Monday, August 31, 2009

Jause - what a great idea that is!

Back from Schladming-Dachstein (we actually stayed at Rohrmoos) tired but happy after a fabulous weekend in one of the loveliest places on the planet. We scaled mountains, trudged through valleys and engaged in hand to mouth combat with Jause each afternoon. Full report follows.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The attack of the Killer Igels is coming!

I was riding along the Donaukanal near Winterhafen and came upon a large brown horse blocking the path. I say large – it looked large but I was on a bicycle – perhaps it was just a normal sized horse.

It was standing still in the middle of the path. There was no way around it. On the back of the horse sat a woman – who was talking on a Handy. Both horse and rider were aware of my existence but were unconcerned – and unmoved.

I imagine the woman was having a conversation along the lines of

‘yes, I’m on the horse’

‘on the Donaukanal near Winterhafen’

‘oh she’s fine – enjoying the day out – aren’t you darling’ (pats horse)

‘about an hour or so’

‘what sort of milk do you want – I will have to go to the Billa at Simmering - you can take horses in there’

'OK I'll just let Dobbin defecate on the bike path some more and then come home'

Clearly there was nothing for it but to tackle the task so I approached cautiously.

I had in mind that you don’t go behind horses. Someone told me that. It might have been Roy Rogers. I had a small part (uncredited) in one of his last films, ‘South of Caliente’ and he used to tell me things about horses. (I was very young at the time - I played the part of Munzie - a small dim child - perfect role for me really).

I think he said if you walk behind a horse that you don’t know it may kick you and – depending where it got you – there were varying degrees of incapacitation involved.

He told me that a wrangler named Larry Larsen had been kicked by a horse when he was making a movie in Monument Valley in the 30s and was in a coma for days - and was never the full quid again. Ended his days as a Republican Senator in Nevada.

It was in fact Roy who first aroused my interest in quilting. He didn’t do Koalas of course and for him it was almost exclusively horses and Indians. He was fascinated by the headdresses – although these were bloody hard to do - have you ever tried to do a feather?

Of course in those days movies were not about sitting around waiting for the set up like they are now. It was all jump on a horse, ride, shoot somebody, have a drink in a bar, sing a song, jump on a horse, ride etc.

Bearing Roy’s advice in mind I headed for the front of the horse – wondering whether Roy had ever mentioned horses biting and what sort of damage they could do – quite a bit I imagine – they have startling teeth – some of them would give Julia Roberts a run for her money.

The rider glared at me balefully as she carried on her conversation - but the horse showed no interest. For a moment I wished I was the horse. I would have thrown the rider off and booted her across to the other side of the Donaukanal.

I sort of eased my way under her head – admiring her magnificent teeth (the horse not the rider) and scuttled off without further incident.

Winter came early yesterday. While I was riding Sissi found a roll of paper towels and turned them into snow. Very picturesque it was – I am going to get her to decorate the Christmas tree.

Not content with tearing the remaining Hedge tree to pieces Sissi now sleeps in it. This is bizarre behaviour indeed.

I regret to advise that Toni Sailer has died. Toni was Austria’s best ever skier and one of the greatest of all time. I watched a documentary about him fairly recently. Read about him here

You will note that (after further coaching from Merisi) my links are opening on new pages. This is a great leap forward in the evolution of the Blog.

I hope to have it perfected before the last reader leaves.

Just before Winter – a new horror has emerged in the wilds of Austria. Hordes of killer wasps are sweeping across the country stinging their victims to death and devouring small children.

As reported by the Austrian Times:

“An Upper Austrian chef was hospitalised after a wasp stung him in the mouth.

The 33-year-old failed to see the wasp fly into his drink as he swigged away at a restaurant yesterday (Mon) in Gmunden, Upper Austria.

He soon started to complain of feeling sick and emergency services called in by the restaurant’s owner took him to hospital with a suspected allergic reaction to the sting.

Experts say wasp stings can be fatal if people are stung in the mouth or throat and swelling causes them to suffocate or if the victims develop extreme allergic reactions.

Only last week a 70-year-old Upper Austrian man died three days after he was stung on the lip by a wasp and a 77-year-old Styrian woman died of a heart attack two weeks ago after she was stung by wasps. Doctors said pensioner Rosi Hofbauer from Langenwang in Mürzzuschlag district died from an allergic reaction when she was stung on the back of her head and neck.

And a 45-year-old woman from Traun, Upper Austria, died three weeks ago of circulatory failure caused by an allergic reaction to a wasp sting one week before.

Also early this month, Upper Austrian Social Democratic (SPÖ) councillor Josef Nigl, 60, died after he was attacked by hundreds of wasps when he disturbed their nest as he cut down trees with a friend in Schlägl in Rohrbach district.

What next? The attack of the Killer Igels?

Perhaps Austria is not so safe after all.

Eat quietly and leave no crumbs - Infidel!

Mt Rainier, Washington State

It is Ramadan but Cate is allowed to eat during the day provided she does it in private.

Apparently she and the other Infidels are locked in a separate room with a sandwich and a bottle of water and told to eat quietly lest they offend the faithful.

Needless to say she is looking forward to getting home.

So far today Sissi has not escaped. The man arrived very early this morning and put new glass (with holes) in the study windows. As soon as the glue dries I can install the air coolers. This will stop hot air from getting in and small cats from getting out.

Yesterday I was cycling again in the teeth of a howling gale but when I got home I checked the Internet to find that the wind was only 10 kph. I just don’t believe it.

I have ordered a bicycle speedometer so that I can see how far I travel. I think my usual trip is about 30 kilometers – with another 10 kilometers for the extended leg – but I really am not sure as – because I do not use normal roads – I cannot measure it precisely on Google maps.

