Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Attempted murder by cat!

This is what is known in the trade as a Battered Badger.

Muffin nearly killed me last night. I was on my way to bed and Muffin decided to race me down the stairs – by going between my feet.

The result was that I went head first down the flight of stairs and did a fair amount of damage. Muffin beat me to the bottom – but only just – and my arrival was much less dignified,

I hope you have noticed that I have Blogged on the last two Sundays so that you poor sods who apparently look at my Blog first thing every day do not suffer from blog deprivation on the first working day of the week.

The fact that someone would look at my blog first thing each day is a bit scary but hell – whatever turns you on. Me – I just need a cup of Caruso to get me going.

I think that the photo on yesterday’s Blog was quite the best photo that has ever been taken on my camera.

Unfortunately I didn’t take it – it was taken by the incomparable Mehmet.

The light and shadow is good – and he got birds as well (and possibly an aeroplane in the top left hand corner). An astonishing performance really and much better than I could do.

I did get a reasonable shot of a Bee in the garden at Topkapi and will let you see this in due course.

Cate of course got testy with me ‘It’s a Bee – why are you photographing a Bee?’

Indeed – and why do I photograph railings and carpets?

It is because I am looking for the shot that will be on the front cover of National Geographic. (Although I admit that Bees are a long shot – particularly as I don’t work for National Geographic).

Cate has now become an avid photographer. Apparently taking 10,000 pictures of the same elephants in Zambia has whetted her appetite and I now have to fight her for the camera everywhere we go.

Fair enough I suppose. She wants to do palaces and castles and I want to do Bees and railings so she is certainly going to have a wider audience.

However, in eons to come there will be 10 billion pictures of Topkapi in existence and very few (possibly only one) of the Bees in the Topkapi garden. By then I will be famous and in publications they will say things like.

‘This photograph (‘Bee in motion in Topkapi’) was at the beginning of Badger’s Bee period when he was just beginning to understand the essential essence and post-modern connection of Bees with the fundamental nature of mother earth. His later picture of Bees are more melancholy and reflect the decline of Beedom as we now understand it in the context of the new macho-deconstruct renaissance and the de-Beeing of most of the Earth – which of course is why we are now all dead’.

I note that in the middle of my Bee period Merisi is very much into cups of coffee and I ask you – which is more exciting and evocative – a living Bee or a static cup of coffee.

(We will leave aside the issue that Merisi is a duck eating photographer of some skill and I am not – well yes alright I ate one duck – but I am not a serial duck muncher).

Yes – I thought so – the Bees lose.

I actually think that for the first time ever some of my photos in Istanbul are bearable. I am reading the ‘Complete Book of Digital Photography’ and have learned a few things and will keep practicing assiduously.

Cate now wants ‘a proper camera’ which she somehow thinks is a big camera. Well actually most ‘proper’ cameras are about the same size but apparently one of the troops in Zambia had a colossal telephoto lens and Cate has become fixated on this.

Well – we do need another camera now because Cate rarely lets me have the one we have got so I will get another and make sure it has a lens through which you can see the craters on the moon.

Cate can have this one – and all I need is one with a Bee lens.

But seriously – I am really worried about the Bees – and the Molluscs – no one can tell me about Bees and Molluscs and why they are dying.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sorry guys but I ate one of you!

Istanbul. An amazing city – I have never seen anything quite like it. It is a must see for anyone going to Europe – and we will be back.

(Yes I know – most of you Europeans have already been there but it is a long way from Australia).

It certainly knocked my socks off.

Our driver was Mehmet. This is the name of a great number of men in Istanbul – all of whom own or have connections with carpet shops.

Mehmet was the driver for Cate and Larry during their week in Istanbul so Cate and I decided to let our heads go and take him on for a day and a half so that we could see as much as possible. Cate was buoyed by the potential saving of $600 on the $46,000 carpet so was feeling pretty good.

I told her that I thought that once you left the store the rules were that you had to start again so this knocked her about a bit and made her ears bleed again but I said that, If we ever went into a carpet shop again, I would do the first 10 hours of negotiations and she cheered up immensely.

Mehmet was an outstanding guide and was very solicitous of us. (It was his avowed intention to get us to buy a rug and he was not about to let anyone else rob us until he had his go).

So anytime we tried to spend anything at all he would berate the merchant, or store owner, or potential guide and make them give us a discount.

His crowing achievement was when I bought a Simit (circular bread with Sesame seeds) for Cate. This cost 1 Turkish Lira (about 1/2 of a Euro) and Mehmet made the poor blighter give me a 25% discount.

I wanted to give this back to the man but Mehmet was watching me like a hawk.

(It would have been better if he had been watching my camera bag. Someone made off with this and I lost a telephoto lens and other bits and pieces).

He was very solicitous of us – particularly me – and always helped me in and out of the car. He stood in the road and stopped the traffic when we wanted to cross. He moved people out of the way when we wanted to take photos and he made some poor sod in a tram move so that Cate would have a pole to lean against.

He apparently knows everyone in Istanbul. Anytime we wanted to go anywhere or park anywhere at all he knew the man who was running the place and exchanged secret handshakes - and was always allowed to do what he wanted to do.

And he took us everywhere we wanted to go – all over the place. We took 600 photos and you will see a small selection of these.

He would consider the trip a failure because we did not buy a carpet from any of his his uncles or cousins – but we were really happy.

On Saturday he sent in reinforcements. He asked if we wanted a guide for Topkapi and when we said yes he made a phone call and a young lady appeared to show us the Palace – and yes – talk about carpets.

We left her at the end of the tour but she reappeared later and took us to the Basilica Cistern. I think she was supposed to talk about carpets – and conducted a number of animated phone calls – but did not push us at all.

She said that she is supposed to get people to carpet shops but doesn’t really try very hard. If they say no she just stops asking.

Well – you are never going to make it in Istanbul with an attitude like that and I imagine that she is now receiving remedial training.

On Friday night we went to a very trendy restaurant called Vogue which was on level 14 of an office block. Astonishingly good food and we had our first bottle of Turkish white wine – which was also quite delightful.

On Saturday we went to Naz, the traditional Turkish restaurant attached to the hotel. The food was just amazing and – all things considered – not too expensive at all. We had two more bottles of Turkish white wine – and – not content with that – went back to listen to Larry singing in Les Ambassadeurs Bar.

He was delighted to see me and said that things were improving in Zimbabwe since they started paying the Public Servants in US Dollars.

He also sang ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and ‘Pennies from Heaven’ for me.

Cate had to work on Sunday so I crept around the hotel taking pictures of carpets and railings (which I won’t bother showing you).

There are, as far as I can see, no ducks in Istanbul – but Merisi may have been there before me.

I must confess – I ate a duck – or part of one – on Friday night and it was terrific (sorry guys). I will not tell the troops in Stadtpark about this traitorous act.

I am able to tell you with some degree of confidence that arguably the most incompetent and assuredly the most unhappy shop assistant in Turkey works in Gloria Jeans in Istanbul airport. He is worthwhile checking out if you are there (his name is probably Mehmet) – and his unhappiness may be because there are no opportunities to sell carpets in Gloria Jeans.

I was very lucky to escape from him without receiving a good thrashing but as punishment for my cheek he provided us with two unspeakably bad cups of coffee and a very, very old and stale cookie.

Cate is off the Prague today but I may not be able to join her on Thursday as she may have to come back early.

I will put a bunch of Istanbul photos on the blog soon and the rest of the 600 will be on Flickr.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Giant Sea Monsters have devoured all the hire cars

Bandit is rather battered but is on the mend. The vet is so pleased with his handiwork that after he gets paid he is retiring to the South of France.

Our hotel in Istanbul was magnificent. It had a view overlooking the Bosphorus. The room was somewhat larger than my room in Paris. In fact the bathroom there was larger than my room in Paris.

I keep forgetting how important and powerful Cate is. I think I will travel with her more often.

Rozalin arranged for a car to pick me up at the airport in Istanbul and take me to the hotel. While I still of course have to pay for this – she thought it would be nice for me to get to the end of the trip and have a man waiting for me with my name on a sign.

It has been a long time since this happened as it is many years now since I was a Very Important Banker (when this type of thing was a regular occurrence).

