Saturday, December 30, 2006

Iceberg dead ahead!

We came, we saw, we decimated,
We partied, we skied, my mouth is ulcerated.
My tongue is swollen, my mind is a haze,
So much calamity in only 7 days.
This is the story of the Fanatics' Ski Fest,
Of all my trips, this was the best.
So read on, it won’t take long,
Ta’mon, Ta’mon!

A cold December evening saw me, Glasso and Luke board a bus bound for Dover before the Channel crossing to Calais and the drive to Les Menuires in the French Alps. Arriving in the mid-afternoon it was time to hit the slops to teach the boys the finer points of snow boarding. Realising that my skills had disappeared in the four years since I could consider myself a semi-skilled boarder, the looks on the boys’ faces when I fell over straight off the lift was priceless. Although recovering quickly we managed to get an hour in before the opening night celebrations. This is when we met the girls of 305.

Now let’s pan forward a few nights. By the end of the week, room 416 (our room) had nearly got the entire group tour kicked off the mountain, had furniture broken, been threatened with arrest and had a member pepper sprayed. However, while the boys of 416 were always the instigators, the girls of 305 were never more than a step behind. While the boys helped give me one of the best weeks of my life; Emma, Sarah and Carrie definitely need a mention.

The first night started as a typical booze fest and ended with the group setting a Yeti Bar (local pub) record. This was 205 Jagerbombs – Jagermeister mixed with red bull - and 14,000 Euros over the bar. The previous record was 312 with 8,000 Euros over the bar. Yay us.

Arriving up the mountain on Christmas day, many were dressed in Father Christmas suits. Now I don’t mean to brag, but I’m an okay snowboarder. So, getting ahead of the pack, I raced down the mountain. At the half way mark I sat back and waited. I don’t think I can describe the hilarity in watching 150 Santa suits, hats and coats tumbling, racing, rolling and crashing down the mountain. Truly a sight to see.

At the end of the day, the party began. It started normally – Chrisy dinner, a few drinks, a hand stand competition, but then it got out of hand. Glasso, Luke and I decided that what we needed when the party in the bar ended at 1.30am was an apartment party. This apartment was tiny. It fits 7 people at a squeeze. So we decided to invite 20. That was until I got carried away - and invited the entire bar. At 2.30am we had 80 people squeezed into our room. We had no cups, many many many bottles of duty free vodka and tequila, and nothing to mix it with. It ended with most people passing around frying pans, kettles, bowls and juicers filled with vodka. At 3.00am the police arrived. In the next 4 minutes Glasso had been pepper sprayed, Luke had had his passport taken and attacked with a batten and I had gracefully slipped away in to the night; not to be seen until the morning. So apart from that, some streaking, a fire hose being let loose in several rooms and at several people it was a quiet night. We even had a special sign dedicated to us (thanks to Sarah for giving it to me at the end of the trip - I finally have something for my bedroom walls without having to resort to fairylights...).

The next night began with a trip up the mountain to Val Thorens to go clubbing. Val Thorens is considered the premier resort on the mountain, and according to Maxim Magazine, one of the best party places in Europe. Walking in with the Kiwi boys, I knew it was going to be a big night when Becks whispered:

“I’m going to get in a fight.”
”What if no one wants to,” I replied.
“Oh I’ll start it,” he said.

As if predicting the coming night, the former SAS doorman took us aside and before any trouble had occurred told us to watch it. Done. The rest of the night is all really a blur, with fire breathing barmen, me hanging from the rafters (literally), and members of the group falling asleep in the snow. Oh, and Glasso gave me the largest wedgie I think ever encountered by man, literally tearing my underwear off. Now this doesn't really add anything to the story, I was just impressed.

