Thursday, 25 December 2008

FUCK YOU EBOOKERS

This is a rant. It won't be witty. It won't be Christmassy. Quite frankly Christmas can shove it, because I am mad. I will outline why:

Yesterday, I attempted to book a flight on ebookers. Now, ebookers is a nightmare before you even get to the payment stage, advertising flights that then disappear when you click on them and such. So I finally chose my overpriced return flight to Paris and then the website politely informed me in red text that ebookers was still confirming the flight with the airline and that if I didn't receive confirmation within half an hour to go ahead and rebook.

You are kidding me. I JUST ENTERED CREDIT CARD DETAILS AND CLICKED GO.

So I waited.
and waited.
and waited.

No Confirmation Email.

Better rebook, yes?
No.

Why? Because the bastards have just charged $413 to my bank account, that's why!

Not to stress, I think; it is the holiday season, people are busy celebrating a holiday honouring a deity I don't believe in, eating lots of food (which I do believe in) and generally being merry. Surely, the site is just busy with crazed customers, touched by the light of consumerism, I mean, Jesus, busily snapping up last minute flights to romantic destinations. Like Paris. Which is where I want to go.
I'll just email ebookers and tell them to send on the confirmation.

Later (much later) I get an email telling me that no, no, they have no record of my booking. Not even a failed booking record. Just nothing. Nor do they have record of charging me a fuckload of money for the flight. Can I send a bank statement?

No I can't send a bank statement, say I. See, when one is travelling around the place, one uses last minute internet booking sites, not for fun, but because one is travelling around NOT SITTING AT A FULLY EQUIPPED HOME OFFICE CHEERILY MAKING USE OF THE SCANNER AND PRINTER AND PEN HOLDER AND PAPERWEIGHT AND WHATEVER OTHER NICE ITEMS ARE FOUND IN OFFICES AND NOT IN THE PLACES FREQUENTED BY TRAVELLERS! (please note that the above text was not included in my very polite response to Mr or Mrs ebookers. Please also note that I am not saying Mr or Mrs to suggest that I did not know the gender of the staff member who replied to my emails. I did know the gender of each staff member who replied, it is just that a different one replied to each email. How's that for customer service? Fuckers.)

But wait, there's more.

After a number of emails I called ebookers and after a number of phone menus I spoke to a customer service lady who was very polite even though it was obvious I was on the verge of a tantrum. Unfortunately, polite is useless when not coupled with any kind of asistance.

All I wanted was either:
a) an email assuring me that if I were to book a new flight the current charge would be refunded or
b) A GODDAMN FLIGHT TO PARIS


I got this via email:
We would also like to inform that the details which you have provided us though we are unable to retrieve the booking if you go ahead and rebook and if the ticket is non-refundable then you will be at a loss.

Right.
The woman on the phone told me to call the airline directly. I said that the airline charged £1 a minute, and that it was ebookers fault and could she please fix it.

No.

So, I set the timer (so as to be able to pay my nice hosts for the expensive phone call) and called easyjet.

USELESS

They have no record of my flight either. They suggested I call ebookers.

So right now I have no flight to Paris, $413 less in my bank account, and a FUCKING TRUCKLOAD OF RAGE on Christmas Eve.

Ok Santa, baby Jesus or whoever else is running round the skies tonight, step up. I don't want socks, I want a flight to Paris. I'll even be nice the next time I visit a famous church - no scoffing, no suggestions that someone have sex with me in the confession box, no stealing of anti-abortion fliers and certainly no graffiti (that was Brie and it was a church in Bathurst, not a famous one.)

It has happened. I am finally sick of travel and ready to come home.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Singing Housewife and Simone the Little Pig







Things I love about La Ferme du Lama Gourmand:

1. The fact that it is called La Ferme du Lama Gourmand - The Farm of the Gourmet Llama. And, evidently, the llamas. Quite possibly som of the funniest looking animals in the world. They are also very well behaved when it comes to posing for photos which the 26 million llama photos I have taken will show.

2. Mud, fine food and pretty countryside.

3. Simone....I always thought pigs were semi-cute but never truly understood some peoples' passionate love for them (hey chand.) Then I met Simone. Simone is very small and brown with paler stripes (stripes! on a pig! like a little tiger pig!!!). She is round like a barrel and often gets scared of people. Apparently the solution to this is to let her sleep in your bed one night, something which Michel intends to do next weekend. I am devastated not to be here and I think that if Viv had not booked her flight to Paris already I would have cancelled that little adventure and stayed here just to see it!

4. French Scrabble. Playing it. More importantly, nearly winning it. I lost by one measly freakin' point! Though at third game, I drank too much wine and forgot to count half the points, so who knows who won. Not me though. Foreign language + wine = no.

5. Frère Jacques ring tone on phone.

6. The music collection of hosts. No one has been home during the day so I get to make dinner whilst singing at top of voice along with Nina Simone, Edith Piaf, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey, Liza Minelli, Antony & the Johnstons, a wide range of opera classics and various excellent soundtracks including, yes, Yentl! (meanwhile not smoking for 4 months has stopped that unbearable pain I used to get on the high notes - woot woot!)

7. Being introduced, in the evenings, to the CDs I didn't recognise including Juliette and Nina Hagen as well as a variety of old French singers who use a lot of euphemisms for sex, masturbating and genitalia (hairy mountain being my favourite.) A few of these songs are great for a charleston which I attempted to teach to Guillaume.

8. Meeting someone else (Guillaume) who's voice can carry through several rooms and who you can hear even when you can't hear the 12 other people in the room with him. I am not alone!

9. Three words: Hay Bale Backpack.
Is backpack two words or one?

10. Finding out that one of my three favourite French words; Pompier (meaning fireman) is also a euphemism for blowjob. Very upsetting. Fortunately have replaced it with 'topinambour' which is a jerusalem artichoke. The pigs eat them. (coming in 1st and 2nd are 'quantitativement' and 'plombier.' in case you were interested)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Queer?

A friend of mine from Norway, Frederik, posted these quote from Whipping Girl by Julia Serano and I found it interesting...thoughts? comments?

"It [the queer/transcommunity] is a subgroup of the LGBTIQ community that is composed mostly of folks in their twenties and thirties who are more likely to refer to themselves as "dykes", "queers" and/or "trans" than "lesbian" or "gay". While diverse in many ways, this subpopulation tends to predominately inhabit urban and academic settings, and is skewed toward those who are white and/or from middle-class backgrounds. In many ways, the queer/trans community is best described as a sort of marriage of the transgender movement's call to "shatter the gender binary" and the lesbian community's pro sex, pro kink backlash to 1980s-era Andrea Dworkinism."

....

"[I call this trend subversivism] Subversivism is the practice of extolling certain gender and sexual expressions and identities simply because they are unconventional or noncomforming. In the parlance of subversivism, these atypical genders and sexualities are "good" because they "transgress" or "subvert" oppressive binary gender norms. The justification for the practice of subversivism has evolved out of a particular reading (although some would call it misreading) of the work of various influential queer theorists over the last decade and a half

To briefly summarize this popularized account: All forms of sexism arise from the gender binary system. Since the binary gender system is everywhere - in our thoughts, language, tradition, behaviors etc - the only way we can overturn it is to actively undermine the system from within. Thus, in order to challenge sexism, people must "perform" their genders in ways that bend, break and blur all imaginary distinctions that exist between male and female, heterosexual and homosexual, and so on, presumably leading to a system wide binary meltdown. According to the principles of subversivism, drag is inheretly "subversive", as it reveals that our society's binary notions of maleness and femaleness are not natural, but rather actively "constructed" and "performed" by all of us. Another way that one can be "transgressively gendered" is by identifying as genderqueer or genderfluid - i.e., refusing to identify fully as either woman or man"

....

"On the surface, subversivism gives the appearance of accommodating a seemingly infinite array of genders and sexualities, but this is not quite the case. Subversivism does have very specific boundaries; it has an "other". By glorifying identities and expressions that appear to subvert or blur gender binaries, subversivism automatically creates a reciprocal category of people whose gender and sexual identities are by default inherently conservative, even "hegemonic", because they are seen as reinforcing or naturalizing the binary gender system. Not surprisingly, this often-unspoken category of bad, conservative genders predominately made up of feminine women and masculine men who are attracted to the "opposite" sex.

....

"One routinely sees this "dark side" of subversivism rear its head in the queer/trans community, where it is not uncommon to hear individuals critique or call into question other queers or trans folks because their gender presentation, behaviors, or sexual preferences are not deemed "subversive" enough. Indeed, if one fails to sufficiently distinguish oneself from heterosexual feminine women and masculine men, one runs the risk of being accused of "reinforcing the gender binary", an indictment that is tantamount to being called a sexist. One of the most common targets of such critiques are transsexuals, and particularly those who are heterosexual and gender-normative post-transition. Indeed, because such transsexuals (in the eyes of others) transition from a seemingly "transgressive" queer identity to a "conservative" straight one, subversivists may even claim that they have transitioned in other to purposefully "assimilate" themselves into straight culture. While these days, such accusations are often couched in the rhetoric of current queer theory, they rely on many of the same mistaken assumptions that plagued the work of cissexist feminists like Janice Raymind and sociologists like Thomas Kando decades ago."

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Farewell sweet friend of mine...

| Edit Note | Delete
We met in 2006. You arrived just when I needed you. Bringing comfort and support, giving me space, complimenting me perfectly.

Together we toiled 7 days (and nights) per week at the Edge where the stars trod the boards 10 minutes apiece in efforts to prove their potential fame and entertain Newtown's masses. Incognito, we melted into the black drapes just as we were supposed to, strangers in the night, moving this and that this way and that. Stuffed with importance you were just what I sought.

Soon after we would head for deserts red, dust covered fields we would tramp toger, up and down, up and down. Rising early to face another day's hard work as dirt from the nation's corners settled in our cracks. Pushed to the limit, with wristbands and torches and scissors and spillages and searing sun and rain. Not to mention our fellow staff... The year ended brutally for us both and we sought comfort in life's pleasures, in leisure soon to come.

