Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I get distracted by some of the sights

On Wednesday I got up at 4:30 AM to collect the Hendersons from the airport. This should have been a simple exercise but as usual when I have to get up early – I could not get to sleep. When I eventually did at about 2:30 AM Muffin decided to give an impromptu Morris Dancing performance together with a few circuits of the bed.

I emerged from the nest at 4:30 unwilling to face the day – but managed to collect John and Christine without drama. The only coffee shop open at the airport was the McCafé – but it was not bad at all. It is amazing how few people are in Wien airport at 5:30 AM but it seems that is when the flights start arriving.

On Tuesday I had to go to Schleifmuhlgasse to get some coffee from Alt Wien and then to Wein and Co in Jasomirgottstrasse. The town was heaving with locals and tourist – basking in the sun. The air was filled with the smell of spring and the smoke from millions of cigarettes. Today it was cold and wet and everyone had vanished indoors - and I wore a coat, beanie and gloves.

I nearly killed myself and another cyclist in a head on collision. I was tootling along in a daydream and suddenly saw another cyclist heading towards me at high speed. I instinctively moved to the left – oops - wrong way. He screamed and we both swerved – missing death by inches. Why did I do that? I have been here now for 18 months and know I must be on the right.

Perhaps I get distracted by some of the sights. In Am Heumarkt yesterday I saw a mother with a toddler. She was pushing a pram with (one assumes) a baby in it, was smoking a cigarette and had a mobile phone scrunched up to her ear with her shoulder. It was quite a sight.

In Beatrixgasse a woman was putting her small dog in her car. Before doing so she wiped its bum with a tissue and dropped the tissue on the footpath – my footpath.

In Beatrixgasse a man stopped while his large dog pissed up against the door of an apartment block – my apartment block.

Why do people assume the right to have their animals piss and defecate on public footpaths? What makes them think this is civilized behaviour?

In the Post in Marokkanergasse to collect a parcel. The man asked me to sign for the parcel – before he went to get it. I don’t think about what would happen if I refused to sign before I got the parcel – I know what the result would be – no parcel.

On the counter in the post there is a display case in which Hannah Montana pens are for sale. Disney’s reach is global. It’s not her fault that she is the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus but it doesn’t help my digestion.

Cate is in Jakarta. She gets back on Friday morning and then we go to Tuscany. I won’t have to worry about whether or not I can get an Internet connection – there is no Internet. There will not be a Blog for a week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The crazies are taking over!

World War II Memorial - Red Square

Europeans generally don’t understand Americans and think that America is a strange country full of very strange people. There are some good reasons for the way they think.

I have just finished reading a book called ‘Wingnuts’ by John Avlon of the Daily Beast. This is a fascinating book about the fringe dwellers on both the left and the right in the USA and the crazy worlds they inhabit.

He talks about Bush Derangement Syndrome and Obama Derangement Syndrome and about the ‘Truthers’ (The 9/11 attacks were carried out by the USA) and the ‘Birthers’ (President Obama was not born in the USA).

He quoted a few figures in there about what Republicans believe and this prompted a Harris Poll which confirmed some really scary things about Republicans:

“Harris poll reveals Republican attitudes about Obama: Two-thirds think he's a socialist, 57 percent a Muslim—and 24 percent say "he may be the Antichrist."

To anyone who thinks the end of the health-care vote means a return to civility, wake up.

Obama Derangement Syndrome—pathological hatred of the president posing as patriotism—has infected the Republican Party. Here's new data to prove it:

• 67 percent of Republicans (and 40 percent of Americans overall) believe that Obama is a socialist.

• 57 percent of Republicans (32 percent overall) believe that Obama is a Muslim

• 45 percent of Republicans (25 percent overall) agree with the Birthers in their belief that Obama was "not born in the United States and so is not eligible to be president"

• 38 percent of Republicans (20 percent overall) say that Obama is "doing many of the things that Hitler did"

• Scariest of all, 24 percent of Republicans (14 percent overall) say that Obama "may be the Antichrist."

You can read the full story at the Daily Beast and the Harris Poll details have been published across the media.

See, Europeans see this and scratch their heads and say 'why would anyone think that President Obama was not born in the USA. You cannot BE President unless you are born in the USA'

(Much the the dismay of Austrians who would like Arnold Schwarzenegger to be President).

Europeans generally believe that something should make sense if it is to be believed (although they do of course, like most others, make an exception for religion).

Now I think all this stuff is amazing, scary - and immensely entertaining - but if I was an American I would be seriously worried about where the country is going.

I know only sane and intelligent Americans read my Blog and I think you had better start doing something about this stuff or it will be curtains for all of us.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hooga Hooga Hooga Chakka!

Cate got back from Geneva on Friday and went to Seoul on Saturday. As a special treat on Friday night I took her to Novelli in Braunerstrasse. This was our second time there and it is now probably our favorite restaurant. We of course just adore Ein Weiner Salon but the smoke is a killer. I have been promising for some time to do a list of restaurants with my own ratings but just have not had the time.

Kiew Zhin has been taking us to a few new places – mainly Asian. Notwithstanding her Asian ancestry Kiew actually has dual citizenship as her father is – and she was born in – Sweden. She is the only tall blonde Asian woman I have ever seen. She is still a reserve in the Swedish Air Force but is about to resign her commission. This is good news for us because she is an expert at finding really goo Asian places in the Bezirks of Wien.

On Sunday I set of for my daily bike ride and discovered that I had a flat tire. Cunningly. I keep a spare in the tool kit under the saddle so then undertook what turned out to be an excruciating process changing the tubes. This is something I have not done for more than 50 years and apparently it’s not like riding a bicycle because I could not remember how to do it.

It is much easier than it used to be to change a back wheel. I remember this as an excruciating process to move the gears around and get things fitted. Now one just undoes a bolt and pulls the wheel out. And when you out it back it goes where it is supposed to. Amazing! Now I know how in bike races the mechanic can jump out of the car with a wheel and change it in less than 10 seconds.

I eventually got there – to find that the spare also had a puncture. There was probably something inside the tire itself – I couldn’t find it but I do remember that tubes are a bit finicky about things like that. When I finished I looked like a Grease Monkey and still have grease in my ears.

So it was off to Star Bikes today to get more tubes – and I got two new ‘touring’ tires for my bike because of the amount of travel I am doing. these have a bit more tread than the ‘city’ tires which were fitted originally.

I apparently got everything back in the right place because I rode 32 kilometers on Monday and nothing fell off. I dread something going wrong at the halfway mark because it is a long walk home.

In case you do not keep up with these things – you will be pleased to know that Iggy Pop was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s about time too.