On the theme that everything of note happens in Vienna I report that Danica Johnson (who says she lives here) – lost 47 Pounds (yes 47 – as much as Kylie Minogue weighs wringing wet) by following a regime which included some completely useless detox products invented by charlatans as a way of sucking money out of the ever gullible public.

You can read Danica's fascinating story at Danica's Story

Can you imaging how much weight she would have lost if the products were efficacious!

Without wishing to put too much of a dampener on your new found enthusiasm for these products – before ringing with your credit card number you should read this link

You may have noticed how sceptical I am about so many things these days. It’s just that the older I get the more I learn and the more I learn the more I realise that I have been gulled by many people many times over many years. Well this is it – you are just not going to have Dick to kick around anymore (where have I heard that before?)

On Austrian TV they advertise something called the Abtronic which is an electronic device which you strap to your stomach and it takes weight off, tones your muscles, cures gout and trims nose hair.

You don’t believe me do you? Hmmm…..neither do many others.

Look here

The only thing surprising about this is if that Austrians still allow this stuff to be sold to the punters. But – any country that encourages young people to smoke - and cyclists and skiers not to wear helmets - really doesn’t give a toss.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are the Ashes important?

Cate is halfway through her Saudi adventure and has thus far escaped the attentions of the Religious Police.She is however suffering from alcohol deprivation as Riyadh is as dry as a bird’s bum.

Having had to cancel Tuscany because of Cate’s work we are now putting together another week of travel with Liz and Darryl. Our plans are at this stage to pick them up in Salzburg and then drive to Prague and Cracow.

Sissi escaped again today – this time through the Cat Net on the Terrace. I was unfortunately naked again when this happened. I was hopping into the shower when I noticed Moni looking anxious (I have a highly developed sense of knowing how cats are feeling).

I immediately sensed a problem (another skill) and went to the balcony to see Sissi perched on the ledge. I retrieved her (by the neck again) and moved them both off the Terrace.I re-arranged the Cat Net and when Sissi tried this again she ended up tangled like a turtle in a fishing net and had to be cut loose.

I have now trimmed the net and made it cat-proof.

One of the nice things about being in Europe (Cate doesn’t see this as a benefit) is that you can actually watch sporting events as they happen. This was often not the case in Australia where the rights to sporting events are acquired by the TV channels – but not necessarily for broadcast when they occur – or sometimes not for broadcast at all.

Sometimes they acquire the rights simply to prevent anyone else from getting them and it is more cost effective for them to pay the money than to have someone else show the event and get the audience and advertising revenue.

However here they show all sporting events when they happen – a very novel approach compared with Australia.

Cate says I am watching too much sport. I said ‘I am watching the cricket – it is the Ashes’. She said ‘Is that important?’

To which of course there is no response worth uttering.

At least I don’t watch them ski jumping on grass. Now there is a weird concept.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Did I mention that I was naked?

What is left of Cate is on its way to Saudi Arabia. She picked up a stomach bug in Cairo and saw nothing much on the last day except the inside of her bathroom in the hotel (she says it is very nice and now knows exactly how many tiles there are).

She is still not well but is soldiering on.

She has to wear an Abaya and a Niqab so that she doesn’t upset the locals. Apparently the sight of bare flesh of any type sends the religious police into a frenzy and they start flogging people (well….women anyway - these are men with serious issues).

They would be worn to a frazzle at Bondi Beach in summer.

Cate is making very sure that she stays modest and is wearing a suit under her Abaya (and possibly a Leopard skin leotard under that). This won’t be a problem as a cool change has swept through Riyadh and today it is only 36 degrees.

You can read a really astonishing story about uncovered women in Australia,20867,20646437-601,00.html

The world is certainly full of very strange people.

Cate has her own toilet in the office in Riyadh (which is just as well because she will probably be in there quite often).

She realised over the weekend that this was a terrible mistake and will never do anything like it again.

Because our air conditioning doesn’t work in the upstairs studies we have had to buy some portable units. We can only run these by partially opening the windows and running the exhaust hoses out through the gaps.

The gaps are very small and we thought that Sissi could not get out (Ha!).

She escaped on Saturday morning and I leapt out of bed in response to Cate’s shrieks. Sissi was standing on the ledge and I had to try to reach out through the opening (the windows only open partially) and grab her.

I succeeded only in making her move off the ledge and disappear from view.

I then had to open the skylight and crawl out onto the ledge (six floors above street level). Sissi was sitting on the roof a few metres away watching me with some sense of wonder.

Brandishing a tray of cat food I managed to get her close enough that I could grab her by the neck and swing her into the room to Cate.

A couple of neighbours down below on the other side of the street watched this with some interest.

Did I mention that I was naked?

The police did not come so I think I have gotten away on this occasion without a charge for Indecent Exposure.

The gaps have been plugged and we hope that soon we will have a permanent fix. Of course if Sissi continues to eat chicken the way she does there will not be a problem.

If there is ever a Chicken Eating Contest in Wien for cats (I know this is unlikely) Sissi will be a certain medallist.

Merisi sent me some links to photos she took near where we are going on our hiking weekend. She was too modest to put them on the Blog as comments but I have no such qualms. She has nothing to be modest about.

My pep talk had only a temporary effect of the Australians and they were crushed in the last test and lost the Ashes series.

Fortunately there are no Poms here to rub my nose in this humiliating defeat – and the girls at Spar (fortunately) no nothing about cricket.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Well of course - Apple lives in Cupertino!

View of Wien from Kahlenburg

Steph and Annie have rubbed my nose in the blindingly obvious – Cupertino is the home of Apple. Duh!