Cate rang early in the morning and said ‘You will have to get a taxi at the airport’

‘No, no’ I said ‘I have a car picking me up’

‘No you don’t’ she said ‘Larry (Cate’s boss) and I need it’

‘Oh Gosh – it must be important’ I said

Of course I was thinking (what else) that Giant Sea Monsters had devoured all the hire cars in Istanbul except mine and Cate and Larry needed to pick up the Chairman of Ducky Pharma from the airport – fair enough – can’t argue with that – could hardly ask the Chairman to share a car with me.

‘It is’ says Cate ‘We have to go the Grand Bazaar’

Excuse me?

Well I guess you can’t carry a Turkish Rug back to the hotel in a Taxi.

It is apparently a regulation in Turkey that every foreigner who goes there must end up in a shop that sells Turkish rugs. There are probably 100,000 of these in Istanbul. You will be manoeuvred there by someone - a driver, tour guide, hotel employee.

You can be certain that someone has been assigned to get you there!

Suffice to say that Cate ended up after the Grand Bazaar in a shop that sells Turkish Rugs. The asking price for the rug she really liked was US Dollars 46,000. Upon hearing this price her brain exploded and blood came out of her ears and she had to be brought round with many glasses of Turkish Tea.

After strenuous negotiations over three hours she had got the price down to $45,400 but had to suspend negotiations to do some more work. There was still a fair gap between the asking price and her maximim spend of €2,000.

With the benefit of hindsight – peak hour is not the best time to arrive in Istanbul. The roads seem to have been planned by the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority – and have been carpet bombed extensively by someone during the last few months.

The Taxi Driver asked me either (I simply could not understand his accent)

Do you want to see the abandoned abattoir on the way into the city, or

Do you want me to take the beach road or the highway.

I am not sure which it was but I told him to take me where I was going as quickly as possible, that people knew I was coming, that I had already sent his taxi number to Cate by SMS and that if he killed and ate me he could expect swift and sure retribution.

Although I am not sure – it may the same as in Vienna where people who kill and eat tourists have their own float in the Harvest Festival (behind the float with the serial kidnappers and cellar dwellers).

At the end of a very, very long journey, the average speed of which was probably no more than 15 KPH, he relieved me of an extraordinary number of Turkish Woggles and went on his merry way – probably to a slap up dinner with his family.

And by the way, I am never, ever driving in Istanbul – unless I have a guarantee that my taxi driver is out of town.

People do funny things. They have the weird system in Turkey where everyone who comes in from most anywhere has to have a Visa – which most of them can get on arrival.

So the first thing you do is to line up to get your Visa. This is a very quick process as the person issuing the Visa does not look at your passport except to open it at a blank page and put a stamp in it (like a large postage stamp) – and collect (in my case) 15 Euros.

So it is purely a revenue raising exercise – so why not just increase the airport departure tax? Why create a separate bureaucracy to make people line up to cough up 15 Euros? Perhaps the Minister in charge of airports has some children who are not intellectually gifted and needed something to do – so he bought them the Visa concession.

Before I left Vienna I went into the book shop and bought a Lonely Planet guide to Istanbul. It cost me Euros 27.50. Suffering Succotash – I can get one of Cate’s frocks dry cleaned for that sort of money. Serves me right for not buying it from Amazon months ago.

Advice follows: If you enter a hotel room in Istanbul and see an open tin of mixed nuts do not assume that they are SHELLED mixed nuts and down a handful. Some of them may be unshelled Pistachio nuts – which in the dim light of a hotel room at dusk look surprisingly like shelled nuts.

This advice is so that you do initially think that you have broken every tooth in your mouth and then do not spend an inordinate amount of time removing very small and sharp pieces of Pistachio nut shells from your mouth, teeth and gums.

We had a wonderful dinner on Thursday night in a restaurant called Topaz which overlooks the Bosphorus and a very large mosque. It is a spectacular sight indeed.

Larry hosted this and we swapped near death experiences stories about climbing mountains (Larry) and diving (us). His story about the Argentinian soccer team eating each other in the Andes was a real ripper and kept us entertained all the way through the main course.

We had the Ottoman menu which was typically Turkish food – and was wonderful.

After this Cate and Larry went back to work and I cruised round all the bars in the hotel – moving on as each one closed – until Cate finally appeared at 2.00 AM and took the remains back to the room.

It’s a pity because a Robert Mugabe lookalike was singing in one of the bars and between sets I had long conversations with him about the global recession and economic conditions in Zimbabwe. I was just about to tackle him about his human rights record when Cate took me away.

His name is Larry O'Neill and it is worth going to Istanbul just to sit in the bar an hear him sing. He does a wicked version of ‘Pennies from Heaven’.

The country that my brother played football for is Papua New Guinea.

We named the Rhinoceros Malcolm. If it had been a Dinosaur it would have been John.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Battered Bandit

Bandit (thinking). Jeez that was unexpected. I thought he was just sniffing my bottom but he was just sizing me up to eat me.

Well I am never going to let anyone sniff my bottom again – hmmm – that may be an overreaction – well they can sniff my bottom but I am going to watch them very closely – not sure how I will do that – perhaps I can put my head between my legs - will have to think about it.

Anyway if it had been a fair fight I would have given that bruiser what for and could have certainly badly mauled his right paw while he was eating me - as long as he ate my head last of course.

And what was that guy in the white coat doing sticking things up my bum – what is his problem.

Green and Pink - I cannot believe they have kitted me out in Green and Pink. Are these people colour blind or do they just lack all sense of light and colour.

And the smiley faces - oh sure that makes me feel a whole lot better.

Jeez I feel terrible – I am so crook I don’t think I will piss on the lounge tonight – well maybe I will feel better later – or just let go here – dad loves it when I piss on his leg -or vomit - I may vomit - where is the rug.

David’s tiny and one-eyed dog ‘Bandit’ has been badly mauled by a much larger and exceedingly more ferocious dog.

Mind you – given the size of Bandit – Muffin could give him a good thrashing without any trouble at all.

He has been at death’s door and we are hoping that he will pull through. To encourage Bandit through this difficult time I have put another picture of him on the Blog. I am waiting to hear from David and will let you know immediately there is any news.

We live such busy lives (well – one of us does) that we have had to buy a planner to hang on the wall in my study.

On this I am starting to put Cate’s trips (12 planned this years but there will be others as we go along and catastrophes occur in far flung places in Cate's empire), my trips and our visitors – who are mainly towards the end of the year.

If there is anyone out there who hasn’t booked their accommodation at Am Heumarkt you should get in early because we are filling up fast. Latecomers will have to sleep in the spare room next to the kitty litter.

When we were trudging together through the sewers of Paris, Melissa regaled me with stories about how much she was terrified of and hated rats. To help her overcome this problem I have sent her ‘The Story of Rats’ from Amazon. I hope this helps – but of course it may just send her over the edge and so she will require therapy.

When she has finished that I will lend her my duck book in case she wants to start a breeding program (unlikely but you never know).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Duck Handbook has arrived

Cate has called me a couple of times from Istanbul on those rare moments when she is not in meetings. I really don’t know how she does it. She is up at 7:30 every morning, has meetings all day and usually works until at least midnight.

I just hope she can keep it up because I really like my lifestyle.

I enquire regularly about her health and make sure I feed her nutritious meals with lots of roughage.

She moved rooms in her hotel. She had a ‘garden’ room but wanted a view of the Bosphorus. She cannot see the Blue Mosque but it is not far away.

She has confirmed my worst fears that Istanbul is heaving with ancient buildings – all of which she will want to explore from top to bottom. Me? I am happy to sit in a café and watch the people passing by.

(Of course – it matters not to me where I am as long as I am with my darling Cate).

I will take lots of photos – or perhaps I will ask Merisi for some of hers. I am sure she has been to Istanbul and her photos will be a lot better than mine.

What I like about Merisi’s Blog is that it is as pure as the driven snow. There is no clutter and no screen real estate. Just her photos and commentary. No reference to other Blogs (this would be beneath her) as she is an artist and I respect that.

It would be better if she didn’t eat my ducks – but what the hell – even artists have to eat.

