Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My bratwurst has a first name...

Arriving back in the UK I was glad to be home and ready to get out there again. So the next morning I got on a tube for the first time in a month – then decided to go to Berlin. Sorry London, but we have to do it in baby steps.

With Sarah already exploring Berlin, I had someone to hold my hands in a big city. For those that don’t know Sarah, this is her. She will now be refereed to as Sarz. She’s the goddess of all things that are cool, apparently. Although Sarz is allergic to wheat. This means the steady stream of schnitzel, beer and sausages that I gorged on was viewed with envious hatred by the young lady - you may be a godess of cool Sarz, but I didn't have to the glutton free products below ;).
Berlin is the artier and less conservative Munich. It was the capital of the great Prussian empire until 1771 when the country of Germany was formed, and it stayed as the capital after that. Berlin has the feel of Melbourne, the politics of Canberra, but Frankfurt is the finance hub (Sydney). So Berlin is cheap, cheap, cheap. I honestly thought I was in Eastern Europe things were so cheap.

In fact everything I have come across in Germany I love. Just like the start of a letter to Playboy: ‘I never thought it would happen to me…’, Germany is by far my favourite country to date. It’s the food (everything is simply bread and meat), the beer (bigger still), the woman (buxom fraulin goes no way to describe) or simply the natural beauty of the place. On top of this, everything works like clockwork. My pet peeve is incompetence, and so is Germany’s. Even the flag is good. The red is for blood and strength, the gold for power and wealth, and the black for the land. Much better than the French’s white flag.
Helpful Germans - only 190 more stairs out of 321 - thanks guys!

But Bart, I hear you say, aren’t the Germans aggressive and stern? I thought this too, but after two tours of duty, I’m yet to meet a nicer race. I have never seen so many beggars as successful as they are in Berlin. Everyone on the train put their hands in their pockets and pulled out some euros when asked.

Reichstag - chilly!!!!

One thing that struck me in Berlin is there are no English translations. When I saw this, I thought: ‘here we go’, another version of France where they refuse to speak to you or help you. But nay pessimistic Bart, it’s because every German I spoke to could speak English. And those that didn’t actually apologised and were embarrassed when they couldn’t. So this is what made my train trip from Schonfeld to Alexanderplatz that much more interesting.

Now travel is addictive. And with any addiction there is a hit - a tipping point - which is what the junkie is after every time. Many say their travel hit is the feeling of returning home. Others say meeting new people. Mine is being lost. Complete and utter confusion, helplessness and detachment from everything is what I like about travel. It’s that point when you get out of an airport and think ‘shit, where the hell am I and what the hell do I do now?'. But that’s only because I enjoy that satisfaction, the afterglow if you will, of sorting your way through the problem and coming out super duper at the end.

So with this in mind I bumped in to a friendly little German at the airport who helped me find my way to the train station, on to the train, chatted for a little bit and then burst in to tears. And I’m not meaning that little tickle in the back of your throat when the spider dies in Charlotte’s web, but the ‘I hear mucus is valuable so let’s see how much I can get out my nose in one continual sobbing’ session. Strange way to start Germany 2.0. After some Aussie bloke questions: ‘you alright mate – did your dog die?’ the answer was a break up with an English girl (damn those Allies) and he was back in Germany to pick up the pieces. After a few bitches, her loss and there’s plenty more sauerkraut in the currywurst quotes, he was okay and ready to start his life again. Now I know how Ghandi must felt.

On to find Sarz.

Berlin turned on a lovely 4 degree day with winds and the end of a snow storm, followed by rain, rain and more rain. Great day for us to meander around the Brandenburg gate, the Reichstag and laugh at such amusing names such as Ausgang (that’s the collective term for us two), Bumphart, Farkhaus and anything with
Hamburger in it. But after getting up at 4 am to get to the airport only 1 day after getting off the world’s longest flight, it was time to do what any traveller in a hostel does – buy cheap booze and invite a whole bunch of people to your room. Well, Sarz was one up on me there after I taught her the ropes in the French Alps and had already launched, advertised, stocked and trademarked Timmy’s Bar (after one of the rooms occupants) and the party began there - Room 416 Academy produced it's first graduate. The rest of the night has gone from my mind.

