3 December 2007

Taxi light shines so bright, But I don't need no friends...As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise...

Went to a work 'do' the other night, which was actually pretty cool. I've found since I started complaining that us experienced hires are left to fend for ourselves and aren't being assimilated into the Borg collective, they invite me to more and more swanky functions in a blatant attempt to buy my loyalty and my silence with free booze and canapes. Well it MIGHT work, I tell ya! We went to the Tate Britain museum (not the Tate Modern, which I went to first and yelled at a security guard who was giving me 'tude) and had a private viewing of the Turner Art Prize retrospective. It had all the winners of the Turner prize over the past 25 years including Gilbert and George (those mad scatalogical gay pervert dudes) and Damian Hurst's 'Mother and Child' which is a cow and a calf cut in half and preserved in tanks of, err, preservative. You can walk right in between the bodies and see all the internal organs. It's an immensely disturbing and powerful piece...like it or hate it, you can't help but be affected by it. Sadly, the rest of the stuff wasn't nearly as impressive. I grossed out one of my vegetarian collegues by suggesting they sell little miniature versions of the Hurst piece in the gift shop to put on your coffee table at home. So then it was down to the serious business of consuming lots of free booze and eating lots of delicious canapes. The waiting staff were very professional and worked out quite quickly to maintain a tight circle around me and never stray too far.

It was a cold and rainy night on Friday when I treked my way up North to Wembley to see Bill Bailey. But it was totally worth it! Bill was awesome, as per usual. Bouncing around like a comedic pinball between staggering intellectual soliloquay and bizarre surrealist rantings, punctuated by awesome musical interludes. The two highlighs of the show would have to be when he jammed with the Bollywood Bandits to "Duelling Sitars" ala Deliverance; and his encore of the "Mr Duck Lies Shredded on a Pancake, Drowning in the Hoi Sin of Your Lies" song from his previous show Part Troll. That's such an awesome song. I had really crap seats right up the back but there were huge screens behind the stage so you got to see everything. The man's a genius!

Our work Xmas party is on Friday night and I fly out to Kevie Land on the Sunday. I can't wait! I'm super pumped, it's gonna be wicked sweet, it's gonna be awesome! So this is probably the last you'll hear from me electronically. Next time you ingest my mighty words of wisdom I'll be standing right there...close enough to touch...do you wanna touch me? Yeah, you do. Go on...touch me...it's ok, it's ok to like it...

Peace out, ya'all!

26 November 2007

I’m lonely in London...London is lovely so...I cross the streets without fear...Everybody keeps the way clear...

Oh how sweet it is! Not just a defeat for Howard but a HUMILIATING
defeat for Howard. You reap what you sow, mutha fuckah! I never thought it would give me some much pleasure to see so much contrition on the faces of so many smug pricks: Costello, Abbot, Downer, Nelson, Turnball, Brough. Boo hoo, too bad so sad...in your FACE, you private school lick-spittles! IN YOUR FACE!

So it's a little under two weeks before I arrive for my whirlwind tour. Everybody getting excited? I know a few of you are...yeah, that's right...I'm talking to you! I can't wait to finally feel the warm kiss of the antipodean sun on my pasty white skin. Seriously, I'm so white I look like dog poo from the 70's. I fly in to Sydney in the early hours of Monday 10th December. I'm getting the bus because SOMEONE reneged on their offer of coming to get me from the airport (didn't they, Lubey?) so I'll be arriving in Canberra about 12. Just in time for a snitty
and a Stella at the Arrie, eh lads? Eh? EH? Maybe Azza will let me touch his mo...

I'll be in town for about a month. I'm spending the first two weeks hanging out with the kids and then two weeks hanging out wit'chall. So put your orders in now cos I'm expecting lots of dinner invites in exchange for stories about my glamourous life abroad. Don't wait for me to come at you with a proposed time, just throw your dates at me (ooh err!) and I'll put 'em in the tour diary.

Quiet weekend, nothing to report. I cleaned the bathroom. Weather was cold and chilly which made walking about tres unpleasantique. I stumbled in from the cold Sunday night to find my flatmates (the nice ones) cooking up a roast chicken dinner and they'd even made some for me. Awwww! How cool is that? I'm cooking lasagne for them all next weekend and will even go all out and make garlic bread from scratch (yes, I know how). I'm adding leeks to the lasagne so that Luisa (the welsh-italian girl) will feel right at home.

I can't believe that as of yesterday, I've been away for 4 months. It feels like so much has changed in that time, I'm coming back to a different place than I left. Kind of like that guy in that film who went into space and the thing happened and he came back to earth and everything was all, ya know...you know the one...Ghostbusters.
Speaking of Ghostbusters, we've got our work Xmas do on Friday week and there's a fancy dress theme to it. One of the developers is trying to convince the rest of us to go as Ghostbusters because he's had this life-long dream of dressing up as Slimer. I'm all for going as Reservoir Dogs cos you just have to wear a black suit and if you spill anything on your shirt you can just say you're Mr Orange. It's a high-class swanky do at a fancy pants hotel and The Company pays for the lot, so needless to say I'm predicting a good chance of things getting "wey hey!" Thankfully I've got a full day to recover before I have to fly out for Oz.

Anyhoo, enough for now. Hope you're all well and getting excited about the impending arrival of you-know-who (no, not Santa or Voldemort...ME!).

19 November 2007

I don't wanna be here in your London Dungeon...I don't wanna be here in your British Hell...


So no sooner did we kiss goodbye to the freakiness of the sun going down at 9pm during summer, now on the cusp of winter it gets dark at 4.30. What is this, Iceland? All the Limeys are warning me about the London winter and suggesting that I get myself a wooly coat. "What, like a mammoth?" I asked, innocently. To date I have not received a response, but I may have contributed slightly to global warming with all the patronising sighs I am inducing. No sense of humour these English types...

So I went to a wine tasting last Thursday night which was organised by our landlords. They put on these social events every month or so where they encourage all their tennants to get together and mingle, which is pretty cool. Particularly if, like me, you find it hard to get out and meet new people. We went deep into the bowels of a huge supermarket in Canary Wharf and tasted some pretty lovely and pretty ordinary wines and got to chin wag and have a bit of a laugh with about 20 other people. It was £20 for 8 glasses, but you could get a refill if you asked nicely and they gave out the half full bottles at the end. Some of us took them to a nearby pub and continued on, but as I'd come from the other side of London and hadn't had anything to eat all day, it caught up with me pretty quickly and I had to go home in a bit of a sorry state.

Spent the weekend in Dublin which was fun. It was rainy and miserable but I got taken to my first ever burlesque show - The Tassel Club - which was awesome! Lots of cool 40's and 50's costumes, and all the spangles, laughs, and tits-out fun you'd expect from a bunch of amateur girlies trying to getting their kit off provocatively without falling over. All in all a real hoot and great value for a £30 flight. And there was an awesome nerdy english dude playing the ukulele who totally ownzrd George Formby's kitchy arse.

Returning to Dublin has helped me put a few things in perspective, which makes the subject line for this week's email even more appropriate. I've realised that, for me, the measure of how good a city is to live in is the people. London's a great town and all, there's plenty to do and plenty to see here, but people here are just
so cold and humourless and distanced. Combine that with the weather and it makes for a really gloomy oppressive town. Dublin, and even Canberra, by comparison aren't nearly as interesting or cosmopolitan,
but the people are awesome which makes both those cities more enjoyable places to live. I'm rethinking my long-term plan a bit and I've realised that one of my new goals is probably going to be to work in the US. The trip to Chicago really dispelled a lot of myths about America and American people so I think that after I've done maybe a year in London I might try a year over there and see how it goes. Microsoft have got a huge usability lab at their complex in Washington and I'd love to get involved in interface design and usability testing of games.

Also, things aren't going so well in the group house. 4 of us get along fine and help out with the cleaning and the cooking and all that communal palaver. But 2 of the girls have decided to treat the place like they were back at home with Mumsy and Dadsy. Dirty dishes get piled in the sink, food is left out on the benches, the bins are
filled to over-flowing and rubbish gets dropped on the floor next to them, hordes of friends are invited back to party at all hours and then sleep over. There's been polite words exchanged but so far they've gone unheeded so I'm thinking it will soon get nasty. Good thinking on my behalf to only get a 3 month lease cos if it gets
really nasty I can just move on. The landlord agency has heaps of places just like this one in nearby areas so it'll be relatively simple to find a new one without having to bother with bond and references and stuff. See, I TOLD you living with 5 girls would be a nightmare! There's not been even a hint of shorty nighties or pillow fights.

Anyhoo, hope you're all well and enjoying the warm weather. It's miserable over here, rainy and cold and grey. Check out some new photos of the Greenwich area and don't stop thinking about tomorrow...it's soon be here.

14 November 2007

Took shelter from a shower...Stepped into your arms...On a rainy night in Soho...The wind was whistling all its charms...

Blimey, it's all go over here in Ol' Blighty!