So we were city bound for a time and you joined me for wide-eyed, dry-mouthed Great Escapes as we danced pushed up against hippies and children, beautiful women and sweaty alcohol-drenched men. But you were faithful, sticking to me throughout this foray into fun. We leapt and bounced and shook and ran with old friends and sisters, new friends and lovers.

You were a constant, dear friend of mine.

It seemed life was slowing down...time for retirement? But I kept you on your toes with the occasional odd job. We took on poorly matched pink t-shirts as thousands crossed Our Bridge in commemoration. You felt redundant though in shiny 4WD, when on January 26, crewing meant following a GPS and trundling through the city on wheels. Pockets included. Mud minimal.

I missed you so took you out one night, and in some serendipitous wonder you were so very needed. An unfortunate digestion of a little something someone found on the floor left me sprawled on another's lap all night, unable to move. But you were there, as always, to protect my dignity. A Kooky turn of events.

These past months we have climbed mountains, passed under waterfalls, tramped through cities we'd never heard of before now. Your retirement seemed complete.

But no, I have brought you here and you have said Bonjour once more to bon travail. Salut mud and heavy lifting. You are torn and smeared, ripped and covered in unidentifiable matters.

And I think this may be your final resting place, this Island Home (as sung Christina Anu when you came out to Aurora and we worked behind the stage the only ones not sporting tails and gowns.) You shall rest here, broken as you are, and sleep at last.

I doubt I shall ever truly replace you.

RIP beloved.


- One pair black cargo pants: $40 from leichhardt market place
- Thread used to constantly try and fix numerous holes in said cargo pants: £1 in Edinburgh
- Three years of damn good trouserage known by many names (short&sweetpants, crocpants, crewpants, theatrepants, festivalpants, practicalpants, movingdaypants, farmpants):...

priceless

Saturday, 15 November 2008

the day-to-day today

I am content.

I wake up in my cottage with a red door. I'm all covered with blankets but I get up and shower while it is dark. Breakfast is at 8 with coffee-in-a-bowl comme d'habitude and muesli laden with nuts. Then it's to work.

I can bike ride to the greenhouses, down narrow hedge-lined roads that criss cross the stunning green island. There are no cars here. It's a while since I've ridden but riding a bike really is...like riding a bike. If it's raining or I am lazy I can ride on the tractor. Nicolas drives and I sit on a metal platform above the wheel making sure my gumboots don't touch it. Aurelie rides a bike as she spends half the day working on a boat collecting oysters and needs to be able to travel to the south side. Temptation to make Tipping the Velvet references: high.

There's much to do to prepare for winter and next year's harvest. Also, there was a fire in the greenhouse a month ago and there's still lots to tidy.

Pulling up nettles, rearranging equipment, picking peppers, repotting thyme and mint, putting potatoes in the compost, realising they were not meant to be in the compost, standing knee-deep in the compost picking out the good ones, weeding, realising I can roll tubing the same way that I roll theatre electrical cords and that that means I have a skill to contribute (mine are the neatest coils), hanging chilli plants to dry, dragging heavy dirty stuff this way and that, avoiding spiders because I forget that I am not in Australia and they will not be poisonous, once again forgetting that I am not in Australia when I am scandalised that Nicolas pours a bucket of water on the ground - one look at the clouds tells me I needn't worry.

Lunch is at 1pm and we eat like kings. Veges and fruit and nut and seeds. Big salads and ratatouille crusty bread. Nothing is wasted and last night's dinner is reheated with some extra rice or herbs that change the flavour. And tea. Lots of tea. Oh and of course the chocolate and pear gateau we made yesterday.

And the cheese. Oh the cheese...

...pause for small cheese related taste bud orgasm...

We get back to work, strapping a massive plastic sheet to the tractor to take back to the greenhouses. My French is getting better every day (slowly returning to my former glory) but I still don't quite know what this plastic sheet is for. Sometimes instructions are clear, but their aim is not. But I assist nonetheless and enjoy the mental effort of trying to keep up with the slang-heavy conversation.

Dinner is excellent much like lunch. I learn an important lesson when Francois insists that I wash the tomatoes very well. In broken English (he speaks in English when he thinks something is very important for me to understand) he tells me that the little bits of black stuff might be rat shit. 'This is ok. But it might be plastic sheet bits from the fire. This is not ok. Shit ok. Sheet not ok.' I wash them well not really wanting to consume either.

We sit next to the fire and afterwards Francois, who owns this farm gets out his ukelele. I play guitar and sing The Waifs and Tracy Chapmen as that is still all I know how to play. He joins in while Aurelie and Nicolas read. When Nicolas takes up the guitar we have a slight difference in taste until we are able to settle on Leonard Cohen and we sing 'the partisan song' in French and English.

We talk and they make fun of my inability to pronounce 'tout,' a ridiculously overused word. If my French accent is as wonderfully comical as their English ones, having me around must be great.

Early to bed of course.

And that's just today.


After 4 months of holiday I decided it was time to be of use to someone. I have heard a lot about wwoofing on my travels so decided to give it a go. The deal with wwoofing (worldwide workers on organic farms) is that you pay 15 euros for a massive list of host farms in a particular country. Then you go work on the farm and they give you board and food. This farm, Kervillon, is my first go at wwoofing. It is on the lle de Brehat in Bretagne and it is pretty damn gorgeous.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Good Times, Cheese & Swissbians*

* Please note that not all the lovely Swiss citizens I hung out with were lesbians, it's just that swisstrosexuals doesn't have the same ring to it.

I arrived in Bern after an epic journey (well epic if compared to getting the train from newtown to central...not epic compared to, say, the odyssey.) I caught two overnight trains in a row, mainly because I wanted to get to Switzerland quickly, but also I think just to see if I could. One sets oneself funny tasks when travelling alone. And one starts to refer to oneself as one so as to give the impression that everyone behaves exactly as one does. Yes.

So I caught first an overnight train to Vienna from Romania and had the good fortune to be sitting in a carriage with two large, suit-wearing Romanian men who saw fit to have lively debates all through the night and ate very smelly sandwiches in the morning. One of them was very well-endowed. I know this because he was sitting opposite me, with legs very wide apart so that said endowment was very much on display through aforementioned suit.

I spent a day in Vienna (see photo album: one day in vienna) and then had a very stressful time trying to find Stian who was in a hotel on the longest street in the world, a street I powerwalked up and down searching for the hotel. When I found it I was informed that were three hotels with this name and that my friends were not in this one. By this point I needed to go catch my train.

I was not pleased to discover that this time I was accompanied by two laptop endowed young men who also chatted, despite having aforementioned laptops to entertain them. I had also been seated in a carriage with people who were not, unlike me, going all the way to Zurich. This meant that every few hours I had to return my seat to the upright position and shuffle around so they could get off the train and be replaced by other people also only going short distances so not requiring peace and quiet.

You can imagine my joy when I arrived (unshowered for quite some time now) at Susan's charming flat in Bern, to be greeted by offers of laundry facilities (one adores laundry facilities) and tea. I love staying with lesbians; they always have such a wide variety of herbal teas.

That day I went to the Einstein museum and fell asleep during the little film. I may need to write a Note entitled Stupid Things I have Done when Ridiculously Tired.

But when I met up with Susan and Amanda after my ill-fated sight seeing in Bern (I was also very distressed by a caged bear) they were lovely and took me for nice coffee and then there was the supermarket which I always enjoy and a nice dinner with them and Susan's remarkably well-behaved son, Noam, who I later sang songs to before he went to bed. He liked the songs but was a little annoyed that they weren't in German.

And so began my preference for just hanging out with Swiss people rather than seeing their rather famous sites.

Oh, I tried, I really did but I kept getting set back. Fog on the mountains, rain in the valley, missed trains and later on the beginnings of a cold which led to the entire photo album of flowers in Montreux - I was a little delirious. Not to mention the fact that they turn off Geneva's world-famous fountain at night. Well I think they do because after a fulfilling day of museumage and a UN tour, I bought a felafel and strolled down to get my token photo and it was nowhere to be found. I looked for some time and felt like I may be crazy as I had seen it from a distance earlier in the day...

But enough complaining, I did see some very pretty stuff. The day I went to Gruyere with Cosette was wonderful. Perfect weather, charming old town with the same name as the EXCELLENT cheese it produces and a HILARIOUS audio guide in the Gruyere Museum (which gave you 3 pieces of cheese as a ticket! Anna - I think it is the museum for you!!! Well actually it is the country for you but this is a blog not an email so I will tell you about it later.) There was a quaint restaurant with flowers on the balcony, where we had a large fondue followed by ridiculously over-the-top sundae*... Birds were singing and the sky was blue, children were laughing, people were getting married and even that couldn't kill my mood. And then my camera ran out of battery before I could make a record of it all. VERY UPSETTING.

* I don't know why neither Cosette nor I remembered that you should NEVER eat ice cream after fondue. Eating cold things straightaway can harden the cheese in your stomach into a 'cheese ball' that you can't digest. Now, we weren't whisked to hospital for cheese ball removal but we did feel mighty ill for quite some time after. Worth it though I think.

Where was I? Ah yes, providing no information about Switzerland for my eagre readers, just nattering on about nice people you don't know. It is just that I am getting to the point in my trip where I may just have seen enough churches, old cities, castles and museums about WWII.

And so it was that the highlights in Switzerland included exquisite homemade fondue, long chats, silly dancing and music tips with Susan and Amanda, hot chocolate with Cosette and Charlotte when the other young things were partying and drinking beer, and also dinner on my last night when both Charlotte and I were sick and so I made soup.

And I read a lot. And was entertained by getting trains between French and German sections of the country and hearing them change the order of announcements from French then German to German then French.

The moral of the story is that Switzerland is fabulous, its people are charmng and one day I must go back...when it is not Autumn. Pretty much any season but Autumn would do the trick.