Timmy's Bar

We made our own way around the next day, going to see the Victory Monument, a church or two before paying a few euro to take a Third Reich tour to the highs and lows of the Nazis. Saw a lot of sites that you wouldn’t come across and stories that you wouldn’t hear about until they are pointed out by a tour guide.

That night, with Timmy’s Bar closed, we jumped on a pub tour and realised that Berlin has some pretty fucking cool places. I had to add the profanity to enhance the statement. One such bar, situated in a derelict building that is squatted in by random musicians, had to be the favourite. With massive beers for less than you would pay for a small OJ in the UK, I was in heaven. For you Melbournians, Berlin is your city. While I was there, that’s all I could think – this is Melbourne through and through. It’s got the most courtyards in Europe, full of underground, hidden bars and clubs, and everyone seems to be more than happy to meet you. Once again, won’t go in to the details, but good night was had.

Oh and Alison, to answer your question, no, only with ski goggles, but I was giving it my best try.

The next day was the full 5 hour walking tour of Berlin, including all the favourites. So let’s see what they are.

On 10 May 1933, members of the Nazi party walked in to the Humboldt University and gave lists to the students of books they wanted brought to Opernplatz (a public square over the street) and burnt all authors who were Jews, Communists, homosexuals, disabled or simply challenged the new power (can anyone say Bush's Patriot Act 2002?).

About 200,000 books were burnt. According to scientists, the severe reaction came after after Hitler read the below:
To apologise for this act, to this day there is a second hand book sale at the front of the university when weather permits. Also, a memorial in the middle of the square. The memorial is a room under the square with a perplex roof, which is has an empty bookshelf on each four walls wall.Onwards to other memorials and monuments before crossing what is left of the Berlin Wall. Nowadays only small sections of the wall exist, with the area marked only by bricks in the pavement and road as well as several checkpoints.

East side vs West side Stay on your side and don't look at me capitalist pig!

The most famous checkpoint is the entrance to the US zone called Checkpoint Charlie – the point where Soviet and US tanks faced each other after a tense border argument. This, and the Cuban missile crisis, were the closest to battle that these two super powers came. While the missile crisis was a naval blockade, the reason for Checkpoint Charlie’s tense moment was simply a diplomat trying to play a ‘how big is my dick’ competition with Soviet border guards and taking it a little too far by ordering tanks to in to the street to show why he didn't need a passport to pass over the line. One of the most exciting times in the walls history – apart from the Hoff singing on it (full rendition of the Hoff’s classical song can be heard at Sarz’ My Space here).

Off to a few more places, including Hitler’s final resting place – his bunker.

Well what did you expect from a bunker – it’s underground!

And it’s not really there anymore. The Soviets, who reached Berlin first, never wanted Hitler to have a resting place or a memorial, so his body was cremated and thrown in to a river and his bunker was destroyed. The irony is that not more than 20 metres from this site is now the huge Holocaust memorial.

Now what I love about Deutschland is the way they live. They don’t have the siestas in the afternoon or go to the gym and flog themselves mercifully at lunchtime. They work hard and smart, drive expensive cars, eat massive meals, drink huge beers and go home late after a big night to do it all again the next day. I thought the excess of Oktoberfest was seasonal, but it doesn’t seem to be. The food is what got me the most. In London you pay 4 pounds for semi-frozen bread with a slathering of ‘prawns’ and mayonnaise, and if you’re lucky you can get an OJ made from concentrate. Germany – 1.50 Euros (a pound), a bread roll bigger than your head, stuffed with salami, five cheeses, lettuce, tomato, mustard and then a hand squeezed OJ. So, while Berlin was a bit of a site seeing trip, just like a Munich, it did turn in to a cook’s journey through Deutschland.

Bratwurst in a roll

Chocolates from Plantagen & Schokolade (chocolatiers to the Royals)

Frankfurt, saukraut and dried onion

Not sure if I want to get my lips around the extra 'additive' (enlarge photo)

Apart from looking like I'm getting an enema - I was excited by this salami roll

And welcome back to British cuisine!

But I didn't try this place - seemed to insulting for me

But I may need to buy a t-shirt here after my sampling

What a great little trip that one was. I do love Germany (well I do have some Kraut blood in this little body) and can’t wait to get back there. Oh, and to make you all happy, I beat an Italian in Fooz Ball and got him to say his soccer team cheated in the World Cup as a prize, and saw a Mercedes being towed!!