‘The Duck Handbook’ has finally arrived from Amazon. This is chock full of amazing facts about ducks including that (I bet most of you didn’t know this) the incubation period for Mallards is 26 -29 days.

I have not yet mentioned to Cate that I am starting a Duck breeding program on the terrace and that there will be a need for some grass and a large wading pool. However I have worked out how this will fit around the new outdoor furniture which will in fact provide much needed shade in summer.

On really hot days they will have to come inside but they can go in the guest bedroom – or – if we have guests – in my study. Cate can close her door so that the quacking doesn’t stop her from doing whatever it is she does to keep me in luxury.

Did I mention the disastrous adventure on Saturday when we didn’t buy outdoor furniture?

We went to three different places where Cate sneered at the furniture on offer. It seemed perfectly acceptable to me but it was apparently either ‘pitiful, ‘awful’ or ‘disgusting’. Makes you wonder why they bothered making it really.

I mentioned this to the man on the way out of Dehner but he lacked my sense of humour and he gave me one of those looks that says ‘get out of my sight you ghastly snivelling worm like creature’ which is learned by all shop assistants in Wien for dealing with unruly customers.

So I guess we will do what we normally do and at the last possible moment we will buy something that Cate hates and every time she sees it (which will be about hourly) she will say ‘I hate that outdoor furniture’ and I will say ‘Do you dear – that’s so sad’.

This happens at the moment with almost every piece of furniture we have bought – not just here – but EVER.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our kittens have been kittennapped

Muffin is enjoying the sun.

It hasn’t been a good day so far.

I waited to see the Doctor for 1 ½ hours, the wind is sending Muffin loopier than usual, someone in Germany has stolen our kittens – and Merisi is eating my ducks.

As we are on the top floor the wind howls around the outside of the apartment and – just like it did in Sydney – sends Muffin leaping around the house in a complete tizz.

When I went to see the Doctor it was warm and sunny and I took my jacket off as soon as I got there because it was so hot. When I came out 2 hours! later it was absolutely freezing and I had to run home. This is a very strange place weather-wise.

The German kittens which were due to come to Wien have instead been kidnapped by some insensitive Germans and didn’t get across the border. However, Rozalin is putting plan B into place and we have no doubt that soon we will have an appropriate number of kittens.

We have decided anyway that the kittens were the wrong colour – and because of their origins would have been too Teutonic for Muffin.

And I still haven’t been to the fitness centre because I am going to Istanbul on Thursday and next week Cate is going to Prague on Monday and I am following her on Wednesday. So there doesn’t seem to be much point in trying to get into a program until I can stick at it for a couple of weeks.

But I am walking every day and eating lots of salads. Oh YUM!

Cate is flying to Prague and I am driving Billy – and I am sure that he will enjoy the outing. I will pay close attention to speed limits and try not to get exasperated when BMWs howl past me at 200 KPH.

To enhance my salads I bought some of these strange looking things that they have in Spar here in bottles and appear to be different types of pickled things. Some of them I can identify but others may require forensic analysis.

Anyway – they taste – in general – quite interesting. Some more so than others – so I will keep experimenting. I haven’t had the courage to try the fishy things in jars yet but am working up to it.

Unconvinced by Cate’s experiment with Gruner Veltliner - Melissa did a test to see if her laptop could be killed by orange juice. It could.

I think these are both convincing demonstrations and no one out there need try it again.

I have received Possum's Academy Awards night questions but as none of them seem to be related to the last James Bond movie - which is the only one we have seen since we have been here - we have not got many correct answers:

Here are a four from the Quiz - the best I can do without cheating:

5.Heavenly Creatures (saw it with Possum)
7.Harold Pinter
11.Robert Sean Leonard

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh Duh but woddabout dah rules?

It is very windy today. I am wondering how Merisi will photograph this?

It is so windy that they have had to tether the ducks in Stadtpark to stop them from being blown to Bregenz. I will see if I can get a photo.

I raved about Ein Wiener Salon yesterday (You can see how excited I was - I Blogged on Sunday). But there is another restaurant worthy of report.

We visited Restaurant Walter Bauer on Friday night. It is a delightful restaurant in Sonnenfelsgasse and was one of our best culinary experiences to date. Excellent food and outstanding service.

We had the Degustation menu with the specially chosen wines. Each dish was a delight and the accompanying wine was – in the main – just perfect.

Cate was so enamoured of the wine that accompanied the opening item (which for some strange reason was a sweet dessert wine – but absolute nectar) that she tossed off three more glasses at the end of the meal while I had half a glass of Port.

Fortunately Herr Bauer and I were able to stop her from dancing the Can Can for the large table of Baker and McKenzie lawyers and I got her home in one piece where she fell asleep on Muffin’s rug.

It was of course (and needless to say in Wien) horrendously expensive so we won’t be going there very often.

On our Wiener Restaurants scale - 7/10. This awards points for ambiance, service, food and value for money. Most restaurants in Wien fall at this last hurdle.

(Ein Weiner Salon would be 9 on this scale).

However, it has been earmarked as the next project for when Gwenyth comes to Wien and have to have a really special knees up.

We can't really use Ein Wien Salon for a proper knees up as it is very small and the kitchen adjoins the dining room - and there is no door.

I can see all sorts of terrifying scenarios emerging after the third bottle of Pilcher Gruner Veltliner.

(We are assuming that the Indochine 21 people will still not have forgotten us by then and that our photos will still be in their window surrounded by a Skull and Crossbones).

Well we have to start planning our trip to Australia in July. The timing is going to be tight because Cate has (of course) meetings at both ends.

Cate has four days in Peoria before the trip starts and then goes to Hong Kong at the end of our two weeks in Australia.

Cate’s company (Ducky Pharmaceuticals) has outsourced its travel and employee management processes to another company (Goosy Gander).

Many organisation do this these days so they can focus on their core business.

What it usually means is that it then takes ten times as long to get anything done, it is usually done very badly indeed, it costs ten times as much and the employees get screwed in spades on an ongoing basis.

Rozalin has had quite an hysterical exchange of emails with them about our trip.

I was expected to pay my own fare to Peoria because it ‘was not the most direct way to Australia’. This would have been very expensive indeed and it would have been much cheaper for us (and much more expensive for Ducky) for Cate to fly back to Vienna and for us to leave from here.

Rozalin explained that as Cate had to go to Peoria on business it was hardly reasonable that we have to fly to Australia separately by different routes on home leave.

‘Oh Duh but woddabout dah rules?’

Rozalin was able to use cutting edge logic to demonstrate to Goosy Gander that it was much more cost effective for us both to go to Australia via the USA on around the world tickets.

i.e. she said to Goosy Gander ‘if we do it your way it will cost three times as much’

The side benefit is that we can go to Vienna, Virginia to see the cats Steve and Sophie (We may also see Will and Kris the cat minders).

We are very pleased that my ancient and venerable brother Burne and his wife Jan are coming to visit us in October.

They are re-turfing the greens at his bowling club in Sydney so he has a few weeks to kill and has decided that Vienna is the best place to be at the end of the football season.

I have promised him that Australian beer is readily available in Wien and that he will be able to watch endless replays of Australian Rules Football in the Billabong.

Actually he doesn’t need endless replays now as after one beer he falls asleep and as he is quite small I will throw him over my shoulder and carry him home through Stadtpark past the Duck pond.

It is a little know fact that my brother played Australian Rules Football at an international level and represented a country.

No the country was not Australia.

You can have a guess if you like and I will reveal the secret next week.

Some important news from Australia.

Anna Bligh has claimed victory in the Queensland state election, becoming the first woman elected as premier in Australia.

Sure we have had women Premiers before - but normally they are bequeathed the rotting corpse of a State when the male leader who drove a stake through its heart bails out just before the election.

Inevitably the girl then loses the un-winnable election and another bloke takes over.

PS: See comment from richardrj today - he has finally revealed what the mystery object is. I bet he doesn't know what country my brother represented though!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This is the best restaurant in Wien

We have found the best restaurant in Wien. It is called Ein Wiener Salon and it is just brilliant. The website is

The Chef is Felix and his partner is Sven and together they have developed a wonderful venue with brilliant ambience and sensational food.

And – it is not (by Viennese standards) expensive. 6 courses for €57 is positively frugal living by the standards in this city.