How long will it take ‘The Hoff’ to get there. With work like this why are they waiting? (Thanks lenny)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's not our fault John

Novodevichy Convent Moscow

Sissi slept in this morning and did not attack me until 4:45 AM. At that time she seized my foot – through the Doona – and sank her teeth into my big toe. She was startled by my shriek and ran from the room. I don’t know why – she should be getting used to it by now.

Cate will be back tomorrow night and will take some pressure off me – but she is only here for a night and then goes to Korea and Indonesia. I am thinking of buying the legs of a clothing store dummy to see if I can fool Sissi into biting something inanimate. But I imagine if there is no shriek she will move onto something that does shriek.

The answer to your question is that I cannot shut her out because as soon as the bedroom door is shut Muffin has to go out – and then back in – and then back out - etc. Cat owners know what cats are like with closed doors.

I have fixed the bedroom windows so that they open enough to let air in but not enough to let cats out. The sophisticated apparatus used to achieve this miracle of engineering was the judicious use of a lead pencil cut into small chunks. Perfect solution to a difficult engineering problem.

In an expanded response to Matthew’s comment - I don’t have a € key because I have a keyboard bought in Australia – but I type the € symbol by typing Alt+0128. I can type £ by using Alt+0163 and a whole bunch of other special symbols – including Umlauts which are very popular here. The effect of an Umlaut is to take a perfectly good vowel and make it sound as though you are saying it while sucking a lemon.

Here is a list of special characters one can type using these codes. My question to Matthew is – will these work on his keyboard?

Today I had the toughest ride into the strongest wind I have so far experienced. I just hate it when I am going into the teeth of a gale because cyclists going the other way sail past without any difficulties and I am puffing and panting along in a very low gear.

I always try to go into the wind first so that I can sail home with it behind me – except in Wien I often find that – even though my circuit is a large triangle – I often have headwinds most of the way.

It was so tough I very nearly gave up but summoned up some inner strength and thought tough thoughts – mainly about Republicans and Tea Baggers - so I did my 30 kilometers through gritted teeth - but was knackered at the end of it.

Today's LOL moment comes from one of our favorites - Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

The Republicans really took the loss of the last election very badly – and are not responding well to the passing of the Health Care Bill. It passed with NO votes from the Party of NO. (PoN). There seems to be a misunderstanding here. After the election shouldn't the party that won get to enact at least some of the legislation it promised during the election campaign?

Senator John McCain said that the Democrats would get no further cooperation from the Republicans this year. Hmmm….as opposed to NO cooperation at all to date with anything at all. (He meant to say – until there is a Republican President – at which time they will start banging on about consensus and cooperation and non-Partisan politics).

That’s fabulous Senator – from the man who could have been President. This augurs well for the nation building that will need to take place over the next few years and for the work that needs to be done to dig the country out of the steaming pile of dung that it is in at the moment. What does this mean for America Senator?

I’m sorry – I didn’t catch that can you repeat it please – yes I’ve got it now

‘The country can go fuck itself!’

Thank you so much Senator we look forward to more of your constructive input in the future. PS: It’s not OUR fault that you picked Ditzy Sarah as your running mate.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Imagine a €10 lunch in Vienna!

Saint Basil's Cathedral - Red Square

There is something about Sissi and 4.00 AM. We have a Doona on our bed which of course hangs over the sides. This means that cats could – if we facilitated the process – get underneath the Doona and do untold damage to our bodily extremities.

To overcome this particular problem – as we have a small and mischievous cat with VERY sharp claws – I throw another sheet over the Doona and tuck it in at the sides. This ensures that we get no unwelcome visitors – usually.

Last night I did not tuck the sheet in properly and at 4:00 this morning I had a nightmare that I was swimming in the surf at Manly beach and had been grabbed by a Shark. I woke up screaming and had to prise Sissi off my left foot.

I have a bad allergic reaction to cat bites and scratches so had to get up, scrub my foot with soap and a brush and apply anti-itching cream. It still gave me problems for an hour or so but instead of my usual CNN I watched some German ladies playing ‘spin the bottle’ and taking their clothes off. (I haven't seen the baked bean women for months).

The problem is that – as we now cannot open the windows at night – and we have to tie a sheet over the Doona – it is like sleeping in a fan-forced oven. I am not sure what to do about this but am working on it.

A week or so ago we went to the Liechtenstein Museum for the 11.00 concert on Sunday followed by a look at the Museum and then lunch. This is the only way you can see the main part of the Museum on Sunday – if you just happen to be a tourist who rocks up they tell you to either participate in the extravaganza or bugger off.

Anyway – we had found this out during our first visit the previous week so booked for the extravaganza. The total cost for the museum, concert and lunch was €30 per person - which gave us a clue in advance as to what we could expect for lunch. The concert was really quite good although we were disappointed with the lack of commitment by the Cellist.

She participated in the first piece by Schubert ‘String Trio in B-flat Major, D.471 Fragment’ which lasted 12 minutes - and then dumped the Cello and vanished. Jana on the Violin and Thomas on the Viola were left to their own devices – but did a remarkable job with Mozart ‘Duet for Violin and Viola in B-flat Major, KV.424’. (I admit there is not much scope for a Cellist in a duet for Violin and Viola).

She reappeared after her Mittagspause and did cracking job with the last piece which was by a composer with whom I was not familiar. I must say that a Mittagspause after 12 Minutes work is very Austrian.

Lunch was as anticipated. I estimate that the cost allocation for lunch was €10 and you can imagine what a €10 lunch in Wien looks like. My review? ‘It was edible’. 'I ate it'. We did not see the really unhappy guard in the Museum - the one who had terrorised us the previous week. She might have been out the back tearing the wings off pigeons and feeding the carcasses to her Rottweiler.

I rabbited on last week about bike riding in Sydney and the problems cyclists have with aggressive motorists – and this gives me today’s LOL moment. During the kerfuffle about bike riding our NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said that she had been riding to work for a year and had never had any problems at all.

It turns out that the reason Kristina has never had any problems is that she has a police escort riding with her. Sergeant Paul rides alongside her and waves the traffic away if it gets too close. I can understand how she forgot to mention this previously - who would notice a policeman riding alongside them to work every day?

The things that politicians say and do never cease to amaze me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spare me from exploring cats

Novodevichy Convent

We visited the Novodevichy Cemetery where many famous people are buried. Unfortunately we did not have a plan in English and as all the tombstones are in Russian we could not really identify anyone at all. But it is an astonishing place as the Russians seem to go in for having busts and statues of the dearly departed and these are most effective.

Last night I realised at about midnight that Monika was not sitting on or in front of my PC keyboard where she spends an extraordinary amount of time – so I went looking for her. I scoured the house from top to bottom twice – no Monika.

I went out into the stairwell and started walking down the stairs. On level five I found a very cold and frightened Monika – who was very pleased to see me indeed. The scratch marks in my back and arms will heal with time.