I have finally hemmed those damned pants. They will not survive detailed analysis but will pass muster viewed from a distance. Sewing (amongst many other things) is not one of my strengths.

This is why some of the Koalas on my quilt look a bit like Macaque Monkeys.

David asked about my knees. When cycling I use a very high cadence to ensure that I do not put any pressure on them at all. On this basis they are holding up quite well and I am able to cycle for about 2 hours each day without too many problems.

We are going hiking in a week or so and (with Cate’s participation) I have booked a hotel in Schladming-Rohrmoos (which is somewhere in the direction of Salzburg). I am giving you the link so that you can see that – from the website – it looks perfectly fine and has all the facilities one could possibly want:

(Well I think I have booked it – but the entire email exchange was I German so I can’t be positive).

So when we find that we are sharing the room with a family of Orang-utans, that there is only a single bed, no hot water, no air conditioning and drug crazed rats eat our underwear during the night you will see that I am not to blame. It does not mention any of these things on the website.

The plan is that we will go for long walks on Saturday and Sunday. This is why I am pushing my training up to a higher level.

Continuing the theme of how creative Austrians are at killing themselves – they must surely dominate the Darwin awards (

I report from my favourite online newspaper the (drum roll) Austrian Times:

Woman dies chasing dog

A 45-year-old was killed when she chased her dog across train tracks and was hit by a locomotive. The woman for Eggenburg in Horn district, Lower Austria, had been walking her pet pooch when he ran off and she was killed instantly as she stumbled on the track and was hit by the speeding train.

Train hits man in wheelchair

A train hit and killed a 31-year-old man in an electric wheelchair on Monday in Mittersill in Salzburg’s Pinzgau. He died instantly as he and the chair were sent flying 80 metres down the track by the impact.

Pensioner falls off roof

A 92-year-old DIY-lover was killed when he fell off a ladder as he tried to build a garden shed. The man had propped the ladder against a wooden board but it moved and he fell and then rolled down a steep embankment in his garden in Thuringia in Vorarlberg's Bludenz district.

Man falls of cliff (there are simply too many of these to report them all)

Rescuers found the body of a man on Saturday who had gone hiking in the dark Friday night and fallen off a 60-metre-high cliff in upper Styria. The Styrian security directorate said today (Mon) Christian Sch., 42, from Wenigzell, had gone hiking with acquaintances on Friday in the upper Mürz valley in Styria.

The Austrians really are going to have to do something about the low birth rate here or they will become extinct.

Here is a nice little exchange of emails to amuse you:

Now for some real action you should put the Creation Museum in Kentucky on your list of places to visit. You can see dinosaurs and children playing together. No – this really happened – although I’m sure some of the smaller children would have been squashed as they would have been very small in comparison with dinosaurs. Still – you can’t have creation without some collateral damage.

David sent me this link to a story in the best online newspaper – The Onion. It is a very amusing comment on the current debate.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Cupertino CA?

Won’t be much of a Blog today. I wrote it but then deleted it accidentally and don’t have the strength to do it all again.

Cate has reported from Cairo that she has the best hotel room she has ever had with many rooms and lashings of wood, brass and marble. Why doesn’t this happen when I am with her?

She can’t see the pyramids but has been assured that they are not far away. She has two days of work and then a chance to see them before she leaves. I have told her to be careful as those bloody things have been there for a long time now and must fall over sooner or later.

At this stage of my life I will be struggling to find another woman who will keep me in a penthouse apartment in Wien.

I am plugging through the masses of online forms for Cate’s tax return. It is excruciating -mainly because I don’t know the answers to many of the questions and don’t know how to find the answers. In fact I don’t even understand most of the questions.

If I wanted to understand this stuff I would have been a Tax Accountant. I will do what I can and send it all off to PWC in Sydney and tell them to do their best.

I have had an ongoing problem that my iPhone calendar doesn’t sync properly with my Outlook Calendar. The entries are the same but the times are always different.

After much farnarkling over many months I did what I should have done in the first place and Googled. I have found that my iPhone calendar is sent on the default time of Cupertino CA. WTF?
If anyone could think why this may be so please let me know.

I suspect a FOX plot but I have a naturally suspicious mind.

There is a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Wien in September. Why Wien? I hear you ask. Jermaine says it is because “Vienna was a very dear place for Michael. And he loved castles”.
Well this is certainly the right place.

You can book on line at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We now have padded bottoms

Cate is on her way to Cairo and I am really glad it’s not me. It’s hot enough here and I can just imagine what it will be like there. (38 I think).

The heat here does very strange things to dog poo. I will not elaborate but I have seen some very weird sights on really hot days. I am waiting to find one that really looks like the Bill O’Reilly (many of them come close) because I will bake it and put it on eBay and make some real money.

I went for two cycle rides yesterday and got too much sun which made me a bit wobbly and I woke up with a migraine. However, I am sure it is doing me good so will struggle on.

There are still many hardy souls out there even in the blazing sun. Walking, jogging, roller blading and cycling. Cycling is the easiest of all these and I have not been tempted to rummage through the basement to find my Roces roller blades.

We bought some real bicycle shorts (ones with padded bottoms) and Cate likes these a lot. I find that mine are a bit hot and probably won’t wear them much in summer. I have a significant amount of padding on my stomach – and none on my bum – but it doesn’t bother me much.

Having tested the Financial Times for some months and after discovering that is really is one of the most boring newspapers on the planet (as well as being very expensive) I have cancelled it and have resubscribed to the International Herald Tribune.

This is the international edition of the New York Times which is my kind of paper and I am looking forward to having it again. They are comfortably left wing and so reinforce my view of the world.