Felix and Sven – we love you – and you will see us often.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Muffin has betrayed me!

OK Cat Lovers. There is currently a Cat Photo competition on Flickr. As at Friday morning (Wien time) there were 8,103 cat photos. (Dog lovers can vomit quietly in the corner).

It’s not too late to put up pics of your favourite Moggy (but of course you will have to join Flickr)

Sometimes I think the world has gone mad and I am the only sane one left. I can assure you that this would indeed be a very sad state of affairs because I am - as we say in Australia – definitely not the full quid.

There is a much better expression ‘he has a kangaroo loose in the top paddock’ which describes me perfectly.

Warning – I am now standing on my soapbox – political content follows. I don’t often get on my soapbox – but what is happening in Australia at the moment is ludicrous.

The Labor government in Australia is attempting to censor the Internet.


I know you Europeans and Americans will find this incomprehensible and difficult to believe – but in Australia they are actually proposing a nation-wide filter that will exclude all the sites that the government deems to be inappropriate for their subjects.

The ‘list so far’ has been leaked to that wonderful site ‘Wikileaks’ which has itself (of course) now been added to the government’s banned list.

The list of sites includes child pornography (which almost no one would complain about) but also includes gambling sites, travel sites, a Queensland dentist and many other fairly innocuous sites including common or garden variety sex.

I am sure it will eventually include all sites that are in any way critical of the government.

(Good news – all Murdoch newspaper sites in Australia will be banned!)

The government determines the sites which are banned – no one knows what they are - and there is no mechanism for appealing a decision.

For goodness sake – the whole world just gave China a pasting for censoring the Internet - and now Australia is doing the same thing.

I think this is simply the dumbest thing that any government in Australia has ever done. Can I have my vote back please – I made a terrible mistake.

I have spoken to Muffin about this but she really doesn’t give a toss provided no pet food suppliers are included. Self interest wins out every time.

I attacked the Wein and Co site with some gusto yesterday afternoon and ordered 24 bottles of assorted white wine. I have no idea what they will be like but I hope Cate will like some and that we can get some more.

She is very fussy about wine and won’t drink any cheap rubbish. So when she asks me what a particular bottle cost my default answer is ‘about 25 Euros’ and this keeps her happy.

A kitten problem has emerged. Apparently the owner wants to find homes for the kittens in Germany and does not want to send them to Austria. (I don’t think it’s another ICO situation or that we have been deemed to be unsuitable).

However, I am willing to bet that there may be the odd kitten or two available in Wien in July when we get back from Australia – so there is no need for panic at this stage.

And by the way – I expect to be punished by Muffin when I leave her but she has taken it to extremes this time. She now always sleeps in Cate’s study and runs – RUNS – to Cate when she is called. This is very hurtful – but on Monday Cate goes to Turkey!

I had to postpone the Fitness Centre until Sunday. Will report after that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I will make sure there is nothing in my underpants except me

This is my dear friend Anna in Sydney. She is doing a Max Factor makeup course by correspondence but is only up to lesson 2. How do you think she is going so far?

Gosh this is a funny place. We woke up this morning and it is snowing heavily. I suppose the ducks know that this sort of stuff happens – but I am sure they will be disappointed. The buds on the trees will certainly be having another look at the calendar.

I had a look at Merisi’s Site Meter and saw with some interest that on 26 February she had 5,397 visitors! Excuse me? Yes that’s right, 5,397.

Well I thought she must have published some previously unseen pictures of Paris Hilton with a Chimp – but no it was just the usual terrific photos.

Of course, Paris with a Chimp may no longer do it as people have become very blasé about Paris. ‘Ah really’ they would say, ‘but what sort of Chimp?’

Merisi averages many hundreds of visitors each day – and who could blame them. Her site is a joy to behold.

However, having recovered from Facebook rejection I am not going to become wound up with Blog Visitor Envy.

If my Blog is worth viewing then people will view it and I am quite happy with my (admittedly rather pathetic compared to Merisi) daily quota.

I am pleased that the Cemetery Cat photos seem to have pulled in a few extras – and I would probably do rather well if I turned this into a Cat Blog. I would lose the dog owners (but who cares about them).

(Dog lovers can forward complaints about this gratuitous and offensive remark to my Google email address).

Cate is off to Turkey on Monday and I am following on Thursday. I am currently looking at my Lonely Planet guide to see where the Cemeteries are but I will need to visit these while Cate is working.

She will probably want to go and see things like old buildings, churches and mosques and I regret to say that Istanbul will probably be heaving with these.

This is my first visit to Istanbul and of course I am wildly excited. Having seen ‘Midnight Express’ I have decided against strapping any drugs to my body while I am there so I should be OK. I will make sure there is nothing in my underpants except me - and will get Cate to check.

I have received my first speeding fine so am now in the club with Cate – although my pace was much more relaxed than hers. I was photographed doing 67 KPH in a 50 zone at 7:04 AM one morning in January when I was taking Will and Kris to the airport.

I can’t think of any 50 zones between here and the airport so will have to be a bit more careful – although around Landstrasse there are a couple of 50 zones that pop up for no apparent reason. Knowing the Austrians as well as I do, I am sure these have been well thought out so will not quibble.

It is a problem with Billy of course. At the best of times it is like restraining a wild beast and when gets his head at pedal to the metal time he just brings in the Kompressor and goes like the wind.

Whilst it is news day I regret that there is nothing dramatic to report from Austria (apart from the Fritzl trial on which this Blog is silent).

There have, of course, been the usual number of deaths on the ski slopes but these are now so unremarkable that there is no point in commenting, unless they are particularly bizarre.

On this occasion someone skied into a snowcat. The report doesn’t say if the collision killed them or if the snowcat subsequently dismembered them and ate them.

I didn’t realise that the cats were so big in the Zauchensee area and have told Muffin about this strange phenomenon and that she should be careful when we go there with her and the kittens (well they have to learn to ski).

The attempts at guessing the mystery object were abject failures but I suspect no one really tried – Steph least of all. She treated a quite serious attempt to stimulate thought as a complete joke.

I haven’t seen it in action – but it was being used by workmen who were laying cobblestones. My best guess is that it is used to squeeze cobblestones together so that they fit properly.

Now as I finish the Blog the snow has gone and the sun is shining, the buds are budding and the ducks are quacking. Ah Wien!

Bloody Hell! I posted half an hour ago - and now it is snowing again!

PPS: An hour later - no snow and bright sunshine!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The KAP trigger has been pulled!

There is a prize for the first person to tell me what this is (photographed in a cemetry in Paris).

Back in the harness and cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing. I can’t wait for my next paid holiday in 2012.

Cate says that my last couple of Blogs have been boring with too many photos. Everyone is a critic these days. Muffin doesn’t complain – she loves the pictures of cats.

I have lined up my first Fitness Centre session at 5:00 tomorrow at a centre in Ungargasse. I am determined to lose weight and get fit by the end of spring because during the last few months I have put on a lot of weight and am feeling decidedly flabby.

Miss Snow Mountain is pleased with my progress in German and speaks to me a lot in that language. I sometimes – but not often – have some inkling of what she is saying and try to reply in my mangled German.

Of course, having spoken bad German in Paris for the last week (because I couldn’t think of the French words) I am now speaking bad French in Wien - so it will take me a few days to get it out of my system.

Miss Snow Mountain is a real trooper and never flinches no matter how badly I mangle the words.

Spring is springing here and the trees are budding. Flowers are being planted all over the place and outdoor furniture is appearing outside restaurants and cafés.

This is a good sign and it won’t be long now before I can go down to Am Heumarkt again to shout at the tourist buses.

Today I paid a deposit on a Weber barbecue and on Saturday we have to go shopping to look for outdoor furniture for the terrace. Rozalin has identified the most expensive place for outdoor furniture in Wien and Cate would like to get there as soon as she can with her Bankomat card clutched in her trembling paw.

The most important thing of course is that we get chairs that will be comfortable for the cats so that the can lie in the sun and admire Stephansdom.

Muffin has of course abandoned me after I left her for a week and now sleeps in Cate’s study while Cate is working in there. This is to be expected and is just part of the ritual we go through when I leave her for more than a few hours.