She had been outside since about 5:30 when I got back from doing some shopping – and she must have darted out the door when I came in. She is certainly much braver that she used to be – and I hope this experience slows her down a bit.

Some of our windows open just a couple of inches and I leave our bedroom ones open at night because it is always so hot in the bedroom – no idea why – always has been. This morning at 4:00 AM I awoke to the sound of Sissi worming her way out onto the window sill – six floors above street level. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it – she is a tub on legs.

I had to lie awake watching CNN until about 5:30 AM when I could coax her to the kitchen window on the other side of the apartment and drag her inside by the scruff of the neck. No more open windows in the bedroom.

I had my first real bike ride of the season today and cycled my usual 30 kilometer circuit along the Donaukanal and the Donauinsel. It was still a bit cold but was absolutely wonderful. There were only a very few cyclists, walkers and roller bladers so it was quite peaceful. Just me – beetling along communing with nature.

Cate has stayed in Moscow for a couple of days and goes to Geneva on Wednesday. She will be home on Friday but leaves again on Saturday for Seoul and Jakarta. She gets back the following Friday morning – and we leave the same morning for Tuscany with the Hendos from Australia.

I just don’t know how she does it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yep - it's FUBAR

The view from our hotel room at one of the Seven Sisters

I have crossed Moscow off the list of places in which it would be nice to live. My first impressions from my very brief trip last December have been confirmed. Moscow – and probably all of Russia – is FUBAR.

Our hotel was in what we thought was a vast wasteland of abandoned apartment buildings and condemned factories. This was a bit odd we thought – it is the Crowne Plaza and is supposed to be a four star hotel. But we discovered later that the apartment blocks were not abandoned and were in fact swarming with life. We saw no life in the factories but perhaps the power had been cut off and they were waiting for the bill to be paid. More likely they used to make something that no one wants any more.

We also discovered that the area in which we resided is not unique and that most of Moscow seems to have been recently carpet-bombed and had the footpaths torn up by some type of heavy machinery.

One of the travel guides we read said that Moscow was the most expensive, most unfriendly and most corrupt city on the planet. I think this is a bit harsh. Sure some things are really expensive – and the ‘tourist price’ is a killer with some things – but the Muscovites we encountered were mostly quite friendly.

It is certainly not geared towards tourism. Things are tough to find as there is almost no signage in English and the Museums when we found them had almost no English explanations of what we were looking at – but we could get audio guides in English.

The booths where one pays money appear to have been designed by the same people who designed the Apotheke windows in Vienna. To buy tickets one has to bend double (or kneel) and shout through a tiny window at the ancient woman (It is always an ancient woman) seated inside. But it was all worth it as we saw some fabulous stuff in the Kremlin museums and churches – and you know how much I love churches!

Cate was desperate to see Lenin’s mummified corpse but refused to wait in line in the rain. I told her she could just tune into Larry King Live on CNN when we got home and get the same sort of result.

The Russians are obsessed with loud speakers. On many buildings there are loud speakers through which announcements are made continuously. We walked back to our hotel through the bomb craters and at one stage walked past the longest shopping mall I have ever seen. It was about 2 kilometers long and every 50m meters on the roof there was a loud speaker through which played diabolical pop music punctuated by announcements (they may have been advertisements). In our hotel corridor there were braces of loud speakers every 20 metres or so. I have no idea why.

Muscovites apparently don’t like solitude. In every restaurant we went to they played loud and awful music. And they smoked – Starve the Lizards! – Did they smoke! It is truly the only place we have been that is worse than Vienna – except that there is no escape – there are apparently NO no-smoking areas in restaurants – except in our hotel where the restaurant was blissfully smoke free.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Spring has definitely sprung in Vienna today and there are people outside cafes sitting in the sun.

In the photo you can see the elegance of the design of the Katzenschutznet and the resemblance to the Xihoumen Bridge. Sissi has realised that the new net is impenetrable and is looking at other options. She is wondering if she can actually jump on to the roof from the table.

The people in Copenhagen are just crazy about bicycles. I have never seen so many cyclists or bicycles. They seem to cycle everywhere – even in the middle of winter.

There are vast bicycle parking lots all over the city where hundreds of bikes are left – some to die by the looks of them. I assume that they belong to people who live in apartments and don’t want to take them in and out all the time. And I have never seen rustier bikes – ever. I guess if you leave a bike outside in Copenhagen it is not going to do it much good.

And many of them are not locked or chained – but who would want to steal them? The cyclists don’t wear helmets – but as in Vienna there are dedicated cycling paths – and there appears to be the same sort of car-bicycle cultures as there is in Vienna. That is – cyclists have as much right to be on the roads as motorist.

I had my first decent ride here for a long while on Monday when I went to have a massage. It was cold and windy – but still enjoyable. As Spring has finally arrived I am looking forward to long rides soon on the Donauinsel.

I would NEVER ride in Sydney except on the (very few) dedicated cycle paths which are generally not associated with main roads. I imagine there are more dangerous places to ride than Sydney but have no wish to go to any of them. Kabul springs to mind.

I was fascinated this week by a study undertaken by John Pucher, a US professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. The report in the Sydney Morning Herald says:

“SYDNEY will never be a bicycle-friendly city until it develops a ''second cycling culture'' which encourages relaxed European-style riding without the compulsory use of helmets, experts have warned.

Instead of advocating racing bikes with drop handle-bars, or mountain bikes with flat bars, cycling groups should encourage the use of traditional upright European styles, often called Amsterdam bikes, to make cycling a mass, utilitarian activity where bikes are used for shopping, running errands and commuting.”

I wonder if Professor Pucher has ever ridden a bicycle in Sydney? Not wear a helmet? In Sydney? Crazy stuff! He should be advocating Body Armour.

My solution to the problem would be to build cycle paths. If you have these then people will use bicycles. Look at Vienna and Copenhagen. The only way I would ride a bicycle on Sydney roads would be if it was welded to the top of a Hummer.

Cate is going to Moscow for a week so I am going for the weekend. This will mean no Blog on Monday - you will just have to tough it out!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plan B Worked!

Royal Cafe Copenhagen

I am in the process of completing Project Katzenschutznet (Plan B). This stunning plan  is based on the Xihoumen Bridge - which is the World’s longest suspension Bridge with Steel Box Beams.

The cunning use of lightweight materials such as 35 kilo breaking strain fishing line will ensure that the Katzenschutznet is rock solid but will be almost invisible to the naked eye – meaning that Stephansdom will be almost in full view.

I had occasion to visit Bauhaus to buy some bolts to secure the Box Beams. The last time I bought bolts (in Sydney) I selected the ones I needed and took them to the Kassa where the Kassa Person (KP) looked at a book which had pictures of all the bolts - and then scanned in the price.