Love Maeve

p.s. random fact: Apparently all Swiss residences have to have a bunker in case of attack.

p.p.s. random fact 2: They have some crazy political system with 7 rotating presidents who do a year each or something. It was very hard for me to understand.

p.p.p.s. Bern, Switzerland's capital only has like 120,000 people. Wonderfully small! And lots of them ride bikes. And the public transport is STILL better than Sydney's.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Places I've Been and Things that I've Seen

In Sarajevo I read a lot. Zadie Smith. She's a champ.

In Croatia, a south african retiree told me and Kamilla that 'communism had made the croations grumpy.' She then told us that the 'turkey people will just bend over backwards for you.' I'd say Turkish myself but hey. This woman had the best South African accent EVER and I don't know if Kamilla quite understood why I kept talking to her. Oh Liz, if you had only been there...though we may have lost composure and started giggling!

Louise and I caught overnight buses in Turkey to cover the long distances between the places we wanted to see. Buses in Turkey are amazing. It is like flying (back in the day when flying meant free food and customer service.) One bus even had wifi and headphones for listening to music. A bus attendant comes and gives you water and such. AND, when I left my phone on one of the buses, I got a dude to call the company and it was back in the town I was in 12 hours later! How's that for service!!!

I flew business class from Sarajevo to Istanbul. This was not intentional. I believe it was an error made due to late-night flight booking. It was pretty funny though. I got to sit in the business lounge where plastic surgeryed women didn't eat the peanuts I was gorging on and there was free juice. Then, on the plane I was given real cutlery because rich people don't hijack planes and they pulled a little curtain across so I didn't have to look at the peasants.

We had the best kulfi (indian dessert) I'd ever had in Istanbul. I doubt they make it so good in India. I will have to go check.

My host in Sofia, Bulgaria works for an NGO that helps Roma people living in the ghettos. Her co-worker had just quit after 6 years of working with local sex workers because she can't live on the pay anymore and they can't get more funding. Iskra (my host) was mighty generous despite the fact that I now knew how minimal her salary was. She paid for the dinner she made me and then slept at her boyfriend's place so I could have the bed. Yep, she left a girl she had just met alone in her apartment. I can't believe the trust people have put in me. I did the dishes the next morning. Least I could do really.

While I was in Croatia, an Australian went missing and died. Teresa and Rowan were in Nepal at that time and two Australians died in a plane crash. Creepy.

Travelling with Louise is tops. One can forget sometimes how entertaning one's own family can be. Louise has this habit of saying totally random stuff at strange moments as if it isn't funny. It is funny but she never seems to think it is. It is said in a way that you can laugh at her without feeling like you are mocking her, but at the same time you don't think she is being consciously witty in order to impress anyone. The quotes I managed to write down follow and you may not find them funny. But I did. And it's my mum, so damn well agree with me or there'll be trouble.

Louise in defence of endless window shopping: I think I was arabic in a past life. Or German baroque. I'm just decorative.

Maeve: Ah! Apparently Tsar Boris of Bulgaria sided with Hitler but then refused to send Bulgarian jews to the concentration camps saving 50,000 lives.
Louise: mmm, good reason to name your son Boris.

...meanwhile, interesting fact about Bulgaria, non?

I heard my first call to prayer in Sarajevo and thought it atmospheric and un-western in a cheesy-touristy-exoticising-the-other kinda way. Sometimes it would happen at the same time as church bells. By the time I had spent two weeks in Turkey I had lost patience and religious tolerance. I don't care if people want to pray at 5am, I want to sleep. In a strange switch of alliances, I appreciated the smell of Sarajevo's cevapcici (tiny fried meat matter) more than the burek I lived on for 3 days. But this was mainly because of the masses of raw onion they were served with and the wood smoke from the fires, both overwhelming enough that I could not smell the dead stuff.

Kamilla and I spent some time devising amusing ways to convince baffled guesthouse owners that we wanted a double room not a twin after an unsuccessful first night. We didn't get to dress her up as a boy in the end but we did have a VERY funny time with the man who owned our guesthouse in Dubrovnik. I chose him because unlike the others hassling us at the bus station he stood quietly aside with a sign that said "Inside Old City." Once we got in the van, we realised it was the end of the silence. He prattled on about the greatness of his business, leaning away from the steering wheel to point to his reference in some obscure Korean guidebook or to point into the distant suburbs claiming that this giesthouse or that guesthouse was way out there. He spoke of its cleanliness, location (not actually inside the town but right next to the wall so we forgave him) and value for money. He continued to sell his wares at top vocal speed even once we were inside, taking us into both bathrooms, pointing at his large supply of cleaning products, putting his head inside the shower cubicle, inhaling and saying "see! we clean every day!"

In Turkey, stuff is sold by theme in individual areas. When wandering through town we came to a whole suburb devoted to hardware, taps, doorknobs etc., spilling out onto the street. Louise was not wildly into this suburb and politely suggested (i.e. firmly insisted) that we head for a more enjoyable quarter. The bookshop street was great. And just when I was yearning for thermal longjohns, we came upon camping, fishing and outdoor town - right next to our favourite baklava joint!

I saw a land mine action team still at work in Sarajevo. Sarajevo is still covered in bullet and shell damage and packed with crumbling buildings, unlike Dubrovnik which, despite also coming under heavy fire is near perfect.

They drive crazy in Turkey. Though I have since discovered that the true speed demons live in Romania. My oh my, they go sooo fast. In Turkey we had a driver who's first day on the job it was. He got lost and then semed to be falling asleep. Louise and I were sitting in the front seat of the minibus and kept trying to do things to wake him, but it was hard as he spoke no English. Louise considered doing what she thought was the 'international gesture for sleeping' to show that she sympathised but was then concerned that he wouldthink it was the 'international gesturefor do you want to come to bed with me?'

In Zagreb, Croatia, my host Jelena gave me rakia (alcohol - spirit) that her Serbian girlfriend had made. She had stored it with fresh mint and honey and it was a flavour sensation. Whycan't I have a Serbian home-made-alcohol-producing lady friend? Why I ask?

I've punched through a lot of books lately so any suggestions would be appreciated. Though nothing obscure, as I am trawling book exchanges. I went to a charming one in Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria run by a Welsh woman. We chatted about books and I ended up selecting Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I gave her Amsterdam by Ian McEwan and now I feel like I ripped her off. Sometimes I am mildly concerned/amused by how many sights I miss because I think I'd rather sit in a cafe and read

soon to come...Bulgaria and Romania aka The Countries That Mother Me

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Don't judge a country by its train station...

Arrival in Romania this evening was not smooth.

I should have stuck to the tourists in the carriage next to mine, followed them to their hostel, split the cost of a cab. But the conversation that wafted through the carriage wall was inane and I was keen to find my Lonely Planet-alleged Villa 11, conveniently close to the train station for tomorrow's departure to Brasov.

I exited, cash in hand and quickly realised that my Lonely Planet map little resembled the heaving city before me. I was soon surrounded by enthusiastic taxi drivers who seemed to be offering to take me to the hostel for an exorbitant 30 lei. In retrospect, I think they were saying 3 lei and that perhaps my hearing had been affected by the numerous warnings I had received about rip off cabs in Bucharest. Nevertheless, I did not want to pay for what appeared to be a 500m walk.

I tried to call the hostel but just as the woman was starting to give directions my phone ran out of batteries.

My next offer, after a hair raising road crossing, was a 10 lei guide on foot in the form of a friendly looking fellow. But I only had a 100 lei note and something told me he would not have the right change. Unable to see the street sign I required I returned to the station in the hope of a tourist information centre. A friendly looking man inside asked if I needed help and, a little exasperated, I just said "I don't have any money."

"um...that's ok, I am a dentist. You just look like you need help."

I felt like a right twat.

With his (sadly incorrect) instructions I wandered through some inner-city backstreets complete with atmospheric dog barking and broken street lights for some time before returning to the corner where my potential 10 lei guide had been to see if I could convince him to show me for the 4 euro I had in coins. He was gone, but thankfully another fellow sent me in the right direction.

Villa 11 is seriously weird. The door finally opened to reveal a pallid, pony tailed boy of about 12 years old who then fetched a pallid, pony tailed boy of about 17...(pallid, pony tailed 15 was outside fixing a bicycle.) I was shown to my dorm with no explanation of bathrooms, keys, breakfast or anything.

Strict instructions about what the staff would and wouldn't do on the sabbath were pasted in reception. A Canadian flag was stuck to the door. The entire house smelt like tuna.

I left and headed to the metro station, starving after taking an hour and a half to travel 500m. And there I found a famailiarity so very unexpected. To get onto the train platform you have to dip your ticket in the exact same green machines we have on Sydney buses. At the Beepbeep-bebeepbeep, I nearly laughed out loud.

I finally made it to food and a glass of red that tasted a little too much like balsamic vinegar but was satisfying nonetheless. And then to this internet cafe. You will be pleased to know that, should I want to, I could also see a number of live sex shows in this area once I am done online.

Over and out.
Maeve. xxx


...The morning brought more confusion as the house appeared empty save for a middle-aged man who did not reply when I said hello. I showered and noticed that there was food on the table, which was set for 8 despite my being the only guest. I ate cold pikelets with jam and a strange (but pleasant) stinky cheese.

Finally the owner, Debbie appeared. I knew her name as 'Debbie's Kitchen' was etched into a wooden mug rag on the wall. She was actually very nice, if oddly conservative and old-fashioned as one might imagine a mormon might look. She was the round, large-breasted, high-waisted full skirt wearing version of her sons, but she was friendly and chatty and I felt bad for passing such harsh judgment on her home.

She told me how they had a single room upstairs that had shelves on which her daughter stored her extensive porcelain doll collection. She had once shown the room to a man and the next day a review appeared on hostelbookes.com calling her establishment (and her home) "a pedophile's paradise." I thought of telling her she was a Canadian/Romanian Bill Henson but I wasn't sure she'd get the reference.

It must be had for people who open their homes up as hostels. I mean, I maintain the place was weird but that was because of the initial lack of customer service, the location and the tuna smell. I would never go so far as to write cruel things on a hostel site (only on facebook which Debbie won't see.)