Now after Luke had tried to go and get his passport back from the police and the Fanatics director telling us that the mayor of the entire mountain (which contains about 6 resorts) abusing him and security guards with dogs being called in (I shit you not), we thought that we would have to calm down a little. So an 80s party was the go the following night. Now I don't see the fascianation with the eighties. I really don't. In my eyes the eighties is 'remission' of the 20th century. The cancer of the 70s needed to be healed, the 80s was remission and the 90s we were in the clear after technocolour t-shirts and Vanilla Ice were dispensed with. But people seem to love it, so I play along. Some impromptu pole dancing, a pash off and some after party partying contributed to another epic night. Although waltzing home at 5am to be greeted by three large french guards and a german shepard was unexpected.

A finally night of fun and frivolity was quite a loose event, with many stumbling, falling, rolling, swearing or simply putting on a show. Special word must be said to Dover and Marina for doing the best impersonation of a cheetah mauling a carcus I have seen since Wild Serengeti 1996.

I can’t really describe the trip in detail except to say that they have had to be the loosest nights I’ve had since coming back from the States. I could try to describe everything that happened, the sheer amount of laughter everyone had (I’m still struggling to walk my abdominals are so sore), and the amount of memories from the trip. But most reading this would be bored with them unless you were there. In the end it isn't the snow, the mountain or the partying that makes these sort of trips special, eventful, fun or memorable. It's the cast of characters. It's the Kiwi boys making up a story that Luke was gay until the age of 21 - and then all the girls were really friendly to him the next day. It's us making up stories that Matt spewed on the dance floor, the bar and the pool table (sorry people, they were all stories - except for Luke's leg - that was true). It's Em and Bros, Singo and everything she says, Sarah's identical t-shirt, and Cluck and Snowjobs crazy drunken antics.

Cheers all for making it the most memorable trip I've had. Good to start 2007 with you all. And as you can see by the looks on mine, Glasso and Matt's faces - we are also glad it ended when it did!

Side note: Specs, Dover, Mel, Carls, Longey and Disco – top work and sorry for making the job harder for you. If it helps I’ll direct people to your site ( Oh and Specs – miss me big fella?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I love you, that's why I need to leave you!

The great thing about living London is leaving it. I can’t figure out why over the past few weeks I’ve been feeling so, well, despondent and aggressive. Everything has been pissing me off. Be it the tiniest little thing like running out of bread or someone starting a fight in the tube. No matter what has been happening, I’ve been able to find issue with it and get myself down. For example, last week I left work and went straight home on Monday night. Meeting my flatmates Gill (yes Gill you finally got a mention) the conversation went like this:

Bart: "It's Monday night and I'm at home ironing my shirts instead of out. I'm such a loser."
Gill: "What are you doing for the rest of the week?"

Bart: "I'm out every night all week and next. I wish I could stay at home."

This is the calamity I'm in right now, I'm just not satisfied.

But now I know why. I have been in London for three months straight – the longest time spent here. And it does have an effect. When it gets dark at 4pm and light at 8am and the only thing to do is work and go out - it starts to add up. In fact there is even a condition that effects 300,000 people in London alone called SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This disorder strikes sufferers in the winter months and brings with it sleeping problems, despair, stomach pains and lower resistance to infection. Unfortunately so does my average weekend so I’m not sure if I’m a sufferer or not. You can buy SAD light therapy kits that give you a dose of UV, or chemists sell special vitamin packs to boost your wellbeing.

Think I just need to get me one of these to protect myself.

But at the end of the day, when it’s all dark outside there is a little game that I like to play. A little game called ‘Waterloo Dodgem Cars’. You can play this game no matter where you are in the world. For those in London the best places are Kings Cross, Victoria, Charing Cross and Oxford Street on a weekend.

There is one simple survival rule on the tube. Walk straight and don’t deviate. If you come off your line, you will be cleaned up. Watch a swarm of ants running around and notice that they successfully avoid each other without bumping into the next one. Get them drunk and that’s what people at crowded stations look like. It is so crowded at many of these stations that you will hit - quite hard in fact - at least 27 people in the space of 10 metres. Everyone is looking for a gap, so everyone is running in to open space, but here’s the tricky thing – there is no open space. However, there is a strategy you can apply. Don’t move. Don’t deviate. Put your head down and keep going, people will move out of the way. If you try to be sneaky and pick the gap, you will be collected by someone else. Like a rugby game, if you move off your line, you will be collected.