Today I was sent packing with a German word which I did not recognise. The KP told me that I needed to ‘wiegen’ the Bolts and I stared at her incomprehensibly as she repeated this a few times - until she added ‘like Bananas’.

Then I went back to the Bolt section - and there indeed was a little weighing machine. It proved to be a challenge to find how to find the code but I watched someone else and finally worked it out.

I returned triumphantly to the Kassa with my little bag of Bolts and was rewarded with a smile.

I regained consciousness in the Bauhaus Sick Bay and after a while was helped unsteadily out to my car. The Manager said that the KP was new – and not Austrian - and will be reprimanded for smiling at customers. ‘You may rest assured’ he said ‘this will not happen again.’

The New and Improved Katzenschutznet is finished! I shall provide pictures soon.

For the first year or so here we did not get any mail for the previous occupants and I assumed that they had (as I would do) advised all potential mailers of their new address – which is on one of those Palm Island thingies in Dubai. (Which is where Cate is today – no not on the Palm Island thingies - but in Dubai).

Then a few months ago we started to get masses of mail for them. Not just junk mail but mail from doctors, banks, financial institutions, insurances companies, magazines, stock brokers. It was apparent that this was only not junk mail but bank statements and share trading certificate and all that sort of stuff.

I guess they had given a redirection notice to the Post and this had finally expired. During the redirection period they had use their time polishing their Palm leaves – not advising anyone of their new address.

So for a few months I dutiful sent it all back to the senders marked in German ‘no longer at this address’.

But in February – 15 months after we had moved in – I started throwing it all away. I reckon 15 months is long enough for someone to advise their new address to most senders. These people have apparently not advised anyone at all.

Don’t they look in their letterbox and wonder why they no longer get mail?

What I want to know is – what sort of person moves house and has no interest in ever receiving ever again any of the mail they used to get (I mean apart from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld).

Speaking of whom.

There was story in the New York Times about the ongoing investigation into the astonishing amount of corruption in Iraq and about the immense amounts of money that have been stolen and wasted during the war that President Bush decided to put on the credit card.

The article reminded me of the astounding story about how the US Government at one stage air-freighted 363 Tonnes of US Banknotes (Yes 363 TONNES) to Iraq. This promptly vanished without trace and made many, many Americans and Iraqis very, very rich indeed.

363 Tonnes?

As Henry Waxman (my favorite Congressman) said "Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did,"


If you ever want to read the story of the most astonishingly ill-conceived, ill-planned, bungling, blundering, clumsy, ham-fisted, costly – and just plain dumb - war and occupation in the history of the universe you should read ‘Fiasco’ by Thomas E Ricks. It will make you weep.

(This $3 Trillion Dollar war was brought to you by the same people who now think it is too expensive to provide health care to their own citizens).

Dumb as a bag of dust – but less useful.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I do not understand SCS

Bicycle - Copenhagen

After flurry of activity a few months ago the air conditioning system gradually died. This was a slow and painful process as one after another the units stopped squeezing out tepid air until only one was left.

It was sort of like watching a family member die a slow and painful death – rasping on its bed of pain. It gave us everything it had and gasped and wheezed and groaned for a few weeks.

We helped it along by turning it off at night – mainly because it made so much noise we could not sleep with it on – and one morning I turned the ‘on’ switch and – nothing. It had ceased to be – it was no more. There it lay – still and lifeless.

We held a small ceremony, sang ‘Guide me oh thou great redeemer’ and drank a toast to our faithful friend.

So we thought we could tough it out as it was – after all – Spring. But it turned cold again – and snowed - and we shivered in the apartment. The cats basked together on the heated bathroom floors but there was no room for us there.

So Rozalin saddled up again and contacted the building people. Today Mr. Air Con man arrived at 7:30 and spent the entire day with his cobber disassembling and reassembling all the air conditioners.

He found many problems (he does every time) including that the filters had not been cleaned for eons. He is a very cheerful man and does not seem to mind how many times he delves into the innards of these pieces of machinery. His English is better than my German - but not much – so we have some animated conversations.

The word I use most to Mr. Air Con man is ‘Kaput’.

It is now very hot in the apartment – just in time for the warmer weather which is due to start tomorrow. He confidently expects that he will not see us again until next year. This is of course the triumph of hope over experience and I reckon we will see him again in Summer – if not next week.

What we will find is that the cooling no longer works. This may surprise him – but it will not surprise us.

In my time here I have never mastered the art of navigation at Shopping City Sud – indeed I have never even been able to get to most of the hundreds of shops that I just know are there. I have tried on a couple of occasions to find specific stores but always end up being spat back out onto the A2 heading either towards Italy or Wien. I can see the shops and I can drive towards them - but I have never found how to get in.

I really do try to avoid SCS because it is a truly diabolical place - but sometimes I can’t avoid it.

Like today when I had to go to replace a rubbish bin which met with an unfortunate accident. I had to go to SCS because that is where IKEA is and I wanted their rubbish bins – so that I could match the survivors of the recent Ceramic Cat Catastrophe (CCC).

This started when Sissi knocked over the very large Ceramic Cat which we had bought in Hungary near Lake Balaton. Sometimes Sissi has to knock things over three or four rimes before she breaks them but on this occasion the CC’s tail broke off first time.

On Tuesday I decided to glue the CC’s tail back on. This venture was not successful (the tail was much too heavy and I lost interest in the certain knowledge that Sissi would demolish it again) and culminated after a period of immense frustration in my throwing the CC into the rubbish bin – from some distance.

At this stage my hands (and indeed most of everything else) was covered with glue so the CC stuck partially to my hand at the end of the throwing action and the trajectory was not the one which would take the CC neatly into the bin.

Indeed it was a trajectory which ensured that the CC – which was quite large and heavy – landed on the side of the plastic bin and smashed it to pieces. The CC also let itself go and covered the kitchen in bits of ceramic stuff.

So – anyway – my exits from SCS always follow the same pattern. I leave either Interio, Saturn or IKEA (they are all together in the only group of shops I can find) and head towards the exit which says ‘A2 Wien’.

This sends me on a gigantic circle which takes me past IKEA again – but on a different road. I then go in another gigantic circle – followed by a loop – and then drive past IKEA yet again on another road – and going the other way.

I have tried every possible combination and have ended up in some strange places – including a loading dock and a hotel car park – but have never found an easier way to get out. Perhaps there isn’t one.

This is on my long list of ‘Things I don’t understand about Vienna’.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Plan A did not work at all

Ducks -Stadtpark - click to embigiate!

The Badger has been unwell with a bad back and a Migraine which lasted for a few days. The bad back came from attempting to construct a new Katzenschutznet.