In our last episode, Your Humble Narrator was faced with the prospect of another dreary stretch "on the bench", as we call it when you don't have a project to do. The one I had lined up was supposed to start on
the 12th but they clearly drowned in the Hyperbolic Sea and were unable to reply to my numerous emails and phone calls. I'd done all the training there was to do and was frankly at a loose end. But then I got a call out of the blue from a guy who knows a colleague of mine looking for someone to join his project as a Team Lead/Functional Architect. Bear in mind, this was Thursday and the project was supposed to start on the following Monday. So I met the guy and pulled my best Fran Fine routine ("He had STYLE, he had FLAIR, he was THERE!") and that's how I became the Nanny...errr, the Team Lead/Functional Architect.

So I started yesterday at the D-Network, owners of the D-Channel, on a top secret project which I very nearly blabbed to you all about. Thankfully I just came to my senses and deleted that whole paragraph...you'll have to wait until it's launched for all the deets, but needless to say it's pretty cool. Nothing to do with their really cool shows or anything like that, regretably, but you never know what might come of it. It's a pretty daunting workload we have to get done by Xmas, but this is exactly the sort of thing I came here looking for: challenging, scary, sexy, no safety net. I'm even managing 2 staff, can you believe it? Finally I have people who have to listen to me and put up with my crap whether they like it or not. It's a far cry from all of you chumps...

So I did some more exploring on the weekend. Took a walk East along the Thames Path to Greenwich...yes, THAT Greenwich, as in 'Greenwich Mean Time'. As the sign into town says: "Where Time Begins". Technically it's also where time ends but who am I to quibble over terms with the Time Lords of Greenwich...they're the one's fucking this cat, not me. I went to the Cutty Sark restoration project but they wouldn't let me see it as it caught fire recently (heh heh) and I don't think there's much left under the giant dirty tarpaulin. I think they're just trying to milk the mystery. I also went to the Maritime Museum which, frankly, was a little bit too sailor-iffic for my tastes. Fine if you're into boats or the Village People but not really my bag. There weren't even any harpoons, for feck's sake. I could have ventured in to the Naval College (where you can do a degree in Gazing...ba da boom tish!) but I was feeling a little too much Old Man and the Sea, so I headed off to see if I could find the old Millenium Dome...a one billion pound white elephant designed as a showcase for the new century which flopped majorly. It's now the O2 stadium (O2 are a mobile phone company who won the contract for the iPhone in the UK).

Did somebody say iPhone? The launch was this week and it kind of came and went with a whimper. They sold about 100,000 of them (allegedly) but there's been a lot of problems with the network so I'm holding off getting one until they get it sorted.

There's a tunnel that goes from one side of the Thames to the other that you can walk through but I decided to take the long way around and go through it on my return journey. Predictably, after 2 hours of walking through some pretty sketchy and smelly slums and industrial areas I decided that I didn't want to be out alone in the dark so jumped on a bus home. I'll tackle the tunnel in a couple of weeks and fill you in on all the dark and gloomy deets. I'm guessing that the whole experience will be seriously underwhelming...a vast subteranean collage of garbage, homeless guys and urine...pretty much like London above ground...but let's just see, shall we?

Off for a whirlwind visit to Dublin for the weekend, which should be fun. Hopefully my liver has forgiven me for the punishment it received in Chicago. If not, tough luck, liver!

Hope you're all well, and counting down to Xmas!

5 November 2007

If you ever have to go to Shoeburyness...Take the A road, the OK road that's the best...Go motorin' on the A13...

Quiet weekend at home this week, nothing much to report...which is just what I (and my liver) needed after the last few weeks away. Slept in Saturday and set off around lunchtime to try and find the local branch of the gym I've been going to. Eventually I tracked it down after an hour and a half of walking through neighbourhoods which alternated between quaint and terrifying. That's the contradiction that is London: like Prague sans the whimsy (thank you, Brian Griffin). I managed to cut it down to an hour with shortcuts the following day but it's still a hell of a hike to be making regularly. Luckily I also discovered the number 47 bus which goes from right outside my house to just down the road from the gym. Plus, it also goes the other way to right outside my work. Serendipity, make me your bitch! Another good thing is that bus fares are only 90p when you use your Oyster card as opposed to £2 on the Tube. Although it takes longer on the bus at least you get to see where you're going and it's not quite as smelly.

Our new flatmate, Vicky, moved in on Saturday and she's awesome! She's very posh so she gets called 'Lady Victoria' or 'KG' cos she's moved into the Korean Girl's room. She likes Family Guy (YESSS!) so that makes two of us. Last night to celebrate her arrival we made a collective roast dinner, which was really cool...both the meal and the communal cooking aspect. Of course I got to impart all my worldly wisdom and cooking tips, which made me feel like everyone's grandad...but a hot sexy cool grandad that everyone wants to get with, for sure. Looks like we might be slowly achieving an equilibrium in terms of living together, which is good in some ways but bad in others...but balance is balance. Vicky and I have to share the bathroom and, like a typical girl, she's got more make-up and hair products than I've got red blood cells, but I've staked out my little patch near the basin and I'm not moving. It's just lucky we get on well otherwise the bathroom might well become the Sudatenland.

Got some super shows coming up. I'm still trying to get tickets to Macbeth, but Bill Bailey is on at the end of the month, and I managed to get Queens of the Stoneage tickets for February. Then of course there's the Waken 2008 Metal Festival in August in Germany which Paul and Azza are coming to...or better be if they want to retain any shred of proof of their heterosexuality.

Gosh, but english people sure are uptight! It's like they're surrounded by this barrier of snobby iciness (or icy snobbiness) which you have to break through just to get them to acknowledge your existence, and then you have to prove yourself worthy of them to justify the investment of their attention.

How many Australians are there in London? Shitloads, is the answer to that question. They're everywhere....almost plague proportions...like squirrles but no where near as cute. You know things are bad when Australians are whingeing about how many of us there are. Thank Jeebus most of them congregate at the Down Under Bar or the Walkabout Bar and stay the feck out of my way.

I'm heading back to Dublin in a couple of weeks just for the weekend. They had £30 return flights which is just unbelievable. It would cost more than that to get a cab to the airport. It'll be a whirlwind visit catching up with the folks I met when I was there and possibly a chance to see a few of the sights I missed out on. At prices like that I'll be flying all over Europe every weekend!

I'm in desperate need of some sun. I've never been particularly bronzed, as you well know, but I've become decidedly pasty over the past few months...can almost pass for a true englishman. Now all I need is to develop an air of undeserved superiority, whinge more, and be really bad at all forms of international sport. Hah! Take THAT, Limeys!

I saw an awesome movie on the plane to Chicago called Eagle vs Shark. It's a quirky low-budget NZ film about two oddballs finding love. Jared from Flight of the Conchords is in it and it's cute and funny and daggy in that quintessentially kiwi way. I also saw Saw 4 (which sucked), Fantastic 4 2 (also sucked), and Die Hard 4 (ditto on the suck but had a song by Made Out Of Babies on the soundtrack...awesome! Sonja, check them out, you'll like them). Bit of a pattern there with the number 4...whatever could it mean?

Right, well so much for a brief update. Till next time, y'all...

1 November 2007

Makin' my way back to Chicago…Makin' my way come rain or shine…Gonna find true love waiting for me…Gonna make it work out for good this time...

And so we bid farewell to the Windy City. I'm sitting in O'Hare airport pondering the last 2 weeks and it is with mixed feelings that I depart. The NSA has just advised that the Threat Level has been raised to Orange (nothing to do with Halloween, sadly), passenger Beegan is being paged for the FINAL time and I daresay will be shot on sight, and I've had bugger all to eat all day apart from a burrito the size of my forearm at lunch time (it was called 'El Chupacabra').

America is truly a strange and wonderful place: everything I imagined it to be but so much more…like life magnified. It's all about excess over here, there's no such thing as subtlety. Everything is done with the personal benefits in mind rather than the consequences. In everything they do, Americans ask themselves the question "Can I do this?" rather than "Should I do this?" It's quantity over quality, substance over style, value over finesse. The clearest example is the food: there's just so much of everything all thrown in together with little regard for flavour or taste or aesthetic appeal. Whether it's a pizza the size of a car tyre or a burrito the length of your forearm, or a sandwich with half a pound of ham on it. Sure it's big but why is that the only redeeming feature? None of it tastes particularly good, most of it is downright awful (sugary and greasy and smothered in processed cheese) and you always end up feeling bloated and nauseous when you're done.

