800hrs, Between Toulouse and Nîmes.
We’re now uncertain as to whether or not we’ll make Grenoble tonight – our next change gave us just a 13 minute margin, and this train left Toulouse half an hour late. Nîmes, where this train ends, is in our Lonely Planet, so no huge panic there, it’s just frustrating to know that we may have missed being home and dry in St. Andeol tomorrow night by only a few minutes.
1830hrs – Spotted Carcassonne! Seems weird to see something familiar.

I know Steve Lamacq or somebody usually compéres these things, but I was here first, so you're stuck with me, and there's no way some skinny cider-drinking indie bod is going to turf me out of my own site.

(Although it would have been cool, wouldn't it?)

Anyway.

For your entertainment and possible enjoyment (which is never guaranteed round here anyway, come on), this coming week, Bean Diddler Productions Presents:

The Autoblography Summer Festival


Relly

Relly is an unabashed and kick ass young lady with two cats, a fiancé, and a growing penchant for long-term strategy computer games, which she plays on her GameCube. She likes salted popcorn. If I had to choose a post of hers which sums up her joie de vivre, her glamour, her doeverythinginlifeallatonce-ness, it would be this one. I know Relly from Warwick University, where we both studied very hard and got degrees did student radio at RaW.


Hanni

Hanni erupted onto the web in November, and since then appears to be en route to taking it over. Her blog brings to the fore the very latest in UK sport and world news, as well as online trends and up-to-the-minute linkáge. She has been a past regular at the Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams, and seems keen to serve coffee on Monday!


Captain Chaos (Ms)

The Captain is one of the very many scourges of the Funjunkie Forums. She's not promising anything for the coming week, but might drop in with some random nonsense if she can. CC doesn't blog, but like much of the FJ massive, in her spare time likes to strap herself to things with wheels and launch herself down very steep hills.


Ewano

I'm not sure of what to expect from Mr. Ewano. While I commend his approaching blogging 'without boundaries', I am beginning to get very wary of the fact that he claims to have a battle plan. Another funjunkie and forumite, Ewano is a Ninja in his relaxing hours, and a white chocolate addict the rest of the time.


peanut

Peanut is the third summer festival blogger to erupt from the funjunkie forums. Peanut works for a Charity (I've no idea if he likes to talk about it), claims to be a shrinking violet, and is renowned as a useful source of salt and carbohydrates for training athletes, although should never be eaten during exercise as he is a choking hazard. This could be the start of a new blogging experience for the young leguminous dry-roasted one, but we'll just have to see.

Rosie

Rosie is the fourth funjunkie to enlist for The Summer Festival, and completes a comfortable majority for the forumites. Rosie is frequently afflicted by The Horn, and her ambition in life is to be the future Mrs. Angelina Jolie. People frequently sing the songs of up-and-coming pop combo Outkast to her.


Ladies and Gentlemen...The Autoblography Summer Festival...is now on.

Biarritz, 17th June

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17th June 1999, 1250hrs, Thursday. Intercity between Madrid and Hendaya.< br />This is our last day in Spain. We got up around 7 – so unlike us as to be worrying, packed, washed and left Hostel Mondragon. We caught the metro to Chamartin station where we bumped into the Italians from Morocco. We hadn’t really talked much, so we bought some playing cards, a couple of pastries and sat and munched those while discussing which card games we knew.
Madrid has been interesting. Whilst we’ve been tired all the time – not just due to the tail-end of our bug, which is still hanging on for dear life, but also due to the stifling heat which peaks at about 38C in the afternoon. On Tuesday we slept in until around 12, because we were exhausted. We got up leisurely, dressed, and headed for the USIT unlimited student travel office to buy our second interrail ticket for Italy and Greece. I got ticket no. 90, and the display told me they were currently serving no. 54. My number came up about 45 minutes later, when I was politely told that I still had a hundred turns to wait. After three hours of ‘Viva’ – German MTV, we discovered that buying our ticket in Spain cost about £40 less than in the UK. It being about 1730, we couldn’t really do anything else that day apart from go and sort out our supplements for this train into France.
< br />Yesterday we got up at about 10am and went to ‘El Palacio Real’ –the Royal Palace - which was free for us that day. Incredibly impressive inside and out, it was 17th and 18th century decadence in one, hugely ornate dose. There were over a hundred enormous chandeliers, no two alike. Massive painted ceilings, depicting the Greek and Roman gods in each room. Huge gardens, an interesting old Royal Pharmacy and a photographic exhibition with a 3D ‘Spanish Guinea at the turn of the century’ photo show. We wanted to move on to the Prado or the Thyssen-Bornemisza afterwards, but after writing postcards and a short letter home each for Father’s Day, we didn’t have enough time, and so we went to the Atocha train station, which has a huge rainforest-like station.
By 5 o’clock, we’ll be in France.