I have bought some new ‘Cat Sticks’ from Spar. These appear to be the same type that Merlin adores. They don’t smell terrific (to me) but Muffin likes them a lot. I will use these to suck up to her and steal her back from Cate.

The KAP trigger has been pulled!

Rozalin has identified and psychologically profiled two girl kittens that will be available in July and we have put in a bid for them. She assures us that they are not potential criminals like the last lot so we are going ahead with the adoption processes. They also do not appear to have an Insane Cat Owner and this is certainly a good sign.

This is very exciting and I will spend the next couple of months getting their room ready and buying the accoutrements that kittens need.

I will also identify a Cat Psychiatrist for Muffin as she may need some support during the first couple of months.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Non-Cat people beware

This Blog has a number of photos of Cemetery Cats. 'Non-Cat' people should have a bucket or paper bag handy.

It’s very strange to leave Paris and ‘go home’ to Vienna. In the past I have left Paris to go to Australia but now home is just a couple of hours flight away.

I really do love Paris - and always have done since my first trip here in 1978. In those days I visited at least once a year on business and stayed in the Hotel Meurice (where they turn down your bed and put chocolates on the pillows).

But, while I still love Paris, I think the lifestyle in Vienna is better. But there is certainly absolutely nothing like Montmartre in Vienna - this place just hops and is full of life.

Melissa has given me some lessons and I am going to try to get banned from Cafe Malipop.

But I will be glad to get back to the ducks because there will be ducklings soon and I certainly want to be there for that. (Of course I miss Cate and Muffin).

Monday, March 16, 2009

There is nothing wrong with half a cow in a jar

We went back to Oki-Eri and surprised Mr and Mrs Sato immensely but they were delighted to see us.

We are going again tonight and after this we expect them to invite us to go on holidays with them to Brest in the summer. Apparently we are entitled to this after eating three meals in their restaurant in the same week.

We trotted off to see a photographic exhibition by Marc Riboud and I was very impressed. It makes me ache to see photographs that good - although some of them could have been taken by me and he may have outsourced them to a small child standing nearby while he had a snifter in the nearest bar.

This child was short sighted and had St Vitus’ dance - or it could be art - what would I know. I love impressionist painting but it always seems to me that the artist has painted the scene while looking at it through a tea towel.

I like pictures that are like photos - give me a Constable every day.

But I am certainly not a Philistine. I like - for example - many forms of modern art and never walk past half a cow in a jar or a rat in aspic at the Tate Modern without looking in awe.

Anyway, on photography, suppressing the urge to drop my camera into the Seine I have decided to battle on and have some lessons.

When Henri comes to Vienna he will spend some time with me and in the meantime I will break all my own rules and read a book about photography.

The weather in Paris at the moment is delightful and it is clear that spring is coming. The beggars are blossoming all over the streets and there is at least one on every street corner. There may well be a regulation that requires every corner to have a beggar and if, they are short, one is provided by the Mayor.

In fact, this may be a way for the French to dig themselves out of the global financial crisis and I may write to Sarko.

The regulations in Vienna are that at least 50% of beggars must have a half crutch - which is much to small for them - so that they hunch over as they walk along. They don’t have this rule here and most of them are bone lazy - just sitting there with paper cups - Oh yes - very creative!

Dogs and cats are very popular props here and I wonder why this is not in fashion in Vienna? There are probably rules.

A young lady (the same one as a few days ago) tried the gold ring thing on me today but I dismissed her with a derisive ‘Vous voulez rire’ which (I think) is colloquial French for ‘you must be joking’.

She was very unhappy and left muttering at me so I am not so sure. I will check with Melissa. I might have called her toasted goat’s droppings or something like that. Anyway - it had the desired effect and the French people sitting next to me laughed loudly (which of course tends to favour the goat droppings theory).

Melissa and I had a wonderful time at Montmartre Cemetery. She acted as the beater and we took lots of photos of cemetery cats - many of whom were very obliging and posed for us.

We went back to the Cemetiere de St Vincent today but could only find one cat - who knows where they are today. They may be all being used as beggar’s props in Montmartre.

I have been disappointed - but not surprised - by the lack of ducks in Montmartre. This is a significant failing which is not compensated for the by surfeit of beggars, shysters, crooks, robbers, tarts, pickpockets, pimps, footpads, serfs, churls, villeins and touts.

Of course there is no water here - which would mitigate against an explosion of the duck population.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Melissa was not eaten by Giant Rats

Well I must say that the Oka-Eri Japanese restaurant was outstanding. So good in fact that we are going back there tonight. But tonight we are going a bit later.

Last night we got there at 7:30 - at opening time - and threw them into a complete Tizz.

They are unaccustomed to having customers at all - let alone ones who arrive at 7:30 so there was complete chaos for a while as they organised themselves.

Things got worse an hour later when two more customers arrived. I thought Mrs Sato may have a nervous breakdown but after some prayers at the shrine behind the bar she rallied and got it all together.

It is the first time I have had toasted cheese on a stick and it was quite - er - interesting.

This is the place where Melissa gets her regular take away dinner and each time she does this she has to go through the ritual of the Tea Ceremony. This turns getting dinner into a major exercise so when she is short of time she cannot go there.

Besides, sitting cross legged on the floor with the Satos gives her back problems.

We went again to the Clermont, Melissa’s local bar which this time was full of characters, some of them very odd indeed and more than few very drunk. I didn’t actually get to talk to anyone as those who wanted to talk to me were too drunk to do so.

I did explain to a man eyeing me suspiciously that Melissa was my daughter and that despite any other failings she may have in respect of bars, she was not on the game.

The sewers are quite - er - interesting and should be seen. You get a bit too close for my liking to the business end of the sewers but - to Melissa’s relief - there were no giant rats - or indeed rats of any size.

One of the many ways she does not want to die is to be eaten alive by Giant Rats (come to think of it - that's also one of mine - in a very long list indeed).

The obligatory photo of La Tour Eiffel has been provided

Friday, March 13, 2009

The gold ring scam is very popular here

I am woken this morning, and indeed every morning, by the cleaning staff having a knees up outside my room. They talk incessantly and appear to use their mops as fighting sticks. It goes on all day – I am writing now at 3:00 PM and they are banging and crashing about out there.

We saw M the Crepe Maker last night and I had an excellent Montagnarde crepe and a nice chat in a melange of English very bad German and French.

After this Melissa took me on a tour of the bars from which she has been banned or in which she is merely Persona Non Grata. Her drinking patch covers an extensive area within district 18 and encompasses, I regret to say, some particularly unsavoury bars in the Pigalle and Clichy areas.

Melissa says that the bar from which she has been officially banned is the ‘skankiest’ bar in Paris. Its only advantage (as far as I can see) is that it remains open until 5:00 AM.

Well – you know how thirsty a girl can get at that time of the morning.

The photo they have of Melissa in their front window is terrible and I have offered them a new colour one.

OK so this is how the scam starts. On the periphery of my vision a person bends down and pretends to pick up a large ‘gold’ wedding ring and turns to me and says ‘Is this yours’. I say ‘no’ and they start to press me saying ‘you take it’ and trying to get me to take hold of it.

This happened to me in Wien a month or so ago in Beatrixgasse and again today in Rue des Abbesses.

Of course I am a certain mark because I am carrying a camera.

I mentioned it to Melissa at lunch and we weren’t sure about how it worked. Here are two variations.

This morning I forsook Coquelicot and took my business to La Villa des Abbesses.

My heart skipped a beat when I entered the café and the woman almost smiled at me - but I think she just had wind.

It was excellent. The breakfast was cheaper and the service was much, much better. I had my jus d’orange, croissants avec du beurre et de la confiture et un crème within two minutes of sitting down. Formidable.

I was so impressed we went back there for lunch and I had a truly outstanding salad with bits of fish in it.

We went for our daily cemetery outing - to Montmartre today - where we found many graves and almost as many cats. I had of course not taken my telephoto lens so most of the shots of cats have them a fair way away.

There are always tragic sights to be seen in this cemetery which is still used by those who have acquired plots. A young boy of about 6 who was buried there -very recently - as there was green carpet covering the grave.

Also a 26 year old woman and her one year old daughter who died on the same day in June 2000. On the headstone there is a photo of them together on the beach with their dog Gege – who also died on that same day.

