Friday, 24 June 2011

I have moved!

New updates will appear over here from now on...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

100 Things It's Impossible To Look Cool Whilst Doing

1) Carrying three pints without looking like a Praying Mantis
2) Walking barefoot across a hot/pebbly beach
3) Manually winding down car windows
4) Getting change out of your wallet
5) Opening the little fruit/veg bags at supermarkets
6) Running for a bus
7) Eating Mini Cheddars from the bag
8) Drinking through a straw from a carton
9) Chasing and trying to pick up a bouncing rugby ball
10) Standing up on a bus if your head is higher than the roof
11) Sipping a hot drink
12) Wearing a cycling attire (helmet, lycra shorts...)
13) Asking for condoms in a shop
14) Standing around in a women's clothes shop whilst your girlfriend tries stuff on
15) Scraping dog poo off your shoe
16) Turning around after taking a turn at bowling
17) Getting up after tripping over
18) Dropping to one knee to tie a shoelace
19) Jogging from a distance to a door someone is holding open for you
20) Running whilst clutching pockets to prevent spillage
21) Holding a sparkler
22) Holding a friend’s drink and your own whilst they use a pub toilet
23) Gargling
24) Eating spaghetti
25) Eating corn on the cob
26) Climbing the steps in a swimming pool
27) Looking down a telescope
28) Chasing after money in the street
29) Picking up a bunch of documents after dropping them
30) Reading a broadsheet newspaper
31) Reaching around to plug something into the back of a computer
32) Vaccuuming
33) Wearing rubber gloves
34) Carrying toilet roll on a campsite
35) Taking a small dog for a walk
36) Wearing just socks
37) Sitting in a car wash
38) Threading a needle
39) Blowing out a candle
40) Getting food at a carvery
41) Using a footpump
42) Perching on the arm of a chair
43) Squeezing through the closing doors on the tube
44) Wearing a hairnet
45) Walking on ice
46) Sharing a pair of headphones
47) Untangling headphones
48) Squatting
49) Taking a shower when there is no wall mount
50) Getting frisked at the airport
51) Getting something out of your eye
52) Walking up a steep hill
53) Escaping from a jumper with a tight neck
54) Changing direction in the street when you forget something
55) Blowing up balloons
56) Fanning away a flying insect
57) Carrying a chair
58) Doing that shuffle thing when you need to get past someone walking in your direction
59) Buying wellingtons
60) Wiping a pair of spectacles
61) Removing a condom
62) Correcting an umberella that's been blown inside-out
63) Holding your girlfriend's/sister's/friend's purse/handbag
64) Wearing sandals/flip-flops and socks together
65) Pruning a rose bush
66) Flailing around whilst ice/roller skating
67) Wearing a wetsuit
68) Wearing a tucked in t-shirt
69) Having visible bogeys
70) Having a dentist fiddle around in your mouth
71) Using a hulahoop
72) Flossing your teeth
73) Picking out a wedgie
74) Sucking a gobstopper
75) Wearing a beer hat
76) Sneezing/blowing your nose
77) Trying to attract a waiter's attention
78) Blowing a bubblegum bubble
79) Weighing yourself
80) Sitting on a toilet
81) Walking out of an exam early
82) Packing your bags at the supermarket checkout
83) Hopping around trying to put trousers on
84) Zipping up your fly
85) Learning to skateboard
86) Crying
87) Having an eye test
88) Talking to someone who is hard of hearing
89) Being examined by a doctor
90) Throwing up
91) Trying to cool hot food that's already in your mouth
92) Singing karaoke
93) Having your nose covered in sun tan lotion
94) Wearing goggles
95) Wearing Speedos
96) Putting a contact lens in
97) Handing out brochures
98) Walking into the wind
99) Wiping anything of the seat of your pants
100) Carrying a heavy rucksack

On backstreet dentistry

This isn't a new entry as such - it actually happened some 5 years ago, before I kept a blog, when I used to just include some of my tales in emails to friends equally bored during work.

I figured it deserved a place here, so here goes:

Part 1

So, having lost half my tooth at the weekend, I went to the dentist this morning, the only one I could find near me that were still taking new patients. I think I understand why.

Alarm bells started ringing when the doorbell played a lullabyesqe rendition of the French National Anthem as I entered the building. Random. The building itself was a run down old shack that was basically someone's house with a few desks and a 'surgery' in there.

The dentist herself was a pleasant German woman. Pleasant until she saw my form and said,
"You smoke? Stop it. Well, unless you want to grow up toothless."
After digging around in my mouth for a while, she re-endeared herself to me:
"Your teeth are in great condition, you must visit a dentist regularly."
If by regularly she means twice in the last 12 years, then yes, regular as clockwork.

So, she informs me I need a filling, and that this filling will cost me £250.
"250?!!" I exclaim. Well, mumble sheepishly, rather than exclaim.
"Well, yes, unless you want a regular filling rather than the gold?"
This rather stunned me into silence. Do I really look like I share the same penchant for gleaming gold accessories as the majority of street kids that live in Hackney? And if I could afford that, surely I would have found myself a more 'respectable' dentist. Anyway, I left kind of sated, but not before I'd had to run through the rain to find a cashpoint to pay my bill as they didn't accept cards.

I do hope their tooth repairing tools are more modern than their banking methods. If not, I guess I could get used to a mouthful of wooden pegs. At least then I'll look like a pirate.

Part 2

I returned to the 'dental surgery' this morning to have a huge fucking filling fitted. I decided not to opt for the gold one. Or the "more aesthetically pleasing" white one, and instead went for the cheapest option, the amalgam filling. It's the back of my tooth so I don't look too much like Jaws.

Already in the waiting room were two old trolls that were jibbering in what I swear was a language the scriptwiters of this godforsaken serial I found myself in had invented purely to make me feel more uneasy. Add to that the fact that their 'conversation' was punctuated at regular points either by one of them cackling insanely, or by the other standing up and performing some kind of shit jig, which I took to be a rather unfortunate, if highly amusing twitch.

On a side note, I spent close to two hours there, during which time numerous people arrived, were treated, and left. These two crones were not, which led me to believe that they were either the surgery's pets, or that my fear had caused me to imagine them.

Anyway, I was called in. The dental nurse was wearing a ridiculously large woolly hat! Surely against hygeine regulations, but I didn't like to question any member of the coven and so I let it slide. The nice German lady, or head witch if you will, sat me down, injected me and told me to sit outside whilst the poison, I mean, the anaesthetic kicked in. I was informed that it should take around 20 minutes.

An hour later, it had all but worn off and I was called back in for my filling. A procedure, surprisingly without incident. When I returned to the waiting room, the two she-devils had vanished, although I had no recollection of hearing the French National Anthem (see part 1).

I will be returning for regular check ups, if only so I can make these adventures a series of epic proportions.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

On making girly noises at burly boyses

Today I had an appointment with a throat specialist - precise details not important. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned it before, but doctors and hospitals terrify me, and waiting rooms terrify me even more. This particular one was basically the living room in an old Viennese apartment - wooden floors, high ceilings, lush decor - and for some reason, rather than being arranged like a regular waiting room, with the seats in rows or spaced against the four walls, this just had a few sofas chucked here and there and then a few random coffee shop type tables scattered around the middle. Thank god it was almost empty when I arrived and I could just cower in a corner, rather than being forced to sit awkwardly opposite someone coughy in the centre of the room.

The entrance to the doc's examination chamber was a giant wooden door, and in the hour or so I was left waiting like a chump, I could hear the muffled voices of the preceding patients but couldn't really make out anything they said. All good - if all the waiting room people could hear from me when my turn came was unintelligible noise, I had nothing to worry about right? Wrong. Read on.

So my turn eventually came and in I went. It was fucking terrifying in there. He sat me on a high straight-backed leather chair and positioned it and himself so that there was no way of me missing all the hideous, shiny metal gadgets he had at his disposal. I'm pretty sure at one point he even made a grand sweeping gesture towards them and sniggered a bit. I may be paraphrasing a little here but he then announced he was going to violently ram a camera on a pointy metal stick down my throat, and stressed "but only about 10cm down" so as not to alarm me - Just the 10cm? Thank fuck for that then eh?

At this point I'm trying to appear as casual as I can by slouching low in the chair, with my legs spaced apart. I'm actually over-relaxing, my arse barely on the seat, and it's a bit uncomfortable, but that doesn't matter. You don't scare me doc - just look how relaxed I am.