And the choices! I went for a stroll down East Walton, the street my hotel is on, which isn't a particularly major thoroughfare, but still I was amazed at the range of franchises plying for my lunchtime dollar: Jimmy James Gourmet Sammiches, Chilli's, Arby's, JJ Peppers, Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits, Einstein Bros Bagels, Grillers in the Mist, Lowry's Prime Rib ("THE prime rib"), Mr Beef…and those were just the one's I hadn't heard of before. It's incredible, particularly when you consider that the same stores are on the very next street…and the next. In the end I settled for Jimmy James and ended up with a sub that had a quarter pound each of ham, salami and roast beef along with about 7 tomatoes, 12 raw onions, 2 heads of lettuce and a mountain of cheese. Sure it only cost me $5 but really…I couldn't eat even half of it and I felt sick for the rest of the day. Honest to god, I'm not surprised in the least that there's an obesity epidemic in this country. And McDonalds is just the tip of the greasy lard iceberg.

American tv is awesome! You never have to worry about there being anything on because EVERYTHING is on...all the time. And if you miss it it's on again the next night. My favourite thing is all the ads they have for medical problems. The best ones are ED (Erectile Dysfunction), RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome), FI (Frequent Irregularity) which are pretty much just 30-second diatribes of all the harmful and embarrassing side effects you'll suffer from if you take their medicines.

So my first day here I started off with brunch in a deli of an omelette with a half inch of cheese on the top, then wandered up and down Michigan Ave looking at all the shops. This is THE premier shopping street in Chicago and there's a lot of money floating around. Bloomingdales, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neimann Marcus. Conversely, there's a hell of a lot of homeless people floating around as well and when they're not expertly panhandling the rich folks or God-blessing you, they're in the many parks playing chess and taking up all the benches. Speaking of parks, there's a lot of them, which is nice.

I went out to Navy Pier where they have a permanent amusement park ("Kids, ride the ferris wheel, brought to you by McDonalds!") which has been done up all spooky like for Halloween. I can't underestimate how much they love Halloween over here. It's been estimated that Americans will spend $5 billion on Halloween this year…that's right, BILLION. Food, costumes, decorations, cards, pumpkin-flavoured ammo. It's insane! Practically the whole city has been done up like a giant Halloween exhibit and at first I was kinda disappointed that I was leaving before the big day hit but now I'm kinda glad. It's creepy.

I managed to find the fountain that was featured in the opening credits of tv's "Married…With Children", which was kinda cool. There's been a lot of big name movies filmed here: the next Batman, Tranformers, Ferris Bueller, and Paul tells me that Punky Brewster was filmed here…get out of town! It's pretty easy to get around on foot if you don't mind the walk, but there's plenty of cool stuff to see. Like most big cities, the drivers love to parp and I'm immensely pleased that I was given a chance to feel like a true Chicagoan when I got parped by a cab driver in the middle of a pedestrian crossing and waved my hands provocatively while shouting, "Come aaahhhn!"

Coffee over here is shithouse. Americans couldn't make a decent cup of coffee if you held a gun to their head. Expecting an american to make good coffee is like expecting an Italian to practice restraint. It's a sad indictment to admit that the best coffee in this city is from Starbucks, but it was pumpkin flavoured.

I wore a tracksuit top which I bought in Ireland that has 'Ireland' emblazoned across the chest. I kind of felt sorry for the people who continually asked me which part of Ireland I was from. Of course I replied that I wasn't Irish, so they asked which part of England I was from. I'm not from England either, I replied. Most of them gave up in confusion at this point but the brave ones who persisted still had to make their way through Australia and New Zealand, which was more geography than they could cope with. Gosh darn, the rest of the world sure is a big place!

That evening I took a cab up north to Deluxe Tattoo to meet my man Zach Stuka (rhymes with 'palooka' not 'suckah') and got my wicked Belco Metal tatt. Check the photos to see just how metal it is, but I warn you, I accept no responsibility for melting your face off.

Day 2 was cultural enrichment day so I hit the Chicago Art Institute which was amazing. They have the most incredible collection of originals by some real heavyweights: van Gogh, Cezanne, Gaugaun, Monet, Lattrec, Rodin, Pollack, Lichtenstein. They even have the painting that Cameron stared at in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I tried to get into it the way he did but unfortunately there was a loud American woman standing behind me who felt the need to express her every thought loudly and constantly to all within ear shot. "Oh I know that picshure. Do you know that picsure? I've seen it somewhere before, where have I seen it before? Was it in a movie? It was, it was in a movie! Oh what was that movie called? You know it. The Godfather! That's it, it was in the Godfather. No wait, it wasn't in the Godfather, what was I thinking of?" And on and on and on it went until I ran away. There's no such thing as quiet reflection or inner contemplation here…you just say whatever pops into your head. I think it comes from having your brain in your mouth. You thought there were a lot of abnoxious Americans in London? Try coming here! It's like America is the birth place of loud obnoxious Americans or something…they're everywhere!

That afternoon I went up to the observation deck on the 96th floor of the John Handcock building, which rises above the city skyline like a giant black alien monolith. The elevators travel upward at approx. 20mph (or 50kph), which is real damn fast in anyone's language. The view from up there was breath-taking, as you will see from the photos. I had NO breath. They have an outdoor skywalk which is enclosed but you can hear the wind howling and shrieking and whistling around the edges of the building as if to remind you that you don't belong up this high…this is a domain purely for the insubstantial.

On Day 3 I did some more walking, up north this time along the lake's edge and I discovered the Lincoln Park Zoo which is a free zoo in the middle of Lincoln Park…derr! It's pretty cool cos they're all into conservation of endangered species and that but there's nothing sadder than seeing large animals in tiny enclosures. The tiger was roaring when I was taking pictures of him and it sounded eerily human and sad…like a giant child complaining of a stubbed toe, "OOOOWWWWwwww!"

The most common form of wildlife, however, is squirrels. They're friggin everywhere! Almost in plague proportions. You can tell they're streetwise and comfortable with people cos they come up to you and ask you for money. But it's not the ones who talk that you've got to worry about. It's the quiet ones who just sit there looking at you…appraising you. And you can tell by the cold steely glint in their tiny black eyes that all they see is a huge pair of nuts.

I went to the movies that night to see 30 Days of Night which was semi-cool. It started predictably with lots of hammy acting and clumsy exposition, but once things got moving and the vampires arrived on the scene it improved a bit. Sadly, it was a small bit cos it was a rapid downhill slide in to cinematic horseshit from that point. The vampires were cool, though, just as they were intended to be in the graphic novel which I read, likes, ages ago before it became cool and all the tourists arrived.

There's a lot of history in this town. I was hoping to see some old school art deco architecture but, like most progressive cities, they tore down all the good buildings in the 70's to make way for the bigger and more banal monstrosities we see today. There's a bit of a resurgence in some of the newer developments but it's more of a trend than a return to the architectural glory of old. After the Chicago fire, pretty much the whole city was destroyed. They dumped all the rubble into Lake Michigan and actually created 3 square miles worth of land, upon which they built a lot of the 1893 World's Fair. The fire created a veritable tabula rasa for architects and Chicago became a crucible for some of the most innovative and adventurous developments the world had seen. The world's first skyscraper was built in Chicago and the techniques developed by engineers to cope with the wet sandy soil completely changed the way buildings were designed and constructed. There's still a lot of examples of adventurous design but regrettably a lot of it seems gaudy and out of place: the BP bridge which snakes its way across Columbus Drive from Michigan Ave to Lake Shore Drive resembles a giant armoured serpent; Millenium Park is a huge expanse of grass land and gardens with an enormous outdoor concert hall that looks like the skeleton of a giant robot turtle.

Speaking of the World's Fair, there were a whole bunch of today's famous icons created just for the fair: AC electricity, the Ferris Wheel, the Pledge of Allegiance, that bit of music they play whenever you see Indian snake charmers ("Dah-dah daaah daaah dah, dah-dah dah-dah dah-dah-dah").

The journey out was a lot less stressful than the journey in. They guy at passport control even asked me if I was an actor because I looked like an actor. I told him I was a professional bullshit artist but that it didn't pay very well. He laughed his big hearty disingenuous American laugh. I arrived home to learn that we're getting a new flat mate on Sunday and that the previous night all the fire alarms had gone off for no reason and continued to go off all night. Lucky I didn't come back a day early…

Anyhoo, check out the latest photos from the last few weeks http://picasaweb.google.com/blind.phineas. So much has happened and yet it's gone so quickly. For now it's back to the usual humdrum and stay tuned for my next adventure…

I lurve youse all.

26 October 2007

Had the blues for Chicago, I just can't be satisfied...

Been a really busy couple of week, during which time I've been...well, busy...really. Before I flew out of London the company had a consultant networking day where they sat 250 of us in ampitheatre and blew smoke up our arses...golden smoke. Then we spent the day in groups working up proposals for senior execs about policies to improve life at The Company. How can I achieve my career goals and get MSN messenger on my Company laptop? Yawn. How about you drink a nice tall glass of shut the feck up, corporate robot! At the end of the day we had the head of The Company in the UK and 3 of the top execs on stage answering questions from the floor. You know what people asked? How can I achieve my career goals at The Company and how can I get MSN messenger on my laptop? For feck's sake. So when they asked for one last question I put my hand up and asked the following:

"We've heard a lot of talk about values today and the importance of being a good corporate citizen and a good global citizen. Given that our main goal at The Company is to make money, do we draw a moral line about the kind of clients we'll do work for?"