As you can imagine, Melissa and I canvassed a number of bizarre possibilities about the circumstances of the woman, her child and the dog dying at the same time. We of course immediately discounted the boringly obvious one of a car accident and focused on more appealing (to us) scenarios such as tidal waves, lions and crocodiles.

Tonight we are going to a local Japanese restaurant where we will focus on raw fish.

Tomorrow – Les Egouts!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

We are off to see Monsieur the Crepe Maker

A writer's garrett

Well the staff at the Coquelicot were just delighted to see me and crowded around for all the news. They roared with laughter at my stories about Vienna and were fascinated by the exciting life we live there.

All of that of course is rubbish and the staff did what they always do and ignored me.

I did manage to make my usual spectacular mess with the Croissants but this is not all my fault. They serve them in a little basket and there is no plate so the only places the crumbs can go are on me, on the table and on the floor.

In Vienna pedestrians on crossings have right of way. I had forgotten that in Paris the crossings are designed to collect pedestrians in the one spot so that they can be mowed down more efficiently by impatient drivers. I have managed to avoid death narrowly and will be more circumspect.

The restaurants and bars here are bliss. There is no smoking at all. I had forgotten what it was like to be in a place like that and be entirely smoke free.
People who want to eat can do so without being enveloped in smoke and people who want to smoke can go outside – or drop dead – whatever suits them best.

There was a story in the Austrian Times last week about how the new smoking regulations in Austria are not working. They were never going to and are absolutely pointless. France has demonstrated that they can be made to work.
France - of all places - it's amazing!

Melissa and Henri and I went to a local Italian restaurant last night and then had a quick drink at her favourite local bar where we were able to watch Barcelona trounce Lyons. We did not get banned but then we only stayed half an hour.

They are renovating the hotel or some rooms or something. At 7:00 AM this morning the hammering and sawing started and has gone all day. The only relief is when they use the jackhammer because that makes my brain fizz and deadens all the other sounds.

Today we went for a walk around Montmartre and went through one of the many African quarters in Paris. I had forgotten how multicultural Paris was – the Austrians would hate it.

We stopped at the café I always stopped at during my last solo trip to Paris and – after the usual fracas with insolent waiter - had some lunch. We visited my favourite little cemetery – St Vincent. I really like it for its cats but it was raining and of course they were nowhere to be seen.

I helped two young Australians on their way. They asked the way to the ‘stair things’ which I deduced was Sacre Coeur (well there are certainly stairs there) and I was able to point them in the right direction.

We saw Monsieur the Crepe Maker who has his restaurant next to Melissa’s apartment. I made an impression on him a couple of years ago and he often asks after me when he sees Melissa. We have promised to visit him this evening for a crepe.

I have seen Merlin on a couple of occasions and he is just gorgeous. He has (ahem) filled out a bit since I last saw him but I have assured Melissa that he will lose the extra pounds in summer when he starts leaping about on the roof again. (That is him below on Henri's shoulders).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Down and Out in Paris

The Amelie Poulain single is everything I thought (not hoped) it would be.

I remember having a room this size in the Savoy in about 1978 but I shared that with mops and buckets until the cleaners discovered me and put me in the right place.

Melissa met me at the airport and we had a nice ride into the city as she told me about her life – which is much more exciting than mine.

She apparently has colossal fights with the local merchants and vendors and, as she now speaks French fluently, gives them the rounds of the kitchen in their own language. She is taking lessons from some very old Poilus to add some spice to her language.

Of course as a result of this there are places we must avoid and she has drawn a map of Montmartre with the hot spots noted. I have put these into my Google maps on my iPhone with some pins that will let me know when I am getting close.

Apparently Melissa has been banned from a couple of local bars – which I think is really impressive. I just cannot imagine what you would have to do to get banned from a bar - in Paris and await further graphic details.

Naturally there are bookshops, hairdressers, restaurants and other places which must be avoided. I mean – we all have these types of problems where we can no longer walk past shops right?

It is a bit of a tortuous process walking from one end of Montmartre to the other now but Melissa has a carefully planned route which gets her there after a fashion.

Of course the last domino is Monsieur Pamplemousse the Epicier. If she has a fight with him it cuts of the last escape route to Boulevarde Clichy and we will have to go over the Butte de Montmartre to escape – or use a helicopter.

I have told her that she must on no account buy her vegetables from M Pamplemousse – and must certainly never visit him after she has been to any bar in Paris.

I was absolutely determined that I was not going to struggle up Rue Lepic from the Blanche Metro station with my heavy bag so insisted (against Melissa’s advice) that we take a taxi.

The man in charge of the taxi rank berated us for standing at the end of the queue. We were apparently supposed to be in another place – but there was not really much point as this was where the queue was. The problem was that the entire queue was in the wrong place. I would have thought that was his fault because he is in charge of the queue – but he thought we were tourists and could be bullied.

At the end of this he picked up my bag, put in the taxi and asked for a tip. I’m sorry – I have no money at all – I just arrived from Zanzibar.

I have discovered that I now speak a bizarre mixture of French and German and could well start any sentence with Gruss Gott and finish it with Merci – with mangled words in between.

Anyway we got into the taxi and had a remarkably quick trip to Rue Lepic where we stopped dead behind a garbage truck and ten minutes later had advanced less than 20 metres. So we had to get out and walk up Rue Lepic.

My room clearly reflects Amelie Poulain in the more barren years of her life – when she was practicing to be a nun.

However, it has a (very small single) bed, a very small desk, a very small bathroom and 15 TV channels in French.

It also has an outlook (I hesitate to use the word view) over a very small courtyard which by the look of it is used as a practice range by Al Qaeda.

But I am entirely comfortable. Just before I left Vienna I re-read ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ so am familiar with the seamy side of life in Paris and will just go with the flow.

The Amelie Poulain café is closed for renovations but next to the hotel there is a €2 store where a man from the mysterious east sells enormous piles of crap collected from the four corners of the globe (but I suspect mainly China).

Montmartre is much as I left it. We will probably go to Coquelicot for breakfast tomorrow and I will catch up with my old friends there who – as you can imagine -just can’t wait to see me and hang on every word as I tell them about my life.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We will send the Smell Obergrupenfuhrer to see you soon’

I went to see Dr Ratzenblender today to get my blood test results and some more medication. He is closed for the day.

So I guess I will see him when I get back from Paris

About 6 months ago something crawled out of the Wienfluss into the ceiling in Cate’s office and died.

We have not seen it but we know it is there. How? Because it smells really, really bad. Not all the time – but often.

This is another problem about which there is absolutely no point telling the Building Managers. They would come and there would be no smell. They would go away and there would be a smell.

If they came and there was smell what would they do?

‘Yes that is a really bad smell – we will send the Smell Obergrupenfuhrer to see you soon’

The Smell Obergrupenfuhrer would come and there would be no smell – or there would be a smell – the result would be the same.

After extensive investigation they would not find the source of the smell – and would not be able to do anything.

It is likely that in a few years time they will find that Otto one floor down has been capturing tourists and residents, murdering them and boiling their heads in his copper kettle.

By that time we will have either left Vienna, or will have been murdered and boiled. Either way the smell will no longer bother us.

With the lack of air conditioning and the smell in the studies upstairs we now understand why when we visited the apartment the then tenant was working on his laptop PC at the dining table downstairs.

Actually, this sounds like a job for the Tenacious Rozalin!

Through a great deal of diligence and tenacity I have got my Facebook friends up to 25. (And where is Keegan by the way?).

I read today that the average number of friends on Facebook has just increased from 100 to 120. Excuse me?

That means I am almost 100 short of the average. Starve the Lizards – this whole thing is pointless. This is a game in which I cannot compete and I shall hang up my boots and just respond to the occasional poor sod who staggers into my Facebook site and decides that they need to be my friend.

These will be mainly NSW politicians on the run from angry lynch mobs.

I have made Cate some Gulaschsuppe, Hotpot and Spaghetti Bolognaise – a vat of each in fact so she won’t starve.

However I expect that while I am away she will live on biscuits. When I get back and ask why she did not eat the food she will say ‘I didn’t have time to warm it up in the microwave’ You Guffaw! But this has happened on many an occasion.