The doctor then comes over and orders me to sit up straight with my feet and knees together and my hands resting on my knees. He then straddles me. Imagine that - I already look like a tool and we're not even started on the camera fellatio yet. He then pulls on a rubber glove, gently grabs my tongue and asks me to make a "heeeeeeee" sound so as to raise my epiglottis out of the way of the camera. Now having initially sworn this as impossible, I've since tried and it's not difficult at all. Try it yourself - hold your tongue and go "heeeeeeeeee" all high-pitched. My words alone cannot do justice to the pathetic sounds that came from my face when I tried, so I've made you all a nifty little audio clip:

Five times I did that, and each time a little more pathetic than the last. I think the doc might have even been amused initially but the novelty soon wore off as he time and time again failed to get the camera to its indented destination, whereas as soon as I'd realised that a girly sigh was all I was gonna manage I ceased being horrified and had to stifle a few sniggers myself. I even physically gagged a couple of times, just to make myself look like even less of a man.

And my throat is fine, so the whole emasculating experience was for nothing.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

On faking identity

Last night my girlfriend, Vicky, had plans to go out to a gig. Some Austrian magazine's birthday party shindig featuring a bunch of DJs and bands in one location. It didn't appeal to me and I certainly didn't want to shell out the €15 for a ticket to see a bunch of shit bands and disc spinners. If I did go I would simply have to drink lots of booze, which would mean more needless expense. Vicky insisted I go though and when she offered to pay my entrance fee I figured what the hell and tagged along, quickly downing a couple of drinks as we left to get me in the mood.

Our plan was to meet a couple of friends of hers, all with pre-bought tickets, and then hope I could pick one up outside the venue.

During the journey, I managed to destroy the zip on my fly meaning I would face the night with a gaping hole there. Classy. That put me in a bad mood before we'd even arrived but whilst Vicky was fruitlessly attempting to pin my flaps together in a public bathroom, her friend burst in with some good news. She'd been asking passers by if they had tickets to spare but had found a better, cheaper solution. One girl she asked knew a name on the guest list - one Erwin Uhrmann - so we decided I'd pretend to be him and Vicky would sell her own ticket and come along as my guest. It didn't matter that none of us had any idea who he really was.

I was a little apprehensive as it was clearly not an English name and my German skills were far from good enough to successfully imitate a native speaker. especially not when a little tipsy, so we agreed Vicky would accompany me to the guestlist booth and do the talking whilst I stood with her and tried to avoid having to talk.

So from my point of view as an ignorant English bystander here's what happened: We go over and Vicky explains in German that we're the two people arriving under Erwin Uhrmann's name. The girl in the booth (whom it turns out is a friend of a friend of Vicky's) gets a little excited and replies, then looks up at me, saying something else in German. Vicky nudges me, smiles and gives me a less than subtle head nod which I understand I should imitate. I simply nod and say, "Ja." The girl say something else I don't catch. I elaborate with an "OK" on top of my "Ja". We get our wristbands and we walk away, the girl all the time gazing at me with some kind of adoration.

I then asked Vicky what just happened: When Vicky had initially mentioned 'my' name the girl had exclaimed, "You know Erwin Uhrmann?!" to which Vicky had casually replied, "Sure, I'm his guest tonight," and gestured toward me. The girl had then mentioned something about all the great books I had written and gone into detail about how one was sitting on her bedside table right now. That was when my "OK, ja," came in. Clearly I am not impressed by her admiration.

A little later, the friends we'd arrived with had gone over to their friend, ticket booth girl, and she had exclaimed to them how impressed she was that Vicky knew one of her heroes.

She also called a friend and said, "I just saw Vicky with Erwin Uhrmann! Did she break up with the English guy?!"

Of course we Googled this chap when we got home and bizarrely it turns out he was born in the same year as me, and also sports a scruffy beard and generic man hair. We also wear the same glasses.

I should apologise now. Erwin, if you're reading this for some reason, I probably didn't do you any favours in the personality department but thanks for lending me your identity - you have at least one avid fan out there. Next time I pretend to be you I assure you I'll be more charming. And I'll fasten my pants.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

On the most uncomfortable hour of my life

I'm writing this up a couple of years after the event, having happened across an outline of the event in an old email to a friend. I figured it deserved a place here.

Some background info - for the latter half of 2007 I spent six months or so in excruciating pain - I had a slipped disc in my lower back, and due it not being diagnosed early enough it was eventually accompanied by a twisted nerve, leaving me with the physical dexterity of a 90-year-old, and a whiny one at that, until February the following year when they operated on me and fixed me.

During these months I tried a multitude of useless painkillers, as well as a brief course of physiotherapy, provided by the NHS. This is the tale of my first physio experience...

It was a hot and humid August morning and a rare one in that I'd woken with the pain at a barely noticeable level - typical that this should happen on a day when I was due at hospital rather than one I could take advantage of by going for a jog or something (I have never been for a jog in my life, but that's beside the point). It was as if my pain was a sentient being that fucking hated me.

I figured I'd look like a chump if I went for physiotherapy and didn't actually have any pain for them to work on, so I decided to walk to the place, hoping I'd get a twinge at least. But in true Bramish fashion I took it a bit too easy, and got a bit lost to boot, and thus had to rush to make my appointment.

I eventually got to the hospital and announced my arrival to the receptionist, and then had to sit in an unfeasibly hot waiting room. I'm pretty sure one of the other patients was a tropical lizard of some description, although it may just have been an scaly old lady. Within five minutes, the heat, combined with the effort of rushing to get there, and the fact that I fear waiting rooms in general, had given me a big-time all over body sweat. I had no time at all to acclimatise before I was called in to meet my physio, who transpired to be a ludicrously attractive young student. She ushered me into her torture chamber and began questioning me. I'm sweating like a swine and my general nervousness in hospitals isn't helping. Then she invites me to change into my gym clothes. Gym clothes?! Nobody mentioned this to me! Horror of horrors I'm asked to just undress to my pants like a forgetful schoolboy in PE class and I'm left standing there in all my sweaty, flabby glory in nought but pants and brown socks. BROWN SOCKS!

The next step in my horrific trial was to lie down on one of those tissue covered benches as she prodded and massaged me. As I imagine the horror she must be experiencing with each touch of my slimy body, I sweat more, and pretty soon the tissue is disintegrating in parts. I have to turn over, bits of paper sticking to me, the sweat and embarrassment rising until finally my ordeal is over.

But no, she makes me sit, dripping and semi-naked as she explains the exercises I should then do at home. And to top it off, when dressed I had to sit in the waiting room again to make another appointment. I couldn't even make a quick getaway as the session had brought the pain back to its usual levels, so I had to hobble out pathetically, and I think I may have even shed a single solitary tear, although that may have just been my eyeball perspiring.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

On loving meat so much it hurts

My girlfriend made meat loaf the other day. It's delicious. So delicious that I ate it a bit too aggressively and chomped a great hole in the side of my tongue with a combination of top incisor and lower molar. True to form, this wound soon developed into a giant ulcer, more vicious looking than the Sarlaac pit and more painful than it's possible to describe to anyone who has never suffered from giant tongue ulcers. Its location meant it was constantly resting against a tooth and any movement of the tongue, no matter how slight, caused immense, tear-inducing pain. This made eating, talking, and even swallowing and yawning a harrowing trial.

I'm a couple of days in and there's no respite in sight. I can't talk without looking and sounding like a drooling stroke victim, and I can't eat anything without looking like a bird trying to chug back a whole fish.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

On looking a bit murdery

On the way home tonight I picked up a couple of bottles of red wine for myself - nothing unusual there, except tonight I decided to treat myself to something a little more expensive than what I usually drink, just to see if it's worth the extra few Euro (in retrospect I shouldn't have, since the tastiest, smoothest red wine I've had from a supermarket here is only €1.99, and it's delicious. Plus it has a twist top - all will be revealed as you read on...).

So, I get home, relax a little, put on some music, and decide to uncork the beast. Except I remember I don't own a corkscrew. I despair briefly and then remember I've used a certain screwdriver to uncork a bottle before, so all is not lost. I gently screw in the tip, at which point I realise that this is the most ridiculous cork ever created - it seemed to defy all laws of chemistry and physics, apparently having a core made from dust and sponge cake, but an outer surface fashioned from octopus suckers and cement. The screwdriver got no purchase, but sank through the "cork" which stuck fast to the edges of the bottle. I couldn't pull it up, so after much internal debate I decided the only way was down and in. This is where it all began to go wrong. Or wronger.

My kitchen has white walls, a white ceiling and white appliances. The wine is red - you see where this is going but allow me to continue. Using as little force as I can I gently begin to ease the cork down, except the cork, being the bastard that it is, decides to then relinquish all grip on its host and just dive in. Imagine the force with which a cork erupts from a champagne bottle but going the other way, into a load of stainy red stuff. Displacement occurs, and how. The red wine is forced out and all over every single surface in my kitchen, including I believe, some that weren't even there before and came into existence just to be coated in my scarlet foolishness. I whip off the soaked shirt I'm wearing and begin desperately scrubbing everywhere. My kitchen overlooks an abandoned parking lot but beyond that is the street, with a view directly up at me. Anyone happening to pass at that point would have seen a half-naked man, covered in red, meticulously scrubbing the walls and ceiling of ominous red stains, frantically glancing around in case he missed a spot.