You should have seen them squirm! What annoys me most about this company is the hypocracy. Admitedly, they do a lot of good charity work and free consulting in poor and developing countries, but there's no point bragging about how you're trying to make the world a better place when the vast majority of your gloabl profit comes from oil and tabacco companies. Somehow I don't think I'm on the fast track to partner...

The highlight of the day was that they booked out the London Aquarium and put on free drinks and fish and chips. Oh the greasy delicious irony! I learned two important things that night: 1) my phone takes really shit pictures, and 2) not even a dark aquarium and free booze is enough to make me attractive to english women. Siiiiiiigh...

So I arrived in Chicago on Sunday afternoon. America is such an iconic place, even if you've never been here you kinda know what it's going to be like because you've seen it all your life on tv and movies. And the place definitely meets all of your expectations, but so much more than you could imagine. It starts the minute you get off the plane: everyone in the airport has a gun! The information desk lady, the guy who tells you what line to stand in, the dude in the passport control booth, even the Peurto Rican janitor who sold me some blow...they're all armed (I'm kidding about the last one...he was Mexican). The most unnerving thing about it is that these people are obviously so used to carrying guns that they are completely calm and unfazed and almost blase, which only served to freak me out more. One false move and you'll be up to your neck in flip.

American people are actually a lot cooler and nicer than I thought they'd be. They're obviously very confident and patriotic, but it's not arrogance so much as assuredness; it's not that they think America is the greatest country in the world, they KNOW it is. And much to my surprise, there's actually a lot to like about the place. Seeing as this is my first time in america, everything I do is a unique experience. Whenever I do something significant, I imagine James Brown singing about it in my head to the tune of "Livin' in America". For instance, when I arrived I was busting for a crap so James sang "Shittin' in Ameeeeeeeericaaaaah!" It works best if the activity rhymes with "livin' " but it's kind of hard to find appropriate examples. "Shivin' " is a good one but I think I'll save a prison stretch for my next visit.

The training facility is in a place called St Charles which is about an hour or so west of Chicago. I was hoping to get a limo but the selfish bastards organised a bus for us so I had to go cattle class with everyone else. It was a weird feeling driving out here from the airport. I've seen these landscapes all my life on tele and in movies and even though this is my first time here it feels familiar, like coming home. The wide streets and rows of identical two-storey clapboard houses and flat square treeless lawns are so iconic as to be anachronistic...like life imitating art imitating life. And everywhere you go flags flags and more flags. It's almost like the average american is scared of forgetting which country they come from. Or perhaps, more likely, they're afraid their neighbours will think they've forgotten and blow their heads off for being a communiss or a terroriss. As I sat there on the bus watching this parallel tv universe go by, I imagined myself as a lonely drifter with a chequered past and an uncertain furture coming to a new city where no one knows my name to make a new name for myself. Maybe I'll get a job at the bakery or washing dishes in the diner where I'll meet a strong young woman who quit college to come and run the family business when her dad had that stroke. In fact, with my sexy new khaki coat that I bought before I left, I looked kinda like Bill Bixby from The Incredible Hulk tv show. I could almost hear the theme music swelling as we cruised along the highway towards my destiny...

The facility, or campus as they call it, is like a cross between summer camp and the Overlook Hotel from the Shining. Lots of sprawling, echoey corridors and decor from the 70's. We've each got a room with a single bed and a colour teevee. There's two ballrooms, a huge auditorium, a barber shop, two bars and shitloads of bad carpet. And the food is wicked! Being america everything's a buffet, of course, and there's tons of it, all smothered in processed cheese. I had some chilli cheese fries at the club house , which was an experience. It's extremely difficult to eat something that looks like it's already been removed from someone else's body.

We had lots of planned social activites which were thinly-veiled excuses to get pissed...my favourite kind! We had free drinks at the Tuesday night Enchantment Under the Sea Dance mixer follwed by Irish Car Bombs in the Clubhouse. Needless to say, I struggled to get out of bed on Wednesday morning. Added to my dillema was the fact that on the Comedy Channel at 6.30am they were showing Ski School, so I seriously considered blowing off the day and staying in my room watching bad 80's movies. But I refused to let these american marshmellows accuse me of being soft. Just in case you started to think that my life was no longer a bad 80's moofie, consider this: they play music constantly in this place and the first three days I was here when I hit the breakfast buffet they were played, respectively, the following songs: 'What a Feeling' from Flashdance, 'Footloose' from that moofie with Kevin Bacon in it, and 'Head Over Heels' by Tears for Fears. Radical! So for the rest of the day I imagined we were all in a bad 80's moofie called Consultant School and tried to pick which actors would play our little band of misfits, getting up to all sorts of baudy M-rated highjinks while sticking it to the establishment and trying to get laid. Conveniently, the dudes I was drinking with were living sterotypes so it was pretty easy. Patrick is John Belushi, Amy is Jeneane Garofalo, and Jaye is the korean-american nerdy football playing geek. My character was a little bit harder; I'm the fish out of water who comes from humble beginnings and fought hard to get where I am, torn between denying my working-class upbringing and the lure of new money and upper class prep-school T&A. I struggled to find our antagonists, the preppy stuck-up rich guy jocks who make our lives hell and have all the hot girlfriends, but it turns out it's a guy called Geoff (pronounced "Joff") who has just been promoted to manager, knows everything and only wears Company-branded clothing. Ooooh, that Geoff! Living off Daddy's trust account, driving his Arrock and skiing in Aspen. He's never had to struggle, he's never been an outcast. I can't wait to take him down at the end of the moofie and steal his girlfriend who shouldn't really be with him anyway cos they've nothing in common...she and I are more alike than we think. If only I could find someone to play her role...

As you can probably tell, I didn't get a whole lot of work done that day. But the plot thickened on Wednesday night at the Networking Dinner where I met a gorgeous swedish girl called Elisabet who rides a motorcycle and I knew I'd found my girl. This woman was incredible! She's so far out of my league I'd need binoculars to see the place I'd have to stand in order to see her disappear over the horizon through a high-powered telescope. She's just moved to London so I offered to do the 'Strangers in a Strange Land' thing and have coffee sometime. My new American chums praised me for having "big game" before reminding me that I was punching so far above my weight it was like Mike Tyson fighting a premature baby. Thanks, dudes. Little did they know that she
is engaged and very much in love with her fyonsay (selfish biatch!).

On Thursday night a bunch of us hired a limo and went on a road trip. We put the stereo on loud and flashed our boobs at passing cars and I impressed the shit out of everyone with my story of seeing Nirvana live at the ANU. At about 10pm we hit The Cadillac Ranch, which looks exactly the way you're imagining it does. It's a real live American bar, a living stereotype, and when it's jammed packed with drunk people and the 80's music is blaring it's the most awesome vibe ever. Picture hundreds of highly-intelligent, highly-paid, extremely drunk consultants standing in a circle, drinking Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and Coke and screaming along to "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. Jealous? Yeah, you are...you totally are.

I'm reading this awesome book Called 'The Devil in the White City' about the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and the architects who designed it. It also tells the story of America's first urban serial killer, eerily named H.H. Holmes, who used the World's Fair to lure young women visitors into his custom-built house of horrors where he butchered them and burned their remains in a specially-made kiln. Nice...

Can't believe it, I left my super dooper camera back in London so I'll have to make do with my crappy phone camera. Will try and get pics up soon and send another update from the Windy City.

Ciao, sweeties!

15 October 2007

London's burning with boredom now...London's burning dial 99999...

We're drowning in a sea of hyperbole over here. Every new musical is "amazing!" or "the best in the land!" or "best ever in the history of anything!", and every new film is "a masterpiece!" or "best film of the year!" or "best performance of his career!" or " so fucking good I've run out of over-blown adjectives and will never again be able to describe anything ever!"

As I've mentioned before, London is a city of contrasts. But none so apparent as that of the English peoples' attitude. They've a real chip on their shoulder, a sense of superiority to the rest of Europe and indeed the world. Apart from the fact that it's undeserved, I sense it's the English desperately clinging to their faded empirical glory. They used to run the world and they're not going to let anyone forget it. The hubris is as thick as BO in a comic shop as they go on and on about how wonderful it is to live here and how lucky they are to be British. But then they go whingeing about everything all the time and letting american chain stores come in and take over and eastern europeans come in and "take British jobs" in the service industries...never mind that the British won't do those jobs because they feel it's beneath them. English culture seems to consist entirely of complaining, baked beans, getting pissed and being uncomfortable.

Check out the new photos of my new house and the surrounding area (http://picasaweb.google.com/blind.phineas). I took another route (ooh err!) and found a choice little cafe the next street over which does a wikkid eggs benedict. The street goes all the way down to the Thames and you can walk all the way along it into the city. I discovered some really lovely places along the way, like the farm...yes! a frickin' farm!...about 10 minutes from my house. And there's a huge park (Southwark) park at the end of my street with huge expanses of grass and oak trees and pagodas and hardly any people. Bliss!

