Tuesday, December 22, 2009

October - December: All roads lead to home

Well we’re in the back end of the season now and it finally blossomed in to a cracker.

In a topsy turvey three months that I’ll never forget, I went back to Central Europe, took over the Presidency of the Wandsworth Demons Australian Rules Football Club, returned home after three years to figure out that it didn’t really feel like home anymore and I got promoted.

The start of the 4th quarter started with me sitting in a university apartment block approximately 20 minutes drive out of Prague. After agreeing to take a tour group from Prague to Oktoberfest to Vienna and then on to Budapest.
But Oktoberfest beckoned, and nothing could stop me and my leaderhousen returning!!!!

In the interests of brevity, I won’t go in to too much detail about Oktoberfest, as you can read about my previous adventures in the two posts below:

You may even notice the appearance on Suzanna in the 2006 blog. Well after 3 years we found each other again. And by the look of the before and after shots, I found Atkins.

2006 2009

A good time had by all in the two days there, and once again I enjoyed watching the reactions of people who had not been there before - and watching them fail to pace themselves for what is literally and exercise of consuming your own weight in beer and roast chicken. And alas, some failed early and some lasted. For all those that head to Oktoberfest, by the way, the best fun happens afterr 6pm when the locals start flooding in. Go strong early, but not crazy, because you're still got 4 hours of attempting to keep up with the German locals. On the flip side, buy shots for someone you want out of the way - works a treat.

After several days of hard drinking it was great to simply kick back in Vienna in a small Austrain restaurant, with a schnitzel, struddle and some wine. A little group of us stayed until close with a big, old Austrian in the corner playing the piano accordian - it was so clichéd it was great.

This was my final tour for the year, and it was by far one of the best groups I’ve taken around. All really good value and enjoyable fun. Sometime you feel like you are actually working when you’re taking 50 odd tourists around Europe and showing them the sites, but I actually had a real good time with this group; primarily down to a couple of people.

Finishing up in Hungry I had made the God-awful decision to catch the 7am train from Budapest back to Munich and Oktoberfest, and good damn getting out of bed was hard. I quick summary of that – NEVER AGAIN!! Good Lord that was bad. I met a few mates there to continue the festivities.….but until next time Oktoberfest, may I say:
But back to London town and killing time before getting on that big old plane to Aus. I was quite nervous to go home. It had been so long and I had no idea what to expect, who to see and where to go when I got back. Capping it off, Mum and Dad did the loving parent thing of deciding to go on holiday for the first few days of my return, which meant I was in a hotel or on my friend Catherine’s couch for the first five days - in my own home tow! They laugh now; but it ain’t going to be so funny when I miss the family day at their retirement home because I’m in Bora Bora (hi Mum…)!

Arriving in Melbourne at about 4pm I had two hours to get ready and meet Catherine before the Demon’s 20th anniversary dinner and the celebrations that were going to be taking place over the next week – including standing in a suit at the races on a 38 degree day with no shade! Catching up with friends I made in London who had now moved home was good, but I spent most of my time with my old Melbourne friends; well mainly Catherine really. We were pretty inseparable at Uni, and in the time between when I moved back from Sydney to Melbourne before heading to London, so it was good to spend most of our time just creating chaos wherever we went; and that she now has more partners in crime.

(now remember to click play...)
I also managed to make a trip up to Sydney – barely (never fly Tiger Airways) - to see some friends, past and present, and was a little surprised that I felt more at home in Sydney than Melbourne. Might be because I lived there for the three years before moving to London, but was a little weird all the same.

I was excited to come back to London though. I did miss the old girl and was looking forward to returning. But not before a stop over in Dubai to say hello to Rachel. I still have no idea what happened on the night that we went out, but don’t go drinking with flight attendents.

So we were both out the door on the 24th of December, but I was at least heading back in the New Year. But I had to make it through the Christmas break first. Now I'm a bit of a scrooge. I'm fine to say it, and I'm fine being it, a fact that seems to be enjoyed by the girls at work given their fun with my desk when I was in a meeting.

But this year it was going to be different: I was planning on having a family Christmas. The past four have either been on a snowboard or in a Castle in the Scottish Highlands.

Several of us were heading up to Cockermoutn (yes that's its name) to celebrate the holidays
with the Nicholsons, the long suffering parents of my mate Gary. And weren't we the toast of the town. Four Aussies arriving in a far Northern town to spread the Christmas cheer - I felt like a frigging reindeer such was the excitement. And God did I eat too.

There was a Christmas feast, fresh meats, homemade bread, homemade sausage rolls, pork rolls, biscuits, muffins, scones and cheese....and that was breakfast . I did a before and after weighing session for the four days to see what the change was - 3.6kilos gained in 4 days - and heart burn was my best friend. I went back to London to have a rest before heading even further North to the windswept streets of Newcastle - or fake tan town - to see in the New Year in a brisk -4 and snow.