The wine was average at best.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

On why it's tough being a barman

Regular readers of my whines will already know that I work in a bar as a barman and table monkey, and that I complain about it a lot, although I do enjoy it. It's easy money and sometimes fun. There sure are a lot of idiots though. The majority of people that patronise my workplace are probably intelligent folk, but the general lack of common sense displayed on a daily basis here never fails to baffle me.

Today, whilst despairing over the dumbness of people, I decided to compile a list of the most common idiots and idiotic doings (if you're one of the idiots in question, I mean no offence, but you ARE an idiot). Here goes:

- If there are four or five of you, and for some reason you choose a table with a surface area of less than 1 sqm and then order food, basic physics dictate that that table is not going to accommodate four drinks, four plates, your laptops and your elbows, all at once. When I come over with your meals in my hands, the logical thing would be to put your laptops away so I have space to place your grub. When I stand there holding your plates, I'm not doing it because I want you to eat from my hands, and I'm really not sure what you're expecting when you look at me blankly and don't comprehend why I don't serve your meals. If I have to ask you to make space, you are an idiot. I hope the food burns your mouth, except it won't because by the time you've realised that our tables aren't magic, it will have cooled down.

- People who sit down at a table, look at the menu, call me over, and then begin looking at the menu again, deciding what you want. Here's a tip for you - decide what you want, then call me over. That way, I don't immediately dislike you, and I don't look like a fucking chump standing there while you make your decision

- I have no problems with table service when possible - that's my job - but if it's busy and you haven't been served fast enough for your liking, feel free to come over to the bar and let me know what you'd like. Logically, this would involve making your choice whilst at your table, and then simply telling me your order at the bar. If you make the small effort to come over, don't then say, "Can I order something?" and walk back to your table expecting me to follow and wait while you peruse the menu (see above). And if all you want is a single drink, why not wait the few seconds it takes to pour, and take it back with you? I'll tell you why - it's because you're an idiot.

- Whilst I don't expect everyone to tip, especially in the above scenario, it's an accepted part of the service industry here - our basic wage isn't great and a lot of us rely on tips to subsidise that. I myself would not tip if the service was below par, but unless my waiter was rude or inept, they'd get their 10% tip. If all you consume is a single drink, I'd expect nothing more than a rounded up total - €3.50 for a beer that costs €3.40 for example. If, however, your bill comes to something like €59.90, and you say, "Take 60," I'd assume I did something wrong. Keep the 10 cents you cheap bastard, since you obviously need it more than I do.

- There are big fucking menus on every table and these menus list everything we serve. That's what menus are. If you ask me for a menu whilst resting your elbows on one, you're on the list. If you then do something like peruse our specialty tea list and then ask if we have one that isn't listed, I will have to bite my tongue - why, yes, we have lots of wonderful things that we deliberately omit from our invisible menus. There are of course, exceptions to this. If you want something mixing that isn't listed, as long as the individual elements are on the menu, I'll mix it. Cranberry juice with milk? Not a problem, you freak.

- Our menus are also not magic. To place an order, look at me and say the words clearly, to ME. If you whisper into your menu, it won't hear you and you will be asked to repeat your order. If you are asked to repeat your order, it's not because I love the sound of your voice you mumbling fuck, it's because I didn't hear what you said, so you should say it louder, not again at a volume and pitch that only bats can hear.

- A handful of people here are friendly to bar staff, and I appreciate that. You guys are my favourites. The majority of folk are pretty neutral, and you guys are alright too. A small percentage are utter fucking cunts - would it kill you to show some manners, maybe throw a please or thank you here and there, or at the very least fucking look at me when I come to your table. This last group is usually made up of rich wankers who clearly see bar work as the lowest of the low and therefore not worth treating with any dignity. They're also clearly the dumbest bunch - I'm the guy making your food and mixing your drinks after all and you wouldn't want me to take offence and add a little something extra, would you? Because I did.

- Actual conversation:
"What's in a Caipiroska?"
"Crushed lime and brown sugar, crushed ice, and vodka."
"Ooh, that sounds nice. Could I have one without alcohol."
"That would be a glassful of ice and mashed up limes."
"It costs €6.90. Should I substitute the alcohol with soda or ginger ale perhaps?"
"No thanks - I just want what it says here, minus the vodka."

I make the drink as directed and serve it..

"Heyyyy! All this is is crushed ice and a bit of lime!"


There will be more, I guarantee it.

Friday, 29 October 2010

On the recipe for foot in mouth

Today, whilst waiting for a train from Vienna to one of its surrounding villages, Ebreichsdorf, I was sat on a bench with my girlfriend, discussing baby names. The platform was pretty empty except for a smattering of people and an old guy sat next to us, chomping on a pastry and minding his own.

The conversation began with a reference to MacGyver, details not relevant here, and me then saying when we have kids, we should wait to see what they're good at and then name them after someone respected in that field (this is actually a lie - my suggestions were things like naming them Food, if they're good at cooking). Anyways, Jamie Oliver was a name thrown out kind of randomly by Vicky and after a little discussion consisting primarily of me slagging him off, I said, and I quote, "I am not naming my son after that fat-tongued twat," following this up with a string of minor insults, ending with, "he's a good chef, but a cock."

Throughout this, the chap next to us had smirked a little. I assumed because he found the prospect of a crazy English couple (he later remarked how un-Austrian Vicky sounded, even when speaking in her native tongue) naming their firstborn McGyver, hilarious. It's a known fact that Austrians have no sense of humour so there's no way he thought we were joking. His smirk was justified.

He then, rather surprisingly, piped up with, "Do you know Jamie?" and I, rather arrogantly, assumed he was just showing us that he understood us and could speak some English relevant to our conversation. I politely responded that I didn't know him personally but knew his food. I may have even insulted him again to my girlfriend for good measure. The chap then proceeded to hand me a business card, showing him to be a professional chef himself, and announced, "I am a friend of Jamie's."

He and Vicky then shared some conversation in German that I chose to ignore, since I felt like a bit of a cunt, but it transpired that he and Jamie Oliver had indeed spent some time working together under the tutelage of a respected German chef.

Maybe I should be more careful who I insult in earshot of complete strangers in future - celebrities have feelings too after all - but really, what are the odds of a personal friend of a celebrity, sitting right next to me, in a country neither call home, at the precise moment I choose to briefly insult said celebrity, whilst waiting for a train to go to a village no-one outside of Austria has ever heard of?!

And if you're reading this Mr Gruber, I still think your mate is a fat-tongued twat.

Friday, 10 September 2010

On home comforts

I've been back in Grimsby for less than a week but already I've found a multitude of things to appreciate here. Things I've missed having only visited home a handful of times in the last two years, and things I kind of forgot about whilst settling into life in Vienna.

Since I'm a fat bastard these days, most of these things relate to food. People say English food is bland, but it's certainly no blander than the majority of Austrian cuisine I've had the misfortune to pay shitloads of money for at restaurants. And that's another thing - pubs here are so bloody cheap and since I love booze as much as I love food, that pleases me. At my bar in Vienna I'd pay around £17 for two Bulmers and a whiskey and coke. At my local here it cost me £8.60. My dad complained that his beer in his usual boozery had gone up to something daft like £2 a pint! That wouldn't even get him a half pint in Vienna.

The following are all brilliant things I've managed to fit into this trip that I won't get to sample again until next time I'm home:

Mum's lasagne - oddly I remember this not being a very popular tea when me and my brother lived at home but it's hands down the tastiest lasagne I've ever had. My mum's not a very adventurous cook but the handful of meals she makes regularly are spot on. Not exactly sure what goes into her lasagne and I'd like to keep it that way. Every time I come home I can guarantee my mum will have a lasagne ready and waiting for when I walk in the door. Cheers mum.

Wetherspoons - splashed out on a rib eye steak for £8 (expensive in my dad's eyes, but comparatively cheap as fuck in mine) and for once they cooked it perfectly. Two big meals and three drinks for a little over £20 - hard to find better value anywhere except at...

A carvery - a brilliant concept. Basically an all-you-can-eat Sunday dinner for £3.50. I could knock together a decent Sunday dinner back home but would spend more than that on the meat alone. It was top quality too. If I lived in Grimsby I'd eat these every day.

Matrix booze prices - I lost track of what each drink cost but I know for damn sure the bottles of Corona weren't setting me back £4+ each as they would in Vienna. And £1.60 for a double spirit and mixer. No wonder it's our hangout of choice.