There was a lot of bending and turning involved and during the process I injured my back to the extent that I had trouble walking – or even moving - as part of my right side was paralyzed.

At one stage I could only move around on all fours but managed to cook Cate’s dinner each night by using my ‘Outback Cooker’ in the middle of the kitchen floor and I was able to reach the cupboards by rigging up a hook on the end of one of our walking sticks.

I rigged myself a small sled on carpet runners so that I could drag myself around the house with my one good arm and in this manner was able to keep up with most of the chores – although the ironing was a bugger.

Of course when you are down that low it is easier to reach the Kitty Litter to clean it out so there were some advantages.

I started off applying a hot wheat pack – which has the decided disadvantage of smelling of scorched wheat - and then was able to get to see Irene the fabulous physiotherapist (who had been swanning about in South America).

Then I discovered a Heizkissen at Eduscho which I can plug in and apply to my back while I stare into space and plan the next assault on the Katzenschutznet.

I need to do this because plan A was a significant failure. It was excellent in concept and had some unique and potentially patentable features but it was not really much of a visual improvement after all – and during the course of construction had attracted Cate’s opprobrium – even in its formative stages.

But I am sure the Wright brothers had similar problems with their wives so I was no more discouraged than usual.

But I am moving on to plan B – and already have C in mind. Plan D is to strangle Sissi but I am sure it will not come to that.

The Migraine came from eating Chinese food in a restaurant in Dr Karl Lueger Platz. I don’t remember what the restaurant was called but they modestly described themselves as ‘the best Chinese restaurant in Austria’ – and I must say the food was very good.

But they may use MSG or some other gunk and it gave me a Migraine which lasted until Sunday night and required a number of heavy duty pills. These make me even stupider than I am usually (ask Kristin about this phenomenon) so is quite a burden for Cate as she has to lead me around (or in this case – drag the sled).

This added to my back problems and I was quite mournful during some stages during the weekend.

Eduscho is Cate’s new favorite shopping place – and indeed mine. I was able to pick up some very competitively priced bicycle shorts and tops and would even have bought some of their fine underwear but they did not have my colour (Black).

And I notice that I am not only capitalizing all Nouns – I am also using a combination of English and US spelling for various words which can be spelled in different ways. You will just have to bear with me on this as I no longer know which I should use – and indeed am tending to favor the US spelling for many words.

If you have trouble you can use Yahoo Babel Fish.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Go Fug Yourself!

Melissa is here for a few days from Paris so we went to the St Marx cemetery to see the spot where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart probably isn’t buried. (Steph will know more about this).

There is a gravestone where he may or may not be buried – but it doesn’t matter much. The fact that he was is what is important and we don’t need an actual plot to remind ourselves – certainly not in Wien anyway where he lived in 13 different houses.

We also visited the Federal Pathologic-Anatomical Museum where there are some outstanding examples of preserved and diseased parts of the anatomies of long deceased persons – together with any number of terrifying plastic replicas of bits and pieces of people in various states of disrepair.

We scuttled through most exhibits fairly quickly as neither of is much good at looking at this sort of stuff. Trust me when I tell you that you do not want to get ANYTHING that any of these people had. But it was excellent value at €2 per person.

Then we went with Rozalin to Dots Experimental Sushi where we had some truly sensational Sushi – or was it Maki - the likes of which I have not encountered before. Quite an extraordinary event. It is apparently place where cool and hip people go but they made an exception for me as long as I promised to sit in the corner and remain inconspicuous.

When Cate was making her views known to the staff at the Square Hotel in Copenhagen –about the noise, smoke and other things – she said to them that incidents like this would cost them business. The child looked up from slurping her Alphabet Soup and said ‘How?’.

So this is the review I posted on Trip Advisor

"The first night was fine. On night two the entire Aarhus Death Metal Football Club checked in to the room next door, opened their doors to the balconies and the corridor and played music so loud it made my ears water. It was a non-smoking floor but they all smoked, shouted, sang, drank beer and (probably) urinated into Radhuspladsen. The child on the counter said 'there is nothing I can do' but stopped sharpening her crayons long enough to move us to another room which was fine - but the air conditioning didn't work so we had to open the door and at 5:00 AM on Sunday morning a gigantic roaring noise started outside our window. This was apparently a window cleaning machine. Then some rats died under the floor in our bathroom. This was apparently all our fault because the hotel cannot control the way its guests behave, they have to clean the windows sometime (5:00 AM on Sunday?) and rats have to die somewhere - what do you think they just vaporise into space? I have encountered less helpful hotel staff somewhere in the last 30 years but just can't think when..... give me a minute....OK I will get back to you. We said to the child on the front desk - you will lose guests over this. She said 'Oh Yeah - How? THIS post is how!”

Not that we are vindictive – but when you pay a bunch of money and stay at somewhere that advertises itself as a five star hotel you expect a little TLC. We got none.

You have probably seen Go Fug Yourself. It has been one of my favourites for years. The clothing is often hilarious, the photos are excellent and the comments are clever – and funny.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is it just me or are these people crazy?

Cool duds man - they would be perfect for....ah....let me get back to you on that.

Spurred on by the thought that President Obama is just itching to take away their guns as soon as he gets his head out of the watermelon patch - America’s gun owners are hurriedly pushing through all sorts of measure to ensure that their goals are reached.

From the NYT:

“In Virginia, the General Assembly approved a bill last week that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and the House of Delegates voted to repeal a 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month.

Arizona and Wyoming lawmakers are considering nearly a half dozen pro-gun measures, including one that would allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. And lawmakers in Montana and Tennessee passed measures last year — the first of their kind — to exempt their states from federal regulation of firearms and ammunition that are made, sold and used in state. Similar bills have been proposed in at least three other states.

Last month, the Indiana legislature passed bills that block private employers from forbidding workers to keep firearms in their vehicles on company property”.

All these are excellent initiatives.

Everyone should carry a gun in Virginia – it is a dangerous State and I have had terrible dinners in restaurants there in recent years. I certainly may one day need to shoot a chef - or someone - so definitely need a weapon under my jacket.

And you just never know when you are going to have to blow some Mo Fo of bartender away because he doesn’t give you a full nip of Jack Daniels.

And firearms in vehicles on public property – an outstanding initiative. Having disgruntled employees having to go home – wasting gas - to get the Kalashnikov so that they can come back and assassinate all their co-workers is just not environmentally friendly.

And – Sheee-it – not being able to buy more than one handgun a month is such an impossible restriction I just don’t know how we lived with it for so long. I am sure many Americans wake in the middle of the night thinking – ‘I need a handgun’ – only to realise that damn it all to hell they bought this month’s handgun last week.

This leaves them with an immense feeling of melancholy and the need to – you know – just open the ammo locker and visit the nearest university.

