Friday, March 21, 2008

Weed, whiskey and Wales

It was off to Amsterdam for my birthday, and it was good to see my family there to say goodbye.

Amsterdam, Holland
Een dag ga ik een van die raammeisjes kopen

Arriving in Amsterdam everything was going my way. As the plane touched down everyone cringed and waited for the crash landing that is your standard Easy Jet touchdown, but no, we smoothly kissed the tarmac and came to a non-white knuckle landing. They must have heard I was on board. If they hadn’t the customs official had. Pawing through my passport he noticed my impending birthday and smirked:

“You coming to Amsterdam for birthday? I’d like to see how you on your return. Have fun.”

I found my home!!!

I like the Dutchies. This was followed by a very friendly ticket collector, the train was waiting, we were 5 minutes from the red light district and 5 from the train station. Coomba and I threw our bags to the ground, grabbed my Ricoh and disappeared in to the depths of the seedier side of Holland. We had three hours to kill before the 11 other people got there. And we killed them. We did such a good job of that, that we must have buried them too, as I don’t really remember where they went or what we did in them. Although the next morning I had eaten something and there was half a bottle of Fanta in bed with me.

We were in town now and fresh from polluting ourselves the night before we decided we needed our ‘vegetables’. Legumes down, we wandered to a park. Had a laugh, had a chat and then experienced some very weird things. Now I hear you saying ‘but Bart, of course you did, what were you expecting’, but some of the things occurring was out of place.

For example: there was one man who was walking around the park shouting at people. Simply shouting and throwing his tennis ball. It took me 10 minutes to realise he was getting closer, but we all thought he was talking specifically to us. Another man dressed in a tight blue leotard trying to scare the homeless people; a crow with an afro; and big dogs looking very out of place was making us a little nervous. I would have liked to see a photo of us walking away, but 13 of us moving as one, never more than an inch away from the other one when leaving the park must have been a sight (safety in numbers).

Leaving the park in to the big bad world, I realised how big and bad it actually was. People moving, sounds everywhere, trams, bikes, cars – fuck me! Crossing a footpath, road, footpath, took about 3 minutes to try. I eventually stepped out and raced across to the traffic island….only to see 12 guys didn’t follow me. I felt so alone. I heard Becks turn to Glasso and say: “Shit, he’s out there by himself”. So I ran back over the road to stand with the group. We finally made it to a pub where we could hide. I was glad when it was all over some 4 hours later and we could navigate back to central Amsterdam. The evening involved a birthday dinner and plenty of shenanigans. We’ll end the story there.

I was glad we were leaving in the morning…as we left Coomba standing all by himself on the platform as we vaulted on to a train as the doors were shutting. Now juxtaposed to my trip to Holland, my trip back felt made me feel I was not welcome back in London. First, Dutch Customs held me up as my passport – coming off second best against a bottle of water falling in a draw – is a bit tatty. Second, another typical Easyjet landing. Third, walking down in to the customs area of Gatwick there is a big sign saying ‘Now entering the UK’. Just before I crossed that line, my foot scuffed something, I looked down, and it was £10. This was Europe’s final ditch attempt at saying: “No, Bart, no. Stay out of the UK.” Nevertheless, I crossed the barrier and was back in the ‘ol Bligh.

But not for long. Easter was just around the corner, and like that random person that comes home for an impromptu house party after a night out, I had to leave.

Republic of Ireland

Anyway, Easter – the non-sense holiday. A chance to eat chocolate, take a four day weekend, be forced to eat fish and – sometime I hate religious holidays – not drink. With forced sobriety; Luke, Coomba and I pondered where we could go to get a drink. Ireland had to be serving Guiness – it’s in their blood – and they’re not religious are they?

So it was off to Dublin with these two excitement machines:

Landing in Dublin was one of the hardest I’ve had (Ryan Air). The pilot landed half way up the runway, was dipping the wings on approach and damn near went off the end (well probably not, but he slammed on the brakes and even the stewardesses looked a little worried). Stepping in to a lovely 1 degree Dublin afternoon, it wasn’t long before we started looking for a pub. Alas, Dublin was dry. Very dry. So back to our room we went. The night was interesting. I tried to practice my Spanish on a group from the Canary Islands, and was rather pleased that while I’m not that good at speaking it just yet, I can follow bits of a conversation; we got abused by some random Aussie who had been living in a hostel for two months; and in the end got the best sleep ever due to no drinking on Good Friday and bed by 10pm.

Fresh the next day it was off to Killarney, but first we had to go the Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney stone. Kissing the Blarney stone is supposed to bequeath the gift of the gab. After a shocking start I needed to smooch it to regain my chat, Coomba needed some extra jokes (as the old faithfulls simply weren;t working), and Luke needed better lines than simply saying ‘no chat’ or ‘shit chat’. We all kissed it. Didn’t work.

Moving on to Killarney, we took in an Irish monologue act (won’t get that time back), some Irish stew and some Irish beer. I felt Irish..drunk. After some bar hopping, we ended up at a great place and I had one of the best nights I’ve had in ages.