Scotch eggs - I guess the concept of a scotch egg is a bit confusing but to me they're a perfect snack. And you can eat them like an apple without looking like a smug cunt. Seriously, it's impossible to not look smug whilst eating an apple, especially if you're reading a book at the same time.

Nana's tea - I dunno how she does it but my nan makes the best tea ever (PG or Yorkshire of course). It's spot on every time. I guess it must be experience - not sure exactly how old she is but I'd estimate she's had about 400 years or so to perfect her tea brewing.

Marks & Spencers sandwiches - I could be wrong but I don't think there are any supermarkets in Vienna that sell pre-packed but FRESH sandwiches. Sure you can get basic sandwiches filled at any deli counter, but they're no match for the M&S chicken & bacon baguette, or its oddly creamy cheese and spring onion in soft white bread.

Fish and chips - Even in London I struggled to find a decent fish and chip shop but at least they existed. In Vienna we have kebab stands and hot dogs of various varieties, each one a little more rubbery than the last. I guess it might be partly due to it being landlocked, but even a good seafood restaurant is rare, and you know it's gonna cost more than a couple of quid. Fish and chips shits on that. You can keep your scraps though - they're just weird.

Super Noodle sandwiches - yeah you heard right. It's a known fact that everything tastes better in a sandwich. Mild curry and chicken ones work best. Also helps having good quality sliced bread, available in every supermarket here, and not that shit, stodgy, stale stuff they try to pass of in the likes of Billa.

This will be updated as I remember more hometown aceness.

Monday, 19 July 2010

On being utterly fucking shit at learning German

I've lived in Austria for over 2 years.

My German is shit.

I understand a fair bit and my vocabulary is alright but I can't speak it much past the basics, and 90% of what I say makes me sound like an idiot because my grammar is absolutely terrible.

I've tried and tried and recently went back to basics and bought a book explaining German grammar for absolute beginners but I really cannot absorb the information no matter how hard I try.

Basically what I fail at is this:

There are 4 cases in German (nominative, dative, accusative and genitive) as well as 4 basic ways of saying 'the'. This essentially means the word for 'the' could be any one of 16 depending on the noun used and its context within a sentence.

The cases themselves are confusing. I have no idea what those four terms mean even in English.

Last night I spent 2 hours reading the same 5 or 6 pages and learning the rules before attempting a few basic exercises.

I got 18/68 right, and a lot of those were through guesswork since even after studying for all that time I wasn't sure if I was applying the rules correctly.

It is completely baffling to me, and entirely frustrating since I am generally pretty good at learning new things from scratch with a bit of practise, and I'd say my grasp of the English language is above average.

When studying or being tutored I just cannot understand most of what is being said and all the grammatical terms and rules end up just floating around and making absolutely no sense to me. I kind of hear it, or read it, as follows:

"You have this, this, this and this. When this is said like this, or in a sentence with this like this, you need to use this word for this."

My girlfriend thinks I am overthinking things when attempting to learn but that's what comes naturally to me. For example in English, although I may not know all the rules or grammatical terms involved, I know how to apply them naturally, whereas in German I don't and therefore want them to be explained in detail, which both Vicky and my former German tutor were unable to do.

Here is a stripped down example of a typical exchange between myself and my tutor:

"Why does ein change to einen here?"
"Because of the case"
"What's a case?"
"The way it is used in the sentence"
"How do I know which case to use?"
"You just pick it up"
"You just have to practise"
"How can I practise if I don't understand what I'm practising?"

*she explains the cases for the 50th time*

"Do you kind of understand it now?"
"I think so"

*I successfully construct a sentence based on different cases*

"Good. Now try another

*I fail*

"Why was I wrong that time?"
"Because of different nouns used"
"So there are rules to learn but sometimes the rules don't apply and I basically have no way of knowing when they will or won't?"
"You'll pick it up"
"You just will, with practise"

And so on. It seems like I can study and study, but as soon as I get something wrong, I don't understand why, and I discover that what I thought I knew I basically just got right with trial and error.

Nothing has ever made me as angry as my inability to learn German, and it's made worse by the fact that other, dare I say less intelligent people, seem to be able to pick it up with relative ease.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

On being afraid of the dark

A couple of months ago my girlfriend scared the shit out of me. We were in bed at hers - she was fast asleep, being one of those annoying people who fall asleep instantly, all the time : "Goodnight Vi..." "Zzzzzzzzz!" I was struggling to drop off, as per usual, and was amusing myself by contemplating my breakfast for the following morning (it was a bacon and egg bun and was very tasty). I noticed her breathing become a bit ragged and get more worrying, as if she were hyperventilating. She was also making these pained groans, so I gently nudged her and held her hand to try and rouse her. She woke and looked at me for a split second with a sleepy, trance-like expression - nothing too worrying - but in a flash her expression changed to one of pure and absolute horror, and the fear in her eyes at seeing me was palpable. I've never seen anything like it. She let out the most bloodcurdling scream I've ever heard from a person in real-life and began flailing at me, scratching at my face and kicking as she tried to recoil. Not only did she not recognise this thing in her bed as me, but whatever she saw for that waking moment was utterly terrifying. I had to grab her by the wrists and repeatedly say "Vicky! It's me, Stuart!" a couple of times to calm her down.

Apparently she'd been having a dream where she was staying at her mum's and they were sharing a bed because weird stuff had been going on in the house such as a guitar playing by itself and shadows being seen. There was a demonic ghost type thing after her and just as I woke her she'd been cowering under the covers in her dream as this thing gradually crept up and over her.

I still can't shake the scream and feared look on her face. It really was the most unnerving thing I've ever witnessed.

She's pretty easily spooked at the best of times, which until recently I've enjoyed, since it means I can scare her with the tamest of pranks. It's not that I enjoy being a jerk, I just think she needs to man up a bit. Also I enjoy being a jerk. I remember one time not long after we got together. We were sharing my bed and I got up to get some water, reached the doorway and screamed in horror as if I'd seen an intruder in the living room. Her first instinct was to scream and then throw the book she'd been reading at my head. Nice move Vicky - might as well make things a bit easier for any would be attacker by taking me out for them. Judas.

Anyway, I say until recently, because for the last few nights I've had to keep the light on when I go to sleep, if I'm spending the night alone. The reason being because I'm a pussy. Just kidding - it's because of something I experienced for the first time in my life a week or so ago. Sleep paralysis.

I had no sensation of ever falling asleep or waking up, but post-event research tells me I must have gone through a period of REM sleep and then came out of it. Except sleep paralysis being the utter cunt that it is, only my consciousness came out of it, leaving my body completely paralysed except for my eyes. As if this in itself wasn't terrifying enough, my consciousness had brought with it some elements from whatever dreams I'd been having, at least that's what research tells me was happening. Here's what I experienced:

I was lying on my side looking across my room and could hear police sirens outside and see the red and blue lights on my ceiling. Except the lights were all.... wrong. Then, very faintly at first, I heard a woman's voice from behind me, although it definitely wasn't that of my girlfriend who was lying there. The woman was babbling incoherently and becoming louder and I tried to turn around to see but found I couldn't move anything at all. I experienced an acute sense of panic and danger and tried to scream but couldn't make a sound. This lasted around 10 seconds after which I finally screamed like a girl and woke Vicky.

She assumed I'd simply woken myself from a bad dream, which I guess is the same assumption I'd have made had our experiences been switched, but as bullshit as it sounds it was all very real. I was awake, paralysed, and experiencing some surreal and terrifying shit. Further research tells me that my experience was really mild compared to those of other sleep paralysis sufferers. There's a recurring apparition associated with the phenomena, involving an old hag, which sounds fucking hideous. Google it.

So, since then I've been afraid to sleep with the light off, although now that I think about it, that's dumb, since if I experience all these ghastly hallucinations with the light on it's going to seem a whole lot worse. Also, I kind of want to experience it more vividly so I have a less boring story to write about it. I'd like to meet this crone and maybe reveal that she's not so bad after all. Or shit my pants when she attacks me in my not sleep.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Fuck you, yoghurt!

I woke up far too early for work in a shitty mood. Details not important here. I decided to head in early so I could visit the supermarket, buy tasty breakfast, and sit in the bar eating it in comfort before opening and being interrupted by idiots.

I craved something healthy yet sweet, so grabbed a big pot of yoghurt, some grapes and looked forward to having that with muesli and honey. It's not a full English, but it is more delicious than it sounds.

Yoghurt in hand I strolled towards the checkout, only to round a corner and bump into someone coming the other way. It wasn't a violent bump, and afterwards I could see that she'd been carrying nothing but an apple which, unless it was laced with explosives or had a stalk that had been whittled to a point for later use in fruit-based hand to hand combat, doesn't account for the force with which my massive yoghurt decided to explode. All over me. A surly shop assistant came over and handed me a single tissue which was of no use at all, so I handed her my destroyed, yoghurt soaked carton and went for a replacement. She muttered something at me in German which I chose to ignore because I'm rude and covered in goo.