Every couple of metres you will hit someone, but it’s a small price to pay for missing the other 20 on the way. Also, there are only two times you ever apologise. When the person you hit is elderly, or when the person you hit is hot. Also, never confuse the two or you might end up waking up next to an 81 year-old geriatric with a bad hip (Hi Agnus, thanks for the cookies).

Once cordoned off in to a smaller part of the station, either moving towards the trains or the turnstiles, this is where your strategy of sheer power needs to change. Where moving though the station is all about the shoulders and driving forward in to a hit with your hips; fancy footwork is the game in the smaller areas. And, for you privileged few, I’m about to give you all the steps that will save your lives:
Bulldozer: Never give up ground. People will push and push to get in front of you and come in from the side. Always push forward and stick exactly 3 mm behind the person in front of you so no one can get in.

Duck walk: Position assumed when walking very close behind someone (bulldozing) and you need to place your feet at 45 degree angles (walking like a duck) to avoid kicking their heels.

Heel tap: When someone behind you stuffs up the duck walk, kicks your heel and you trip forward.

Fred Astaire: When you spot a gap and move for it; however, several people do the same and you end up bouncing around on your heels and toes like a tap dancer trying to get your space back.

Who’s your Daddy: When someone’s ticket/Oyster card is rejected and the ticketing gates shut in front of them, causing you to slam in to the back of them as they hit the gate. Very awkward moment, but will happen to you at least three times a week.

At least buy me a drink: When someone gives you a Who’s your Daddy. More enjoyable than awkward.

Snakes and Ladders: When two walkways meet in a cross road fashion and you need to get to the other side, causing you to take three steps forward, one back, two sidesway, etc.

Slamming on the brakes: When someone picks the space in front of you because you haven’t bulldozed correctly when doing snakes and ladders, Fred Astaires over causing you to stop suddenly, duck walk and get heel taped. Closely followed by a 'for fucks sake' coming out your mouth.

These are just a few ways to survive your trip to and from work. Spread the love and I’ll see you in the New Year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Let's get ready to rumble!!!!!

All right. I’m not a fighter. Simple as that. I’m not a pacifist, but I do avoid fights - I’m not really built for them. In fact, you know the documentaries where they go through fossils and analyse animals and their actions through how they are built, I can imagine mine now. In 2,000 years some guy will dig up my bones and come to this conclusion:

Here we have a male of the species. By his overly large jaw we can tell that this specimen had a propensity to talk. By his pronounced leg bones we can also ascertain that his speech often got him in to conflict, of which he fled from. However, as can be seen by how his bones are lying surrounded by those of the larger males of the species, he was smart enough to surround himself with more aggressive specimens to protect him from the consequences of his actions.

That is me courtesy of Attenborough. But sometimes you have to lash out. Take Friday night.

You can drink on UK trains. This is something I take full advantage of; h
owever, this does create some steamy, drunken tempers on public transport. Going to Balham to meet up with Cam on Friday night, one of these run-ins occurred. While getting off the train, I was bumped, quite rudely, by a Frenchman, who spilt my beer. I wasn’t going to back down from that. So turning around I gave the bumpee a verbal serve. To which he responded by spitting at me.

Now in my life I have been hit, bumped, kicked, slapped, elbowed, seen the Aussies lose the ashes and abused, but spitting is not something I’m willing to take. So, pulling back my arm, I hit this little Frenchy. Frenchy hit the ground and didn’t look all to happy. But after a little shouting the doors shut and off he went. Everyone was a winner.

Now, I ask you this question – what was he thinking? He was French – he can’t fight. It's quite funny watching how Europeans fight. The French spit, the Italians wait until they have 30 mates with them, the Irish like to come in close while the English prefer to stand back and swing. The Germans smile before taking a swing while the Polish are stern. And all time the Dutch and Swedes prefer that everyone just be friends.

