Friday, February 25, 2011

Were there any left over?


Well I am indebted to William for bringing this to my attention.

As reported in the Daily Telegraph a few days ago a fabulous ‘sea monster’ was sighted at Lake Windermere in Cumbria.

“The photograph, which shows an object with three humps breaching the surface of the lake, is said to be the best evidence yet of what some claim is a monster lurking beneath the depths.

It was taken on a camera phone by Tom Pickles, 24, while kayaking on the lake as part of a team building exercise with his IT company last Friday”.

Mr. Pickles said he saw an animal the size of three cars speed past him on the lake and watched it for about 20 seconds.”

Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that it has four humps and that  Tom Pickles must have the the shittiest camera phone in the known world – or took the picture through a gunny sack - and the slowest if he can get off only one shot in 20 seconds. 

Let us also leave aside the fact that a number of correspondents to the Daily Telegraph have churlishly said that the picture is identical to another one taken in 1996.

Let us just say for the sake of argument that there is a fabulous sea monster.

Well – just to be sure I immediately sent my Cumbrian correspondent to lay this myth to rest. The Bird Man of Cumbria set sail in his Kayak and is scouring  Windermere from end to end. He will report any trace of sea monsters - or indeed of rubber tires tied together in attempt to simulate a sea monster.

His report is here

One just has to admire George Clooney for his honesty.  In an interview for Newsweek he said

"I didn't live my life the right way for politics, you know,"
"I f**ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that's the truth,"
I have sent him an email asking him – from a fairly lofty George Clooney perspective – how many chicks is too many – and were there any left over -  just as a matter of academic interest of course. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What did we do to deserve all this?

Canadian Memorial - Vimy Ridge

On Sunday Liz and Darryl return to what remains of the Antipodes.

I am beginning to think that god does not like the lands down under because he has scourged them recently with a never ending barrage of floods, fires and cyclones – and now earthquakes.

It is not enough that we have the most fearsome collection of dangerous and ferocious animals, reptiles and sea creatures in the world - we also have one of the most brutal climates.

A bloke can’t walk two steps without being savaged by a Crocodile, bitten by a Brown Snake, stung to death by an Irukandji or drowned in a flood – or – if you are unfortunate enough to be an Australian Rugby player – mauled to death by an All Black.

Survive all this and you will find yourself without a drop of water for ten years and the whole bloody land will be as dry as a bird’s arse.

Now the Kiwis are being belted senseless and they are almost the most inoffensive people on the planet - apart from their accents of course which are just bloody awful. 

This on top of letting the Poms win the Ashes (again) and then sending a B-lister like Elizabeth Hurley to shag our Warnie. It’s all too much. What have we done wrong?

Fortunately we also have the best beer and Bonzer Sheilas – one of whom I get to sleep with every night – how lucky can a bloke be.

However – after a brief stopover in Vienna I am off on Sunday to Paris to see my daughter Melissa and her cat Merlin. I am not staying with Melissa because she has a ‘Parisian-style apartment’ which means barely enough room for a woman and a cat provided that they sleep together – which they do.  Actually Merlin sleeps on top of Melissa which means there is some room to spare – but not enough for me.

Instead I will be staying in a very modern, up market boutique hotel which is offering rates so low that I fear there has been some terrible mistake. Perhaps I missed the report of the Black Death in Le Monde?

But one of the advantages of plunging through the hundreds of hotels of all classes in is that I do occasionally find really good hotels with bargain rates for whatever reason.

In this case the Villathena was somewhat cheaper than the rather more modest Hotel Rue Lepic in Montmartre in which I usually stay – in a single bed in an Amelie Poulain room - with a view of the plumbing and the rats sunning themselves on the window sills. 

This coincides with Cate’s trip to India. This is the end of year incentive-bonding conference for the very senior management team. They are apparently getting to do this because they all did what they were supposed to do last year. It makes you wonder where they would have gone had they been less successful. Tripoli?

If they do an even better job next year they will be taken to somewhere where there is less chance of them dying of dysentery or being blown to pieces by terrorist bombs. Still there is only a very small number of them so they will not present much of a target. 

They have a number of meetings and conferences which are all apparently held around bars late at night. This may be for reasons of privacy so that everyone else is in bed an cannot hear their discussions. 

There is also a visit to the Taj Mahal. This will be an excellent place for a meeting as there are lots of big empty rooms. I am sure there are no bars there. They may have to take their own alcohol. 