I hastily grabbed a replacement giant yoghurt from the shelf. A little too hastily since I didn't grab it so much as push it off the shelf for it to smash on the tiles at my feet, covering my shoes in itself. At least my outfit matched now, and with the heat being what it is today, I will smell delicious later. And by delicious I mean like a tramp's pocket.

This time I got no assistance from surly shop assistants so I did my best to keep calm, went to the exit, apologising and leaving with no yoghurt other than that I was wearing.

I'm having bacon sandwiches for breakfast.

Monday, 7 June 2010

On the adventures of Bram Sawyer

Today I went and looked at a castle in Austria somewhere. I don't know exactly where since I'm ignorant. It was a big family outing planned by my girlfriend's mother and if you've read my previous posts you'll know that where I'm concerned, the words 'big', 'family' and 'outing' combine to equal 'fear'. That said it was enjoyable enough as decrepit old castle ruins go, although since I understood barely a word of what the tour guide said, my personal highlights were seeing a wild falcon and a fire salamander, staring at a couple of slugs bigger than anacondas, having a big red beetle fly at me, and managing to pick SEVEN ticks off of my legs before they burrowed into my flesh and began to eat me - older post readers will again appreciate this.

Austria is host to an amazing and unexpected variety of wildlife - I see numerous things for the first time pretty much every month. It's as if someone went around the world gathering sackfuls of things that would amaze and freak me out and then walked slightly ahead of me dropping them in my path.

In the evening, the weather was still burningly hot so Vicky and I decided to take a dinghy along to a river in her home village with the intention of 'rafting' downstream back home, my raft being an old, dubious looking dinghy, and my nigger* being Vicky.

*I'm quoting Mark Twain here before you all start calling me racist

I've never been in a boat on wild waters before and had to control it myself so I was pretty apprehensive, yet also excited to be fulfilling some of my Twain-esque fantasies. And when I say control it myself, I actually mean lounge at the back whilst Vicky did all the damn work as this was my intention. I was expecting a relaxing evening.

Vicky's mother, sister, brother, his girlfriend and their kid had all come along to see us cast off, which I obviously enjoyed since I love being the centre of attention, especially when it involves clambering through branches and mud and maneuvering my 6'3" 210lb frame into a rickety old boat, whilst striving to maintain an air of relaxation and confident masculinity. In case you can't tell I'm being sarcastic. The experience was made even more pleasurable by the completely baffling presence of a bunch of strangers (an old man, a couple of kids and a few Turkish-looking guys) who were just stood along the tiny bridge, looking at the completely unremarkable water before them.

Anyways, we managed to get in, and I instantly felt sinky, but it was kind of peaceful and figured I'd enjoy it while it lasted. My job was to look out for obstacles at the rear of the boat and make sure we didn't crash, but I found it difficult because I kept getting distracted by insects. First I was terrified by a Mayfly because I'd never seen one before and its sting that isn't a sting looked lethal. Then a spider with a bright yellow abdomen tried to steal the oar I wasn't using (Google has so far failed to tell me what the spider was - I guess it may have just been an ant carrying a lemon).

In my head we managed to travel around 3 miles downstream before disaster hit although in reality it was probably a couple of hundred metres. We came snagged on a branch and pushing off caused the branch to get mad and bite a hole in the rear of the boat. We were going down! Maneuvering a sinking dinghy to the shore proved particularly difficult, especially with such a useless and fat first mate as I so by the time we managed it the back half with me in it was pretty much entirely submerged. We clambered aboard with the help of Vicky's brother, although to be honest he just stood there laughing and then inexplicably fell over whilst standing completely still, which amused me greatly.

I then had to carry a dinghy bigger than me across a field whilst completely drenched, and this was the highlight of my weekend. Good day to you all!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Get Down's tonight

Sometimes a dull day is made much more tolerable by a small and insignificant thing. I'm working in the bar today, grumpy because of all too-frequent lack of sleep and bored shitless because the people of Vienna have better things to do than sit in a bar with a grumpy, bored guy drinking coffee and eating overpriced sandwiches.

There's a DVD rental place in the downstairs area and just now a couple came in with their son who was probably around 18 but it was hard to tell because he had Down's Syndrome - he could have been much older or younger. He was in tears and inconsolable despite the couple's best efforts.

The music in the bar is provided by me - I plug my iPod into the loudspeakers and let it do it's thing. I happened to glance towards the stairs just as one song was ending and another beginning and I'm glad I did because what I saw brightened my mood considerably. As 'Sing Me Spanish Techno' by The New Pornographers began, the kid stopped bawling and started dancing, and he was really going for it, waving his arms and grinning widely whilst still standing on the stairs - he looked like he was fighting off invisible eagles or something, and really enjoying it to boot.

I'm not sure how PC it would be, but I think I'm going to look into employing a Down's kid to dance randomly on the stairs every day.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

On dinosaurs

Y'know how some things you take for granted and then sit and think about and are all, "Fucking hell! That's amazing!" Dinosaurs are one of those things. Like, as a kid, you just assume everyone thinks they are the shit, and they're part of your daily life, and then you grow up a bit and actually realise what dinosaurs are and are truly appreciative. Imagine those fuckers walking around today. Zoos would be way more exciting, because let's face it, partially submerged hippos and nonchalant giraffes just don't cut it, whereas a maneating dragon with wings would.

Also, cows. They're considered a bit wack by today's animal standards, but have you ever truly considered a cow? Close up they're more impressive than they get credit for. Same goes for horses.

I should point out that I'm not in the least bit stoned right now.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

On wasted miracles

I've taken to amuse myself during slow shifts at work by attempting feats like throwing books on to shelves from weird angles, or chucking things into tiny bins from miles away, with the down side being that if I pull something amazing off, there'll be no-one around to see it. Just now for example, I dropped an ice cube, caught it on my foot, and then flicked it back up into a glass on the bar.

I once killed a fly, in-flight, by chucking a peanut at it from about 3 metres away. There was a small swarm of them fart-arsing around in the air by my open patio door. They were buzzing, but at that weird low volume and pitch where if you tilt your head at a certain angle you stop hearing it for a few seconds. Bastards. They weren't even doing tricks or anything so I nonchalantly cobbed a nut at them and sure enough, when I went over to retrieve my nut (nuts are pretty expensive considering they're just nuts), it was lying next to the fresh corpse of a fly. Unfortunately I was completely alone when I did it so everyone I tell calls bullshit.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

On dreaming of Hollywood

A dream I had last night made me wake with a smile:

The dominant image I'm left with is that of a film poster for a film I was desperately trying to sell to execs somewhere. It was basically a photo of a man with the wings of an eagle, riding a lion, and the tagline I was trying to sell it on was this:

"The biggest man in the world, with an eagle's body, on the back of a lion"

I think that may also have been the film's title. I couldn't understand why no-one was interested, and persisted in pitching it, with utter seriousness, over and over:

"But what is the film about Stuart?"
"It's the biggest man in the world, with an eagle's body, on the back of a lion"
"But... the story?"
"It's the biggest man in the world, with an eagle's body, on the back of a lion"

What would Freud say?

Friday, 15 January 2010

On knobheads

I'm pretty misanthropic at the best of times, but once in a while I meet someone who reminds me where my misanthropy comes from.

Some right cock came in the bar last night. He was probably an ok guy but I hated his affected 'coolness'. He was a nerdy Indian looking English guy who looked like he worked in a bank but spoke with a cocky assuredness that made me want to punch him. First up he came over and asked what bottled beers we had. I began listing them and he said, "Yeah, Heineken sounds sweet. Don't reckon a bigger beer will be good right now with all the shit I put in my body last night." Yessir - I too have been drunk before and even indulged in other things, but I don't feel the need to share it with complete strangers. Then later on he came up, clapped me on the shoulder and said, "I'm off for a piss yeah, but bust me another Heineken on that table please." I should have literally busted the bottle and left him with a pile of broken glass to drink. Bust me a Heineken?! Who says that?

When I went to settle their bill he said "Thanks, you're a cool guy," which would have been decent of him, except he then made some lame joke about me being a cool guy for letting him off his bill, which had never been alluded too and made no sense. We're not old friends, we've shared no banter, so stop this act please. No-one on his table laughed. He then gave me a tenner for his 7.80 bill and when I gave him his change, rather than him saying I could keep it, he said,

"What the fuck is this?"
"It's your change."
"I know but why you giving it back to me?"
"It's your change"
"Shut the fuck up!"