I realised that the new house is only a 20 minute walk or so from the Tate museum, so I toddled off there on Sunday to check out an exhibition by Louise Bourgeois, a French sculptor, figuring that as most successful female artists have sex and death as their main themes it was a good opportunity to catch a perv at some nork and vag. The only downside to this is that it was abstract expressionist nork and vag, and therefore a little disgusting and unsettling. I don't want to contemplate the juxstaposition of mortality and carnality...I just wanna perv! Clearly I wasn't the only one affected by the display, as a hot young spanish couple were making out like nobody's business on the lawn out front afterwards. I mean REALLY making out...chikka bow-bow type stuff. Normally this would be a source of endless ridicule and mirth-making, but sadly the whole affair just left me wistful and envious and painfully aware of how lonely and h0rny I am...siiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

I'm off to Chicago for a week of training on Sunday, which I'm pretty psyched about. My next project has been delayed somewhat so I'm gonna take a few extra days to look around. I'll have to find some spats and a violin case if I'm really gonna look the part, though. Yooooo...doity rat!

With any luck my next missive should be from the other side of the Atlantic. Be good, y'all, and keep those emails coming.

8 October 2007

Smoke lingers 'round your fingers...Train heave on to Euston...Do you think you've made the right decision this time? Oh...

Feels a bit weird to be back in London living and working. I don't feel like I've put down roots yet but it does feel kinda like being home. I think finally having my own space really makes a difference. I'm loving the new house. The landlords are really splurging on the back yard and are doing it up all fancy like. When we first moved in it was just a mudpatch but in a couple of weeks we'll have decking and grass and heaps of plants and rock gardens and even a mature Japanese maple up the back. It's gonna be tres bonza.

The new neighbourhood is something of a paradox. Our street has been yuppified and gentrified and is pretty nice. Just down the street we've some wikkid cool shops and pubs and a HUGE Tesco's just near the station ("If anyone asks, I didn't get 'em at Tesco's, ok?"). But just one street over are council estates and scrap yards and burnt out shops and gangs of hooded kiddies on bmx's with metho on their breath and a glint of hate in their eye. Or it could just be conjunctivitis. And everywhere redolent with the stench of wee. Or maybe that's just my room...

I heard an awesome new term the other day to describe a half aussie / half kiwi, such as myself. We're called "quassi's".

Went to my first West End show last week. It was called "Bill Hicks: Slight Return" and involved this english actor pretending to be possessed by the ghost of Bill Hicks and returning to earth to continue preaching his philosophy of indiscriminant drug use and dick jokes. At first I thought it would be naff cos it would just be a dude trotting out Bill's old material, but even that would have been awesome compared to what it actually was. This guy was pretending to be Bill Hicks and was doing NEW material (what?) but he had neither the intelligence, the charisma, the anger or the cutting wit that made Bill Hicks great. He just came across as an arrogant fanboy riding on the coattails of a far superior talent.

This weekend I went to the 2nd Annual International Tattoo Convention, which was wild. It was this dingy warehouse in a dingy part of East London on a dingy street called Brick Lane. The place was jam packed with tattoos and piercings and plugs and scarring and body mods and shaved bits from arsehole to breakfast. Never have I seen such a collection of the weirdest, sketchiest, dodgiest people imaginable...kinda like the crowd from every metal gig you've ever been to...or all of Paul's girlfriends. Seems like the big thing in tattoo fashion right now is Punkabilly and head tattoos. That's right, tattoos ON your head. The highlight for me was hanging out at the Suicide Girls booth (now there's some ladies you'd wanna take home to meet your mum), and the lowlight was accidentally brushing up against some fat sweaty leathery 60 year old dude with his shirt off and getting his nipple rings caught on my bag. Ewwwww! It was like touching a suitcase from a porn0 shoot...but less hot. I managed to meet a NZ tattoo artist who works in a studio here in London and her work is awesome. I'm all lined up to get my Belco Metal tatt done, so Paul and Azza better remember our drunken pact or there'll be trouble.

There's so many awesome live gigs coming up: Bill Bailey (Manny from Black Books), Ardel O'Hanlon (Dougal from Father Ted), Ross Noble (curly-haired Scouser comedian of triple J fame). There's a live performance of Jeff Wayne's musical version of War of the Worlds at the O2 stadium where The Company have a corporate box. Remember being scared shitless when your dad played that album in the 70's? Wikkid. One of my flatmates, Chloe, works for a theatre producer and they're currently running Footloose: The Musical. She's getting free tickets for the house and we're all gonna go along, but frankly the rest of them are all just a bunch of tourists cos I was the only one who can actually remember the 80's...I'm the only one who can legitimately pick up their sunday deuce.

So any word on when the election is gonna be called? I'm itching to unleash my overseas voter fury in the anihillation of those Liberal feckers...not that I'm being political or nuthin'...I just hate arrogant twats.

I've got 2 weeks "on the bench" as we call it, then off to Chicago for a week and then I start my new project with reviewing a new CRM system for some company's newly-formed broadband division. Should be a hoot! Beats working on tax stuff. How's that for a joke: I leave the Salt Mines so I don't have to work for The Company over there, and when I start work for The Company over here the first project they put me on is with the Irish Salt Mines. You don't need to be Alanis Morriset to appreciate the irony in that.

Hope you're all fit and well and bristling under Howard's yoke. Drop me a line sometime...let me know you're all still alive...it's lonely out here.

2 October 2007

The wine will be flat and the currys gone cold...I'm down in the tube station at midnight...

Friday was my last day in Dublin and it was actually quite sad to leave. Everyone here has been so nice to me and made me feel welcomed and part of the team even though I was just a floater and a sarcastic flinty-hearted jerk off. But I think that's why I like the Irish so much...they're sarcastic and droll and always ready with a cutting remark to put you in your place. They're just like me! I feel like John Malkovich when he went inside his own head in Being John Malkovich and everyone in the world was John Malkovich. Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!

The folks in The Teenage Disco had "buns at the desk" which is a tradition when people leave. And no, Paul, it doesn't mean a rim job with the cleaning lady after hours, you sad pervy. It was cakes and sticky buns with the whole team and they bought me a going away present and made me do a speech and everything. It was lovely. I've only been here for 6 weeks but it feels like so much longer. I've made some really good friends here and in typical Littlest Hobo fashion I'm buggering off and will probably never see them again. We went out on Friday night for drinkies and as you can imagine things got a bit wey hey and "geez I luv youse". So wey hey and geez I luv youse, in fact, that I had to change my flight from saturday to sunday because I was unable to get out of bed. But it was mighty good craic and they're a grand bunch of langers.

I got tickets to Bill Bailey's live show, Tinselworm, at Wembley Arena this month! Woot! That guy rocks and I'm super pumped about seeing him. The only downside is I had to buy two tickets and I've got no one to take with me cos I'm a sad loser. I'll either have to fashion a papier mache companion or invite some homeless skank. Either way you KNOW I'm gettin' some after the show.

So back in London now and had the day off work yesterday to move into my new place. It's in Surrey Quays which is over on the South East side in an up-and-coming area. In London-speak, up-and-coming means "ridiculously over-priced and superficially trendy and if you're stupid enough to believe the hype then you're rich enough not to care about getting ripped off". But then, that's London all over, really. What a city! There's six of us in the house and not only am I the only male, I'm also the only person over 25. Awesome! I've gone from the Teenage Disco to Disney's PMT High School Musical. They seem ok, though, and the house is brilliant so maybe things will be alright. If not, it's only for 3 months and I can find somewhere else. Plus, I'm hardly ever going to be there if things go the way they have been so far with travel and stuff.

Speaking of which, I'm off to Chicago in 3 weeks for training. How rad! The Company have this training facility over there and everyone has to go along and attend their core training school for a week. Oh well, alright, if I must. Apparently it's a wicked sweet good time. I'm gonna stay over for a few days afterwards and check out the windy city. It's supposed to be a bit chilly this time of year but I think a free flight is worth a bit of shrinkage, don't you? Of course you do, you sycophant!

So what's all the goss from back on the homestead? Seems I started a trend and everyone's leaving their jobs for greener pastures. Good for youse! Youse were so under-valued in and I'm sure you'll do really well in .

Looking forward to Chrissie with each passing day. I've been over here for two months now, can you believe it? And yesterday would have been my 13th wedding anniversary had we been living in a parallel bizarro universe...shudder!

Don't go changin'!

24 September 2007

Oh Iona, how I miss you, oh my soul cries out for thee...Oh Iona, Oh Iona, Oh Iona, stand by me...

How good are The Skids? Celtic punk at it's finest, to be sure. Gotta love the Paddybeat, although good luck deciphering the lyrics...