If you're interested, Debbie and her family moved to Romania in the 90s. The house was her husband's grandmother's and was seized in 1949 by the government. After the revolution, she told me, they came to get it back. There was a lengthy legal battle and by the time they won they had decided to stay. This explains why the place is in the middle of the military medical institute.

It is interesting to be in a country where people say "after the revolution" casually in conversation.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

this finish skin baby nice

My mother and I were the only customers at Antalya`s hamam and, unlike their regular tourist clientele, we were not German. This did not stop the many Bitte Shuns as we were ushered into the 700 yr old marble bathing room.

Thankfully alone, we were quickly disrobed (our host unceremoniously whipped off our towels) and instructed to lie on a marble bench while she poured hot water on us. She then introduced herself and without any further ado she departed.

We cautiously sat and set about pouring the water on ourselves, thinking that perhaps it wasn`t worth the cash. Then, all of a sudden our host Rose, 5ft tall and round, marched naked past the door, laughing hyserically. She soon re-entered now clad in a zebra print bikini. `Come Baby`she saıd and led me by the hand into the next chamber.

`Sit baby.`
`Sleep baby.`
I was to lie down.

She put on a loofah mitt and said `This finish skin baby nice`before beginning to scrub.
Thoroughly.

Louise was next while I sat bathing. Rose`s terms of endearment did not take age into consideration. We were both called Baby.

Me again. Sit baby. Sleep baby. But this time with an added `Mama fingers!!`and a friendly wiggle of her paws before she suddsed me up and washed me.
Thoroughly.

I stood and she splashed away the soap, taking great delight in throwing buckets of water at my bottom. Both back bottom and front bottom. What could I do but laugh with her?

Then she washed my haiir, slamming my face into her belly and even bothering to wipe the soap from my eyes.

As she washed Louise she asked `Where husband?`and `This your baby?,`pointing at me. She then said `Me two babies, no husband,`but she was not part of the sisterhood. She mimed a car crash, pointed at the ground and shrugged.

Then, before you can say sleep baby, we were clean and being hussled out of the room, wrapped in towels and offered tea. I also got two complimentary face pinches complete with a `Nice baby.`

The massage was brief and disappointingly uneventful by comparison, but then, I don`t think we could have coped with any more amusement. Soon Rose was dressed and ushering us into the street.

We walked around Antalya a lıttle dazed before making our way to the otogar and our overnight bus to Goreme.

If you`re ever in Turkey, say Hi to Rose for me.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Biscuits and Patriotism

Please excuse typos, strange letterıng and Is wıthout dots...Turkısh keyboard.

I am not a good patrıot. I went to Gallıpolı the other day and was unmoved by the multıtude of war memorıals and tales of heroıcs. Even when I found out my great-great-Uncle Arthur had fought there and survıved I dıd not feel prıde. I just thought `my, how the Marsdens got around.`

But I have been thınkıng lately about the contradıctıon of beıng able to feel ımmense shame at the terrıble thıngs `my country` has done, but feelıng uncomforable about the possıbılıty of any Natıonal Prıde, Prıde that I have only really notıced ın the last 3 months.

Prıor to travel, I had cheerıly claımed the phrase Scenıc Natıonalısm to descrıbe that physıcal joy I get ın certaın parts pof the Australıan landscape: Coogee beach (well the ladıes` pool...and ıts ınhabıtants...l), the plaıns between the blue mountaıns and Bathurst etc etc. But any other kınd of natıonalısm I shıed away from wıth fear and repulsıon. I stıll fınd blınd patrıotısm rıdıculous (especıally ın lıght of an ıncreased awareness of European hıstory and just how many dıfferent peoples have owned each tıny pıece of land.) But recently, as I meet people from other countrıes ın hostels and buses and such and we ınevıtably ıntroduce ourselves wıth `where are you from?`I have found myself talkıng dıfferently about Australıa (and my Australıanness.) There have been a number of tımes when I have felt dısturbıngly proud to be from Australıa and have found myself extollıng Australıa`s vırtues to others. Sıtauatıons where thıs has happened ınclude:

1) When talkıng to eurocentrıc twats who thınk I lıve ın a cultureless backwater. I am allowed to say that I lıve ın a cultureless backwater but I sure as hell am not goıng to take ıt from some colonıalıst drunk Brıt ın Barcelona.

2) When `my fellow Australıans` use the followıng ıdıotıc sentences when faced by any buıldıng more than 5 years old:
- we just don`t have hıstory lıke that
- we`re such a young country
Hey dıckhead, read a book. You lıve ın a country wıth some of the oldest survıvıng cultures and languages ın the world. Your country has evıdence of habıtatıon from 100,000 of years ago. Paıntıngs from over 30,000 years ago! No, the ındıgenous people dıd not buıld temples. It`s called actually beıng able to lıve wıthın your envıronment. We could learn a thıng or two. Feel free to say that we don`t have archıtecture lıke that. We don`t. It`s one of the reasons I decıded to come to Europe...whıch brıngs me to:

3) When people judge me for ellectıng Europe as a travel destınatıon. Why not Afrıca? Why not South Amerıca? Europe ıs just full of other Western natıons rıght? That one gets me. There ıs an assumptıon that Australıa ıs so lıke Europe that comıng here would not be as worthy frustrates me. You see, we really don`t have archıtecture lıke that. Beıng ın Europe ıs amazıng. It ıs the power centre. Amerıca may have the reıgns at the moment but Europe ıs the damn saddle. Or the horse. Or the leather that the reıgns were made out of...prızes for a better metaphor... To be here, where my ancestors decıded to go and pıllage a few other contınents, fascınates me. And seeıng modern natıons here (prımarıly ın Scandınavıa) that have the gender neutral marrıage laws* and free educatıon of a hıgh standard and the publıc health systems that we want ıs ınspıratıonal.

* I am actually ıntendıng to form a group agaınst gay marrıage. It wıll be the `Ban gay marrıage...ın fact ban all marrıage` group.

4) Talkıng about or to Amerıcans. Proud to be Australıan cos I`m not Amerıcan.

5) When people actually want to come to Australıa but ıntend to only vısıt the east coast and drınk a lot at the Coogee Bay Hotel and sımılar establıshments. Thıs shıts me. The good stuff ıs spread all over. Get thee to Western Australıa! Skıp Canberra.

I can`t be bothered complaınıng anymore because I am ın a good mood today.

Over and out.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

'An Other Tourist' or 'The Problem with Straight People'

The other day Kamilla and I were spat at for kissing in the streets of Dubrovnik. Now, I myself have great disdain for overt public displays of affection, but the violent hate on this man's face told me that it was our gender and not any perceived cutesy romanticism that led him to part with his saliva.

Prior to our arrival, we had both read the Lonely Planet warning that homosexuality was legal, but not generally welcome in Croatia. Our couch host in Zagreb had spoken of being firmly in the closet and we had discussed difficulties and differences...but we mostly found amusing similarities in our stories (lesbian webs, asymmetrical hairdos and such.)

After the incident in Dubrovnik, Kamilla and I did not conclude that Croatia was a homophobe. Sadly, we acknowledged that what we had experienced could be suffered in any country of the world. But this overt rage at my sexuality reminded me of a complaint I've been meaning to Note for some time.

As I travel, I inevitably meet more new people than I would at home. Thus I find myself coming out several times a week, sometimes several times a day. This is not out of some desire to share of myself with these new ˝friends.˝No, it is out of necessity during any conversation that moves beyond the basic - that is, if I do not want to lie by changing gender pronouns on lovers, exes or indeed parents.

It is so tedious.

I have a rainbow flag stitched on to my bag as a reminder to myself that I must not allow laziness or frustration to tempt me back into the proverbial closet. This is of course a luxury of travel in Europe, knowing that the most I will probably suffer is some old man's spit. But my insistence leads to the same conversations time and time again...

Answering those generic questions that people pose as if they are original...or indeed risqué. I am tired of my own voice, producing these old gay-clichés like greeting cards for the people of the world. I never refuse, out of some childhood belief that I can educate in some way. But Pride does not diminish the boredom of repetition.

I try to stay with queer couch hosts when I can to avoid the inevitable Heterosexual Assumption and allow conversation to get to the good stuff. But then, in Berlin of all places, I found myself justifying my need of a queer community to one such host. She didn't ˝need˝ gay friends because all her other friends ˝accepted˝ her as ˝normal˝ and liked her just the way she was, Bridget Jones style (my bad pop culture reference, not hers.) I yearned for Laura to be standing next to me scoffing ˝gay˝under her breath...sigh... I explained, in as many different ways as I could, but she kept bringing it back to prejudice and discrimination, which apparently she has never suffered from.

But it is not the discrimination and the spitters that really bother me. It is the assuming (which I've heard from time to time makes an ass out of u and me...hehe...sorry...) The assumption of heterosexuality. When I meet other lesbians I have a joyous physical reaction, not of arousal but of relief - relief that they will understand that ˝I met a girl in Norway˝ does not mean that I only met one female in 3 weeks of travel, but that I met one significantly interesting female in Norway. (Incidentally there are many significantly interesting women in this fair nation, but one only has so much time...and this is beside the point...)

It is the assumption that bothers me.

So, if you have read this I set you the following challenge -

For one day, assume that everyone you meet is a homo. This is not an original proposition. In fact, I think a certain school teacher was crucified recently for suggesting a similar exercise with his students. But do it, nonetheless. If you meet someone and they mention a partner of the opposite sex, or indeed parents of opposing sexes, ask them the following questions:

1. Wow, you're straight? (insert reference to another straight person you know. Maybe suggest that they should be friends.)
2. When did you know?
3. Do you think you inherited it? (find a way to use the phrase Nature vs. Nurture in a manner that suggests you came up with it yourself.)
4. Why do all of you dress like that? (insert description that suggests all straight women are fat and lack fashion taste or that all straight men spend their life savings on clothes items)
5. Why do you feel the need to separate yourselves from normal people? Like, do you really need your own parade? Your own bars? (scoff scoff)
6. How do you fuck? (you only need to have known a person for an hour or two for this intrusion to be deemed appropriate.)