Friday, January 19, 2007

"I'm from Oz-tray-lya mate"

Well wasn't Australia fun? Although I did enjoy the time spent back in Melbourne, it was with relief that I boarded a plane back to London. I left Melbourne straight out of university and moved to Sydney, where I lived for three years before spending a few frustrated and anxious months in Melbourne before heading to the UK, so I never really knew Melbourne from an angle that wasn't a visitor or someone with a clouded outlook. So it was good to go back with a fresh, older head and really enjoy it. My time spent there was with old friends, long lunches, late nights and long sleep ins - so I did enjoy it.

Basking in the sun while watching Andy Murray, Saffin, Federer and Roddick play at the Kooyong Classic before the Aus Open was a good way to spend a Saturday, while a huge breakfast and a meander in St Kilda is an even better way to spend a Sunday (I'm really just saying this to make those that know what I'm talking about jealous). There are also several new bars that have sprung up in the city that weren't there nine months ago and are worth a visit. It does surprise me how quickly Melbourne is changing. But that is one thing that I do like about a lifestyle in the sun. While a bar/pub does play a part in your day, it's not until late in the afternoon and it's usually in the sun, not inside for a few pints at lunch that bloat you a little.

You also do more interesting things when the
weather is better, such as watching the tennis or going flying!! Huh, you say? Rather than the platinum blond or the sports car, my father's turn of life present to himself was to get his pilot's license. Look, in the's a bird or is it a plane? No, it's Bart's inheritance slowly going over the horizon in a puff of aviation fuel costs and landing fees!! Actually I tell a lie, he's got a sports car too. It was good to get a view of Melbourne that you usually don't have, and it was quite strange that air traffic control let us fly right over the heart of the city - including the MCG - which was packed with about 60,000 people watching Australia vs England in the one-day cricket, with as little as a polite request. Seems a bit strange when you can't even take deodorant on a plane with out them calling you a terrorist??

Aviators optional

Why pay for the cricket?

After that excitement on Friday afternoon it was good to get free tickets to the tennis at Kooyong. For those that don't know, the Kooyong Classic is the warm up event to the Australian Open.

Some pretty big names on display and there was not a cloud in the sky. Attending with Kat, we got to see a bit of tennis, but Kat seemed to be rather infatuated with the new man in her life, so there was also a bit of talking to be had. Kat talked, I nodded.

Now let me explain young Kat. She's one of my best friends and standing around 6 foot we do make a strange looking pair. We met
many moons ago at Uni, and after going out with her one night I realised that a lot of men in bars would come up to her and buy me a drink to get rid of me - a symbiotic friendship was born. Many large nights have been had by Kat simply talking to a guy and me going up and interrupting every time I needed a drink. She's my little drinks card.

Well after spending the weekend with Kat, it was up to Sydney to catch up with old friends and a few nights out in the Emerald City.
Now I have had the added luxury of living in both Melbourne and Sydney, two cities that share a strong rivalry, and I'm often asked which one I prefer. The answer is simply, both have their good points and both have bad points. They are simply too different to compare and can't be judged against each other.

Sydney is a city which presents itself in a very forward and full on manner; you basically have everything shoved in your face at once and it's loud, bright, fast and mischief finds you. In a few words, Sydney is: 'look at me, look at me, look what I'm doing'.

Melbourne is more docile. You have to look for fun and mischief, but believe me, it's there. In a few words Melbourne is: 'hey look... a fuck ya, I'll be in the pub if you need me'.

However, flying in to Sydney on Monday afternoon I did feel a bit of familiarity that was strangely absent when I flew in to Melbourne. I guess I've spent the majority of my working/adult life in Sydney so it feels a little more like a recent home to me.

But each to their own.

So I stayed with a mate Gajen while up in the Emerald City, or at least my bag did, I ended up on several couches through my journey. Isn't it amazing how many people have sleeping bags that they have had since they were 10 years old? Do people ever throw them out or do you buy one and keep it for life? I swear I've been through 5 or 6, but every time I doss on a couch and the sleeping bag comes out, it's usually covered in racing cars and has been a prized possession of the lender since Grade 3 camp - the one where they learnt how to put up a tent, make damper (Aussie bush bread) and wondered why the 27 year old teacher and the 45 year old married principal kept going to get kindling for the fire and taking 40 minutes...but I digress. The night ended up a random happening of events that I won't go into, but work must have been a struggle for poor Gaj the next day. I went to the beach.