Let's face it, spitting is pretty piss poor. But the French have never been known for their fighting ways - let’s analyse shall we:

War, battles, fights and the French
The French armies of the past have had their asses kicked by just about every other country in the world. Let's take a look at the mighty French military prowess.

Gallic Wars
Lost. In a war whose ending foreshadows the next 2000 years of French history, France is conquered by of all things, an Italian.

Hundred Years War
Mostly lost. Saved at last by female schizophrenic who inadvertently creates The First Rule of French Warfare: "France's armies are victorious only when not led by a Frenchman."

Italian Wars
Lost. France becomes the first and only country to ever lose two wars when fighting Italians. Wars of Religion - France goes 0-5-4 against the Huguenots.

Thirty Years War
France is technically not a participant, but manages to get invaded anyway. Claims a tie on the basis that eventually the other participants started ignoring it.

War of Devolution
Tied. Frenchmen take to wearing red flowerpots as chapeaux.

The Dutch War
Tied. Clogs were too strong.

War of the Augsburg League/King William's War/French and Indian War
Lost, but claimed as a tie. Three ties in a row induces deluded Frogophiles the world over to label the period as the height of French military power.

War of the Spanish Succession
Lost. The War also gave the French their first taste of a Marlboro, which they have loved every since.

American Revolution
In a move that will become quite familiar to future Americans, France claims a win even though the English colonists saw far more action. This is later known as "de Gaulle Syndrome", and leads to the Second Rule of French Warfare: "France only wins when America does most of the fighting."

French Revolution
Won, primarily due the fact that the other opponent was also French.

The Napoleonic Wars
Lost. Temporary victories (remember the First Rule!) due to leadership of a Corsican, who ended up being no match for a British footwear designer.

The Franco-Prussian War
Lost. Germany first plays the role of drunken Frat boy to France's ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night.

World War I
Tied and pissing their pants on the way to losing, France is saved by the West.

World War II
Lost. Conquered French liberated by the United States and Britain just as they finish learning the Horst Wessel Song.

War in Indochina (Vietnam)
Lost. French forces plead sickness, take to bed with the Dien Bien Flu and let the US finish it off…badly.

Algerian Rebellion
Lost. Loss marks the first defeat of a western army by a Non-Turkic Muslim force since the Crusades, and produces the First Rule of Muslim Warfare: "We can always beat the French." This rule is identical to the First Rules of the Italians, Russians, Germans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Vietnamese and Esquimaux.

War on Terrorism
France, keeping in mind its recent history, surrenders to Germans and Muslims just to be safe. Attempts to surrender to Vietnamese ambassador fail after he takes refuge in a McDonald's.

The question for anyone silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?", but rather "How long until France surrenders?" Pierre – you never stood a chance. It was actually pretty cruel.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Computer says nnnnoooo.

Ladies and gentleman, time for a rant. Now I know you people living in the UK love these spiels because it promotes that ‘oh my god, how funny – it’s so true’, so today will not be any different - and Keely was sick of pub reviews.

I have just been arguing with my bank.

Now banking in the UK ain't easy. For one, many of the banks demand that you need to hve been in the UK for 3 years to get an account – but then again, this isn’t true. If you lie, go to another branch or simply catch one of the counter staff on a good day, and these rules don't apply. That’s the hardest thing with most things in the UK: no consistency.

For example, I have been trying to get a credit card for 6 months, but have been constantly rejected. Now some people I know, who make more less that half what I do, have walked in to an HSBC (my bank) asked for one, and pretty much got it. I have been fighting tooth and nail, and have finally been offered one – at 19.9% per annum. That may sound ridiculous, and it is. What is more ridiculous is that according to the bank, they don’t even offer one with that higher interest rate (there advertising says they offer them from 11.9% – 18.9%). This number had been MADE UP!!! When confronted with this, the helpful people at the bank couldn’t figure it out themselves and in that oh so London (not English) way that I’m getting so used to said: “Sorry, I can’t help you. Next.”