I know I have straight friends who are sick of this rant, even gay friends who are sick of this rant. Hell, I am sick of this rant. But I shall rant on.

Don't even get me started on coming out as a Vegetarian...

Monday, 6 October 2008

Maeve's Travel Tips for Various Countries

Czech Republic
1. In Prague, be prepared to be somewhat unconvinced that you are in an actual city and not a European Fairytale Theme Park.
2. Avoid large groups of British men with 'lads on the lash' t-shirts and freshly made tattoos.
3. Do NOT avoid the communism museum, amusingly situated behind a MacDonald's. Please also go to the Sex Toy Museum and the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments, both of whoch I was devastated to miss.
4. The castle is overrated.
5. Cesky Krumlov is not. In fact, shorten your stay in Prague and lengthen your stay in Cesky. Camp by the river, drink absinthe, go to the Two Marys to eat a massive feast and admire the gorgeous waitress. Travel with people who would rather call the town Crusty Demons than Cesky Krumlov. Continually wonder why.

Hungary
1. The drive to Budapest from the Czech Republic is long, especially if your are in a car with 4 other people. You will drive through Austria so attempt to find at least one companion (thanks Liz!) who will continue singing Sound of Music ditties with you even when others turn up the radio.
2. DO NOT DRIVE IN BUDAPEST. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PARK IN BUDAPEST. If you do attempt these things, have some cash handy to pay off various people who promise to ensure you do not get a fine. When you do get a fine (and you will), it can be paid at a local post office.
3. Go to Gellert Furdo. Bathe. Relax. When sitting underneath the strongest spa jet in the world, do not attempt to tell a friend that it 'makes the other spa jet feel like an old man pissing on your neck.' You will think you are whispering. You will not be. Everyone in the bath will hear you.
4. Budapest has good bars. Find them.
5. Continue your exploration of Eastern European communism at the Socialist Statue Park. It is weird, and very entertaining to hear Western tourists too stingy to buy the brochure speculate on the significance of the statues.*
* The Western tourists I refer to may or may not include myself and Stanley...

Slovenia
Slovenia is above bulleted points. Slovenia is European heaven. Slovenia deserves prose. Sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia makes Slovenia, first and foremost, a haven for good food. On top of that it is spectacularly beautiful, with mountains, lakes, 47km of stunning, albeit stunted coastline (though I like short things!) and a charming capital with an excellent name (I recommend travelling with people who suffer in silence at your habit of saying Ljubljana over and over again like you have capital city tourettes.) Slovenia has conveniently located and wonderfully situated campsites in all towns and, when unable to provide, you can always pop over to a neighbouring country (see below: Italy.) Its countryside is clean and picturesque (see excessive number of photo albums) and it has all number of fun activities for the adventurous tourist. Its people tend to speak at least German or English so, travelling with people who speak at least one of those languages will mean success. Said people can also be extremely generous. One man, on hearing the average wage in Australia, bought us a round of beers. Others cheerily took us home to Grandma's house but that's another story. Slovenia was once part of Yugoslavia and it makes good cheese. It has one island, in a lake in Bled, and you can ski in Triglavski National Park in Winter. Hitch hiking os common, and generally safe. It even has a cow festival which, in this humble author's opinion, shits all over Spain's ˝running˝of the ˝bulls.˝
Get thee to Slovenia. Now.*
* Your love of Slovenia will be especially heightened if you spend a long time there, having only found out days before heading to Croatia that your German hire car is not actually insured for Croatia. If you then focus all of your energies on getting excited about Slovenia, and sing songs about its marvels before even setting foot on its shore, you will definitely love it. Slovenia. Fuck Yeah.

Italy...well...Muggia...
1. You will only need to go to Italy if Slovenia does not provide a sufficiently wonderful campsite. (NB: As Slovenia is perfect, it is likely your fault that the campsite is shit and small, not Slovenia's.)
2. You may find yourself in a campsite 100m from the Slovenian border, near a town called Muggia. When going out for dinner in Muggia, do ensure that you know what you are ordering and how much it will cost, or you may find yourself spending a day's budget at what must be the most expensive restaurant in town. Make yourself feel better with millefeuille flavoured gelato. MILLEFEUILLE FLAVOURED GELATO!*
* For those not in the know, mille feuille, or 1000 layers, is a French pastry made with layers of vanilla custard and pastry. It is heavenly. My mother, Louise, once decided to quickly illegally park to pop into a cafe and get a mille feuille, such was her craving. She got a $150 fine. I think she still believes it was worth it. They are kind of a family obsession. Anywaaay...
3. Muggia's taxi service stops at 8. Once stranded, I recommend befriending a gang of feckless youth (Liz would make an excellent Australian ambassador) and allowing them to drive you home. The singular experience of careening down the coastal road while your possibly 14yr old driver blares AC/DC's Highway to Hell is one you shan't forget. People of Muggia: You are welcome in Sydney.

Germany
1. Slovenia (yes Slovenia) is good for many things. Namely, meeting friendly Germans named Diemut and Max who offer to let you stay with them in Noerdlingen, a small town north of Munich (who needs Munich anyway?)
2. Noerdlingen is the sister town of Wagga Wagga. SERIOUSLY. Apparently, it is also the only town in Europe with a complete city wall and the meteor that hit the region creating the crater in which the town sits led to a particular type of unique rock. Astronauts were sent to train in Noerdlingen. Seriously. Who knew?
3. In Noerdlingen, you may also be subjected to the most amazing display of German hospitality ever known to a troupe of travelling, smelly, dirty, post-campsite Australians. How's 5 beds, in a nice house, with massive traditional dinner and breakfast (both accompanied by a variety of beers and some lessons in local history)? Good yes.
4. Stay in Dresden for longer than we did.
5. Berlin is awesome. Do not go there for four days or you will spend the whole time wishing you were staying longer. I think that, like Slovenia, my Berlin rant could get...well...ranty. Here goes...

Berlin makes the rest of Europe (well, what I've seen of it) look somewhat unlived in. Berlin is lively and messy (Budapest is also like this and is thus also recommended.) Where the rest of Europe has monuments that advertise a country's virtues, Berlin shows its shame, almost grotesquely so. From the Topographie of Terrors, to the Jewish Museum, to the East Side Gallery and other Berlin Walls monuments, the city's ugly past is almost flaunted. Fast food from Snackpoint Charlie anyone? But amongst all this is a massive queer scene (they have a gay museum!), Kreuzberg, which is like Newtown's cooler older sister, buildings covered with amazing street art, an excellent public transport system, great food and shopping...the list goes on. And the historical horrors, while at times presented cheesily (care for a souvenir piece of the wall?), are at least honest. At least we don't get the shiny version of history, packaged in statues of knights and kings and presidents. It feels more real, even when it is tacky. I stayed with two couch hosts and had a wonderful time. I did not want to leave and, when I found out that there was a Leonard Cohen concert on the next week, it is possible I cried. For some time... But Croatia called, and I had already booked my ticket, as had Kamilla. So off I went, to the next chapter.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Ice Ice Baby





I arrived at 1am at my couch surfing host's place in Reykjavik and knocked on the window as instructed. "Am I in the right place?" I asked when the door opened. "I don't know...Are you?" My host was out at work and his two friends were waiting at his place. They weren't sure if he was expecting me but they said I could probably sleep there anyway. They then spent the next half hour admiring the very dashing vest the Icelandic man had knitted for the Finnish woman.*

*NB: I will be describing most people I meet rather than using their names as I can neither spell nor prounounce them.

A too-short sleep later and I was boarding an early bus to Skaftafell to meet Kamilla. In between napping, the bus passed through some amazing landscape and stopped off at spectacular waterfalls. I also got very excited about black sand, a romance that would continue for the following week.

Iceland is amazing, treeless, vast, empty, black, grey, green and unlike anything I have seen before. I thought Skaftafell was a town (as black dots on maps normally are.) It was a campsite. I later found out Kamilla had gone to two supposed "towns" and discovered first, a farm and second, an abandoned farm. Super cartography Iceland.

Kamilla had pitched our tent pleasingly in view of my first glacier (impressively, the third biggest glacier in the world - after the 2 poles). I was pretty stoked and feeling very outdoorsy and pseudo-butch. That night though brought the windstorms our guidebooks neglected to mention. Our tent creaked and groaned which made sleep impossible. At about 5am a polite Englishman politely yelled that we should probably pull our ten down before it blew away with us inside (windstorms in Iceland have caused cars to blow off the roads!) As the wind whipped us we gathered our belongings and forged a path to the toilet block to huddle with the other campers.

At 8.30am, bleary-eyed but stoic, we began to trek through the occasional rain and wind to Svartifoss, the famous waterfall to which I was pilgrimmaging. I think we are some of the only tourists who have experienced this site blissfully alone (aka stupid enough to walk up in the rain, early in the morning, after no sleep.)

We then visited the empty farm house at Sell...which is set up like an old farm house would've been set up...with beds...

The first tourist who woke us up quickly shut the door saying "Ooh! Sorry!" As if it were our house. But when 12 French hikers started up the stairs we quickly put our pants on and departed. Still, it was a good one hour nap which fuelled us as we collected our backpacks and tramped up to the crossroads in search of a ride...

We hitched to Jökulsarlon, and breath taking lake filled with icebergs broken off of the glacier. I touristed good, taking a million photos and squealing when seals surfaced. Then got collected by a nice man who took us a long way and was very chatty and informative, though by this point we were feeling the lack of sleep and joyously checked in to an uncommonly cheap and charming riverside guesthouse in Hella. The problem with large, comfortable beds is that you sleep in til midday.

It was ambitious to try and get to Landmannalauger in one afternoon, especially since our third lift (a family of 5 who squeezed us in the back with the picnic) offered to take us sight seeing and we agreed. Two more beautiful waterfalls later and we were standing at a crossroads at 6.30pm, 40km from our destination, and it was starting to rain.

Tents are useful. Fields are useful. I think I may carry a tent with me always - it'd be handy when I couldn't be bother walking home from a friend's house...or the towny...or the bus stop.