“The watchword for gun owners is stay ready,” said Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association. “We have had some successes, but we know that the first chance Obama gets, he will pounce on us.” (WTF?)

And just today I read that there is now a significant movement to wear guns in public. The NYT report says that:

"For years, being able to carry a concealed handgun has been a sacred right for many gun enthusiasts. In defending it, Charlton Heston, the actor and former president of the National Rifle Association, used to say that the flock is safer when the wolves cannot tell the difference between the lions and the lambs." (Yes this is what he said I am not making this up).

But a grass-roots effort among some gun rights advocates is shifting attention to a different goal: exercising the right to carry unconcealed weapons in the 38 or more states that have so-called open-carry laws allowing guns to be carried in public view with little or no restrictions.

Gun owner and wearers are having ‘meet-ups’ in places like Starbucks where everyone wears a gun.

“The East Coast Pizza Bar and Grill in Walnut Creek, California, about 25 miles east of San Francisco, invited gun owners to host open carry meet-ups. At least 70 people attended one last Sunday, many carrying firearms, said the owner, Jessie Grunner, 30 And over a dozen returned on Thursday night for more."

There is something seriously wrong here. Does anyone else read this stuff with a sense of shock and awe? People wearing concealed weapons in bars, buying multiple handguns each month, wearing guns into Starbucks?

Is it just me or are these people crazy?

Monday, March 8, 2010

What breathtaking audacity!

Royal Cafe Copenhagen

Merisi reminded me that the most important part of the whole Academy Awards in this part of the world was that our very own won Christoph Waltz won an Oscar for "Inglourious Basterds".

Curiously, this film has been on Sky Box Office (which we cannot get because we are not a UK subscriber) but is listed as Inglourious B**terds.

No one seems to worry about the smorgasbord of depravity, murder, rape, mayhem, slaughter and pornography that floods TV on a daily basis – but someone is concerned enough to censor the (incorrect) spelling of a word in common usage. It’s a funny old world.

Speaking of funny old worlds – there has been brief moment of clarity in Australia. There has been a decision by the South Australian Non-Government Schools Registration Board that will effectively ban the teaching of creationism in science classes in schools.

Under policies published in December, the board said it required ''teaching of science as an empirical discipline, focusing on inquiry, hypothesis, investigation, experimentation, observation and evidential analysis''.

The board said it ''does not accept as satisfactory a science curriculum in a non-government school which is based on, espouses or reflects the literal interpretation of a religious text in its treatment of either creationism or intelligent design''.

Good grief. Teaching science as science – without fairy tales. What breathtaking audacity!

Naturally the Creationists are not going to take this lying down. The chief executive of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, said the board statement was too strident, removing the right to teach ''biblical perspectives'' as part of science. He said if the South Australian policy was taken literally, ''it means you cannot mention the Bible in science classes''.

The creationists will of course campaign against this radical 21st Century perspective until we all come to our senses and accept that the earth was created less than 10,000 years ago and that all the animals – including more than 350,000 species of beetles – were hustled onto the ark and saved from the great flood.

A spokesman for the South Australian Non-Government Schools Registration Board said it was not banning teaching of creationism full-stop. ''It can be taught in religious studies.''

Precisely – that’s what it is – RELIGION!

Incidentally I have met Steven O’Doherty. He is living proof that Dinosaurs walked the earth. He was one the few to survive – and only because he is so tiny – in body and mind - that he was missed in the great gasping dinosaur-pulverization.

And also incidentally, in a moment of idle curiosity, I did a quick calculation of how big the ark would need to have been – JUST for the beetles. The answer. VERY big indeed.

In the interests of keeping you informed of the Weird Wild World of the Internet I should let you know of a site called chatroulette

This is a concept apparently developed by a young Russian. What you do is turn on your webcam, plug into and watch other people using their PCs. You will see other people doing all sorts of other weird things (as you can well imagine – this is after all the Internet).

Enter at your own risk - there are some STRANGE people out there. Let me know how you get on.

The Bucket Please!

Spring sprang briefly last week but sprang off again on Saturday when the snow came down and the Duck Pond started to freeze over. The Ducks are not at all bothered by this sudden change in weather and are carrying on as normal for this time of the year - i.e. the boys are chasing the girls. Ah - Spring!

We went to the Liechtenstein Museum but this was a resounding failure as the only way you can do stuff there on Sunday is to go to a recital and have lunch.

We could look at the ground floor but unfortunately incurred the wrath of Grizelda the Angry Guard because I could not find our tickets (I had cunningly concealed them in my wallet) and we had committed the unpardonable sin (Shriek!) of not putting our coats into the Cloak Room. She then followed us around glaringly until we scuttled out of the building.

I have been trying to watch BBS World News on my PC while using my exercise bike but it is impossible to watch – being and endless series of self-promotional items punctuated by snippets of news with lashings of drivel – accompanied by a monotonous jangling soundtrack that sounds like three cats and a guitar in a drum rolling down a hill.

They do such penetrating stuff as seeing how providing the Internet to two villagers in a remote town in Nigeria will affect their lives. The town does not have electricity and no one has ever seen a PC before. (In fact this is still the case)

When we go to the story we discovered that what they meant by Internet was two Internet enabled Satellite phones. They were given to two boys (of course). Moses and Nicholas. Asked how he got on Nicholas said that he could not get his SIM Card to work. Moses had more success and was apparently able to connect with someone ‘out there’ and now feels as though he is part of the wide world. In fact he no longer needs to go to America as he can be there ‘virtually’.

He still doesn’t know about MTV so cannot possibly be part of the wide world.

The second part of this dross is to take the internet away from couple of people who use it all the time. Oh – I wonder what the impact will be?

Give me a Break – this is supposed to be BBC World News.

I never watch the Academy Awards. I think they are the greatest exhibition of self-indulgence in the history of the universe. I love movies but – let’s face it – the people who do it are Cinematographers and Directors and Actors and Gaffers. They are simply not that special. Talented yes – life-changingly special no - It’s a movie! And Gaffers get no awards. I will watch it when Gaffers and Best Boys get awards.

But the acceptance speeches are something else. These should not be watched unless you have a bucket at hand. For sheer mushy, sloppy, schmaltzy, banal, trite, cutesy, lovey-dovey, gooey, drippy, sloshy, soupy, treacly, cheesy, corny, icky, sappy, hokey, cornball, sick-making dribbling, maudlin, fawning, sobbing suckiness they have no equal.

But it is nice to see that Jeff Bridges got an Award – and my favourite Actress – Sandra Bullock (bucket please) who is the first person in history to win an Academy Award and a Razzie in the same year.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Moose Knuckles?