The next evening was time to see Mike. Now Mike was instrumental in helping me through the my last few months in Sydney. Well, actually, it was more his home brew.
Mike's a crazy home brewer. In fact, legend has it that on every full moon he can be seen sneaking out to his shed and putting down a new lager, laughing hysterically and screaming out 'it's alive'. But that's just a rumour. And I just made it up. So it's probably own a little true. So hitting the home brew hard, and the BBQ harder, we ended up rather pissed and very full. Thanks must also go to Paula, Danny and Sam, for putting up with Mike and my antics for several months, getting a year's break from me, and then having to put up with it again. Mike's Asahi homebrew: Seriously Smity - what the hell did you put in that? Some kind of flower that only grows on the Eastern side of a mystical mountain high in the Tibetan wilderness that is ritualistically urinated on at every full moon by the monks that live there.. or just extra sugar?
The next day spent lazing at a cafe in Balmain followed by a quick swim at Manly and then it was off to the Opera Bar for a few drinks with a few people, namely Brett. Now Brett arrived in Sydney from the UK via Thailand at the same time as I became a newly single man in Sydney. This really was a disaster waiting to happen. What made it worse was that Brett was making his living by winning online poker tournaments, so this meant no designated wake up time - and I can't say no. The next few months really were a blur but I vaguely remember Croats, an apartment in Randwick and Establishment on Thursday nights, the rest has disappeared completely. So it was without surprise that the night went like this:

5.30pm - Starting out

11.45pm - Bungalow 8

12.30am - Calling the boss

3am - Darling Harbour

After catching up with Natasha, my long-suffering AMP HR angel, for lunch the next day, it was back to Melbourne where the 41 degree weather had caused half the city to have blackouts. When I landed the temperature was a lovely 27 - it's good to be me.

Back to Melbourne for the main event: my sister's wedding. The morning started promising enough with a game of golf to settle Steve's nerves and mainly as a way to avoid all commitments to organizing anything to do with the wedding at all. I had one instruction - drive the bride’s maids to the ceremony. I did it well. Although it did mean I couldn't drink until we got there. The things I have to do as a baby brother! Now, the wonderful thing about an older sister's wedding is that you see all her friends that you haven't seen for 11 years and now you're all grown up (well same height) but a little bigger. Last time I saw many of these girls was Millie's 18th, where after a spot of underage drinking I threw up on several of them. They hadn't forgotten. This meant I could be rejected by them all for the second time around. But anyway, it seems when you have been overseas for nearly a year people tend to miss you more. The funny thing is when I was in Australia I would see these people once every two or three years anyway. If anything I've seen more of my relatives in the past two years than ever!!

Steve won something!

Aside from that, the wedding was good, my sister - the classy bride - trying to walk to a bar up the road from the reception centre in flip-flops with people trying to keep her dress off the ground was amusing. And thanks to Mille and Steve (the newlyweds) for letting me stay in the spare room that night, but I'm sure you understand that on your first morning as a married couple I had to get out of the house as soon as possible without saying goodbye.

After the wedding it was pretty much finish the trip off. Just a few drinks with some friends, a quick look around at the final places I wanted to see and then off to a jet plane to take me back to those snow capped peaks of Clapham Junction.

With friends like these...

Although I have to add drinks with Lucy as she is a little miffed about not being mentioned. So Lucy: to your Tina Turner impression, the contents of your fridge and ever increasing furniture collection, I have to let you know, Red Rooster roast chicken roll tally at the end of the trip: Nine.

So that's that, it really was a quick trip to catch up with friends and family.

Now I've been told by people in London that what I write about the mother country is quite an accurate summary of their thoughts, so those that miss home, let me try this. I've moved around several cities in the past few years and, when working full time, no matter how much fun each one is they do tend to have the same in the routine you go through. What separates them are the people. It's the people you meet and the bond with those that makes where you are. It's not the beaches, the bars, the travelling or the job, it's the contacts. They become more of your family then friends. While I love Melbourne and Sydney, my whole time here my thoughts have often wandered back to London. So while I have enjoyed the trip back, it's with those thoughts in mind that one realizes that London is my home at the moment, and I can't wait to get back and see those that make it that for me. So you smelly, cold, dark, wet and all the more glorious city; be home tomorrow.