Moni is adapting to the heat by moving as little as possible and spends and extraordinary amount of time lying in the remaining pot plant. Sissi of course can’t help herself and leaps and bounds around all over the place.

Muffin is still improving (albeit at glacial speed) and actually walked past Sissi yesterday without hissing at her (of course she may have been affected by the heat and been too knackered even to raise a hiss).

My next task (I still haven’t hemmed those damn pants) is to get the stuff ready for Cate’s tax return. I am not looking forward to this because there will be endless forms to fill in for the accountants. I will have to make some of the answers up and hate this.

FOX was having an (apparently serious) discussion today entitled ‘what would Jesus think of the Obama health care plan’.

Rastus Ketchup, Bishop of the Community Snake Wrangling Church of Flamboosie Kentucky thought that it was against the laws of God for the government to provide health care and that anyway under the proposed changes he would have died from cancer two years ago as he would not have been able to get treatment in time.

I had to leave the discussion before he got to the part about how President Obama barbecued and ate his (the Bishop’s) pet Chihuahua but will try to tune in later for some more.

FOX is usually the highlight of my day and I laugh a lot at these guys and girls who are have some really serious problems – and probably need help. I am comforted by the fact that (with the sole exception of me) they are watched only by those who agree with them so there is not too much damage. I only do 10 minutes each day otherwise my brain might go wobbly.

Straight after the Rapture FOX will be entirely deserted and I propose to buy it and turn it into a sandpit for Viennese dogs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I don't want to know what's in a Wurstel


Moni had her stitches out and is as happy as a clam.

Sissi is growing like Topsy and eats her own weight in raw chicken every day. She goes quite dippy when I start to chop the chicken and keeps jumping up on the bench. I have had to resort to locking her out of the kitchen so that I don’t accidentally cut her paws off.

Geoffrey and Carmella have been and gone are now in Latvia – or possibly Lithuania.

We went to our favourite Fish Restaurant – Dalmatia and had (what else) the Salt encrusted fish. It was packed – and the service was very slow – but the food was terrific as usual.

On Saturday we savoured once more the truly wonderful Penne pasta with Salami, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Rucola at Da Capo. I am going to try to make this very soon.

Driven out once more by a smoker (Rant follows) – this time with a cigar. Well yes I did ask for a non-smoking table but it was next to the window and – two feet away outside and next to the window was a table of smokers. The man with the cigar was careful not to blow smoke on his partner (lest he offend her) – so he blew it through the window onto us instead.

We went of course to Stift Melk which I must say – even after the 4th visit – is quite sensational. Coming up I have three more visits so I am not sure that I am actually going to go into the Abbey itself and may hover around outside.

I will avoid the restaurant which serves the most poisonous Schinken-Kase-Toast I have ever had. I am sure it was not cheese. It could have been yellow rubber - and the Ham is beyond description but as I did not have my forensic kit with me it remains untested.

Why I ever stray away from the old (and always good favourite) of Sacher Wurstel mit Senf I just don’t understand.

No – I don’t want any locals to write and tell me what they put into Sacher Wurstels. I prefer to remain in the dark on this so that I can continue to eat them.

Cate and I went to Café Schwarzenburg for lunch on Sunday and were the only people inside the restaurant. It is now all non-smoking so this has driven many Austrians out into the sun but even so. I thought it was getting busier but it appears most locals are still away.

The ‘Beach’ cafes along the Donaukanal did start to come to life on the weekend and there is a photograph of one near Uraniastrasse where a bunch of people were doing Yoga on Sunday morning.

At Stift Melk we found where they have put Michael Jackson – sure they have dressed him up as a many centuries old saint in a glass case and call him Friedrich - but we know it’s him. We have a picture which doesn’t do him justice (you cannot use a flash in there) but you can get the flavour.

Cate is off to Egypt tomorrow and the cats and I will be left to our own devices. This is always dangerous.

Continuing my theme of the USA being the craziest country on earth there is a wonderful article by Edward Luce in the weekend Financial Times.

In it he says that a poll last week found that 42% of Republicans believe that President Obama was not born in the USA.

He notes that ‘no amount of contrary evidence will puncture the view that Mr Obama plans to establish “death panels” that which will decide which grannies get to live or die’.

This is because ‘the largest chunk of protestors know little about the reforms and have no intention of rectifying their ignorance’.

They believe all this stuff of course because they are told it by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, FOX, and a wide range of barking mad, lying, wilfully ignorant, far right, tub thumping, xenophobic nutters whose whole lives are bound up in god, guns, abortion and conspiracies.

I wouldn’t give a rat’s bottom about any of this except that at some stage I am probably going to have to live there - and it's scary!

Friday, August 14, 2009

President Obama does not murder Otters

The new Trolley (now named Dolly - thanks Steph) works a treat and I was able to move a few tonnes of kitty litter from Billy up to the apartment without unloading it to get up the stairs.

Of course I had to unload it to get it into the elevator (it’s very small with a very narrow door) but that wasn’t so bad as there were no steps involved.

Next week I will have a trial run with wood. Why am I doing this so early? I hear you ask. Because by the time winter comes I want to have a nice pile of wood in the apartment and in the basement so that every time I put a log on the fire I don’t think “Oh No! I will have to go to Bauhaus to get more wood soon” - while listening to the wind howling outside.

I would rather have the comfort of knowing that there is stacks of wood downstairs and I don’t have to go to Bauhaus in the rain and the sleet and the snow to get frozen blocks of wood.

Billy has suffered his first scrape. The turntable in the garage was not working so I had to farnarkle around to get him out and scraped his side on the wall. Needless to say we are all shattered by this unfortunate development and Rozalin is going to make arrangements to have him mended as quickly as possible.