Due to this I’ve decided to switch banks. Now I make a decent wage in the UK. It’s a good amount greater than the average London wage so you think I wouldn’t struggle getting a bank account. But again, sorry you have to be here for three years.
No consistency. Oh, and why are morons the staff of choice. Take my experience when getting a debit card.

Now you have a variety of debt cards. There’s switch, solo, Visa Debit, Electon, whopper meal, Maestro, etc. When I first got here it was a nightmare to open a bank account. You need a utility bill in your name and a letter from your employer among other things. However, you need a bank account before you can get the bill in your name or a job – figure that out! So I used an independent company that helps backpackers, only problem is the bank realises this and gives you the shitest deal possible. I think my was called the Kazakhstan Savings Plus or something along those lines. So after a few months I realised I’d been had and went back in to change my account and my debit card. This was fine. But after the card arrived and I couldn’t use it - I knew the efficiency as too good to be true. And here began my exchange:

Bart (B): “I ordered a new card with the same pin and it doesn’t work.”
Moron (M)): “Oh, you’ve been issued with a new pin anyway. It’s at your home branch to be picked up.”
(B): “Uh huh – well isn’t this my home branch.”
(M): “You home branch is where you applied for the account and picked up your card. That’s in Essex”
(B): “I applied here and picked my card up here. I’ve never been to Essex and it’s a little far for me to travel. Can’t they just send the new pin to my house?”
(M): “No, in case someone has intercepted your card.”
(B): “Um, I’m holding my card right now. I think they may struggle.”
(M): “Well we can try to get a new pin. We can get it sent to your home branch or your house now.”
(B): (needing to prove if she really was stupid) “And where would that be?”
(M): “It’s in Essex.”

It seems there is no place where it is written that a procedure is set out. One thing is different among different places.

Please don’t feel I am whining about the UK, but I have one statement to make: London does not work. Pure and simple. It doesn’t. Somewhere between the Beatles and the Spicegirls, some fucker forgot to install the latest Windows updates and something went tits up. The trains are too small, the alleys too narrow and everything else to few to deal with the amount of people. If an exchange takes more than two steps it won’t happen – such as bank accounts. You will wait eight weeks for a piece of paper to come through and you won’t be surprised when it's an application form. The announcement that comes over the train platform says there is a delay of 25 minutes as due to a storm there are the wrong kinds of leaves on the track (I shit you not it has been said). I used to put near frigging boulders on train tracks when I was a kid to watch trains smash them – leaves???????

The tube is to have air-conditioning in some trains by 2012 – front page news this – it was invented 104 years ago people! Not really impressive.

But in all this calamity, all this confusion and all this stupidity, there is one group I feel for the most. One group whose fault it is not and one group to suffer the most. The English. That’s right; this is a rant about how we, the foreigner, have fucked it all up for the English.

Why are the tubes so crowded? Don’t look at Jeeves pushed in the corner with his club tie on. It’s Barry taking up the seat on the way to his bar job at the Walkabout or Nolan eating his biltong after a night out on Castle Lager.

Why are the banks so ridiculously difficult to get any answer, common sense, bank account, credit card from? Don’t abuse the lady at the desk. It's the Russians who conducted a sit load of identity fraud and all the Poles who came in, got a credit card and pissed off!

That’s right my antipodean friends. Just like the baby boomers and their love of fossil fuels; it’s those that came before us that fucked it up for the rest of us.

I’ll be straight. I love living in London. The speed, the people and the opportunities. But, I hear you say, what about the other things, such as late trains, bland food and the weather. Well I do agree. But for those things I say how about cheap flights, Sainsbury’s 2 for 1 pizzas and titty Monday (those that know, know).

The only thing I don’t really care for is there are not enough English in London. Too many foreigners – including me. If I hear another Aussie, Safa, Kiwi, Polish or Yank accent I’ll scream. ‘Hiya, you awright’ is even a little bit of a turn on from the right kind of person (you know who you are). What isn’t as sexy is: ‘see you just now’; ‘hey bro’; or ‘g’day’. Although ‘twardszy’ is still a pleasant phrase to hear.