There's something about the Irish accent which makes your voice sound deeper. I've yet to meet an Irish person with a high-pitched voice...even the girlies sound gruff and intimidating and like your mum. Which, depepnding on your socio-sexual proclivities, could either be a good thing or a bad thing.

This is my last week in Dublin and I've mixed feelings about it. I love the town and the people but I'm thoroughly sick of living in hotels. Add to that, the lock on my you-beaut giant novelty suitcase decided to pack it in due to excessive abuse from baggage handlers and the only way I could get it open last night was to have at it with a sharp knife. Suffice it to say I need a new suitcase.

Was in London for the weekend looking at houses again. I found this mob called Nicerooms who are a kind of like a virtual landlord. This really super rich guy gives his management company a load of cash to go out and buy whole blocks of houses and renovates the shit out of them. They then rent it out to the hip young things from the finance sector, flush with all the new money and bad taste that comes with an economic boom. I figure by the time they work out that I'm just a working class oik I'll have hooked up with a wealthy Lady Penelope sugar momma type and be burrowed in like a colonial tick into the fat pasty bottom of mumsy and daddy's estate in the country. Show me the ponies!

Speaking of ponies, there's a bit of a feral horse problem in the suburbs of Dublin. Apparently "dah harses" are breeding like crazy and just roam freely about the place causing all sorts of horsey mischief. They sent the army in to shoot a bunch of them but all the street urchins ganged up and pelted them with rocks when they tried to get near. Someone in the government wised up and is now teaching the kiddies how to properly care for their prolific pony pals.

So anyway, I fly back to London on Saturday and will be sleeping on the couch at Finsbury Park for a couple of nights before moving in on Monday. The place is in Surrey Quays which is a trendy new area on the river near Canary Wharf where all the hot young bucks like me (and the women who scorn them) are flocking. The house is a 6 bedroom townhouse with a decent back yard (very rare), huge kitchen and massive lounge room on split levels. The rooms are huge too...I've forgone one with an ensuite cos it was an extra £50 a month and the communal bathroom is massive and there'll only be two of us using it at any one time cos everyone else has an ensuite. Sometimes my logic amazes even me.

Haven't been doing much touristy stuff lately, although I'm desperately trying to get my hands on some tickets to see Bill Bailey doing his new live show at Wembly Stadium. They've pretty much all sold out but there's a couple of places where you can get good seats at a bit of a mark up if you know the right doodz.

Xmas plans are firming up (ooh err!). I plan on flying in to Canberra on 13th Dec and will spend a week with the kids before they go to Adelaide for the hols. I've then got two weeks to kill over Xmas and New Years so anyone who wants a piece of me better start making with the invites cos demand is high and dates will fill up quickly. I'm really looking forward to catching up with everyone and will make efforts to spread myself around. Plus, if you want any duty-free goodies put your orders in.

Hope you're all good, talk again soon.

17 September 2007

Musha ring dum a doo dum a da...Whack for my daddy-o...There's whiskey in the jar...

Not much going on this week...

The Gaelic Football final was on this weekend which meant I had to do the hotel shuffle again due to all the hotels in the city being totally booked up. Gaelic football is like a cross between Aussie Rules and soccer - it's played with a round ball, has a netted goal and two uprights, and doodz punch the crap out of each other. Occasionally an Australian team comes over here to play International Rules with the Irish but last year it deteriorated into a huge brawl so there's doubts about whether it'll be held again.

Let's talk about crisps, baybee! That's right, crisps is what they call potato chips over here and there's about a gajillion different brands but only 3 flavours: plain, salt and vinegar, and cheese and onion (Hunky Dorys do a Buffalo flavour but you can tell it's not real buffalo). Cheese and onion is the most popular flavour, no complaints from me, but they're all trying to out do each other with variants like Mature Cheeder and Caramalised Onion. The really posh ones still have a tiny rind of potato skin around the outside. Yummo, stick it up your bummo.

Apple are announcing the european release of the iPhone this week, oh baby! I'm signed up with O2 who are supposed to get the contract for the phone so all I have to do is swap out my sim card and I'm good to go. In your face, Paul! I'll call you so I can listen to your tears of envy.

Haven't heard about the houseboat as yet, which is annoying because I need to move out of the Finsbury Park place at the end of this week and I haven't got anywhere to go as yet. My project here in Dublin finishes up at the end of the month and as yet I have no idea where I'm going. I'm trying to extend my stay here but the people I'm working for are a bit tight so it'll take some convincing. Mind you, I'm a little sick of living in hotels...would be nice to find a place where I can settle down...livin' free in harmony and majesty, just like Grizzly Adams...except without all the bears and crazy mountain folk.

Weather's weird this weekend...nice and sunny on Saturday, rainy and windy Sunday, overcast and gloomy today. Missing home...looking forward to coming back and seeing y'all at Xmas time.

10 September 2007

Requiem for the Croppies

by Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley...

No kitchens on the run, no striking camp...

We moved quick and sudden in our own country.

The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.

A people hardly marching... on the hike...

We found new tactics happening each day:

We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike

And stampede cattle into infantry,

Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.

Until... on Vinegar Hill... the final conclave.

Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.

The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.

They buried us without shroud or coffin

And in August... the barley grew up out of our grave.

You can crush us, You can bruise us, But you'll have to answer to...Oh the guns of Brixton!

Was back in Old Blighty for a few days as I had an interview for my National Insurance Number, which is the UK version of the tax file number, but works more like a cross between superannuation and the dole. Every month the Guv take a bit of your pay and sock it away as national insurance. Then, if you're ever out of work, you can draw on the NI to see you through till you find another job. Seems like a pretty sustainable system, but the irony of it is that when you apply to come to the UK you have to declare that you're not gonna go on welfare...but you can't go on welfare unless you have a National Insurance number which you can't get unless you've got a job.

Have to start thinking about somewhere else to live as the chick whose room I'm in is back at the end of September. I looked at a couple of places on the weekend, one in Bermondsey which is an awesome trendy area just aching to be taken down a peg or two by a suave hipster like me. The room was pretty good, nice and spacious, but unfortunately it just didn't rate compared to the second option which is...wait for it...a houseboat! That's right friends, a houseboat on the Thames. How awesome is that? Frickin' awesome, is the answer to that question. Actually, the Thames itself isn't that awesome...it's like the Charnwood of rivers. But the boat is cool, huge open living areas, central heating, a fireplace, plenty of room for roller skating on the flat deck up top. There's a south african chick there at the moment looking to get two new flatmates and I reckon I'm in with a chance. She's pretty easy going and laid back and we got along really well. It's part of a small community of houseboats, and there's a communal dock nearby with areas for bbq and basketball and even a pool so wikkid parties are the cote de jour (that's french for "the shiznitz", I think).

I've put my name down on the waiting list for the studio audience at Top Gear. Currently there's 300,000 people ahead of me so if they start filming an episode every day they should get to me by the time I retire.

I'm back in Dublin now...Ah, Dublin...where the skies are gray, the beer is black and the streets are washed with the vomit of martyrs.

I'm not a big fan of other people, as well you know. But I'm forced to spend a lot of time surrounded by other people (thank you very much, Albert Camus) so I tend to do a lot of observing and judging of complete strangers in order to discover ways in which I might find them even more annoying and therefore deserving of my scorn. I don't understand how people can travel thousands of kms to another country simply to do whatever they would have done if they'd stayed home. Why would you come to a city like Dublin, culturally rich and steeped in history and charm, only to pursue and indulge in bland shallow corporate American culture? On any given weekend the streets are thronging with tourists who spend their whole time looking for a Starbucks or Burger King and are decked head to toe in either Hard Rock or Thunder Road Cafe merchandise. The same tourists who seemingly spend the working week choreographing their slack-jawed meandering dawdles en masse so as to continually get in my feckin' way. Oh, and who decided it was suddenly fashionable to spit in the street? Your body manufactured that saliva for a reason, you dirty feckers, so perhaps you might do the rest of us a favour and keep it to yourself. And the next sweaty American gobshite who asks me what part of England I'm from is gonna get a swift kick up the arse.

You might have noticed that I have taken to the word 'feck' with some gusto. I've added it to my list of words which sound rude but really aren't, like 'frock' and 'banal' and 'shunt'. It's awesome because it sounds like you're swearing but you're totally not because in Ireland it's the equivalent of 'darn' or 'bloody'. It's brilliant in its subtlety and subtle in its brilliance. Plus, they say it on Father Ted all the time which is hilarious.

I found this awesome poem inscribed on a monument at the National Museum called "Requiem for the Croppies". It's about the farmers who rose up to form the Rebellion that kicked the Brit's arses during the revolution. It's a real testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the Irish, and quite moving. It was written by Seamus Heaney one of the four Irish poet laureates which I think is Gaelic for "insane piss head". Anyway it's brilliant so I'm reproducing it in my next post without asking anyone's permission cos that's how hard I am.