Also needless to say – Cate was palpably relieved that I was responsible for this first scrape and an immense load has been lifted from her shoulders.

Geoffrey and Carmella arrive today. Neither of them is fond of cats (this is somewhat of an understatement for Carmella whose preferred place for any cat is in a Kitchen Whiz with the dial set to ‘Blend’.) so Sissi will no doubt have a fine old time bothering them.

As it was news day yesterday I will bring you up to date. This took place in the USA but there is an Austrian involved – so it is allowed.

“A Vorarlberg woman was hospitalised after a pair of otters launched a savage attack on her as she swam in a lake in America.The 51-year-old from Altach, who is married to an American, was bitten eight times in both legs by the two otters while swimming in Lake Owen in Wisconsin while on holiday.The Duluth News Tribune newspaper has reported the woman, 51, had been swimming in the lake for 14 years without ever having seen an otter before she was attacked.She said the animals jumped out of the water and started biting her as she got out of the lake".

Well it certainly doesn’t look happy.

Maybe it had just watched FOX news and discovered that President Obama is planning on raising taxes, murdering all the newly born children of Republican voters, and euthanizing everyone over 65 - and Otters (to save money on health care).

I am sure they are wrong about that – I don’t think President Obama would murder an Otter.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ben will need a Burqa

Well I finally caught up with my ironing yesterday – but I still haven’t hemmed those damned pants.

I have been searching for a ‘Stair Climbing Hand Truck’ (SCHT) which is known by various names throughout the universe.

I need this because when I buy wood (and the season is approaching) it is a enormous task (because of the stairs involved) to move it from the garage to the basement or to the apartment.

I quote from an earlier blog to illustrate the problem:

“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.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 I hear you ask? Because they are too heavy – I can only take two at a time up the stairs.”

So having a SCHT will enable me to move wood up or down stairs without having to unload it and reload it. At least that is the theory – but as my overall enfeeblement increases with age I am struggling to pick up my toothbrush let alone packets of wood and may have to look for one (toothbrush) made out of Kevlar – but I hope this SCHT will get me through this winter season.

I found one at Bauhaus and after serious negotiations with the man there was able to take it home. He had no idea what I wanted and I still don’t know the name of the thing I bought. I tried using the name that was on the label and this meant nothing to him so I reverted to my old favourite – Charades. After we determined that I did not want to buy a pram I led him outside to where a big pile of SCHTs were chained up (they are clearly dangerous).

There was a minor problem when I could not work out (again) how to put the back seats of Billy down so that I could get the SCHT in there.

I have had this problem before (and had forgotten the solution) and it is a difficult one to resolve in situ because the diagram in the Mercedes handbook bears no resemblance to reality. The release catches are so well hidden that it requires exceptional observational powers to find them.

Unfortunately I do not possess powers of this type so I spent some time at Bauhaus with my head in the Boot (Trunk for American readers).

I know – you think that the release catches for the back seats should be in the car – near the seats. Not so – this is a German car and they do things differently. They are masters in camouflage.

Perhaps the instructions for the Mercedes Engineers were ‘we don’t like these release catches much – make them invisible’. They have succeeded admirably.

For many years I have had trouble with my knees and – with all the bike riding – they are on the way out. To the extent that I have trouble sometimes walking up steps. It is time to see a Knee Doctor and Rozalin is sourcing one for me.

This will be a problem as I will have to be on crutches for a while and this will make it noisy and difficult for me to get up and down stairs to Cate’s study to deliver coffee, wine and the other essentials of life. Indeed – how do I use crutches and carry a cup of coffee. I will need a cunning device that enables me to carry things without using my hands. I will email Mercedes Benz immediately.

I may ask Cate if I can use some of the housekeeping money to put carpet on the stairs so that my clumping does not disturb her while she is doing whatever it is she does in there.

I try not to go in there too often (other than to make deliveries) as it is a bit scary. She brings big piles of paper home from work and places them all over her desk. Some of them are now so tall the cats can’t see over them.

I don’t know why she does this and assume she doesn’t have any filing cabinets at work. The piles never move – they are just added to. I get Nadia Poponova to dust them occasionally but soon she is going to need a stepladder to reach the top of some of the piles.

However, they do provide a home to countless small creatures so are doing some good.

Ben is back. Remember he was left behind in the Far East. He has spent the last month or so upside down in a plastic bag but has now been returned to his rightful place.

He is off again next week as Cate is going somewhere (perhaps Egypt?) And this will be his first trip there. He is also scheduled for a trip to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries so I have to go looking for a very small Burqa.
(Well the MEs aren’t going to know that he is a boy – there is no visible evidence of this) and without dangly bits they will assume he is a girl and therefore must be hidden from view.

I may make one of out Cate’s pants. This will solve the hemming problem.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

just had a caramel cream frappachino DELISHHH!!!

Clearly the world (or at least the North American part) has gone completely insane. Starbucks has a Facebook site and has 3,768,621 Fans. Excuse me?

Recent comments include:

‘just had a caramel cream frappachino DELISHHH!!!’

‘Grande Iced Caramel Machiatto extra whip n extra caramel MMMMMM’


Yes and “Cinnabon” has 241,739 fans – but they don’t appear to leave comments. Perhaps the encounter leaves most of them talking into the big white telephone.

Clearly the new world is passing me by. It would NEVER enter my head to join the Facebook page for, say, Hugo Boss just because I own a pair of his underpants.

On the quest to provide you with a balanced view of the world and a well rounded education I provide you with another site for your illumination and edification.