Spring sprung here briefly and the man from Pizzeria Grado erected his wooden outdoor area in the street in preparation for the throngs of smokers who will appear as soon as the weather gets warm.

I saw him in the street the other day and told him that the food in his restaurant was terrific but that it was almost impossible for us to go in there because of the smoke. He shrugged. Why would he care? His job is to make money - not make non-smokers comfortable.

There are four staff and they all smoke. There are also always another two or three people who are friends and relatives of the staff – and they all smoke. The staff and hangers on have a big table next to the front door and they all sit there and smoke.

Most of the customers smoke. It is a situation that – as they say – is untenable for people like us who are allergic to smoke.

But we still occasionally get Pizzas to take away and they are quite good. I have finally worked out how to get a Pepperoni Pizza with extra Pepperoni and no crappy sloppy peppers on top. This was a major breakthrough.

A month or so ago I ate a frozen Pizza that I bought from Spar. This Pizza was made by Dr Oetker. This was the first frozen Pizza I have ever eaten and it was excellent. (I did of course heat it first). Dr Oetker and his family have been doing this since 1891 and I must say that they have nailed it!

To celebrate the imminent arrival of Spring I am erecting a new cat net. This is a more sophisticated structure than the existing one – which is simply a net stuck to the sides of the balcony with Gaffer tape – a most unseemly approach to an engineering problem. And indeed impossible without Gaffer tape which – it is my firm belief – is the world’s most useful item.

The inventor should certainly have been given the Nobel Prize for something (there is unlikely to be one for ‘sticking’). There are not too many jobs that cannot be enhanced with Gaffer tape. Ask Lenny!

I was inspired to do something more sophisticated by looking at William’s outdoor architectural achievements so am constructing an elaborate frame with plastic pipes. This will be a much more stable and presentable outcome than the existing contraption that looks like a web spun by a spider on Smack.

Cate has had a first look and says it is ‘Hideous’ – and – on the Hideousity Scale of 1-10 – is a Gold Plated 10. The was the result I expected and indeed when I was building the frame today with Sissi I said to her – ‘Cate will hate this – she will give it a 10’.

Sissi helped me by playing with the tape measure when I was trying to measure the pipes, stealing small but important items and hiding them under the stairs, batting the screws all over the floor and biting my hands when I was trying to use the screwdriver.

I was going to address a serious issue today but was overtaken by events. Now I know you have all heard of Cameltoe. These are a bit hard to describe so I refer you – as always – to the higher authority on these matters:

It will suffice to say that it is a strange world in which we live where people identify and quantify these random acts of nature. But – we have always had Cameltoes – I remember that Marilyn Monroe had the occasional Cameltoes – but what did we call the phenomenon then?

But – there is worse to come – I now give you Moose Knuckles

Who coined that term? The person is a genius. (It is from the 2005 Film The Weather Man).

The other thing I stumbled across is simply so preposterous that I cannot describe it. But it does perfectly encapsulate the world of fluff and nonsense that so many people inhabit. Try

And finally - Cinnabon has reached the Bezirks of Wien. What can I say?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

You can dress up as a Viking if you like

So we set out for the Viking Ship Museum at Roskilde and eventually found the right train at Copenhagen Central Station. This was much more of a struggle than we had anticipated and we made very heavy weather of it indeed. I just don’t know why it was so hard and am going to do an event reenactment to see where we went wrong.

I think it may have been because we did not have Gwenyth with us as she is a superb organizer and when dealing with Cate and I displays all the finest qualities of an Australian Kelpie.

We got as far as Høje-Taastrup and the train stopped. There was a series of announcements in Danish and everyone else got off – so we did too. (Who wants to sit on an empty train?)

We waited for the next train. It never came. Every 10 minutes there was an announcement in Danish but we had no idea what was being said – except that Roskilde was mentioned a lot.

There are actually (unsurprisingly) many similarities between Danish and German but the spoken Danish was quite beyond me. Eventually a Danish lady recognised our plight and took pity on us. She explained that there had been a ‘bomb scare’ at Roskilde and this meant that no trains were going to Roskilde at all.

Bomb scare in Denmark? I know that any number of Muslim fundamentalists want to kill Danish cartoonists - but Roskilde? Do Muslim fundamentalists have a problem with dead Vikings?

If you have some hours to kill at a railway station I recommend that you do not do it at Høje-Taastrup - which is a singularly uninspiring place. I had a look around outside and the entire town seemed to be deserted. The station of course was heaving as every train coming from anywhere disgorged its passengers and then returned to the place from which it had come. But outside there were no signs of life. Vast blocks of apartments and empty streets. Almost no cars – weird.

The only really exciting moment was when a railway café patron – clearly affected by the lack of café and train service – took temporary leave of his senses and started shouting and throwing things – but this was only a very short interlude in an otherwise dismal wait.

There was a diversion in the waiting room when a small child – who was being taught (very successfully) by her parents to shriek – hit a note so high that my ears popped and stopped working and all I could hear for the next few minutes was a fizzing, crackling noise like static on a radio - or the noise an old vinyl LP makes when there is no music.

I heard the faint ringing of bells, a strange whistling and a few bars of Calendar Girl by Neil Sedaka before I recovered and moved some distance away from the child before it shattered my iPhone.

Finally some buses arrived and we fought our way through the seething mass of humanity to catch a bus to Roskilde. From there we took another bus to the museum – which is just brilliant and is a must see!

Viking Ship Museum

Briefly – in the 1960s the Danes discovered some Viking Ships that had sunk in the 11th Century. They spent 25 years recovering and restoring them. The results are fabulous. They built the museum just to house these five ships.

You can – if you wish – dress up as a Viking to see what you would look like. There was no need for me to do this – I know what I would look like as a Viking – just as silly as I look now – but furrier.

Weirdly – there is an Australian restaurant in Copenhagen called REEFN'BEEF

We saw it advertised at the airport and when we arrived at the hotel discovered that it was directly opposite. So we went there for dinner. I have no idea how it got there – it is not a Mary thing as it has been there since the early 1990s.

The waitress who served us was actually Australian. The dishes all seem to have authentic Australian ingredients. A very strange business indeed. To get rid of the feeling of surrealism I had two Mango Daiquiris and this numbed my senses so that I no longer worried about it too much and tucked into the best steak I have had for a long time (in fact – since Elmo’s in Peoria last year).

But the best cocktails I have ever had were at the Lê Lê Vietnamese Kitchen. Mr. Bartender had a special called ‘Memories’ which consisted of Rum, Cointreau, Sugar Cane Juice, Banana and Lime.


So good I had three. This gave me a warm glow – so warm I might even have hugged a Republican if there had been one I could identify. Cate had to hold my scarf so that I did not float away on the way back to the hotel.