We camped in a ditch and got a ride the next morning with 2 geologists in Iceland to sign an agreement between Iceland, the US and Australia about geothermal energy. Travelling with geologists in Iceland is like stumbling upon enthusiastic art experts in Florence or Paris. Iceland has some of the "newest land you'll ever see," which is "like born yesterday in geology terms." 5000 years old, this means. I now know about lava flows and geysirs and geothermal energy. At Landmannalauger, Kamilla and I intended to hike we really did, but we ended up sitting in a hot spring for an hour and a half. Bliss.

Ted & Paul (I can pronounce American names) took the long road back, traipsing across a river or three and frequently losing the road which would've been adventurous (the first 2 hours were) except that our cold night at the crossroads was starting to take its toll on my health. I graciously thanked our drivers by asking them to pull over so I could throw up. EXACTLY what one wants to do in front of one's charming Norwegian companion. Anyway, turns out I wasn't exactly carsick. Had tonsillitis. By the time we arrived at our host's place in Reykjavik I had a fever. Delirium is also very attractive.

The next day was a bit of a right off. We went on a walking tour (learning about axe wielding child vikings, why they make houses entirely out of corrugated iron - no trees, and how come everything is so damned expensive) but I felt ill and slept through the afternoon, while Kamilla hitch to Thingvellir (where they invented democracy! See if anyone should be invading Iraq and showing 'em how it's done - aka killing them - it's the Icelanders. Ooh! And how much funner would a war be if the victims were harpooned instead of bombed.)

Refusing to be broken, I committed to a 9am horse ride the day after. Now whether or not my fever was related to the fact that I fell off half way in is debatable. What is definitely true is that mid-gallop my saddle slid to the right and I with it. Icelandic horses are a special breed with a smooth 5th gait (which I did not experience). They are also very small which was lucky as when I was catapulted me face first into the road I escaped with just scraped hands, bruised knees and a purple hip. Awesome. Just awesome. I did have a few good gallops after that (possibly to prove to the cute French instructor that I wasn't a complete git.)

That afternoon we hitched via some Spanish tourists, a local nurse and some Germans in a campervan, to Geysir (hot stinky water hurtling into the air) and Gullfoss (now THAT'S a waterfall.) We got a ride back squeezed in the front seat with an electrician who couldn't take us all the way, but handed us over to his son who he was meeting at a petrol station. All very odd.

Our final day in Reykjavik we headed to the national museum (free on Wednesdays!) which Kamilla found all very dull as she knows lots about Nordic history already. I was entertained by dressing up as a viking. She perked up at some massive whale bone carvings. Yes, all Norwegians do appear to be pro-whaling... (Note that by all I mean Kamilla.) We have had many a debate about the issue (Note that by debate I mean argument.) Though even I was complicit in the entertaining photos of Kamilla next to a restaurant serving whale pepper steak and am in full support of her making a t-shirt that says "If we had dolphins, we'd kill them too."

Early the next morning (as in 5am) I set out through the dark cold streets of Reykjavik to get to the airport and begin my epic day's journey to Prague to meet Liz and Stanley.

Iceland is amazing.

Go there.*

* You will need to be rich or have a tent and penchant for hitch hiking* if you want to go there.

*or a Norwegian companion with a tent and a penchant for hitch hiking

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Why all these cheap airline companies suck balls

Ok, so the internet and the airports are now packed to the gills with cheap cheap cheap airlines travelling all over Europe. Super, right? NOT SO. They get your money other ways, yes yes they do. The first is in the ridiculously over priced ticket that gets you to the random, tiny, middle-of-nowhere airport you are flying from. The second, and my most hated, is in their luggage restrictions. In this matter, it has been out and out war between me and the airlines...war I tells ya. (Note here that I have mostly been victorious, only paying excess once!)

Some companies will get you to pay online for 1 checked in bag of 20kg. Turn up with any extra weight and you will pay at least $10 per kilo. Per Kilo! This has led to me hunched in a corner of the check in, hauling out luggage, putting on heavy shoes in the middle of Spanish summer, clipping plastic bags with shoes to my little backpack, wearing 3 jackets etc... (actually when the security guard said "Please take off your...3 jackets..." it was pretty funny)

Some companies then proudly advertise that there is no weight restriction on hand luggage. Awesome. They are basically encouraging people to break their backs by putting all their heavy stuff in their carry on. Maybe it's just me, but surely it would be more efficient to put more stuff below than spend half an hour wrestling with other passengers to try and get your bag into the overhead compartment with their massive case full of what appear to be lead weights! Not to mention the fact that if we get turbulence (movie style turbulence) and the overheads open I would not want all my books, my boots, my sleeping bag, my towel, 3 jackets, and 3 glass bottles of vitamins FALLING ON MY HEAD!

On my last flight (London to Prague), I thought I'd finally got it together, leaving a bag of stuff at a friend's house and practically bouncing off to Luton Airport (4th of London's four airports that I've now been to). I proudly placed my 19.8kg suitcase on the conveyor and skipped off to security. And then it happened. The smarmy British wench over the loudspeaker said:

"Please remember that you are only allowed one piece of hand luggage. If you come to security with more than one piece of hand luggage you will be sent back to check in..." (that's alright, I thought, they always let you have a small handbag...) "...Please note that laptop bags and handbags count as one piece."

BITCH!

Cue me spending the next 10 minutes wrestling the contents of my handbag into my already full little backpack, eating my apple (which was going to be my aeroplane dinner since they don't give you those anymore), shoving things in my pockets and then strapping my rolled up canvas handbag to the side of my backpack. I considered shoving stuff down my pants but was glad I had not when I was subject to a pat down later on.

The thing is, that all of this hoo ha at airports today does jack for security. So far I have twice forgotten to take my little clear bag of liquids-in-less-than-100ml-bottles out before passing security and no one has noticed. I have carried a nail file through three times and nail scissors twice. But they make me drain my water bottle before entering so that I am busting throughout take off. It is ridiculous.

Fuckers.

Friday, 15 August 2008

this is the life.



hi hi friendly readers. i am not sure if there are many of you but i will blog on as it brings me joy.

I spent a wonderful week in Edinburgh with Liz. As is our way, we fell into a pleasing routine were we would get up, breakfast and coffee at Black Medicine together (Kath used to work there!), then she would go to work, I would take her crew pass, go see shows for free. Dinner during her break then more shows for me then I would collect her round midnight and we´d go out for a drink. It was all most enjoyable.

I saw some great shows, have a newfound passion for Tim Minchin (genius!), respect for Reginald D Hunter (anyone who can do a stand up routine about Josef Fritzl and keep the audience´s love deserves it) and a strong dislike for stupid old Parky wannabe, Nicholas Parsons. I also saw a great musical called The Kiddy Fiddler on the Roof, wonderful childrens theatre (Potted Potter, all seven booksz in seventy minutes), caught up with Cath at Circus Oz, ran into Alice in the street, and met Camille The Dark Angel (well technically we chatted to her sister but she was standing RIGHT THERE.) Oh and I saw Jennifer Saunders. That was exciting.

Sleeping on Liz´s floor nearly broke my back but it was worth it to see her flip out at her messy housemates and start hiding clean dishes for us to use in the morning. Her abusive notes pasted on doors and ovens also entertained. Especially when the angry note was written to a guy whose birthday it was. No excuse!

I sadly farewelled my companion and boarded a flight to Barcelona on Monday. Where it is boiling hot. Liz had told me I would love Barcelona but I wasn´t sold right away. I am not one for truly appreciating 35 degree weather. It made trudging around the spectacular Sagrida Familia a bit exhausting. However when I hit the beach on Tuesday afternoon I was pretty stoked. Also quite pleasing is the European penchant for not wearing a top on the beach. Not for the perv factor but because I could just change into my swimmers right there. I have a new rule when it comes to vanity or modesty: Ýou will never see these people again, who cares if they think you are fat. It is a good rule.

On Tuesday night I made friends with a Canadian traveller. We realised that we both:
a) were nearly 25 (cue quarter life crisis)
b) had recently quit our jobs
c) were blowing massive savings
d) had recently participated in pleasing holiday flings

With these commonalities we set out to find a tapas bar, found a restaurant instead, gorged on Spanish delicacies and proceeded to catch the wrong night bus, finding ourselves in the Barcelona burbs at 3am. We got a taxi back to the hostel and apart from some murmurs from disgruntled sisters from uruguay that we woke up when we got in, all was well.

Yesterday was bliss. We went to some Gaudi buildings and Parc Guell and marvelled at the view over the city, and Gaudi´s fairytale like crazy style. We headed for the beach and lay in the sun, got a 5 euro massage and took photos of ourselves. And swimming in the sea with someone who hadn´t been in salt water before this trip was HIGHLY amusing and joyous. Finally we dragged ourselves from the sand, bought an excess of fruit and veges from the market for about 10 euros each and headed back to the hostel.

This arvo I´m off to Granada to couch surf with some guy called Tom. Not too thrilled about the 14 hour bus ride, but good times ahead I hope.

I am happy.
I am well.

Love Maeve

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

yes, yes, it's the gay tour of europe


hi. so my captions on the last three albums of photos were factual rather than witty so i am writing a blog as penance. with sub-headings. this won't be amusing either in all likelihood due to exhuastion after a late one at the pub with liz. sorry.

Stockholm

I was in Stockholm for a week. It is a beautiful city. Actually it reminded me of Sydney a lot as it's on an archipelago so lots water. Lots water = architecture which employs glass and balconies a lot, plenty of parks and green, bridges, ferries and the ability to really do summer (an ability which many European countries, e.g. London, lack).

So when I was moseying by the water, admiring the rooftops (great lines) and the people* I was very happy.

* It is true. Swedish people are better looking. I didn't want to believe the stereotype but they are, in general, taller, higher cheekboned, tanneder, better dressed and generally more likely to look like a supermodel than the rest of the world. It's just a fact. Factual information. Don't say I don't inform ya.