Geez, how much do they love Thin Lizzie over here? There's more Thin Lizzy tribute bands over here than there are U2 tribute bands, and just about every shop you go into has a plaque proclaiming that someone from the band urinated in the corner in 1987. There's even a statue of Phil Lynott in the main street with a big old bronze 'tache...like a guano-laden tribute to "P0rno Joe" Ceddia. Love ya, Joey!

Bit of a surreal moment the other day: there was an ad on tele for Harvey Norman. They've got, like, 9 stores over here and they've got an Aussie guy doing the shouty "Crazy prices! Bring your truck, bring your trailer!" voice-over, which just cheapens the whole thing, really. If you thought tele in England was bad, man, tele in Ireland is shite! 13 channels all the same and none of them know what they're doing.

Ok, so, well go on wit' yerselves. Keep the letters comin' and I'll be thinking of you all...well, most of you...actually very few of you. Whatever. Feck off!

3 September 2007

When life looks black as the hour of night...a pint of plain is your only man...

This weekend we had the All Ireland Hurling final which, admitedly, sounds like a bunch of Irish people getting drunk and throwing up (which happened, but that's incidental) but is actually a pretty cool sport. For those of you who don't know it it's one of the hugest sports in Ireland even though it's only played at an amateur level. It was played in the Crowe stadium which is absolutely feckin' enourmous and seats almost the entire population of Dublin. Limerick and Kilkenny were playing off for the title (which Kilkenny won easily) in possibly the most bizarre game in the world of sport. It's basically a 2-hour fight with a ball thrown in to legitimise the use of an oval. I reckon the guy who invented it got the idea from watching a bunch of street kids re-enact Mad Max 2. I'm not too clear on the rules as the the concept of a foul is tautologous to a game where the ultimate aim is to bludgeon enough of your opponents to death so that there's nothing in the way of the goal. It's pretty much just every sport you can think of all thrown in together and is an absolute blast to watch...especially when the wooses with face masks get smashed in the head, which I think is worth a point.

But the real highlight of the weekend was touring the Guinness Storehouse. Oh baby! That place is huge! 7 stories of beery goodness. You know when you're getting near the joint cos the whole world suddenly smells like a dodgey casserole. There's a whole lot of info on each floor about various stages of the brewing process and the ingredients used. It's a common misconception that the water for Guinness comes from the River Liffey. Eeeewww, as if! It actually comes from the mountains up near Wicklow. Back in the 1700's, Arthur Guinness got in trouble from the local council for drawing more than his allotment and when the town sherrifs came to switch it off, he went at them with a pickaxe. Go on wit' yerself, Arty, ya big man! I reckon he may have been sampling his own produce just prior, what do you reckon? Another common misconception is that Guinness is black...it's not. It's actually a deep deep red colour. Are you feckin' kidding me? No, god's truth...red. About halfway up you get to the testing lab or, as I call it, Paradise. They let you try a sample of their newest brew, North Star...Hey Azza! There's this new type of Guinness called North Star which was brewed last year and you can only get in Ireland. It's deadly! It's grand! It's fantastic! Don't worry, champ, I've got you sorted with a couple of bottles...no need to send away. Anyhoo, it's not a bad drop but after the third or fourth free sample they tend to give you the hurry along, the stingey feckers. I got to become an honourary apprentice to the Guinness Master Brewer so my certificate should be along in the mail presently. At the end of the tour you go to the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor which in theory should give you a glorious panoramic view of the whole of Dublin, but in fact gives you a glorious panoramic view of the back of sweaty american tourists' fat heads. But you get to have a complimentary pint of the good stuff so the sweet sweet liquour eases the pain. I don't know whether Guinness tastes any different over her but damn that free pint was good. Plus I got a little Guinness paperweight as a souvenier with a drop of Guinness in it for emergencies.

Work's a bit of a drag...same old same old. Which is what I expected I guess but getting shuftied all over the place from one week to the next makes it hard to meet people. One of the cool things about The Company is they really look after their people. There's plenty of paid for nights out and fancy parties - we have our Xmas party on a boat on the Thames - and stuff, but the best thing is every week they bring in two huge baskets, one full of fresh fruit and health bars and the other full of jaffa cakes and bikkies and chocolate. We just hoe in and chow down, it's awesome! Now I understand why they have subsidised gym memberships...

Heading back to London early as I have an interview for my National Insurance Number, which is the UK equivalent of a tax file number. I'm working on my plan for Xmas time and all going well should be hitting Canberra around the 13th or 14th of December. Get in quick, some dates still available.

Hope you're all well and I'll try and get the Storehouse photos up ASAP so you can continue to live through me vicariously.

28 August 2007

From Galway to Dublin town, no maid I've seen like the sweet Colleen...

Actually, Colleen isn't so sweet. Frankly she's a bit of a hooer and couldn't mind mice at a crossroads. Dirty as the henhouse, that one. Idle as the piper's little finger, to be sure. Not that I know from personal experience, mind...just the word on the street.

You know how they say the grass is greener on the other side? Well in Ireland it's literally true. It's so friggin green it's not funny. It's almost phospherescent. Note the correct usage of the term 'literally' there, grammar fans.

Man, do they ever love to parp their horns over here. Red light - parp. Green light - parp. Someone doesn't give way - parp. Someone does give way - parp. Bored - parp. Too lazy to scratch your nuts - parp. I think Irish cars have their indicators replaced with an additional horn. About the only thing they love more than the parp is the counter-parp. If someone parps you, parp them back, only longer and harder.

Awesome weekend back in London. Sun was shining, temperature hit 26 degrees and spent Saturday morning clothes shopping and Saturday arvo drinking cider in Chelsea with Trudi (ex ATO colleague). Then got home and drank Baileys on the stairs with my flatmates and told them a few truths about life and the perils it holds for them in future. Needless to say, Sunday was a very slow-paced affair as I moved my stuff across the hall and packed for my return to Dublin. Monday was a public holiday in London but not in Ireland so I made sure I stayed in the UK. I'm not missing out on another one!

This weekend promises to be epic as I head back to the Guinness Storehouse for the official tour. I'm a bit excited! I've got plenty of fake moustaches so I can race to the back of the line and get more free samples at the end. I met a guy whose dad used to work there years ago and all around the brewery grounds there used to be open taps which you could just take a hit from anytime you liked. Needless to say there was always a huge line and it's a wonder anyone in Ireland got anything done ever.

Looking forward to seeing some good theatre while I'm over here. There's a powerful tradition for live theatre in Ireland, as evidenced by the four nobel laureates they've produced...and all of whom were miserable profane drunken mad bastards, which is my favourite kind of laureate. Also, Patrick Stewart (Jen Luc Picard) is doing MacBeth or Hamlet or something at Shakespeare's Globe theatre back in London so I'm so gonna go to that and shout out "Make it so!" in the quiet bits, cos you're allowed to heckle from the standing area in front of the stage.

I'm also trying to get in on a ghost hunting expedition with the London Paranormal Society. They take people on midnight tours to all of London's most famous haunted places and look for ghosts with all their high tech geeky gear. I really want to go to the London Dungeon or the London Operating Theatre which they say is haunted by Florence Nightingale. I'm planning on reminding everyone constantly and incessantly to NEVER cross the streams. I bet ghost people think that's hilarious!

That's all for now. If all goes well my next post should be from the liver transplant ward at the Guinness Hospital. Go on wit'cha!

20 August 2007

All the way to Dublin, whack follol de rah!

I'm struggling a bit to find songs about Dublin, particularly now that I know 'Dirty Old Town' isn't about Dublin at all...it's about a town in London. But The Dubliners do a pretty rollicky brand of fiddle-dee-di-de-dee and how rad is that "whack follol de rah" on the end? Bloody rad, that's how rad.

This installment is all about art and history. I spent my first weekend in Dublin touring the museums and learning quite a lot about the Irish and realised they're far more closely related to Australians than I thought. Of course the vast majority of the first fleet were Irish, so most of us are descended from the dregs of Irish society which, frankly, is the best part. They fought hard to win their independance from the English and paid a heavy price. But they're fiercly proud of it and even though they suffered greatly for a time it's really a testament to their unbelievable optimism and good humour and ability to have a laugh even when things are at their worst. Did you know there were Irish soldiers fighting (and dying) with the ANZACs at Galipolli? So both countries have pretty much been screwed over by the English for centuries. Oh and they had a replica Viking long boat called the Sea Stallion which was built in Dublin in the 14th century, scuppered in Denmark, then salvaged and restored in the 90's and sailed back to Dublin. Vikings are metal!

I got along to the Irish Museum of Modern Art, which was ok, but not mind-blowing. The problem with modern art museums is you never know what's art and what's just furniture or rubbish. For example, the most amazing piece of modern art was completely unintentional: the museum is an old manor house and all the galleries are rooms. Someone had placed a fire extinguisher in one of the unused fireplaces, which looked awesome! It totally subverted the form and turned the ouvre on it's head. But it was really just for safety. I then spent 15 minutes staring at an empty chair wondering at its significance when the security guard came back from the pissoir and sat in it. I decided to leave. I found the Guinness storehouse too (huzzah!) but the line for the tour was really long so I'm going back in a couple of weeks.