I checked on the ducks today. They are in fine form. Donald and Daisy are both sparkling and don’t care what it is as long as it is healthy (and of course a duck).

By the way you should check out this site. This lady is a fabulous photographer and her photographs make me cry (actually mine make me cry after I have looked at hers).

But – Henri is going to give me some lessons when I am in Paris.

This is Henri’s photography site

Tomorrow I will be Blogging from the Amelie Poulain room in the Hotel Prima Lepic in Rue Lepic, Montmartre.

The hotel is a few doors up from the café where they filmed Amelie – and is about 200 metres as the crow flies from Melissa’s apartment.

If I do not blog it may mean that Melissa and I have gone out for a knees up in some of Melissa’s favourite bars.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Perhaps if I hold my breath for long enough my fur will turn blue and I will faint

I had to buy some more firewood. I did not want to do this but Muffin has been sitting in front of the fireplace at night staring mournfully into the gloomy unlit space.

Unfortunately, because of the closeness of our relationship, I know what she is thinking. Her thoughts include:

I will sit here and stare mournfully into the fireplace and eventually he will crack and light the fire.

How could he be so mean that he would not provide a small but perfectly formed cat with enough warmth that her fur doesn’t turn to icicles.

Perhaps if I hold my breath for long enough my fur will turn blue and I will faint – then he will be sorry.

I’m not actually very cold at all – but I do like fires.

When he does light the fire I am going to ignore it to teach him a lesson.

He thinks he knows what I am thinking but has no idea – but I know what he’s thinking.

Notwithstanding all this I just love the sight of a cat stretched out in front of a roaring fire. It gives me the sort of warm glow that I got when I saw John Howard lose his seat at the last election.

‘Buying firewood’ sounds easy but it’s not. I will explain.

I have to drive 6.7 kilometres to Hornbach and get a large trolley and make my way to the firewood department.

The first time I did this at Hornbach I thought I had found the prepacked firewood. It was called ‘Chipsi’ and looked like blocked of compressed sawdust. I thought ‘Chipsi’ was a cute name for firewood.

I had almost finished loading my trolley when I noticed that ‘Chipsi’ had pictures of happy rabbits on it. I dismissed immediately the thought that ‘Chipsi’ was made out of recycled rabbits and looked more closely.

‘Chipsi’ is in fact animal bedding made out of who knows what.

When I get to the wood department I load the trolley – as I did today – with 18 packets of wood. Each contains 5 ‘logs’ and each weighs 10 kilos.

When I get back to Billy I load this in the back of the car and in the back seat.

When I get home and drive into the garage I have to unload Billy before I park him so I put Billy on the turntable and the 18 packets into the alcove near the door. Then I park Billy and go down to the basement to get the trolley.

I usually take this opportunity to check on the numerous Austrian women I keep there and make sure they are OK. They don’t mind it there because it is warm and dry and smoke-free and they are all learning English by reading the 42 cartons of books we keep there.

Then I use the trolley to take the wood, six packets at a time, into the foyer. I then have to take 4 of them off the trolley and carry them up 14 steps to the landing – load them back onto the trolley and take them to the elevator.

I go up four levels in the elevator and then take 4 of them off the trolley and carry them up four steps and load them back on the trolley. Then I take them into the apartment and unload them.

Why doesn’t he take them all up the stairs on the trolley? Because they are too heavy – I can only take two at a time up the stairs.

By the time I have done this I am well and truly knackered.

There may be a more efficient way to do this but I got a distinction for Quantitative Analysis and I can’t think of one.

(Yes I can – get someone else to do it – brilliant!)

Before this I had to cycle down to Alt Wien to get some coffee – hoping that they had Caruso back. They did so I bought two kilos which will keep Cate happy while I am in Paris (where I go on Wednesday).

She hated the other stuff that I got when they did not have Caruso - and it has been appropriately recycled.

Tomorrow I have to make some vats of Hotpot and Gulaschsuppe so that Cate will not starve while I am away. She always says she will cook herself meals when I am away but always gets too busy and ends up living on Vegemite Toast (which would kill a brown dog but on which any Australian can survive for months).

I do try to keep up with what is happening in Celebrityland and note with some interest that Michael Jackson is not only selling all his possessions but is also performing in London in July in a series of 10 concerts.

These are definitely his last appearances until he runs out of money because he spent it all on buying Giraffes – for which apparently there is no secondary market – they lose most of their value when they walk out of the showroom.

Now I must say that there are many strange people in the world but to me Michael is El Supremo. He is a certified, gold plated, honking tosser of such epic proportions that no one even comes close.

He is the benchmark used by many other celebrities – none of whom have ever come close to his peculiar brand of style and ethereal weirdness. (Although I think Victoria Beckham is a devotee and may be getting coaching from Michael).

But I am sure that there are millions of fans who need another dose of squealing and mincing and wish him well in his endeavours.

But Michael – Vienna is too small for you – they speak German – there are no Giraffes – go to Berlin.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

We couldn't go to Prague

I am starting to get a bit better.

I went to see Dr Ratzenblender and described my symptoms.

He examined me carefully without moving out from behind his desk, with me fully clothed, and wrote out a Rezept and explained how to take the medications.

He then started searching through the many piles of papers and books on his desk for something and after a long search came up triumphantly with a blank piece of paper, A4 size.

He carefully folded this in two and tore it in half. He then wrote down for me the instructions he had just given me verbally, saying as he did so ‘I am sure you are able to follow the instructions but I will write them down to make sure’. He then said this again – revealing his uncertainty.

Perhaps he was worried about my obviously very poor condition, the fact that I was sweating profusely, and perhaps the dribbling had some effect.

He then prodded me out the door with his wooden stick and told me to come back if I did not get better.

The next day I was sitting in the waiting room. There was quite a crowd but Frau Ratzenblender got me into the Doctor pretty quickly because she saw me sitting there grimacing, gritting my teeth and gripping the arms of the chair.

What she saw was me trying really hard to prevent my bowels from detonating in the waiting room.

He was not particularly pleased to see me but was clearly alarmed by my condition.

So alarmed in fact that for the first time since our relationship began he came round to my side of the desk to take my blood pressure. This was our first contact (other than to shake hands when we meet) and was very emotional.

I was so overcome by this unexpected and spontaneous display of concern that I very nearly let out a great racking sob – but managed to avoid this is it would certainly have resulted in full underpants.

As he shuffled me out the door he said

‘Despite your ill health I hope that you start to get better soon’

Apart from the fact that it made no sense, for Dr Ratzenblender I think this was probably a pep talk. It did not fill me with confidence or make me feel much better as I tottered with clenched buttocks off to the blood takers.

For Cate of course this has been hell. For one thing, we has to cancel our trip to Prague which for her is an event of catastrophic proportions. I mean – we couldn’t go to Prague!

But she is always able to cheer me by saying things like

‘I think this sweating, shaking, shivering, shuddering and brown pants routine is just a ploy to get sympathy’

(This would certainly be the wrong place to look for that).

The dehydration and shaking have caused some loss of hearing so I can’t always hear Cate when she shouts at me.

Fortunately the bedroom is directly below her study so she has developed a system that when she wants something she bangs on the floor with a broomstick and I can crawl out of bed to get it.

The list includes

2 bangs Coffee
3 bangs Wine
4 bangs Chocolate
5 bangs Vegemite Toast

I have lost the ability to walk normally or climb stairs but have developed a system so that I can carry things around my neck and climb up the stairs on all fours. This works for Cate although she doesn’t like having to bend down to unstrap the basket from around my neck – but occasionally gives me a pat and lets me lick her ankles.

This system also worked well when I had to go to Spar to get Cate some bananas. The cashier didn’t see me crawl through so I got out without paying for them.

Of course I have to stand up to cook and iron but use a Zimmer Frame for that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I am as crook as Rookwood

Time to teach those non-Australians about the elegance and simplicity of the Australian language.

Crook – is an Australian expression for not feeling well

Rookwood – is the largest cemetery in Sydney

The degrees of crookness are as follows:

I am a bit crook

I am pretty crook

I am really crook

I am as crook as Rookwood

The last one means that you are very unwell indeed. This is what I am – but am recovering and will resume Blogging very soon – and have lots to tell you.