He then handed it back as a tip proclaiming that "us Northerners gotta stick together," and finishing with, "Stay real bruv." I have a somewhat irrational hatred of twats like him.

Friday, 9 October 2009

On foreign language faux-pas

Two shorts here -

A couple of months ago, my friend from Sweden was visiting me here in Vienna. She did ok with speaking the odd word of German whenever needed but could never get the hang of the word for sorry or excuse me - 'Entschuldigung'. She said it reminded her of the word 'Golliwogg', since most people pronounce it kind of like 'shulligung'.

Anyways, following one particularly drunken evening, myself, her and another visiting friend got into a taxi. She decided to apologise for her innebriated state and so exclaimed, loudly, "GOLLIWOGG DRIVER!"

If you're unsure what a Golliwogg is, see here:

So why was this so ill-advised? Well, since the taxi driver was a black man, I suppose her outburst is the equivalent of yelling "PAKI WAITER!" whilst sitting in an Indian restaurant.

Luckily, either he didn't hear, didn't understand, or somehow wasn't offended.

Then last month I was paying her a return visit in Stockholm. Whilst sitting on the underground I asked her how to pronounce a particular word I'd seen on a newspaper headline. The word was 'Flycktingen'. She found it hilarious that I couldn't pronounce it correctly, and I found it increasingly frustrating - apparently I was adding a 'h' sound after the 't' which shouldn't have been there, and this confused me greatly since when I asked her to say it correctly and then to say what I was saying, I could discern no difference whatsoever. That's why I suck at languages I guess.

Anyway, I sat there repeating the word over and over, until she started giggling and urging me to stop.

It was the word for 'refugee', and I'd been looking absent-mindedly (but probably staring aggressively in their eyes) at a family of Middle Eastern looking folk.

Friday, 28 August 2009

On laziness

I just re-read through this entire blog. All the good stuff's at the beginning. Either my life isn't as exciting these days, I'm not as accomplished an embellisher/storyteller anymore, or I've just gotten lazy and desperate.

I can think of at least three seperate events I've experienced lately that last year I would have made into some mildly amusing anecdotes, but I just never bothered writing them up and now the moments have passed.

If you're new to this blog, I'd recommend skipping back to its conception and reading those. If you like, then maybe read the new stuff. Or maybe not.

Friday, 21 August 2009

On ants

I fucking hate having ants in my flat. I've no idea how to get rid of them. It's not like there are ever large visible hordes of them (unless I leave food out) but it's still pretty vile having a few running around my bedroom and kitchen floor. What the fuck are ants doing hanging out on the 6th floor anyway?!

I have ant traps, but they're not much use unless I know where they are coming from. Yesterday, having tried and failed reasoning with them I decided to set a trap. I noticed a few on the floor in my room so strategically placed tiny pieces of ham and bread in their path. One went for the ham, so I painstakingly followed him, and to my dismay found that he went back into hiding via a crack between my floorboards! If that's how they are getting in and out I don't stand a chance against the little fuckers since there are literally hundreds of these cracks. Anyway, being the professional I am, I sellotaped over that particular one, leaving the little guy's followers somewhat confused. One of them then went for the bread, so I got down on my knees and followed him. After almost an hour of tracking (I think he was wise to my game as he kept doubling back on himself in an attempt to throw me off the trail) he finally headed towards a relatively large crack in the corner of the skirting board. The breadcrumb was a bit too large to get through so he hollered to his mates for help, and when they emerged, I squished the lot, taped up the hole, and laid the trap there. So far so good...

Friday, 17 July 2009

On a refreshing change from the norm - a continuation of sorts

Fucking mental perhaps, but also refreshing. Here's the deal:

My last post here detailed the gist of my trying to get an internet connection sorted at my new flat here in Vienna (I can't be bothered to check what I wrote right now so I may well repeat a bit here - deal with it).

Basically, I spoke for longer than accustomed to, to a slightly odd, yet very friendly lady on the phone, who began asking questions about my personal life, albeit in a non-invasive way. She'd informed me that within a couple of days I'd receive an email with a form I needed to fill in and return and then Id be internetagogo. A couple of days pass, no email. It was vexing me slightly as it means I have to patronise various pubs and cafes in order to use their free wireless, since the one I was leeching from a neighbour suddenly stopped working. Lousy neighbor. I sent my crazy internet lady an email asking when I'd be likely to receive the forms. She emailed back explaining how she'd had a busy Monday so hadn't been able to call but would try to call me the following day. OK, fair enough I thought.

A cople more days passed and still no contact. I tried calling the number she'd left but apparently it didn't exist. Frustrating. Then I got a call from her last night:

"I'm very angry," she said. "You have to understand, I thought I could count on people." She did indeed sound distressed.
"What's wrong?" I asked. Already I'd decided she was nice, and that it probably wasn't her fault."
"He sent the forms to the wrong email address, the idiot," she protested, "I didn't know. I can't be expected to check on every outgoing email here. Thank you so much for your email - I would never have known otherwise."

he more she spoke, the more endearing I found her, her accented English making her plight (which was really my own) seem even more heartbreaking. She explained that she'd see to it that the forms were resent, to the correct address, immediately, sighing and apologising the whole time. I stressed that it wasn't a big deal and thanked her for her attempts to recify the error, a smile on my face the whole time. She sounded so sweet and well-meaning.

So we got that sorted - end of phone call right? But then she wished me a good evening and began telling me how she had the weekend off and would be going to Prague. And then it got odd, but amusingly, rather than irritatingly so. She'd just bought some Stoff (she implored me to tell her the English word - it's material), and with it would be constructing hats.

"I'll make one with fishes. Fishes on Stoff. It'll be like wearing an aquarium!" (giggle).

I'm stifling giggles myself here, but wanting to hear more, so humouring her as best I can.

"And one hat will be red with bells. Like a wizard's hat!"

God bless this lady and her hatmaking eccentricities.

The conversation, post internet sorting, lasted 20 minutes, and left me with a grin and aching cheeks

I truly hope she has a good time in Prague. When my internet is sorted I will be calling her regularly with invented problems, just to hear her madness some more.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

On stupid people and odd people

I just moved into a new flat here in Vienna and have been trying to get hooked up to the internet. I chose the package I wanted - I'm a bit ignorant when it comes to all the technical terms, but I knew it had the download speed I wanted, and I could use it via ethernet as my computer's not set up for wireless. I ordered it online and waited for a phone call.

A couple of days ago it came, from a lady who didn't seem to have a clue. After the initial greetings and confirmations, her first question relating to the actual setup was, "Which kind of Fritz Box do you want?" I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in not having a fucking clue what a Fritz Box is. So I asked. She laughed as if I was an idiot for not knowing and then proceeded to explain:

"Well, the free one is an old model. The newer one will cost you 39 Euros, or something like that, I'm not sure exactly."

Well, that's cleared it up. Thanks.

"What is a Fritz Box?"
"It's the modem you need."
"Ah, ok. And what benefits would the one I have to pay for give me?"
"Well, it has 3 antennas."
"Three antennas for what?"
"Well, the old one only has one."

You're shitting me - what kind of a sucker uses only one antenna?

"What do I need antennae for?"
"It's for wireless..."
"Ah, yeah, like I explained before - I don't need wireless. Give me the free one."

I thought that was settled, but she proceeded to talk nonsense for ages, before I practically had to shout at her to just give me the free one.

Then she started asking questions about where I was from, and why I'd moved to Vienna and did I have a girlfriend here... fucking hell! Just hook me up to some internet already!

Then on Tuesday, at the pub I work in, this occurred:

"Hi, are you open?" (I had 3 tables of people in already)
"I saw the sign outside. I'd like to order breakfast."
"I'm afraid we only do breakfasts on the weekends."
"But it's Tuesday."
"Could you not make me eggs and bacon please?"
"No. I have no eggs. We buy them on Saturday morning for the breakfasts. Which is only served on weekends, as the sign says."
"But you don't look busy. Just some eggs and bacon."
"I have no eggs, regardless of whether I'm busy or not."
"But Billa (supermarket) is just around the corner."
"Then you'll be able to get yourself some eggs on your way home. Now, can I get you anything else?"

With that she grunted and left. Stupid bitch.

Today I had an experience with a more pleasant weirdo.

First she came up to me and asked what year the film The Gift was from. I said it was 2000 and for some reason this made her laugh and say, "It doesn't matter."

Then she went downstairs to the video shop, which was closed, and started looking around in the dark until I called her back up.

Then she said, "If I want to eat a salad, where should I sit?" I told her she could sit anywhere she pleased, gestring to all the empty tables and handing her a menu, saying, "All our salads are listed inside. Take your pick." Again she laughed and after studying the menu said, "I saw some green leaves and tomatoes. If I wanted tomatoes in a salad, what should I order?" I recommended the tomato and mozarella salad. So I made this, she ate it and expressed how delightful it was.