I took in some sites:
- Parliament House (Sweden also has an interesting political system like Norway)
- Fjaderholma (Feather Islands): Note that while Stockholm may look like Sydney, options for swimming leave a little to be desired. I waded with pain into the rocky, slimy water at the edge of the islands, floated for a bit, then went back to my towel and read. The point of going to 'bathe' in Sweden is clearly to look good in a bikini and work on your terracotta tan (while young Swedes may be super hot, older Swedes tend to have that beautiful brand of handbag leather skin and a whitish patch under their chin that the sun has burnt quite so effectively.)
- The Architecture Museum and the Dance Museum (see below for my love of obscure museums)
- Gamla Stan, the old town. Very pretty.

I stayed at a bad youth hostel without a proper kitchen, leading to some amusing cooking debacles but mostly it was all ok. I also did gay stuff, which brings me to...

Europride 08

This was a reasonably generic Pride event with events, seminars, concerts and a parade. That said, it was fun, a good opportunity to make friends and I saw some great stuff (excuse bullet points, I am too tired for narrative structure):
- A seminar on making it as a queer artist by trans RnB singer, Joshua Clipp.
- The book launch for Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Feminities. I met Del La Grace Volcano (networked actually) and asked a question. Go me. I now wish I had gotten a bunch of signed copies but my luggage is SERIOUSLY overweight so I did not.
- some excellent drag kings
- VERY amusing ABBA cover band and eurovision night
- a bunch of burlesque (inferior to gurlesque)
- Sadly I missed the seminar on how to give good head as it was full. Sorry to any future sexual partners.

I made some friends at the couchsurfing picnic which improved my week as I had people to mosey through Pride Park with and sit in gutters eating pizza. I also heard stories from fellow travellers about pride in Croatia and Israel and felt very lucky to live in Australia.

I also went to a dance party called Queer All Stars. Sobre. and Alone. And I loved it. The freedom to dance RIDICULOUSLY was awesome. Not to mention the wandering through the crowd watching the frivolity like a creepy voyeur. I did meet up with some people by the end of the night though and after random beers in their backyard I wandered home as the sun rose over pretty pretty Stockholm and I thought, life is good.

Obscure Museums

I do not like rushing from museum to museum in order to 'do' a foreign city. I like to pick one or two and really spend a few hours in them. And I do not like 'Nationa Museums.' I like odd museums devoted to one thing. I have been to:

- Vigelund Sculpture Museum (Oslo, Norway)
- Viking Museum (Borg, Norway)
- Leprosy Museum (Bergen, Norway)
- Art Deco Museum (Alesund, Norway)
- Architecture Museum (Stockholm, Sweden)
- Dance Museum (Stockholm, Sweden)
- and today, the Surgery Museum (Edinburgh, Scotland)

I shall be a trivia expert, I shall, I shall!

I am waiting in heady anticipation for the obscure museum of obscure museums...in Iceland...they have...according to my guidebook...

A Museum of the Phallus! (with hundreds of specimens from whale to guinea pig, stuffed and preserved for my viewing pleasure. oh. my. god. it. is. too. funny. Apparently they do not have a human specimen, but they have some donors lined up.)

Anyway, I shall leave you on that note as I head off to meet Liz for dinner. Am in Edinburgh now, if my vaguely racist status updates hadn't informed you. I am loving the festival, and will wirte about it soon. Also enjoying doing a restaurant tour of the town with Liz as her only break from work is during dinner time (how convenient...) After weeks of ryvita crackers with peanut butter and tomato, apples and water, this is sweet sweet luxury. Liz's floor, where I am sleeping, is NOT sweet sweet luxury. Rather it is like a sadistic lover, bringing me pain but making me happy as it's free and comes complete with great Liz companionship. Life's good.

Over and out.
Maeve

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fun Facts About Norway

NB: Am highly likely to get off track...as is my way...

1. Norwegians really like cream. I got in trouble when I got a bowl of fruit salad with just a tiny dollop of cream. Apparently it is not the Norwegian Way. Apparently the Norwegian Way is 1 third fruit to 2 thirds cream. Seriously. They were quite affronted.

2. Norwegians have a billion languages (slight exaggeration). They actually have heaps of dialects though. And two written languages that were invented. One is a bit like Danish and one is a mix of the dialects. And some people get very very passionate about the written language that they like using. If you would like a THOROUGH analysis of the differences in the languages, the political implications of each, and which dialects sound sexy let me know and I will put you in touch with Kamilla. I would try to tell you here but if I get it wrong I fear there will be dire consequences.

3. Norwegians have a plethora of political parties and each party tends not to get more than like 30% of the vote so they form coalitions. I will get the following wrong, but I know there is a red party and a socialist party and a left party and a farmers party and a populist party and a right party and a christian party and a centre party. I think.

4. They have extra vowels!
oh dear. i was going to explain the different vowels to you but I am on a Swedish computer and they have different extra vowels. Sorry.

5. They also have a whole new kind of cheese in Norway, made with whey instead of curds if memory serves. It is brown. It tastes bad. But you haven't been to Norway without trying it. Try a piece. Don't buy a block.

6. Vikings did not have horns on their helmets. Very. Upsetting.

7. Norway only has 4 million people. No wonder they liike exercise, you'd need to hike several kilometres just to see another human.

8. Norway won Eurovision in 1985 and 1995. If you cannot sing both of these songs, you are not Norwegian.

I have more fun facts but I have run out of internet time. Sad.


Reasons that Norwegian Trains are Better than Swedish Trains:

1. On Norwegian trains, the conductors answer your questions. They do not:
a) laugh at you
b) tell you the train is full and then
c) tell you to get on anyway whilst
d) suggesting with another Swedish laugh that you sit in the luggage rack.

2. On Norwegian trains one is able to buy a ticket. The conductor does not tell you his machine is broken and suggest that you get one at station where you change trains (a station in the middle of nowhere where you are informed that the train is full. see point 1.)

3. On Norwegian trains, you get a seat. You also get a blanket and an eye mask and ear plugs. Simple process. As opposed to a variety of seating options none of which are clear. And when the conductor sells you a ticket on a Norwegian train you get a seat, rather than having angry Swedes and tourists kicking you out of seats. The conductor does not then inform you that your ticket was just to 'go with the train' rather than sit in it.

4. On Norwegian trains the doors don't try to close on you, breaking off two of your badges which you then have to search for on the dirty floor.

5. On Norwegian trains, people aren't sitting in a tiny aisle and your bag doesn't get caught on them leading to it opening and your jar of peanut butter falling out and the lid breaking and Swedish women laughing at you as if it is your fault and NOT THEIR DAMN TRAIN'S FAULT WHICH EVIDENTLY IT IS!

It wasn't so bad in the end. I upgraded to a cochette, or sleeping room, where there were bunks and I got a seat and then a bunk. I also met a charming Dutch single mother and her loud but cute son. When I turn my travels into a hilarious coming of age saga I think I will have the main character* have a wild affair with said Dutch woman, move to Holland, don clogs, pick her tulips and make happy. She was hot.

* Shall we call the main character May? or Eve. Not Eve. A little too biblical for a coming of age saga methinks.

A note to those judging my complaining and think I am a whinger when I have such luxury and if I were somewhere else I would get a corner of a people stuffed carriage and not and bunk near a charming Dutch woman and her loud but cute son. Please understand that if I were in a third world country or even a second world country, or even a first world country that isn't in Scandinavia I would be a lot more patient. But this place is like super rich and I am paying through the nose just to breathe Scandinavian air so excuse me if I have slightly high standards.

I am tired.

I love you all.

Maeve.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

show us ya fjord

I found this quote in Orlando by Virginia Woolf and it seemed like a good place to start...

´Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces. The shade of green Orlando now saw spoilt his rhyme and split his metre. Moreover, nature has tricks of her own. Once look out a window at bees among flowers, at a yawning dog, at the sun setting, once think ´how many more suns shall I see set´etc., etc. (the thought is too well known to be worth writing about) and one drops the pen, takes one´s cloak, strides out of the room, and catches one´s foot on a painted chest as one does so. For Orlando was a trifle clumsy.´

I sympathise with author and character. Except my painted chest is an oversized suitcase on wheels and I do not have a cloak (if only). I am not going to describe how beautiful Norway is. Look at the photos. Or come here yourself. Though if you do come to Norway, heed the following:

1. Norway is super expensive. Coffee & cake $15. A room in a youth hostel at least $40. Average museum ticket $20. Finding out we´ve all been pronouncing fjord incorrectly...priceless.

2. Norway expects you to be fit and healthy. They like steep and high things. And they have a thing for massive outdoor museums. To go from one exhibit to another at your average Norwegian museum, expect to walk at least 2 km. Seriously.

2.a If not outdoor, museums (such as the Nobel Peace Centre) are likely to have extensive computer based exhibits that take forever to navigate and are so shiny and over produced that they are difficult to get much information out of. I say back to basics people, back to basics! That said, the basics of the stuffed polar bears and seals in the Ålesund museum kind of distressed me...but I digress -

3. Norway breeds pretty people. Prepare to feel short and round. I also recommend commencing daily massage of your cheek bones to make them higher. And find some way to grow skin like honey.

and now for a little narrative rambling...

I arrived in Oslo very early in the morning on July 7th. It was cold and raining and I was alone. I walked to my youth hostel on top of a hill (the first of many tall Norwegian items to scale) and felt a little lost and confused. You see, I have discovered that when I am alone my emotions work to far greater extremes (yes, yes, I am MORE moody). One moment - such as when I was sailing on a fjord in beautiful sunshine - I feel free and wonderful, an independant traveller taking on the world. The next moment, something goes wrong and I am useless, hopeless, disorganised. Lost... Devastated... And then, ooh! Something pretty! Isn´t life grand!

A high point was my arrival in Bergen, after a beautiful journey from Oslo. Alone, I was not ashamed when tears came to my eyes over the beauty of the town. I found out later that it rains 70% of the time in Bergen, but I missed this rain. I had picturesque sunsets, moseys across the pier and the frisson of walking through forest at midnight feeling alive and even like someone who may enjoy exercise just a little bit.