The running joke about Newcastle is that the colder it gets, the less clothes are worn. No idea where that comes from, but they do know how to throw a rollicking good time!
Me dealing with Newcastle weather
Locals dealing with Newcastle weather

The Northerners were a great craic.
So bye bye to 2009, and hello to 2010. December has led up to be the perfectly closing party to a great year; so let's just see what tomorrow has in store.

Friday, December 18, 2009

July - September: Legal yet?

The third quarter of 2009 things changed a little bit. The countdown was on to get my visa, I tried to prove I was tough, roasted at a brilliant festival and on a boat, and had a reason to spend a little more time in London and less in Europe.

But first it was time for The Ashes. About 9 months ago Mum, Dad, my uncle and my aunty were looking for tickets to the First Test. Knowing the tour group that I volunteer to take tours for, The Fanatics, I got four from them and passed them to the family; however, without telling them I bought my own. Heading off to Cardiff for the first test the plan was to surprise them. I told Dad a few weeks before of my plan, as I hadn’t seen Mum in nearly 2 and half years and I was wary of a heart attack. So plan hatched, the morning of the First Test I was crossing the road and heard a voice behind me: “Is that you Bart?” And there was Mum – surprised the shit out of me. I nearly had a heart attack.
Aussies went on to a draw and we know the rest, but God damn Cardiff is good fun. We even got in The Daily Mail.

Can see me (top right)?

A little closer (on the left with the headband)

Following the Ashes, I boarded a train for Rock Wercheter, a four-day festival in Belgium; and what a four days. Hovering around 35 degrees each day, it was blinding heat, smashed antics and some brilliant bands. When there's too much to say, I'm going back to slideshow story telling (and for those that couldn't figure out the Vegas slide show, just click the play button). These little videos are great. I use to put all photos on a flicker website, but this is so much easier. Good to see we’re about to go in to a new decade and I’ve just caught up to 2004 technology!

So after not showering and being in the baking dry heat for four days, I decided to switch it around and revert to the 8 degree weather, mud, water and barbed wire of the Tough Guy competition, which is an assualt course set over a half marathon. It sounds like hell, but it's actually really good fun. Apart from the nettles, cut knees, the claustophobic tunnel crawling, electrified wire maze and falling backwards in to a pile of burning hay bails - it's a dandy little stroll in the English Countryside. So in a time of 3 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds I pulled myself across the finishing line.

Behind the guy in red

Definitely doing it again – and there were only several dozen broken limbs and a few people taken to hospital with hypothermia - well it was in the middle of British Summer.... Like a new relationship, fuck I was happy to finish, but I know I’ll give it another go, and hopefully it will be less painful - but more dirty (I really can go on with this analogy all day to be fair, so I’ll stop).

About now London, and all of Europe shuts down for Summer holidays. Late July to the end of August is fairly quiet, so most people take this opportunity to travel. However, my visa application was in and I was enjoying spending time in London, so I decided to not go very far. It was pretty enjoyable just concentrating on football, after work summer drinks with a few people, other functions, and yes Catherine, a sailing trip that involved sitting completely still for at least 2 hours next to the world’s most unthreatening ‘fort’. And speaking of the Irish, I managed a U2 concert in there somewhere.

Anyway, after several seasons of moderate success, 2009 proved to be a cracker for the Demons, winning two of the three premierships available (losing the Firsts by a measily 7 points)!

I was actually supposed to fly out of London for a holiday on the Thursday night, but changing my flight for the game (couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t) – and a pretty good Thursday night from memory – we celebrated well in to Sunday morning before Lukey, Dutchy and I made our way to the airport. Dutchy and I were drunken, smelly messes, while Luke on the other hand was fresh after returning home after the game to have a shower, and promptly falling asleep for the rest of the night!!!!
But on board, I was out like a light, before touching down in my favourite country – Croatia!!!!

Once again, what a place. This time I had Tricia in tow. Tricia and I worked together in Sydney for a few years, and now she had been let loose on Europe. So wanting something a little different from the usual Italy, France and London, I invited her along.

Tricia looks so excited to be there

So from Split we made our way to island of Brac and the port of Bol, and boarded a boat (lots of Bs here) to cruise up and down the Croatian coastline for a week. Brilliant time. Can’t really be bothered with making another video though (but when you see all the photos below, you'll understand the ease of the videos).

There was dancing...

..and eating...

...and we can't forget finally being close to the sea again!

.....and at the end of the month I got my nipple pierced on footy trip in the back streets of Majorca, Spain.

Let's end it there.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

April - June: Donners and Bart go East

Three main things happened in this quarter: Donners returned to the UK; I finally got to see AC/DC live; and a lost passport causing a right fuck up. Here's the Monday morning conversation:

Bart: Lou, sorry, I've missed the train so I'm going to be late.
Lou: Just catch the next one.
Bart: It's not for another 2 hours.
Lou: Where are you?
Bart: Lille
Lou: What?
Bart: I'm in France, Lou...France. It was a big weekend.