Finally, she asked for "a coffee with Irish". I said, "an Irish coffee?" and she said, "No," and pointed to the menu, where it said 'Irish Coffee'. I made her this, she drank it, grinning, and then came and asked for the bill. It came to 16 Euros for the salad, coffee and a ginger ale, and she gave me 30, saying keep the change. The odd thing is, she didn't look weird at all. Kind of like someone's mum, or a teacher.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

On a very odd man (2)

Hmmm, having one guy regularly providing me with entertaining if
slightly insane snippets of conversation may well mean this blog
receives more updates in future.

Today's conversation:

- Stuart, what is the musician?
- You're gonna have to be a bit more specific there I'm afraid.
- Hmmm... a British musician, from the 60s. Not Bob Marley... the
other one.
- OK. Well, Bob Marley was neither British, nor that active in the 60s.
- No not Bob Marley. The other one.
- The other British musician from the 60s. Let me see...
- Like a rolling stone...
- Ah, Bob Dylan?
- Yes!
- He wasn't British either.
- Bob Dylan. So, does he play? Here?
- Does Bob Dylan play here?! In this pub?!
- No. *thoughtful pause* Is Bob Dylan Bob Dylan?
- Is Bob Dylan Bob Dylan? You're asking me if Bob Dylan is himself?
- Yes. Is Bob Dylan Bob Dylan?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

On a very odd man

This post is dedicated to a guy who comes into the pub I work in, every single day. He's harmless enough, but can get a little annoying at times. Still, he makes for choice entertainment during slow shifts. I'll attempt to explain a little about his basic nature. He's quite capable of holding a normal conversation, and in fact talks a lot. Too much. He'll slip from bursts of hearty laughter, often completely random and unrelated to the topic of talk, and bouts of earnest concentration, which usually precede a question, uttered in the most serious tone of voice despite the fact that they are usually something mundane. Example: He'll look you in the eye, and talk in a low voice, as if a doctor informing you you have terminal cancer, and then his question will be, "Do you enjoy sports?" Whatever the answer, he'll either consider it a little and ask a follow up question, or just chuckle. If you join him in the chuckle, he'll chuckle louder, and I've discovered it's quite possible to induce the heartiest of guffaws, if you gradually increase the volume of your own laughter. Fun.

Sometimes, his questions are utterly random, as if he's just voicing the end of a thought process that's been going on inside his head for a while, but which obviously no-one else has been privy to. Example: He'd evidently been considering the concept of vegetarianism, and had possibly had a prior conversation with someone about it. His question to me, preceded by nothing related was, "Stuart. Tell me, would you ever eat a fish without a face?" From this I can only assume he'd been involved in an earlier conversation in which someone had mentioned that they wouldn't eat a fish served with its head still attached, but coming out of the blue like that, it threw me a little. I humoured him and told him that faceless fish are the only kind of fish I'll consider eating, and now he's obsessed with finding out more about these mythical faceless fish.

A couple of nights ago, this conversation happened:

- Stuart. Who is this playing? the music.
- It's Joni Mitchell
- Ah *customary thoughtful pause* and... is it an album?
- No, just some odd songs
- OK. Did you... buy... the album?
- It's not an album. Just a few songs.
- Oh? And where does it come from?
- I downloaded the songs. They're on my iPod. It's playing from my iPod.
- *really confused look and pause* It's...*thoughtful pause* ... a computer?
- No. It's playing from my iPod. Through the computer.
- *slightly scared look* But... how does she get here? How does she come through an iPod into the air here?

So now he thinks Joni Mitchell is some kind of futuristic sorceress.

Friday, 24 April 2009

On homesickness

Well, it's been a considerable time since I updated, so uneventful has my life been in recent months. So long in fact, that I'd forgotten my login details. There was a mildly amusing incident involving a desk, a stolen trolley, a hill, and lots and lots of sweat, but as I began to document that I realised just how mild the amusement was. 

This post isn't really a worthy addition - if you're after gags and interesting happenings, stop now and go read something by Charlie Brooker instead.

This is about me, and my really missing home for the first time since leaving sunny England one year ago, almost to the day.

Even last September, when my life pretty much hit an all time low, I still never craved a return to home shores - I lost my girlfriend here, my home, my job, and almost my parents, yet I still didn't miss the golden gloomy sunsets of England.

Things are good now. I have a relatively well-paying job that I enjoy, and a comfortable living arrangement which as yet, remains rent-free - just as well since as yet, my finances haven't recovered from those 2 and a half months of unemployment I experienced here whilst still paying rent.

A couple of weeks ago, two of my good friends here left Vienna permanently, and whilst I still have friends here, their leaving gradually had an impact on me. One in particular is the dearest, most selfless person I have ever met and Vienna has a very different level of appeal now that he's not around.

Around the same time, I booked a flight home. I'll spend 10 days there in which I'll see my family and friends for the first time since Christmas and for only about the third time since I moved out here. In fact, some of them I've seen even less than that. I have mixed feelings about this. I'm so excited to see them all again, but I know that it will make the few weeks following my return that bit bluer - I've never taken my friendships for granted, and I know those back home will always be the best friends I ever make, so it's hard seeing them only once or twice a year, and missing out on all the shenanigans we used to have, which they're now having in my absence.

I also realised how out of touch with things back home I am. I was never an avid TV viewer, but I do miss being able to turn on the box, whatever's on, and just have English voices fill the room. I miss watching football on a Saturday - it's possible here, but it means going to the pub to do it. I miss English newspapers, even the shit ones. I miss other aspects of my homeland too - sitting on a bus or train and being able to overhear and understand all the cconversations around me, however dull they may be. I miss good sliced bread.

With all this in mind, I have begun to question why I'm even in Vienna. There's nothing really solid keeping me here, although certain relationships would make me sad to leave. It's a nice city, but not one I would have ever chosen to move to without a reason, and there's nothing here that isn't a person, that I would really miss if I left. But I'm definitely not ready to return to England, and I'm not sure I can face the hassle of moving all my belongings and attempting to settle somewhere entirely new, not just yet anyway. Besides, my wallet wouldn't let me.

Friday, 27 February 2009

On spirits

I went to the pub I used to work at last night to meet a mate and stayed for 7 beers over 5 hours, leaving at 10pm, still pretty sober. I went straight home.

At 1am, My flatmate came home to find me in conversation with someone. She asked who I was talking to as there was no-one else here and I said a girl. She decided I was hammered and humoured me, asking if she was pretty. I said no, she was pale and gaunt looking and and asked where she'd gone. Vicky said maybe she's in the kitchen so I went to look there and was then really confused. I remember thinking I'd been talking to someone but don't remember the conversation or the person. I found out this morning from Vicky how I'd described the girl - Vicky couldn't remember the word gaunt and at the time didn't know what it meant (she said "you said the girl was, something that sounds a bit like cunt and means thin").

So, having been soberish at 10 when I left the pub, how come at 1am I was hammered and delusional despite not having had a drink in 3 hours, and what the fuck was I doing for those 3 hours?! And this is the second time this year that I've had lengthy conversations in our flat with people no-one else could see.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

On icy assassins

On the way back from the shop this morning I had to go through a bunch of kids having a snowball fight. They started lobbing them at me so I quickened my pace toward my building. I didn't want to start throwing back as I throw like a girl and would only have been ridiculed. But they started ridiculing me anyway, taunting me in German as they bombarded me. When I got to my building's main gate, I remembered the maintenance guy had been doing something with the lock as I'd left earlier. My key wouldn't turn, so I was left there frantically rattling the gate and looking pleadingly around for help, as the kids continued their assault. I couldn't even answer back in their language so I must have looked like some panicky deaf mute!

Also, my chair has been busted for a while, with the backrest just hanging off and useless. This morning I dismantled it and removed it completely but just now I forgot, leaned back, and went arse over tit. Wish I'd had my webcam on recording - I could have become a YouTube star.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

On ghosts and strange occurences

I've always been fascinated by anything that cannot be explained rationally, but I've been obsessing over ghosts recently - moreso than usual.

For today's brief and unexciting (I'm getting desperate for material here) tale of idiocy, a little background information is needed. A friend of mine is convinced my flat is haunted, despite having only stayed here once, and I've often felt like someone else was in my bedroom as I lied in bed, even if I was alone. Nothing too out of the ordinary though.

A couple of nights ago, something very eerie happened here.

I haven't been sleeping recently so when my flatmate had retired to her room for the night, I laid in my bed with the light on and read for a while. This was around midnight. A couple of hours later I'd turned off the light and been having coughing fits, whilst perhaps dozing for a couple of minutes before coughing woke me up again. I was never fully asleep. After one particularly nasty spluttering session I looked up to see the silouhette of my flatmate standing at the door of my room, I assumed checking to see I was ok, but it startled me so much I shrieked and said "Jesus you scared me!" She giggled and left.