And just to make sure you were paying attention during this blog, here's a test for you, which one below is my father???

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

51 Blogs!!!!

Not wanting to copy anyone, I decided to celebrate my 51st blog entry as opposed to 50th. Now what started as an effort to communicate with mates back home as opposed to send a group email has morphed in to something else - mainly self therapy. From online diary to a reason for people to slack off from work, apparently friends of friends are being sent the updates to see what happens next (or so they told me to get me to come away from the ledge).

Like a baby of my own, this blog has grown in to something else over the past nine months. Basically, everyone of you reading has pretty much written this for me, as everything contained has been derived from people's complaints, gripes, and observations that they haven't quite locked on to how ironic, funny and frustrating they are. No one has given me better material than Simon who publishes the shoddy blog, so with that, here are my highlights over the past 50 (with the framework plagerised completely from Simon's blog (

So let's go on this little tour:

Number of days online: 213
Starting this blog as a way of uploading photos and keeping in contact, it quickly turned in to a rant by the third post, titled: 'Forget the foreplay and give me the bang', highlighting my frustration that a terrorist attack never occurs, but there are constant warnings. And after sitting next to the smelly man on the plane home who couldn't use deodorant due to terrorism warnings - this is a theme that will continue.

Favourite posting: Britain - the only country that needs an adjective before its name
Not only does it have the best heading in my eyes, but I think the best paragraph I've ever written:
"I've been here a month now, and one might be saying I’m living the dream. Or with the weather as it is, living the wet dream. It’s days like the past ones that I remember the saying: 'The sun never sets on the British Empire'. Now that I’m here I realise the sun never actually rises on the British Empire."

Favourite commentator: Lala
Thanks Lala, always saying something after an update.

Favourite comment: Si
"Fucking madness. Though to be fair Glasso should be pepper sprayed each and every day."

Largest fan base: The UK
The UK with 37.81%, Australia following closely at 32.35% and the US in third with 25.33%. Special mention must go Chile who visited once and never came back. Good to see 4 Frenchies took a look too - hope the French military success entry didn't put you off.

Most popular day to view the blog: Monday

You lazy fuckers

Number of photos with me in them: 142
Number with out me in them: 5
Just giving the public what they want people.

Most popular saying:

Here comes a rant...

You lazy buggers award: Kayley Porter-Smith and Tess Heal(and your a journo)
"Sent your commentary of the alps back to some perthites, you saved us some work."

Finally, why the name:

Watch National Lampoon's European Vacation and look at what is written on Rusty Griswalds jacket in golden studs when he visits a French nightclub...

Anyone got a map?

I can't deny that it feels good to be able to walk around barefoot. To eat fruit with a strong and fresh flavour. To turn on the TV and see the country you are in winning sport (although first thing I saw was Liverpool v Arsenal in the Carling Cup - we shall never speak of this again).

Where am I going with this? Okay, let me tell you. I just received a text message from Danny back in London, saying: "Melbourne voted world's most livable city..again." This came as no surprise.

According to The Economist, over the past 6 years Melbourne has held the title three times, Vancouver twice and Vienna once (I'm not going to draw any parrells between the victory in Vancouver and it being the second most highly populated foreign city by Australians outside of London either??)

Anyway, I still think my response to Danny was pertinent: "Shame it's so far from anywhere."

Now that may seem a touch harsh, as Melbourne is a great city. It has a certain laid back attitude that is truly refreshing, I think the best bars and people the world over, but it really is miles from anywhere. While many people in London complain about the weather, food and general mood, ask the question why are you here, and 9 times out of ten the answer will be the same: it's close to everything. I guess what I like in a location is constant change. If it stays the same I get bored. Don't get me wrong; I love all the things that come with familiarity, but I tend to get restless if things stay the same for only as little as one month.

That is Australia's main draw back. As utopian as it is, it's located between 'bumfuck, nowhere' and 'why-didn't-you-stop-and-ask-directions-before-we-got-lost--my-mother-told-me-not-to-marry-you-because-your-so-pig-headed---now-turn-the-car-around-and-ask-at-the-fuel-station..ville.