Well…actually…on the way back to the hotel we stopped in at Nimb at the Tivoli. Nimb is a hotel so exclusive that you have to ask them by email for their room prices. We went to their bar – which is sensational – wood – Danish – open fire – that sort of stuff.

This time the young lady serving us was from Cornwall – and spoke not a word of Danish – and why would she – all Danes speak English at least as well as we do – and we discussed how my great-grandparents came from Cornwall.

She managed to tear herself away from this riveting conversation to make us two drinks – the names of which I cannot remember – but they were both suitably alcoholic and made my lips numb.

By this stage we both would have hugged John Howard so we thought it best to go back to our own hotel and help the young girl at the front desk with her arithmetic lessons - she is apparently up to the six-times table. I took her a cocktail swizzle stick for show-and-tell.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

We never missed a single pub

William has pointed out some apparent inconsistencies in my approach to Homeopathy. Let me explain.

Better still – let Ben Goldacre explain.

“Most people know that homeopathic remedies are diluted to such an extent that there will be no molecules left of it in the dose you get. What you might not know is how far these remedies are diluted. The typical homeopathic dilution is 30C: this means that the original substance has been diluted by one drop in a hundred, thirty times over. In the ‘What is homeopathy?’ section of the society of Society of Homeopaths’ website , the single largest organisation for homeopaths in the UK will tell you that ‘30C contains less than one part per million of the original substance.”

Ben goes on to say that this is something of an understatement and explains that this magnitude of dilution is actually one in

I submit that there is not much chance that a substance diluted to that level is going to do much of anything useful.

In fact Ben notes that “American magician and ‘debunker’ James Randi has offered a $1 million prize to anyone demonstrating ‘anomalous claims’ under laboratory conditions, and has specifically stated that anyone could win it by reliably distinguishing a homeopathic preparation from a non-homeopathic one using any method they wish. This $1 million bounty remains unclaimed”

Now I also submit that my Schuessler Salts while being “homeopathic prepared” are not in fact typical homeopathic remedies. To quote from Wikipedia on this:

“Biochemic cell salts aka Tissue Salts or Cell Salts are alternative remedies based on inorganic salts elaborated by Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Schüßler (1821-1898). Although moderately diluted (3X-6X), they are not classed as homeopathic, because they are not purported to act according to the "like cures like" principle of homeopathy.”

So – there may be some useful material in the Schuessler Salts that are providing me with some benefit.

Alternatively – I may simply be benefiting from the Placebo Effect – about which Merisi has commented and also about which William has written an excellent blog today.

Either way – a few weeks ago I could not walk without limping and after taking the Schuessler Salts I can – and at no stage did I pray to Mary MacKillop.

Back to Copenhagen.

We did quite a bit of exploring. It is delightful city and was good for us because there was lots of snow and ice. This did mean that the canals were iced over and we could not go on a boat trip – but were happy to trudge around. We were quite taken with the whole place and decided we would like to live there.

I mean one day they are going to have a Queen who was born in Australia – I have never had my own Queen and all my life have had to borrow the English one. She is not a bad old stick - but she is not mine.

We could have inspected the place where Mary and Frederik are going to live but I did not want to pry (or indeed line up for an hour in the freezing weather).

By the way – she is Mary to you and me but to the Danes she is ‘Hendes Kongelige Højhed Kronprinsesse Mary af Danmark, Grevinde af Monpezat.’

I could mention that Frederik and Mary met during the 2000 Olympics at an establishment in Sydney called the Slip Inn. This used to be the Royal George Hotel - which in the early 60s was a typical Australian pub with tiled walls and floors.

It was the watering hole for the Sydney Push which included a whole bunch of writers and poets and academics – and famous people such as Clive James and Germaine Greer. I used to drink there every Saturday night – but at the other end of the bar.

I was much younger than any of these people – and was unusually dim for my age – and was inevitably inebriated by the time I got to the George because I had started at the First and Last at Circular Quay with my mate Mal Cannon when we got off the ferry from Manly.

We then progressed very slowly up George Street – taking care not to miss a single pub - and finally at about 11:00 PM got to the Adams Tavern where we attempted to remain upright while listening to Graeme Bell and other legendary Australian Jazz players.

Afterwards we would fall down the long flight of marble stairs and catch the last ferry home to Manly.

Where was I – oh yes – Roskilde – Viking Museum - bomb scare - I will tell you tomorrow!

Rats have to die somewhere

Copenhagen was a surprise. More beautiful than I had expected and so modern and…well…Danish. Just wonderful. So much wood. I am surprised there are any trees left.

Although - there are some very strange old buildings and one can see why it is the land of fairy tales.

The Danish people are very sophisticated and do not smoke at all in most restaurants and apparently – unlike Vienna – it is a not a city rule that everyone must take their dog out to evacuate its bowels onto the footpath at least once every day.

This is a good rule. I am writing to the appropriate authorities in Wien.

The hotel l was pretty good for the first day but went to pieces on the Friday. That was when the Aarhus Death Metal Football Club (ADMFC) moved into the room next to us and played music so loud the walls vibrated and I lost two tooth fillings.

The balcony overlooking Rådhuspladsen then proved to be not such an advantage as the ADMFC went out on to the balcony next to us and had smoking (it was a non-smoking floor), drinking and shouting competitions.

We complained to the child on the front desk and she said that she had had a number of complaints and didn’t know what to do. She spoke to them and they ignored her.

We said ‘move us’ and she did.

Our next room was a bit bigger and had a larger balcony – and was fine until the ‘Roaring Machine’ started at 5:00 on Sunday morning. This proved to be a window washer but I have no idea what the machine was like because I went to have a look at what could make so much noise and it was gone. Why would you clean windows with a machine like that at 5:00 on a Sunday morning?

I thought windows were cleaned with a mop and squeegee? Does the Roaring Machine make the dirt fall off?

The machine was so noisy to us because our air conditioner did not work so we had to leave our balcony door open and the Roaring Machine was under our window.

And this was fine until the rats died in the bathroom drains rendering the bathroom unusable.

Cate went to complain about these things but found an unsympathetic ear at the front desk.

The new child at the front desk was sharpening her crayons but let Cate know that apparently the behavior of the guests was not the hotel’s problem – it was our problem. If they want to smoke and play loud music and shout – and even piss into Rådhuspladsen - there is apparently nothing the hotel can do about it.

And we have to clean the windows sometime. And rats have to die somewhere – what you think they just vaporize into the atmosphere?

But we are not complaining. We had a wonderful time. I don’t have time to tell you more today.

Tomorrow I will tell you why no sane person should have more than two ‘Memories’ cocktails at Lê Lê Vietnamese Kitchen and why it is not a good idea to go to the Viking Museum at Roskilde if there is going to be a bomb scare at Roskilde railway station.