Message for Steph: As I see it there are four good things about your situation.

Oklahoma is well situated for travel to both the East and West coasts.

They no longer hang people who are in same sex relationships (at least not legally – there may still be lynchings)

You never have to worry about your state changing color at elections

You are well placed for the Rapture (But may not be eligible – see point 2 – I would check).

The Blogger is unwell

The Blogger is unwell and has been advised by the Doctor to stay in bed for a few days.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Asking for 200 grams of Bauspeck is not social interaction

Harvelina? I don’t think so.

I have been trying to increase the numbers of my ‘friends’ on Facebook. This involves indentifying people I know on Facebook and sending them a prompt asking them to be my friend.

The flaw with this is that I have to tell them who I am and they can look at my profile.

This would put most but the hardiest souls off – the remainder look at my Blog and then put me on their banned list.

Why do I want more friends?

Because I have been reading that this is a trendy thing to do and that Facebook is being taken over by older people – and I am certainly one of those.

And some people have hundreds of Friends.

By offering financial inducements and leaning on family members, and Muffin, I have gotten up to 20 but I think that’s probably it.

However, I do have two famous Australian actors as friends – and interestingly one of them knows who I am. He signed me up despite this - which is encouraging.

This makes me feel as though I am part of a privileged network as I shiver in the chilly wind of the disinterest of the Facebook community generally.

Look, I have always been at the cutting edge of trend setting and to lose my grip after all this time is quite sad. I feel like the old Lion who is being circled by the young, strong one and I know that it won’t be long before I am vanquished and sent into the Serengeti to be eaten by animals such as Zlotzer and Fritzy.

Or I will get a message from Facebook.

“Leaping Lizards – we just found out how old you are – you can’t be a member of a social networking site like this. Who would want to know…. YOU?

Well….quite…. very few people actually.

Steph has some very firm views on social networks like this but then she doesn’t live in a foreign country where the only person she has to talk to during the day is a very small but perfectly formed cat.

Well I guess that’s not quite true as I can do most things in German now and have some very stilted and often quite bizarre conversations with shop assistants. But I don’t think that buying 200 grams of Bauspeck and asking to have it sliced actually cuts the mustard as social interaction.

Anyway – when the kittens arrive I will set up Facebook accounts for them and will get my numbers up to 22.

Of course this raises the issue of names for the new cats and we were thinking of naming them after those two legendary cat lovers in Brisbane, Liz and Darryl.

But if we did this we could probably not realistically expect the Brisbane Liz and Darryl to visit us in September - and if they did there would be two of each in the house and this would cause massive confusion.

We will go further afield for names.

Incidentally, you may have notice at Harvelina’s feet there is a small Rhinoceros. This animal has not yet been named and if you would like to send a suggestion along with your Frog Farm prospectus request please feel free to do so.

Rozalin the KAP Officer has identified some likely prospects. They are in Germany but are apparently moving to Austria. I just can’t imagine why this would be the case but I am sure she will tell me soon enough.

Perhaps their father is an Auslander and they are being deported – the Germans are very strict about this.

They are very, very small (the kittens not the Germans) so it will be a while before we could get them but it is very exciting that there are kittens in the pipeline – so to speak.

This will mean absolutely nothing to people who don’t like cats – but probably no one like that reads the Blog.

Well – yes – one does. Will in Washington very occasionally - but he puts on rubber gloves before he does so and has a good wash afterwards.

I have taken some moving pictures of ducks and these will have you perched on the end of your respective chairs. I am having some difficulty getting these pictures out of the camera and into the computer.

I am going to keep at it for a couple more days and then I may have to open the instruction manual (which astonishingly enough is in English – although I also got them in German, French, Dutch, Italian – and a couple of Eastern European languages. The manuals weighed more than the camera).

My problem then will be to edit the movies. For this task I have a piece of software which will be (I am assured by those who know) ideal for the task – but once again it may be impenetrable and I will have to consult the online manual.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The KAP is in full swing

This is Harvelina.

We are off to Prague on the weekend.

Normally Cate waits till we get to the weekend hotel before she complains bitterly about it but this week she is being proactive.

She looked at the hotel I had chosen on the website and said that it was entirely unsuitable as it was too big (21 rooms) and in the wrong location (the Centre of the old town).

So I have booked another hotel of Cate’s choosing. This one is the Romantik Hotel Uraka and I must say it looks alright.

I think the toilets are outside the main building but winter has almost gone so that should not be a problem – but we need to avoid walking through the stables because the owner says that Zlotzer and Fritzy are a bit ferocious and miss the Veldt.

I am not worried because Cate always knows what she is doing when travelling and I have complete faith.

This takes a great deal of pressure off me as I dread the drive to the hotel and then checking in and opening the door to the room and Cate saying “Hmm………..this is nice”

The translation of which is – “this is another steaming dump you have dragged me to where there will be moth eaten bathroom towels, sheets you can watch TV through, shampoo that gives me a rash, single-ply toilet paper, fleas in the bed, rats in the coat cupboards, food that would kill a brown dog and jack hammers outside our room all night”.

Which is most unfair. I mean sure we have had all those things but not necessarily at the same time and it is certainly not for want of trying on my part.

I really do look at the pictures on the website but – as I have said in a previous Blog – I am immensely gullible.

We have booked two restaurants – one of which has hosted Mick Jagger and Johnny Depp.

The guide book says that they are expensive – but we are using Meinl am Graben as a benchmark now so everything will be relatively cheap - unless I have got the Euro-Czech Woggle rate wrong – which is always a scary possibility.

Perhaps they are expensive for Prague but when you come from Wien almost everything is cheaper.

Cate has decided that the Kitten Acquisition Program (KAP) needs to be accelerated. She says I am becoming too inwardly focused and need more company.

She is worried about the amount of time I spend with Muffin and wants me to diversify. Well – sure we spend a lot of time together but I don’t think it’s unhealthy.

Anyway, since I have started reading the obituaries in the Financial Times to Muffin, Cate has started to worry so has pulled the KAP trigger and Rozalin has swung into action – sending messages to her vast network of kitten providers.

As we speak hundreds of kittens will be offered to us and we will read all the résumés carefully before making our choices. In fact, some pictures have just arrived!

In case you are wondering we are seeking two girl kittens who will be black, grey or dark tabby.

This is not negotiable.

I apologize to all you ginger, white and tortoiseshell cats out there but it just doesn’t work for us.

I will of course keep you informed.

Harvelina is a wooden Giraffe that Cate acquired in Zambia and brought home with her. Harvelina is about 1 metre tall. There was a full size one but it would not fit on the plane.

Harvelina cost (I know this is hard to believe) more than US$ 500 - plus €52 Customs Duty at this end. I mean for that sort of money you can have half a lobster at Meinl am Graben.

Harvelina now has pride of place in the lounge room and gazes over the vast expanse – pretending (except that she is wooden) that she is in the Serengeti and that Muffin is a big cat lying in the sun.

I am not sure at what Muffin thinks about anything at all so can’t comment on her perspective – but it is unlikely to be expansive and probably does not encompass the dark continent (although she loves National Geographic Channel).

My guess is that Muffin is a nihilist except in respect of food, sleep and pats – not necessarily in that order - and is unlikely to be swayed by the potential thoughts of a wooden Giraffe.

Harvelina is named after Jimmy Stewart’s imaginary rabbit friend in the film ‘Harvey’. But, as she is a girl (so Cate tells me) she becomes Harvelina. How she can tell she is a girl is beyond me but I am certainly not going to be the one to turn her upside down to check.

Harvelina was apparently named by the people who attended the event in Zambia – and it could well have been late at night when the naming ceremony took place.

Apparently the banknote Cate acquired is not worth quite as much as we thought it was so we are scaling back our retirement plans. This is good news for all you Blog readers out there.

And by the way – no one has ask for a Frog Farm prospectus. I blame the general cynicism caused by all the big banks that have fallen over – it has ruined things for entrepreneurs like me.

However - I was approached by someone who had read my Blog and asked if I would write a review of Vienna for a website. I did this and they are going to give me $100.

I am going to put this towards a cheese platter at Meinl and Graben and if we can save enough we will go there again before we leave Vienna in 2013.