Not too long ago, a collegue struggling to fight back my constant Ashes taunts sent me a few lines of a joke newspaper article about Australia getting sick of being stuck out in the Pacific. Now, here in Aus, all my friends are working during the day meaning from 8am - 5pm, I'm pretty bored. In an effort to keep my brain ticking over (and one really can't scratch themselves for 9 hours straight - trust me I tried) I've remembered that this reminds me of a newspaper article I once saw......

Australia bender - wakes up in North Atlantic

After what witnesses described as an all night blinder, Australia this morning woke up to find itself in the middle of the North Atlantic.

"Fuck me we sunk some piss," said a bleary-eyed Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, speaking from his residence at Kirribilli House, approximately 600 nautical miles west of Dublin.

According to residents of several countries destroyed or lewdly insulted during the continent's nearly 7,000-mile saltwater stagger, the binge began just after noon yesterday at a pub in Brisbane.

"It started off with some blokes talking about how know one really knows much about us apart from koalas and the Steve Irwin, praise his soul," recalled witness Michael Ewen.

"Then this bloke pipes up and says Australia's main problem is that it's stuck in Australia. So off we went. It made sense at the time," Ewen concluded.

By 2am, powered by national pride and alcohol, the 3-million-square-mile land mass was barging eastward through the Coral Sea and crossing into the central Pacific, leaving a trail of beer cans and sausage roll wrappers in its wake.

Australian wildlife react to the night's events

When dawn broke over the Northern Hemisphere, the continent suddenly found itself smack in the middle of the Atlantic, and, according to most of its 20 million inhabitants, that's the way it's going to stay.

Perth resident Andrew Glasson explained the country's thinking: "We sent troops to Afghanistan. You never hear about it. We have huge government scandals. You never hear about it. It's all 'America did this,' and 'Europe says that'.

"Well, we're right in the thick of things now, so let's just see if you can ignore us," he added.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic conceded that it would be difficult to allow Australia to remain. "They broke Florida," said U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "And most of Latin America is missing."

Meanwhile, victims of what's already been dubbed the "Australian Crawl" are still shaking off the event."Australia bumped into us at about midnight local time," said the Spanish President Juan Carlos.

"They were very friendly - they always seem friendly - but then they refused to go around unless we answered their questions. But the questions were impossible! Who is Ian Thorpe? Do you have any Tim Tams? What day is Australia Day?'"

How much can a Koala Bear, experts ask

By late morning today, however, not everyone in Australia was quite so blithe. "We've still got part of Jamaica stuck to Queensland," said Australian army commander Lt. Gen. Peter Cosgrove. "I think we might have declared war on it. I don't bloody remember. Maybe it's time to go home."

Cosgrove, however, is not in the majority, and at press time, U.S., African, and European leaders were still desperately trying to negotiate for Australia's withdrawal. But the independent-minded Aussies were not making it easy.

In a two-hour meeting at midday, Australian representatives listed their demands:
1. Immediate inclusion in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,
2. A permanent CNN presence in all 6 Australian states,
3. A worldwide ban on hiring Paul Hogan,
4. A primetime U.S. television contract for Australian Rules Football,

U.S. negotiators immediately walked out, calling the Australian Rules Football request 'absurd'.

In related news New Zealand today became the major power in the South Pacific.

Waking this morning to find itself as the lone superpower in the South Pacific, after Australia moved north during the night, the Kiwis were overjoyed.

"About bloody time," stated Prime Minister Helen Clarke. "We have had just about enough of them and were considering allowing Ngai Tahu to invade them and claim Queensland.

"Look out Northern Hemisphere, you don't know what you are in for. They steal your entertainers and claim them as their own and inflict their sports teams on them. We will be better off working with Samoa"

Popular opinion is that New Zealand moves to occupy Australia's place as the weather is better.

No report has come from the island state of Australia, Tasmania, as yet. It is believed that Australia left quietly so Tasmanians wouldn't notice and want to follow. It appears the ruse has worked. New Zealand has offered to adopt Tasmania as West New Zealand.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Roger, roger

Airports in movies are often used to show emotional scenes of happiness. A person getting off a plane to see their loved ones. A young person picking up a backpack, slinging it on their shoulder and waltzing off with carefree abandon to find themselves on a trip to Europe (they usually only find a second degree STD). But where the fuck in these movies are the half-wits with those rolling suitcases!