The next morning we were all feeling pretty rough, but Coomba was about to die. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him that bad. Crossing over to the North Atlantic coast, the wind coming up the cliffs was hurricane like. Eventually we had to cross a bay on a ferry – a few of the boys looked worried about the prospect of a rocking boat in their frame of mind. I went to the pub to steel my nerves.

Nerves steeled, on to the boat, ocean crossed, and off to Doolin.
On the way to Doolin are the Cliffs on Mohar. Sheer rock walls that impressively rise out of the ocean for hundreds off feet, quite a sight to behold. Just as impressive is Vice, a sheer rock man that rises out of the ground for 5 foot 8, quite a sight to behold.

Vice is our big Irish friend. Vice once bet us that he could drink 10 pints of Guinness in an hour. He did…and had a pint of larger to finish as he had extra time. Think about that – that’s the equivalent of eating 35 metres of road tar. Vice’s family home is just out of Doolin, so we were invited to spend the evening with the McNamara clan (Vice’s real name is Brian McNamara; but he crushes you like a vice, hence the name). But after coming all that way to see his family, he didn’t even show up to retrieve us. This has nothing to do with the story, I just wanted to have another go at him, plus it’s scary to do it to him in person. So we had another Irish night in Doolin (there are six buildings in Doolin and two are pubs).!

Going cross-country in the morning we swung by one of Ireland’s oldest distilleries to learn about whiskey. I was only there for the tasting, but found the process quite interesting too. A monument and cathedrals on the way back to Dublin, but it was homeward bound. Getting home after two hectic weekends was good. Unpacked the bags, washed the clothes, and then threw them back in the bag for Wales.

Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff, the capital of Wales, was the place for the 2008 Wandsworth Demon’s football trip, with 40 guys descending on the town. Can’t really go in to more than that, as we all know the moniker ‘what goes on football trip, stays on football trip’. But I had a great night. Most of the bars in Cardiff are on one main street, so at 4am, when they all close everyone stumbles in to the street for a random street party for a few more hours.

Only Bart knew of the chaos to come...

Great town.

Photos and the usual here: photos

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Kind of like going back to an -ex

I’ve moved.Not in: a hottie brushed closely against me by accident in the supermarket and ‘I moved’, kind of way, but pack up your life, throw it down the stairs, leave half your stuff behind and gawk in amazement about how one backpack and a rucksack have become enough to fill a VW Golf (thanks Doc, or Mrs Harris as I shall now call it) moved.

Now I hate moving. Loving settling in to a new place, but hate moving. Let’s face it we all do. If people liked to move we simply wouldn’t have obesity. But after the huffing and puffing that is the actual moving, the sweet and sour deal is getting to know your area. First the sweet.

I’m now in Balham. This little area just south of Clapham is like Fitzroy. There’s a whole bunch of cafes, pubs, bohemian style bars, restaurants, Chinese takeaway for Luke, and the world’s greatest kebab shop. All in all a good little area. Now for the sour.

It’s not the area, but the act of moving to a new area. When you live somewhere for so long (I was in St John’s Hill for 18 months) you get used to everything there, namely the supermarket. I went to my local Sainsbury’s for the first time last week and mass confusion galore. I couldn’t blame anyone. I was the retard. You get use to your own way of dealing with things in your own supermarket. The flow, the people, where things are, how it all works, etc. A new supermarket is so confusing. The OJ is not where it should be, the steak is next to the lamb not the pork – it’s a mess. I was well confused.

But this is nothing compared to the thing that I have returned to. The bridge that I thought I’d burnt. The ex-girlfriend I’d thought I’d left – Mrs Northern Line!

Just like a dagger through my heart, that little Black Line that runs South to North from Morden to Edgeware has crept back in to my life under the guise of being helpful. After being smacked in the face with the musky smell first thing on Monday morning, I knew I had returned. And like a revengeful harpy – it knew I was back – throwing a crowded train with a greasy haired man too closely invading my personal space (I definately didn’t move). I had to cop it like the returnee I knew I was. And just to add insult to injury, the good old queue was back.

Now I don’t mind the queue in the UK. These guys realty know how to do it. Line up in one long queue and branch off at end. It’s better than the mass rush at a door that occurs in Eastern Europe or the queue envy you get back home if the other one goes faster. This was one thing that I knew how to do in my new area – queuing. After dithering around for 45-minutes in the supermarket and bumping in to things like a drunk playing Tetris, I showed those fuckers when it came to lining up! I love queues.

On top of all these issues with the Tube there has been talk about metal detractors in some underground stations. It’s damn busy enough. There’s not one way in hell that this would work. I for one blame the current climate of fear for this knee-jerk reaction. I mean take Lego for example. There was a time when the Lego Airport collection was sweet and innocent:

That is the one I had. When on earth did we start seeing full security scans at Lego Land Terminal 3????
Well at least they got one fucker – Off to Camp Guanta-lego Bay with you, sir.
All this talk of threats and violence makes me scared. Think I might just go home and go to the supermarket. Maybe even try to find the Lego in that maze. Not too sure where it is on the shelves. Might just join a queue instead.