We All Smile, We All Sing

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Well, it looks like we'll have a right mixed bag o'guesters here next week for The Autoblography Summer Festival.

Cool.

Again, if you fancy a week of using this here webloggity thang for blurbling about Monster Munch, peas and gravy, international politics or the strange yellow stuff growing out from underneath your bathroom rug, then email me at:

kidsturk at vmail dot virgin dot com

...for username and passwordy goodness. Anything goes, people. There's no limit to what you can do if you want to, and there is no way in hell that a local council petition can stop this festival from going ahead.

So far on the lineup, where everyone is a headline act, (all bookings as yet unconfirmed, no refunds) we have:

Hanni
Ewano
Captain Chaos (Ms)
Relly
Other Artists Welcomed
Plus Supporting Acts tbc

So tune in regularly next week, as the Festival will kick off on Friday afternoon and last for seven, hedonistic, sun-filled, post-crazed days.

Well I say that.
Anything could happen.

So should be good whether you're joining in, or a spectator.

A Million Miles Of Fun

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The Lady K and I are guesting over at Uborka next week, and in the meantime, I am thinking of doing something out of the ordinary with the Autoblography.

Maybe some sort of religious discussion forum?
Perhaps I could contact all those spammers, so recently foiled by the righteous crimefighting duo of Blacklist and Hamster, and ask them if they want to take over the entire site for a week and tell us all why generic viagra is so important in their lives.

I could throw open the doors for a guest week, I suppose. But holding a guest week because you're guesting somewhere is a dangerous move. Before you know it, every blogger in the world will be blogging on someone else's site, which would just be...confusing.

Ah, screw it. I'm all for confusing.

A Guest Week!

Fancy a bit of a sojourn into Autoblography Country?

I can promise virtual cake.
Entire mountain ranges of virtual pavlovas and gateaux.

You can do whatever you like with the place, as long as you promise not to redecorate. No pressure, no themes, no baying hordes in the peanut gallery (well...okay, that's a lie) but just kick back, put your feet up, and do what you like.

Tempted?

The Rough with the Smooth

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It was a warm night last night.

For the first time when I lay down to sleep it occured to me that I could open the windows.
It has to get very warm for me to want this because my house is within cowering distance of three main roads - two major A-roads and a motorway. By ten at night the noise is bearable, but when it kicks in again at 6.30am, if the windows are open, I have the UK's awakening industrial behemoth for my alarm clock.
The only trouble is that it's set for half six in the morning, which I think you'll agree is far too early for an alarm clock to be set, even one which consists of thirty thousand vehicles roaring along at seventy miles per hour.

But a stuffy and close atmosphere is not conducive to sleep, so you take the rough with the smooth. I opened the windows a sliver, and hit the sack.
A high pitched whining dopplered past my ear.

Damn.
Insects.

With the special kind of logic which only really works when you're in the early stages of sleep or in that cumbersome process of waking, I reasoned that I didn't have to get up to shut the window, even taking into account the bugs. The noise stopped rather abruptly, anyway.

I'm crap at housekeeping. It's summer. I have spiders. Actually, I thought, relaxing into the pillow, I have lots of spiders. The persistently annoying mathematical part of my brain tried to spark interest in working out how long the midge could fly around the room before being snared by one of my eight-legged roommates, but the rest of my brain gagged it and threw it into a handy hypothetical cupboard before falling asleep.

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