The following morning we were sitting on the sofa and she asked how I'd slept, to which I replied, "You heard me coughing! I assumed that's why you came to my room," and she looked all perplexed and said she hadn't, and that she'd slept through the night. When I told her what had happened she went white.

To her knowledge, she's never sleepwalked in her life before, and it may have been that I'd seen this figure during one of my brief periods of semi-sleep, but still, it sent shivers down us both.

So, today I was alone in the flat, sitting at my desk, in darkness except for my bedroom, when I heard a slight whistling, groaning sound, like someone gasping for breath. It was barely audible though so I did my best to strike it from my ears and carry on working. But the volume and intensity gradually increased until it was all I could focus on. It was now accompanied by a spluttering sound, and was definitely not in my imagination. I began to freak out a little, looking anxiously around me. It was then that I noticed the kitchen light on and went to investigate.

On entering the kitchen I saw the source of the noise and yelled.


I'd put a pot of coffee to brew on the stove earlier and obviously forgotten about it. It had boiled over and sprayed itself all over the wall and oven top. No ghost, and now no fucking coffee either.

I told you it wasn't a good story, but while I'm on the subject I might as well fill some more space with a couple of genuine tales of terror.

It's my lifetime ambition to see a ghost, although preferably whilst I'm not alone - a) so I have someone to back up my story, and b) because I would probably scream and panic like a small child if alone - although I'm pretty sure ghosts don't judge people, and I could probably explain that I'm pretty manly usually.

I have had two experiences in years gone by where I think I may have witnessed a supernatural being, but there are probably rational explanations (care to offer anything up, science?).

When I was about 13, I was mucking about with a few mates by the river in my hometown. It was dark and we were walking along an unlit path when suddenly the lad I was walking beside got a right panic on and started frantically thrashing the air and throwing punches around. He then screamed and ran off and the rest of us being the pussies we were just ran with him.

As we slowed, he asked me in a terrified voice, "Didn't you see it?!" At that point I turned and looked and saw a clear humanoid outline in purple on the path back where he'd gone nutso. I shat it and ran with him off the path around the corner where the rest of our bunch were waiting.

Most of them were clueless as to what had spooked us, but when asked if they'd seen anything, a couple of them also described the purple shape I'd seen.

I still don't know what it was.

Weird, and terrifying in retrospect, but as I said, there's probably a rational explanation.

A couple of years after the above happened, I was walking with a friend by the same river but a mile or so away from that incident. There's a bit where the path is interrupted by a deep trench which you have to clamber down, cross the mud at the bottom via precariously balanced stepping stones, and then clamber up the other side. It's not something you can rush.

As we approached the trench I happened to glance behind and saw an old fella a couple of hundred yards back on the path. He was wheeling a bike with him, and I thought nothing of it.

My friend and I crossed the trench in the usual careful, laboured manner and began to walk the other side. I wondered how the old boy would manage with his bike and all, since it's not a simple operation even for a young lad with no bike to hinder, so I turned round again, only to see the guy, bike and all, already on our side.

At the time I didn't really think about it or consider it too strange but later that day it hit both me and my friend - how the hell had this old chap, with a bike, covered 200 yards, and crossed the trench in a matter of seconds?! Sure, he may have decided to hop on the bike pre-trench, but the mounting and dismounting alone would have taken almost as long as the time he took to ride/walk/climb/carry his bike to the other side.

Again, almost certainly not a ghost, but I'm still to hear a definitive alternative.

So there are my ghost stories, and to follow and conclude here are a couple of instances of odd coincedences that I've experienced.

A few years ago, whilst living in Lincoln as a student, there was a period where clocks in films we watched would show the same time as the actual time at the point we were watching. It started with The Karate Kid I believe and happened again with about 10 other films over a year or so. Just coincedence I guess, but weird.

Also, I was once house sitting for a friend and he said, "You'll need to know the alarm code, it's..." and I finshed with, "6458?" He looked shocked and asked how I knew, but it was a total guess, a shot in the dark, and the number has no relelvance to either of us or anything.

Another time, the father of a friend of mine came home all excited and asked his son, "You'll never guess what I saw this morning!" His son shrugged and said, "I dunno? A kestrel chasing a sparrowhawk?" His dad went white and asked if he'd been followed as that was exactly what he'd seen, but I'd been with his son all day and we'd been nowhere near his dad and the birds - it was a completely random guess, and neither bird was anything like common to the area.

I still put it down to some kind of involuntary mind reading or something. 

On a change from the norm

The next few posts will see my blog take a new direction. Being unemployed, broke and pretty much a creature of solitude of late has not seen much scope for new tales of idiocy. I was hoping my Christmas break back home would but whilst good times were had, and brain cells killed, there was nothing truly storyworthy to write about.

So, observations...

Here's the first, in which I tell you of things that I don't care about as much as you do:

Not sure where I'm going with this, but I may develop into some kind of ongoing project, although I have no idea how. It strikes me from time to time that the majority of people of my own generation and with similar interests focus way more attention than me on certain things. Should I maybe care more about...

Mobile Phones

It never ceases to amaze me when people I know get a new phone, often spending hundreds of pounds on it, and other people I know are eager to examine it.

"Gi's a look at yer phone! Oh wow! Cool!"


And when people see me using mine and sneer at it's ancientness.


As long as it performs the basic functions required by a phone, namely calling people, receiving calls, and sending and receiving texts (which I actually prefer, since I hate phone conversations), then I am happy.

I've had the same one for as long as I can remember and have had perhaps 3, since my first one around 10 years ago (Yes, I got by just fine without one until I was 21 - back then I was content to arrange to meet someone at a certain place and time, and trust they'd be there).

Remember, IT'S A PHONE!


I've never owned a car. Technically I can drive one, but legally I can't. Meaning I never got my license, but stick me behind the wheel and I'm capable of driving. As with the phone thing, I have no interest in the supposed aesthetic attraction of a car - if it goes, it's good enough for me. Of course I understand that some cars provide a more pleasant behind-the-wheel experience than others, and that I can appreciate, but how anyone can get truly excited about a car, unless it flies or travels through time, is beyond me.


Now don't get me wrong, I am a football fan. I have a favourite team which I have followed for years, and I love watching football and take an interest in the latest goings on within the game. To an extent. I do not understand how certain people will put football before family, or something similar. Me and my father and brother do not have a great deal in common. If we're together, conversation generally does not flow. But switch the subject to football and those two will talk forever as if it's the most important thing in the world. My dad proudly boasts that he has "never read a book in his life, but read the biography of Roy Keane from cover to cover".

I enjoy watching football, but I do not enjoy discussing and analysing it in detail for lengthy periods of time. It's just a game.


Controversial? Maybe. I love to design, and I'd love to be able to make money from it regularly, but ask me who my favourite artist is and I'd struggle. Ask me who influences me and I'd draw a complete blank. Ask me to draw meaning from any piece of art, mine or otherwise and you'd get a blank look. If something looks nice, if it pleases my eye, I like it. I care not for meanings and metaphors within the art world.

I've been to many of Europe's finest galleries, and whilst there have of course been exhibits which have wowed and impressed, the most constant single feeling I've left with has been boredom.

I remember once I made a passing comment about my own design saying something like, "I'm no good at drawing really and don't have the motivation to practise that much," and I was reprimanded by a designer, respected here and elsewhere, saying that if I'm not prepared to put my soul into it then maybe art isn't for me. That is the most bullshit remark I ever read. I have fun designing and that's good enough.


I have three criteria when choosing clothes for myself - they must be cheap and comfortable, and they must look good, to me.

I think the most money I ever paid for any item of clothing was £70 for a suit. Following that, I once bought a pair of shoes for £50, and then I'd say everything else I ever bought cost under £30. I hate labels, and don't see the appeal of paying lots of money to advertise an already rich company - I'm sure most people here feel the same. Give me a £6 plain black jumper from Matalan over the £60 alternative from TopMan, or wherever the cool kids shop these days. If it perishes within a year, so be it, I'll buy another.

That said, I did once own a pair of apparently limited edition Levi jeans which were easily the nicest jeans I've ever owned. My mate found them brand new in his pub, tags and all and passed them on to me when no-one claimed them. The price tag stated they'd cost £150. For jeans! These have since fallen apart and shall never be replaced, and I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find a nice pair of jeans - what's the obsession with all these ludicrously over-bleached patches, crease lines and holes already in the jeans?! Why would I pay £50+ for brand new jeans that look old when I could pay 50p for old jeans at Oxfam?