Before purchasing one of these mobile shin-destroying contraptions, does one need to leave all brains, common sense and god given decency in the luggage store. People whinge about backpacks, but at least people with backpacks are aware that they are not leaving a trail of 825 people behind holding their toes, shins or face down as the buffoon with the rolling suitcase decides to stop suddenly, turn sharply (resulting in the suitcase going sideways) or simply take up three metres of space when they are walking.

Obviously my Heathrow experience wasn't pleasant.

Arriving in the fifth dimension of hell - or Heathrow for those not familiar - everything was going smoothly. Or it seemed to be as I was still drunk. Why does one go out on a Saturday night before an early flight, say I'll go home by 11 and ends up stumbling home at 5am, not having packed and realizing that you can either pack well or have a quick snooze - but not both? I went the snooze. Suffice to say when I opened up my back pack I have one jumper, two pairs of jeans, three black socks and 6 pairs of flip flops.

Fun didn't end there though people. At check in I ran in to the couple I affectionately labeled Danger Mouse and Penfold for their ability to fuck up the easiest tasks known to man, but yet both being mid 60s, seem to have got through life and the larger challenges so far (survival of the fittest my arse Mr Charles Darwin). While checking in they realized they had left their passports in their suitcases, but rather than moving aside to let others in they started unpacking. Not just in front of one counter, but took up a second one also. Ggggrrr I said. This was my first of three run ins with these two. The final being at Melbourne airport where they refused to accept that they couldn't bring 10 litres of duty free whiskey in to the country. Their argument was that they hadn't declared it on their customs card so they should be allowed to bring it in. Logic lives in a black hole with these two.

Getting past the check in I made my way to the scanners and customs desk. As my deodorant was taken away from me (it was larger than 100ml so apparently it is considered a weapon of massive destruction and could be used as a terrorism device - called the 'Lynx effect' by experts) I made a little joke: "That's fine, I just feel sorry for the people next to me." Oh how that comment was going to come back at me. Moving swiftly along I reached the customs desks.

Now, let's set the scene. Over the past few weeks Tony Blair has been banging on about immigration and monitoring people in and out of the country. Now any fool in media relations 101 will understand that he has been chastised over Iraq for weeks leading up to this and the only way to worm out of a potentially damaging issue is by focusing the public's mind on an emotive issue that affects them all - war, unemployment or immigration - being the triumviri of choice for today's politician. War is the the point to be avoided so have a stab at the immigrants. Sure vote winner.

So, after
New Labour banging their drum over this and heightening airport security, it was with great surprise that I saw this sign hanging from the Customs desk:

UK Immigration - Heathrow
9.30 - 20.30
Monday - Friday

Now some countries don't stamp you when you leave, and that's fine, but by stipulating the hours, the UK clearly does, but only during office's that immigration issue going? Maybe pick unemployment.

So onward I did go, eager to get to the departure lounge so I could sit and contemplate how to rid myself of the impending hangover. Finally getting on the plane, I had two seats to my right. But according to my luck for the day, along came a large Indian man and plonked himself next to me. This fella stutred.
Now you probably haven't come across this word before. That's because I just made it up. The smell and its intensity was so bad that I have to combine stunk and putrid to describe it. It was so bad that the passengers behind us asked to be moved. Along with this, my TV screen in front of me was broken, meaning a 7 hour trip with woofy boy and no tv. But it was semi-okay as I was on the window and he was the aisle. That was until a young lady, who later became my savior, sidled up and announced that she was the aisle seat. So up he struggled, slamming down next to me, resulting in a gush of BO air hitting me in the face. Catching my eye after she sat down, the young lady had a look of shock and revulsion on her face as she copped the first whiff of her new next door neighbour. We bonded immediately. Noha and I proceeded to spend the next 4 hours trying to talk over him from aisle to window, be she eventually swapped seats to sit with me. This resulted in a great buffer between myself and Mr Stinky, she didn't need to face him to talk to me and in the end we didn't watch any TV anyway. By close of play it had to be one of the most enjoyable flights I've had.

And the lesson for the day kiddies - no matter how bad it is looking, every cloud has a silver lining. Glad to have made your day.