In brighter news, at the start of April, Donners had returned to the UK. We won’t go in to details about why he hadn’t done much travelling when he was last in town, but we decided that we wanted to start seeing the more rugged side of Eastern Europe. That was to take a Friday and Monday off and spend the next four days travelling through some of the poorest and most rural areas on the continent. So, with travel buddy in hand it was off to see what the far away lands held.

Eastern Europe doesn't do directions
Now I knew what was in it for me: Donners is a nice guy, never a bad word to say about anyone and always ready to go off the beaten track to see something new and different. I still can’t figure out what was in it for him, but decided it must have been my pleasant nature.
Deciding that the first place we’d hit up was Romania, we had a stellar plan to fly in to the capital - Bucharest - explore during the day and then train it east to Brasov, before heading up in to Transylvania and going to Dracula’s Castle in Bran, back through Rasov and in to Bucharest again. We had friends in the area, so catching up with them our little trip started.

Now it’s damn hard to find bars in Bucharest, but after kidnapping a local we found it easy to get around (no seriously, we did – we stole him from his friends and took him with us everywhere, buying him drinks and ended up paying for a bed form him in the hostel that night simply so he could lead us to the train station the next morning). And weren’t we lucky that we had his advice. No sooner had he left than we were drinking with local Romanian Gypsies. That was until a man who spoke a little English whispered over and suggested that we leave what we were doing and board the train. Well, it was actually: ‘be careful. You will die’. Good point. Time to get on the train.

Now I want these blog updates to simply be quick to let everyone know what’s been going on in the past year, and as I’ve got to summarise a lot, I’m really going to make this quick.

Dracula lived in the castle behind me (Castle Bran)

And apparently converted his currency here


A few weeks later we took the hint from someone that Bulgaria was a bit up and coming, and we should check it out. So taking a day off either side of the weekend, we headed off to the capital, Sofia. However, this time we wanted to do it a little different, and rather than wasting our time on trains, we decided to travel during the night and pay the little bit extra for sleeper cabins (basically chairs that folded back half way in a separate cabin).

Leaving Sofia – not really much to say but it’s a shitty dust bowl – we were heading to the other side of the country to a town on the Black Sea called Varna, which I think translates to ‘Resort for Fat, Rich Russians’. Now these trains are famous for bandits attacking you in the middle of the night and stealing all your belongings, so with us sleeping on the train, the risk of being attacked was a little higher. With that, I set up the perfect security plan – I made sure Donners and Wortho (our new travelling companion) slept closest to the door. Genius.

Now Varna was an interesting place. It’s trying to be a sea side resort town in the middle of one of Europe’s poorest areas – I think the crude oil shipping lane in the middle of the sea says it all…
However with a long line of bars up the beach we weren’t in the water for long. In fact, we made many friends very quickly.

It wasn’t long until we realised that our new friends were in fact Bulgarian mafia that ran the beachside town. And it was so clichéd. You had the big, fat guy sitting in the corner not saying much, but trying to pimp out his daughter to Donners; his little henchman who did all the talking; and then the huge tattooed guy who laughed at random points and stared you down at others.

I don't know what was said to Mafia Man #2, but I know we left soon after

Escaping with all our fingers we spent the night up and down the beach before the next day heading North in to the mountains. The next few days were the usual site seeing that I won’t bore you with, but all in all, our decision to abandon the more popular places for the relative isolation of Eastern European countryside paid off; and we’ll be doing it again in 2010. Donners – Ukraine and Serbia – got our names all over it!

The quarter closed on the awesomeness of AC/DC at Wembley. All I need to say really. It took my neck, back
and air guitar arm at least three weeks to recover, I stunk like piss and was covered in at least 34 cigarette burns. It was hilarious to watch the old and the new fans. Right at the start you had a lot of the older fans at the front of the stage after getting there early of course, but by half way through the first song they flooding back to the seats after the pushing began.

The next blog sees me head to Belgium for Rock Werchter and U2 at Wembley, but easily the highlight of the year concert wise was this.

Monday, December 07, 2009

We've got an app for that

So I returned home to Australia for a little break. I hadn't been home in three years, work had kicked up a gear and my future plans had to be thought about. I'd heard horror stories about people deciding to go home to Aus, packing up, leaving and when they get home hating it. So, in an effort to see what it would be like for me I made a conscious decision when I left for a few weeks to have nothing to do with London, to not reply to text messages, emails or Facebook messages – to basically leave the UK as if I was leaving it for good. Not a dry run, but an experiment. After nearly three years away, it surprised me how refreshing it was. But I got my answer - the UK is home for now - I missed it far too much to leave for any stretch of time.