Just read the Austrian Times and had to tell you about this:

"Traffic in Vienna’s inner city came to a halt yesterday (Mon) afternoon after a Fiaker or horse carriage lost a wheel.Strauchgasse became clogged with cars as it took the driver half an hour to repair the wheel.The carriage was not transporting anyone at the time, and the driver was uninjured.
Fiakers are one of Vienna’s most-popular tourist attraction and a recent poll by Vienna psychologist Cornelia Ehmayer revealed that one fifth of Vienna residents considered fiakers to be a characteristic part of the city".

Unfortunately Cornelia is silent on what the other four fifths think. (I for one am keen to know). The AT has helpfully supplied a photo of a Fiaker so that we can all be sure what we are talking about.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What to do when you have error 99

Sissi likes watching the golf – and was very disappointed to see Padraig fall in a heap at the 16th Green.

Sissi also like to be outside at sunset and ponders the meaning of life while this is taking place.

When we picked Moni up from the Vet and she was wearing one of those weird cone thingies so that she could not lick her stitches.

Nor could she do anything else useful – like eating or drinking. She was very distressed and walked backwards around the house for an hour or so whimpering and banging her head against the wall.

I imagine it was a lot like the Bush White House.

Anyway – after consultation with Melissa we took the cone off to see what would happen. Moni settled down and – apart from few exploratory licks – did not overly bother the patch on her tummy which covered her stitches.

I took her back on Friday and the vet said that she was doing very well – and was surprised that she was without cone.

Sissi of course never gave her a moments peace and within 24 hours they were chasing each other all over the house and rolling around and biting each other. Moni seems to be coping with this but I a keeping a close eye on her.

Sissi has a very bad habit of prowling around the bed in the morning looking for exposed toes. When she finds one it is a most unhappy experience for those with toes. Sissi seems to enjoy it immensely.

Cate is back after swanning about in Denmark and Sweden and is remarkably refreshed. After a bike ride on Sunday she retired to the bedroom and watched back to back episodes of Desperate Housewives but I am trying to convince myself that she is not depressed but just can’t face work again.

She was not in fact sailing and was on a Motor Boat. She knows this is so because there were no sails and no one was required to row. Gwenyth’s clothes turned up so there was no need for her to sew a new set out of old sails which is just as well because there weren’t any.

Rozalin is also back and this is a relief because I now have someone to exchange emails with during the day and ask questions about the very many things I do not know.

Remember the Barbecue I bought months ago and had to disassemble to get into the apartment. We christened it on Sunday and had out first barbecue of the summer. A bit late for sure but as we (and Cate in particular) are rarely here it is not surprising.

The Canon 500D stopped working so I geared myself up to take it in for a service. However, as it was giving me an error message with a number (99) - I decided to have a search on the Internet to see what I could find.

The solution provided by someone who had encountered the same problem is as follows:

“The guy at Canon tech support listened and then told me that the lens contacts were dirty and to get a pencil with an eraser on the end, just a regular old pencil with a red rubber eraser. Detach the lens from the camera, hold it so that the lens’ gold contacts are pointing down and lightly erase their exposed surface, cleaning them of any hand oil that might have gotten on them.

After a bit of farnarkling it worked – and has saved me a trip to Canon (and no doubt a large number of Euros).

My next problem is to find bags for our vacuum cleaner – which is a Wertheim and was originally a German brand but is now made all over the place only for (as far as I can see) one chain of stores in Australian. It is not brand sold in Europe and therefore its bags are not sold in Europe - and I can’t find a ‘Unibag’ solution anywhere either.

Stop Press: This problem has just been solved. Annie and Michael who arrive on 1 September are bringing bags.

Actually that was not my most difficult problem. That one is that some stitching has come undone on one of the leather lounges and I just can’t work out how to disassemble the lounge to get inside it to put in a few stitches. Not much is required and if I get at it I could fix it in 5 minutes.

(Which reminds me – I STILL have not hemmed a pair of Cate’s pants that she asked me to do months ago).

Well – I can see how to do the lounge but I know exactly what will happen if I disassemble it – I will not be able to reassemble it and it will make us all unhappy.

This is of course my fault because – according to Cate – I ‘flop’ on the lounge rather than sit on it. You don’t have to search too far in this place to find a culprit for any crime or misdemeanour. My prints are everywhere. Even my Bum prints apparently.

I had to chop down the dead tree and dispose of it. After this I spent some time trimming and shaping the other tree which is (or was) in pretty good shape. When I had finished Sissi sprang from quite a distance and hurled herself up to the top of the tree, She then proceeded to tear it to pieces and it now looks like a Christmas Tree decorated by the Taliban.

I am reluctant to get more trees before winter because I simply cannot see them surviving both the cold and the relentless attacks by Sissi. Cate says this is alright as long as I move the remaining tree to the small terrace.

She has not explained to me how I move a tree and pot that weigh approximately as much as Stephansdom and I don’t imagine she has any plans to help me. I will see if I can rig up a sled and harness for the cats.

So you can see the problems I have and how I fill my days with endless tasks – some of them quite difficult.

My cunning ploy to wake the Australian Team and Ricky Ponting from their torpor had the desired effect and they leapt into action to slaughter the English in the 4th Test. The English now have to win the last Test to win the Ashes.

Ricky has not stopped chewing (except when he is batting) but I no longer care. If he wins the last test he can clip his toenails at Silly Mid On while sunbaking naked.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Where is Ricky's mother?

The trip to Melk Abbey was a great success (apart from a rather unsatisfactory trip to the restaurant where Melissa ended up with a plate of meat and I got gravy with my Wurstel - rather than Senf – but I did ask for Saft so cannot complain).

This is what happens when you don’t have a good command of the German language – you get sausages in a bowl of gravy.