This luck and good fortune continued when I failed to catch a bus and instead climbed aboard the Hurtigruten (a word I am yet to master the pronounciation of). You can get a cheap ticket ship if you don´t book a sleeping cabin so this is what I did. I sat in a jacuzzi as we sailed out of Bergen, swam laps the next morning at 7 before disembarking at Ålesund. I should mention that this was one moment when it was truly wonderful to be a solo traveller. I felt like a stowaway, surrounded by middle aged German tourists, wandering through the deserted ship at 1am searching for a corner to sleep in. It was eerie and amusing and I imagined I was in a certain X Files episode set on an abandoned cruise ship...I imagine about 2 people who read this will actually know what I am talking about here...

But, my travels seem intent on forcing me to use the cliche of a rollercoaster because no sooner had I trumphantly disembarked in the art deco town of Ålesund* than my luck began to drain...

*Ålesund is built entirely in the art deco style because it burnt down in 1904. I know a lot about the places I have visited, about the leprosy hospital in Bergen, the sculpture park in Oslo, the 11th century church in Trondheim etc etc...but I figure if you want to know facts and history you can look at wikipedia. or come to norway. so i am writing about me.

where was i...oh yes...a turn for the worse. So I lost my watch in Oslo and funnily enough one is not able to charge one´s phone when one is sleeping in the cafeteria of a cruise ship. So I set off from Ålesund to go to my couch surfing host´s farm in Slyngstad, without phone, watch, or her address. Kamilla was to meet me at 10pm. My bus dropped me off at a small bus stop beside a road, about an hour from the nearest town (or so it seemed) at 9pm. I sat. I read. I thought gleefully that this was all a big adventure.

Then it began to rain.

I became convinced that more than an hour had passed, that Kamilla wasn´t coming, that I was in the wrong place, that I would have to sleep in the Norwegian countryside. I truly started looking for the cosiest patch of scrub...

...and that´s when I started talking to myself. After 15 minutes or so of this I decided to hitch back to Ålesund. But before I could succeed a voice said "Excuse me but you are walking in the wrong direction." Kamilla came and saved me from certain death by reindeer attack and so off I went to quite possibly the most luxurious couch surfing experience anyone has ever had.

I think I shall start a business pimping Kamilla as a tour guide. I am sure her parents won´t mind a few more house guests...
"Small cottage on farm next to fjord with own bedroom (with ensuite.) Personal host well versed in every aspect of her country´s language, culture and history. Willing to give lessons. In the schoolhouse built in 1895 that is on her parents´property. Complete with antique globe."

NERD PARADISE.

Seriously though, I had such a good time. We picked blueberries from the side of the path (Kamilla says this is very common and unexciting but I don´t care). And we went hiking 3/4 of the way up a small mountain. (see note above, Norway hearts steep things). We watched Norwegian films and ate Norwegian food (though this was limited to a sort of porridge and chocolate because of my vegetarianism).

and then we went to a week long queer youth festival.
and it was awesome.

I am now in Lofoten, islands above the arctic circle famous for fishing, hiking and bicycling. So not really my ideal travel destination. But it is truly beautiful here and I´ve stayed in a lovely youth hostel that is in an old fisherman´s hut, dockside in Stamsund.

...and when I am alone walking along a beachside path near the foot of a mountain or rowing a small row boat or driving my rental toyota camry across yet another fjord...I just quietly practice counting to 15 in Norwegian.

I do prefer company, and look forward very much to seeing Liz in Edinburgh (after next week in Stockholm.) No doubt I´ll feel miserable again soon for I am catching an overnight train and I tend to end up in noisy carriages filled with couples chattering and babies crying and what sounds like broken hinges on the wheels. But I´ve heard Stockholm is very pretty so I´ll soon be gaily bounding through the streets taking too many photos and feeling on top of the world.

Love Maeve xxx

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Americans say the darndest things

I wrote the following quotes down. These people were crazy. and possibly oil tycoons. a man in his 70s and his two kids (in their 30s). I wasn't fast enough to note the conversation in which the father denounced global warming as a joke. i had been surreptitiously listening to them and when this started i laughed out loud and the daughter said 'look dad she's laughing at you.' anyway, i'll write creatively about norway asap but wish to be able to upload photos to match which i can't yet so for the moment read the following in a southern american accent:

'so i said to her sweetie if you're gonna be an illegal immigrant you really shouldn't be a republican'

on barack obama: 'you don't think he's a muslim? my inlaws think he's the spawn of satan! they think he's the devil! what do you think dad? are the alabama baptists just freakin out right now?'

daughter: 'my husband's best friend is getting married in prague. he met his fiancee there.'
father: 'so he's marrying a czech.......as opposed to cash...'
daughter: '...oh she likes cash!'

'you know the woman who lives down the street she has triplets. and now she's about to pop out another set of triplets!....i guess she'll have to get another nanny'

'my friend she imports her help from the phillipines and she pays them like 1000 pounds a month. says she doesn't believe in the class system you know upper class and lower class. so she pays 'em heaps. doesn't believe in class, isn't that cute!'

'i don't mind rising oil prices, i get more from my oil stocks than i pay at the gas station.'

over and out.

Monday, 7 July 2008

London: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times

The Best of Times

1. Dolly Parton. I thought about leading up to this...putting things chronologically...then promptly changed my mind. I got to see Dolly live from a corporate box thanks to the brilliance of Nat. Well...thanks to her housemate who had the tickets. She offered them to Nat and when I started hyperventialting and listing obscure Dollysongs she asked if I could come too. Anyway I heart Dolly. I want to BE Dolly... sigh...a stadium filled with 14000 people in pink cowboy hats singing and dancing in time to 9 to 5...I can die happy.

2. Pride. The parade anyway...me, kieron et al had a blast and...most importantly ended up marching with Ian McKellen* (see photo evidence). The parade is so crazy. Not like super organised mardi gras who have super awesome SMs that volunteer and where headsets. Oh no. We were able to just join in a group. And there were no baracades on the half the route. It was all DIY madness. I like Mardi Gras better. Sure ending in Trafalga Square is pretty spectacular, but I'll take participants I know and cheap fireworks any day.

* Ian McKellen wears natty linen jackets and cream converse that are perfectly clean. I think dirt just bounces off him and runs towards lesser male actors like Tom Cruise. I'd say Tom would have dirty converse. Ian is clean clean clean.

3. Visiting my Nan. (secretly I think of her as Nanny Bingo still but I think Nan sounds more adult.) I went over for lunch (quiche, jacket potatoes, apples & custard...essex soul food) and it was lovely. She has so many stories, all delivered with immaculate comic timing as required. 'When I met Fred I was so impressed because he brought me roses...then the next week carnations...then I found out he was working in a morgue!' It was fascinating to hear my mother's childhood stories told by her mother. And I really did hoot with laughter more times than I can count. By the way, if you ever need protection, my Nan fended off two armed intruders a few weeks ago. She was in the paper. 'Plucky 80 yr old pensioner fights off home invaders.' AND, she gave me £30 from her bingo winnings!

4. Sitting Reading reading sitting. In parks, in cafes, in bed, on the tube, on the bus, on the nightbus, in the bath. Have finished The Vintner's Luck and I Capture the Castle.

5. Kieron, the gay Irishman I met on the bus on the way home from a mediochre London Pride. We made fun of an American tourist and he has a cousin called Maeve and a cousin called Grainne and he looked very very much like Ian and that made me very very happy.

6. Going to meet Nicole and having her suggest we drink beers she smuggled from a work do in a park nearby...you can take the girl out of Bathurst...

The Worst of Times
NB: by worst I mean not quite as good. I am on holidays. The standards are lifted.

1. Dying my hosts bathtub and towels pink with hairdye. When they really have been lovely hosts. Sorry Carol. Sorry Kathy.

2. Opera in the Park (please understand that the actual opera in the park with the actual picnic and the actual friends was absolutely wonderful. I speak only of the lead up...) So I turned up good and on time for Don Carlos on Thursday, picnic in hand. Then it rained on me. And I mean bucketed on me. Where were Liz, Carol & Sadie? Not there. Not even a little bit there. Fortunately the BP poncho man was. So I stood under a tree in a thunderstorm (stupid) wearing my fetching poncho. For half an hour. Would've been fine if the stupid smarmy wench on the screen hadn't said in her plummy accent 'well here I am in covent garden, but we are streaming live to canary wharf...where I think it might be raining...' And if she had pronounced singer with a hard g one more time while telling us that our view really was better than the view from inside the warm theatre...I tells ya... But salvation arrived in the form of a take-charge Liz Hayllar who found us blow up cushions and extra ponchos for sitting on. Sadie came with a feast and...just like all the other insane poms...we sat in the rain and watched 4 hours of opera. good times.

3. I promised MollyPenny i would not mention going out with them after pride. So I won't tell you that they never arrived like they said they would at 3pm at the women's stage in soho (napping they said they were...) or that drinks in Soho became drinks at Elephant & Castle while I was at Dolly. Or that when I arrived at Elephant & Castle they had decided to get out of the queue for Gay Shame and catch a bus to Vauxhall. We won't mention the £14 'official' women's afterparty in Vauxhall populated by what looked like:
a) straight women
b) teenagers
c) pensioners
d) us
No need to let you know that some of the rooms were half empty or that during the 'show' the women kept their clothes on. What's that about? I definitely mustn't tell you that we got ourselves just a little bit lost in Vauxhall and that if it weren't for Penny we all may still be wandering around London...or floating in the Thames. Oh and I promised not to mention that Penny sometimes doesn't recognise Molly. I will say that it was great to see them and that their friends were lovely and that Penny is an excellent dancer (I respect the posing in time with me more than words can say) and that I enjoy Molly's ruffles and hope they have a super time at the gay ball in gay Paris because I adore them both immensely.

4. Thinking all week that I had booked a 10.30am flight to Oslo. Realising that, no no, I had booked a 7.20am flight. I will be leaving at 3am to get there. I will be tired. I am not happy. Though on the other hand...

...Norway here I come!

Followers

The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!