So, with this self-imposed exile it was interesting to return home and have the same question – where have you been and what are you doing? Here I was relying on Facebook to keep people up to date, but apparently the blog helped with this more, so I’ll get back on it. In the past year, I've written three posts

One of the primary reasons for the lack of blogging is that I don’t think I’ve got the time – but that’s actually bullshit - it's like saying 'I'm far to busy at work', but spending most of your time emailing your mates. Two years ago, when sitting in an airport, I’d take out a scrap of paper and write some ideas – some dot points – about my trips, or what I observed, or anything. Nowadays, I’ve got a Blackberry and, the worst offender - an iPhone.

Why is an iPhone worse? Applications. These little fuckers do everything that you never needed them to do. I know that if I want to make a spaghetti carbonara I need mushrooms, pasta, cream, bacon maybe an onion, and some parmesan. And I know that I can go to Sainsbury’s to get it. But this nowadays is a mystery to me unless I check iRecipes - and it tells me exactly what I thought anyway!

But some of these recipes apps are alright. I wouldn’t know a salmon soufflé if I hadn’t typed salmon, cheese and eggs (the only items in my fridge) in to my phone, and who knew iMonopoly can be addictive. But some apps are just ludicrous.

For example, I was sitting in Munich airport two months ago fiddling through my phone and I found an app called, I shit you not - Cycle. What is Cycle? Well, cycle is an app that lets you know when you are about to have your period. Now, not that I’m questioning its usefulness, I’m just questioning its practicality. Who needs an app for this? Just ask the boyfriend. I guarantee you he knows better than anyone, anything or any application ever invented.

Sure, we have no fucking idea what size shoe or waist you have (we know your cup size - trust me), and the leverage involved in the toilet seat going down baffles us. But two days before we sense we should make ourselves scarce for fear of being abused for no reasons whatsoever, and for a week later productivity at work triples and we spend more time with our mates - there's nothing else to do. You should have Boyfriend by Apple – that would show up on iTunes Top 10 let me tell you.

Along with that is Facebook, the constant bane of many lives, but yet you can’t seem to say no. Now I’m quite hypocritical here. Half the time nowadays when I’m on holiday and see something or do something, I’m not reaching for the camera, I’m updating my status, because let’s face it, we mostly take photos of things to show other people, so what better than to tell the straight away? Although I do think cameras are better for somethings, because let's face it, the the update ‘Bart Nash is making a home porn’ is far better on film.

But, next year I need to get off the Facebook at the airport and think up blogs that I used to write.So 2010 is a new year, but it's going to be difficult to top 2009.

I did say this in 2008, granted, but the years are obviously so different. This time in 2008 I'd just got back from a fair bit of travelling, my boss had resigned, and I was thinking about moving house. So now sitting here typing this after a day of house hunting and sorting through my travel photos I'll have to wrap it up and get some rest as I want to be fresh for my bosses leaving party on Wednesday - wow, how times change!!

But that means 2010 will be epic. 2009 started as such an unassuming year, then it threw in some unbelievable twists, turns, trip and travels. Starting afresh, over the next two weeks I'll summarise the year quickly in four three-month sections (and let's face it, half of you are going to be bored over the Christmas break).

The Hangover: New Year’s to Vegas in three helpful steps

Okay then, to be honest with you I’ve spent nearly all of this year travelling and working. Up until my focus changed to other things in August, all I really had to show for the year was a lot of time in Customs and more time on the computer and blackberry.

My first memory of 2009 was welcoming in the year from the crispy freshness of Edinburgh Castle’s garden with 20,000 of my closest friends, a Groove Armada concert that we hasd snuck into, and Joel doing his best impersonation of Anthony Keidas on a bender – this was going to get very interesting, very quick. The rest of January seems to be a blur. All my intentions of a detox were soon out the window, and the get fit before football season kicked in was quickly quashed by the increase in responsibility and volume at work...well, and the pub, but work sounds so much more productive, doesn’t it?

Some side trips were the order of 2009, namely a weekend in Cologne to play a German Aussie Rules team (don’t prepare for a game by having a pub crawl till 6am the night/morning before), but it was really all about that little town in Nevada – and fuck didn’t we do a fear and loathing trip.

It contained everything – private tables in clubs, gambling, Elvis, ruined marriages, trashed hotel rooms, Playboy bunnies and all on 13 hours sleep in four days. Now the adage is ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’, but it’s not like we did anything too bad, it’s just a city that doesn’t sleep and you don’t sleep with it. So much to do, so little time to do it, and for a young impressionable lad – so little to say no to.

Who here has seen the Hangover? If you have, there’s a picture show right at the end with the credits, I think that’s the best way to show off the Thursday to Monday, and let’s face it, if you’re trying to get through a whole year in 2 weeks, brevity is key.