Following on from Annabella’s comments, there are two glass cases in the Abbey Kirche - each containing the bones of ‘Catacomb Saints’. Their names are not known but they have been called ‘Friedrich’ and ‘Clemens’. The bones were presented to the church by Maria Theresia in 1762.

I am not sure how they got to be saints but they probably did some really good stuff a long time ago. It was apparently much easier to become a saint then and these days all sorts of qualifications are required - including proof of miracles.

These too are harder to come by as some cynical folks (like me) just don’t believe a lot of stuff that is tossed about as miraculous.

Now – if there was a real miracle (such as smoking being banned in restaurants in Austria) then I may change my tune – but anyway you are sure sick of me banging on about that!

The skeletons are very fancily dressed. They remind me of some of the gear that Michael Jackson wore. Even though they are many hundreds of years old they still look better than Michael did even on a good day (Oh you miserable uncharitable mean spirited sod!)

If you go there you must see these guys.

We went to Benko which is an award winning Japanese restaurant in Ungargasse – and were under whelmed to a substantial degree. My Tempura took forever to arrive and was very sparse indeed (two types of vegetables and what appeared to be a dead mouse).

Melissa’s Salmon did not have ginger with it – and this shows a lack of panache and overall attention to detail. Melissa ate the dead mouse but even so I have not been well all day with a migraine and a general feeling of malaise.

However – we are not prepared to write them off on the basis of one visit and will see them again next time Melissa is here.

It’s news day and I report from (what else) the Austrian Times

“An Austrian man has told how he had to beat off a 100-kilo catfish after it reared up out of a lake and tried to eat him.The 36-year-old from Ternberg in Steyr-Land district, Upper Austria, had been fishing with pals on a lake near Györ in western Hungary when he hooked the giant fish yesterday (Tues) and, after two hours of it pulling the boat around, tried to haul it in, the Vienna newspaper Kronen Zeitung reported.But he claimed that when he did the fish jumped on him and bit him on the leg before hauling him into the three metre deep water.He said he managed to force the fish, which he said seemed to be trying to eat him, away by kicking and punching it.It then freed itself from the hook and swam off”

Look I am sure the fish was not trying to eat him – but it was probably not all that happy after hauling him and his boat around for two hours.

And anyway – do fish have teeth? Can they bite?

I am not sure a fish – even one weighing 100 pounds – can eat a person unless it is able to chew.

To eat him whole the fish would need to weigh a Tonne and have jaws as tough as Ricky Ponting.

Incidentally – not that I am saying that I told you so – but I did. The Australian cricket team is just not up to the task and Ricky is not providing good leadership. And quite understandably. I don’t know how anyone could chew gum with the intensity and ferocity that he does and still focus on playing cricket.

His jaws must be completely knackered by the end of the day and have to be put in splints. He probably lives on liquids – probably beer – he certainly wouldn’t be able to chew food. Maybe this is why he is not thinking straight – not enough solid food.

Doesn’t anyone tell him what it looks like to chew gum with your mouth open. Where is his mother?

Incidentally – we must be heading towards the skiing season. In the last few days no less than four Austrians have died falling off mountains in various parts of Austria. This is just practice for the carnage which will occur as soon as the snow starts.

This does not include the 85 year old Burgenland pensioner who fell into his empty swimming pool. Well – if you are going to leave your swimming pool empty in the middle of summer you must accept the consequences.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not a bad result for a handful of feathers

Well of course I didn’t actually sacrifice a duck. I threw some feathers in the air and made loud quacking noises.

This seems to have had some effect as I can now get SMS messages from my bank in Australia – so I can make payments and transfer money.

I don’t have full functionality and don’t appear to be able to receive all SMS messages – but it’s not a bad result for a handful of feathers.

Melissa and I did not go to Melk because of the inclement weather. I don’t want her to see the Wachau Valley in the rain as she will not get the full appreciation of all the marvellous wine things that happen there.

So we went to the Kunst Historiches Museum and saw our old favourites including the Hippo with the Jackhammer and the paintings with cherubs.

Notwithstanding the range and quality of paintings in the KHM – one of my very favourite pictures is "The feast of the bean king." by Jacob Jordaens. It is a beautiful picture with fabulous characters and – an essential ingredient to any top ranked painting – a cat.

(Importantly – it contains no Cherubs which were exceedingly popular at the time and are plastered all over a number of paintings at KHM).

Perhaps it reminds me of some of our more notable knees ups at places like Ein Wiener Salon (and Felix and Sven do have a dog that sleeps in the kitchen while Sven steps around it to cook).

Moni had to fast to prepare for her operation and it was impossible to isolate her - so I put all the food away and all the cats fasted together. This did not seem to make Muffin any unhappier than usual.
She is permanently grouchy – perhaps because Moni is perpetually doing her Paris Hilton impression and crawling around on her belly with her bum in the air – making trilling noises.

Muffin is growling at Moni and – in between trills – Moni is growling and hissing at Sissi. I will be very glad to get this thing done.

I just received my statement from the Roads and Traffic Authority in NSW. When we were in Sydney we had to use the Harbour Tunnel and there is no cash toll booth. So after the trip I had to ring the RTA, open an account and give them my details so that could charge our credit card. Which they duly did. $3.75 for the trip and $3.30 for the administration charge.

Vintage NSW Government.

Moni is now at the vet and Melissa and I are off to Melk.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sissi wants to be a Lumberjack

Our voyage of discovery to the Michaelergruft was a complete failure. I thought originally that I was going to Stephansplatz (which I can just find) but Melissa pointed out that we needed to go to Michaelerkirche (which is of course where the Michaelergruft would be - wouldn't it!).