I got to eat my lunch in the grounds of Dublin Castle the other day. How cool is that? How many of you can say they eat their lunch in a castle? Oh, wait a minute...one...me. And Prince Charles, of course. I bumped into him the other day outside Buckingham Palace and I was all like, "Dude! Lunch in a castle!" and he was all like, "I know! Fuken A!" Then we slapped five in a princely fashion which isn't up high, like you would think, but down low 'cos we're earthy and in touch. Church!

On another day I ate my lunch in St Steven's Green which is a lovely park with lots of grass and French people, which is annoying, and seagulls, which you would think would be annoying but isn't. Irish seagulls are different...they're humble and affable and know heaps of jokes. But there's way too many French people over here. There were some ugly French people sitting on the park bench near me staring and talking out of the corner of their Frenchy mouths going, "Oh hoh hoh!" and smokeing long cigarettes and singing attrocious Maurice Chevalier songs. I didn't know how to say "What the fuck are you staring at, Frenchy?" in French so I just said it in English. I think they got the message. Then I mimed it and they TOTALLY got the message. They're so smug...even the ugly ones. Presumably because they know that even the ugliest French person gets more sex than the hottest English person.

I'm over my love affair with the Irish accent. I was trying to find my hotel the other night and was a bit lost so I asked this woman, "Excuse me, how far is Cardiff Lane?" And she said, "Fookin' wha?" I said, "Cardiff...Lane" and she said, "Yer lookin' fur Loime street?" I said, "No...Cardiff Lane...L-A-N-E...LANE" and she said, "Yah want a loine?" She then tried to sell me some coke so I took a different tack. "Where's the Quality Hotel?" "Oh sure," she said, "it's roight aroond tha cowrner, an all". So she sold me the blow and we had a party in my hotel room for 15 minutes.

But thankfully I've figured out how to make people understand me. It's a simple matter of modifying my language to incorporate three simple Irish phrases: surean, fookin', and loike. So if you approach someone in the street and say "Excuse me, where is the nearest public toilet?" they'll just look at you blankly and probably punch you in the face. But if you say, "Surean, where's the fookin' toilet, loike?" they'll be only to happy to point out the possie of the nearest public pissoir.

Oh my god! There's a Forbidden Planet here in Dublin! I'm totally going but there's also a couple of really cool dingy little comic shops in the alleys on Crow Street behind my building run by nerds of the highest calibre. I've decided the interior of my building, Castle House, looks like the film set from some crap 70's hospital show which I call "Paging Doctor Love". I was going to call it "50cc's of Love, STAT!" but that's more of a soft-p0rn0, I think. They're apparently moving us out at the end of the month but I reckon I'll be gone before I get to reap the benefits. Story of my feckin' loife...

It rains a lot here and there are canals all over the place. All of which sounds quaint but it smells really bad. The water is really horrible and polluted and hobos wash their doonas in it. I did see a canal boat (a 'barge' as we call it in the biz) which you can hire out for parties and what not, but it's right in between two main roads so not what you would call picturesque. Plus, harking from Dutchland, I bet they make you clog dance and eat herrings...no thanks.

It's funny how you notice the contrasts here. On first glance everything looks quaint and oldey timey and cool - the cobbled streets, the canals, the stone bridges - but the closer you look the more you see how modern life has sullied everything: streets are littered with bottle tops and cans and glass, canals are full of rubbish and oily water, tunnels under the bridges are dark and slimey and is that a bag of rubbish or a body? One day I even found a bullet. It was out the front of a record store owned by U2 so I went in and Larry Mullens Jr was behind the counter and I was all like, "Dude! IS thisbullet the blue sky?" He thought it was hilarious and wanted to rock out with me but I was all like "Feck off, grandpa. Go find some other chump to sell out with." Awesome.

Everyday when I come in to work there's about 5 emails with berevement notices and directions to the wake. Public service people are just dropping like flies over here! But in typical Irish style, death is simply another excuse to get pissed. I reckon so many people are dying due to the number of wakes they have to go to...it's like some vast alcohol-fuelled perpetual motion machine.

Right, that's it for now. I've put another batch of photos up so check 'em out, y'all at http://picasaweb.google.com/blind.phineas/. Back to London this weekend to move my stuff across the hall - the dude's coming back and I'm renting a room from one of the girls in the flat who's going away for 5 weeks - then back to Dublin for more of the craic and the black.

Love and Guinness.

13 August 2007

Doity ol' toooooooooown...

Thank goodness I've moved to a whole new city with a whole bunch of new musical references from which to create my subject lines.

Here I am in gloomy old Dublin, diddley dee potatoes! It's not gloomy in a London kind of gloomy, but a whole different kind of gloomy. More like city gloom (smog, noise, bad smells) compared to farm gloom (drizzle, mold, weird animal smells). Kinda hard to explain but trust me, it's different. It wasn't what I was expecting...not like a city at all, more like a big village. There's not a lot of tall buldings and most of them are really really old. There are seagulls sitting on the roof of the building across the street and when they go off it feels like you're either at the world's crapest beach or the world's nicest dump. My office looks like something from the 1950's and all of the power points are in the floor, which is really funny when people trip over them, but not at all funny when I'm the only one who does.

The people are SO friendly! It's unbelievable...in 4 weeks in London I made, like, 4 friends and had about 5 decent conversations. In 4 days over here I met about 20 people who may well be my best friends for life and have had so many conversations frankly I'm sick of talking. I feel like a bit of a broken record cos the second thing everyone says to me is, "So, how are you finding Dublin, then?" and I'm all like, "You people are SO friendly!" and they're all like, "Yer feckin' eejit!" Incidentally, the first thing everyone says to me is, "So you're from England, yeah?" One of the managers I work for, Richie, has taken me under his wing and is telling me all about the history of Dublin and his boyhood escapades. He's an old-school Dubliner and has bright red curly hair and freckles like a little wee leprechaun (I didn't mention that to him cos he looks like he'd punch me). He told me where all the best "old man pubs" are located, and told me where to go to find some "fiddley-di-de dee" music, as he calls it. I think he means smelly old guys with ukeleles and hand drums like giant tamborines and pan pipes and fiddles, or something.

Two things they love doing in Dublin is drinking and swearing. And not necessarily in that order but usually ones comes very soon after the other. If you stand in the middle of the street with your arms out and spin around, you'll hit about 17 pubs before you fall over. I think I've drunk more Guiness in 4 days than I have in my entire life before now. They say it tastes better over here but I can't tell. You can do a tour of the Guiness brewery and they give you one free Guiness but I reckon if I wear enough disguises I can get about 4 in before they're on to me. Plus, you can say "feck" as much as you like cos it's not a swear word...go figure!

People's accents are cool...no matter how young they are they all sound about 65. Most people speak Gaelic, which is the Irish language, so when they answer the phone chances are they'll end up speaking weird. When something's funny or good fun or enjoyable you say "Good craic" which is pronounced "crack", which apparently confuses the hell out of the Americans. The traditional names are lovely but can cause confusion. When I first arrived I phoned my manager and he said he'd send the cleaner down to let me in. "The cleaner?" I thought. "Are they all so busy they can't spare 2 minutes, they have to send the janitor?" But then I thought perhaps they meant Cleaner as in the dude who mops up after CIA assasinations...oh no! Why do they want to kill me? I only just got here, I didn't do anything! But before I could run away a lovely lady named Cliona (pronounced 'kleena') showed up. Derr!

They love sport too and play this wicked game called Hurling. I know what you're thinking and, no, it doesn't involve dwarves or vomit but it's equally as exciting. It's kind of like hockey but the ends of the sticks are flat and round, kind of like a ping pong paddle, and the goals look like a soccer goal but with two big posts either side. The ball looks like a white cricket ball and getting it in the net is worth, I don't know, a eugoogaley or something, and getting it twixt the sticks (ooh err!) is worth a pootenanny. You can pick the ball up and run with it so long as you bounce it off your chest now and then, or you can smash it with your stick for one of your doodz to catch further up. It's very fast-paced and loads of fun to watch, particularly when some dude gets smashed in the face with the ball or a stick (apparently it's very woosy to wear head gear, and let's face it, there's nothing sexier than brain damage).

They're very curious about Australia and are always quizzing me about stuff so I've been making up a lot of it. I'm actually liking it more here than in London. I get to sit with a team of nice people and see them everyday. It really makes a difference when you feel part of the gang instead of just a visitor. I'm staying over this weekend instead of flying back so I'm going to do some exploring. Richie's suggested hiring a car and driving out into the country to see some of the outlying areas, which are very close and supposedly quite lovely. Kristen's probably rolling her eyes right now and going, "I've SO done all of that already! I lived in Ireland, you know!" Feckin' princess...

That's all from me for now. I'll try and post some pictures of Dublin this weekend and look forward to hearing back from you guys with all your news.