I then got lost going to Michaelerplatz (which I always do unless I go from the Ring) and we arrived there barely on time – to discover that the tours are done in the German language (without pictures) so there was not much point in our going in.
It always astonishes me that I can get so lost so often in Bezirk 1.

So we went on to our next objective which was the Kunst Historiches Museum which (it being Monday) was of course closed. I am not sure how many times I need to be caught before I understand that most Museums don’t open on Mondays.

Melissa should also know better as she comes from Paris.

However - the Sacher-Wurstel and sandwiches at Café Schwarzenburg were delicious and revived our spirits.

Wien is starting to come to life again and there were many more people around today. The ducks are also out in force and there are more ducks in Stadtpark than I have ever seen before. They were all bobbing about discussing their holidays.

Monica went to the vet today for a check-up prior to being booked in on Wednesday to be (ahem) ‘neutered’.

She has been very – how shall we say it – edgy for a while now and we think (Melissa and I) that this is the cause of some of the friction between Moni and Muffin.

I haven’t discussed this with Moni but I am sure that she doesn’t want to have any more kittens. I saw her six weeks after she had Sissi and Balu and the other three and by then she was well past thinking that motherhood was a good idea.

I hope that the minor surgery will settle her down and that there will be less hissing and snarling around here.

Moni will be in and out the same day so there is no need to send flowers.

I spent an hour or so talking to an Indian Gentleman about my Australian 3 Handy. It worked fine in Australia but since we arrived home it cannot receive telephone calls or SMS messages. I can send these but cannot receive them.

Well we tried everything including a factory settings reset but to no avail.

He eventually lost interest (and who can blame him) and told me to get someone in Australia to call me three times at five minute intervals and then to sacrifice a goat on the terrace.

Apparently the three calls (which of course I cannot receive) will help 3 identify the problem.

The goat is an alternative solution which 3 thinks has as much chance of working as anything else.

I told him it would be impossible to get a goat into the elevator so he said a duck would do.

I have no confidence in either strategy and expect that this problem will endure for some time until the cosmic forces align and someone in 3 gets lucky with a wild guess about what the problem may be.

Melissa and I found a proper Japanese restaurant and had a delicious (and cheap) meal. It was one of those places which has pictures of meals out the front and these should usually be avoided - but was really very good.

We are off the Melk Abbey – to which I have been so many times that I could give guided tours. But Melissa hasn’t seen it and it is certainly a must see as the finest example of a working Abbey that I have seen in my travels.

It is of course a church so I will have an allergic reaction when I see bits of the cross and the bones of saints but I will take a peg to bite on.

We will drive back through the Wachau Valley and I may stop and suck a few Gruner Veltliner grapes.

Jiminy Cricket it's hot here

Jiminy Cricket it’s hot here at the moment.

Stadtpark is empty as it is too hot for the locals to lie on the grass. Even the ducks are having a hard time. I have been going down there and throwing ice at them.

We had a wonderful meal at Fabios for Gwenyth’s Birthday and some of the best wine we have had in Austria. For the record it was a Prager Gruner Veltliner Smaragd and it was sensational.

It was the noisiest meal I have ever had as half a block away in the street there was a group of people singing (very loudly and very badly) music from the 70s and 80s and this went on for the entire time that we were there.

We met Fabio – who had just been sailing in New Zealand - and he gave me his card and told me to contact him if we needed anything. He would not have done this if he knew anything about me at all.

The chain smokers at the table next to us eventually drove us out – but apart from the noise and the smoke - the meal was a fitting celebration.

During the meal I exchanged a few words with two American women sitting next to us and – one thing leading to another – we invited them back home for a nightcap.

One of them turned out to be a world famous and Grammy Award winning concert pianist (and writer). ‘Concert Pianists’ is not a category which I would choose in a quiz show so I knew nothing about her at all - but she is going to send me an autographed copy of her book.

I have no idea what time we got to bed but it was very quiet around here on Saturday morning and the planned visit to Schönbrunn did not happen.

Melissa and I went to the Wien Kriminalmuseum and which was highly entertaining and made us very glad we did not live in Wien in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Austrians used a guillotine without a blade which seems like a very odd idea indeed. The block of wood rested on the victim’s neck and the executioner hit it with a club until his/her head fell off. I imagine this took some time and would not have been a happy experience.

All the descriptions were in German but we got the idea from the very graphic pictures and photos. It was our idea of a morning well spent.

We went to Café Schwarzenburg for lunch and then tried Akakiko in Landstrasser-Hauptstrasse for dinner.

This is a Japanese restaurant chain but it is Thai Wochen so we decided to have Thai dishes - and they were excellent. Cate won’t go to Akakiko on the basis that it is a chain of restaurants and therefore cannot be any good at all.

My view is that if it is chain of restaurants – and is successful in Wien – it must be because they serve good food. I am right.

It has the added advantage of being non smoking and that is always an attractive feature simply because smoke gives me a headache at best and a migraine at worst.

Cate and Gwenyth left at 6:00 on Sunday morning for Copenhagen and then Aarhus where they are going sailing. I know it was 6:00 because I was the Bunny who drove them to the airport.

I have heard from Gwenyth that her bag was lost in transit so she is now wearing my trousers. This has happened because Cate stole my two pairs of long shorts for the trip and is now sharing them with Gwenyth.

Gwenyth is one of the most competent people I know so she will no doubt sew herself a new wardrobe of out old sails before the week is out. I am sure she will also find a plank from which she can carve herself clogs using her Swiss Army Knife.

Melissa and I have a big week planned. We went to the main cemetery in Simmering on Friday and there are definitely no cats there so we shall widen our horizons. There must surely be cemetery cats somewhere in Wien.