There are no spouses involved – which is good for me because I would be the only bloke on the Sari and Wooden Bead shopping expeditions and would be rubbish at discussing whatever it is that women spouses discuss when they go to conferences with their husbands.

I suspect it is largely what morons their husbands are and then expressions of some wonderment at how – given their husbands’ complete lack of commonsense and general uselessness  around the house – how they ever got into any position of seniority in any company in the world – let alone being posted to Vienna of all places - and then they will discuss the Viennese for five days - together with the prices at Spar - at the impossibilities of German separable verbs. 

I am sure it is worthwhile and useful – it is just that I would not know anything about it unless it involves cooking, washing or ironing or general housekeeping issues – or Cats – I am an expert on Cats. 

Good news from Canon. The Engineers held a prayer vigil and were able to bring the 500D back to life.  It has been on life support for a few weeks but is now out of  intensive care and is back home.

I am still buying the 60D and will keep the 500D for general Duck work.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ah America!

American Cemetery Colleville-sur-Mer

In response to Annie’s comment.

Whilst it is true that America is the Elephant in the corner we are hoping that it is a far off corner and that we will remain for some time blissful and undisturbed in our peaceful nest in Vienna.

Peaceful for me anyway – Cate’s life is bit more hectic but some one has to do it and it is certainly not going to be me – I gave at the office already.   

Indeed it is our fervent hope that we cannot go to America at all - although I am struggling to think what the reasons could be for this happy event not taking place.

Not that I would not wish to join my American Blogger friends in their wonderful homeland. It is just that it is not – at the moment – the most attractive option in front of us.

I mean I have been to Duckyanapolis and it is a lovely town. It is quiet and…well…very quiet. It has some nice steak restaurants and some shopping malls. It  has a Cinnabon so I can suicide by heart attack if the need arises. On the bright side it has Einstein Bros Bagels.

Unfortunately it is also stuffed full of god fearing Republicans so Cate and I could become fairly conspicuous and will have to keep a very low profile.

There is an Atheist Society so provided we leave the house in our 40 Tonne Koala Crusher each Sunday carrying our AK 47s (with Glock side arms) and some Tea Party banners we can pretend to be going to church and can actually just go off to a meeting with other Atheists and talk about something useful - like why America does not have Global Warming. 

If we are caught of course it will be tar and feathers all round – if not burning crosses on our front lawn. 

Barbecues may be a problem but I remember quite a bit from the bible and one of the things I learned from working with Christian organizations is that if you shout ‘Praise the Lord’ occasionally it will get you through a multitude of difficult situations.

But let’s not even think about that scenario. If the worst happens I can probably get myself banned from the USA by learning some Arabic and shouting anti-American slogans through the fence at the US Embassy. 

Perhaps – ‘Obama is a Muslim Marxist Criminal and was not born in America’.

I may be mistaken for a Fox reporter and invited to afternoon tea. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Austria feels like home

Newfoundland memorial - The Somme. 

It is a strange feeling -  but coming back to Austria now feels like coming home.  

I always used to feel like France was a second home to me because I worked for a French bank and used to go there so often – and of course Melissa and Merlin live in Paris – but now it feels comfortable coming back to Austria.

French now seems like a foreign language. Well… is a foreign language…but I am having increasing difficulty and simply cannot remember some – OK most - of the grammar.

Not – I hasten to add – that it is because I have mastered German.  My German is still at kindergarten stage but I can make myself understood in most situations to most people and can even understand some of the things they say to me – provided they speak to me as though I am a small, dull child.

Indeed last week I explained to a plumber who spoke no English that one of our many toilets had ceased to operate effectively and had started running non stop and that I had turned off the water so as to prevent significant problems in the Donau.

This however was done in a form of ‘bog-German’ which would not have been acceptable outside of plumbing and similar circles. There was no pretense of the use of the correct tenses or vaguely proper grammar.  That is for wimps.

Of course the loss of French may just be a function of my advanced age which is no longer creeping up on me but appears to have moved into something of a gallop. The sort of gallop that takes place with the winning post in sight and with a liberal use of the whip by the jockey who thinks his mount can win.

I have now started to develop a couple of sinister traits which I will not canvass in this forum. 

At this stage I am being hopeful and am putting them down to side effects of my Migraine medicine so am delaying looking at Swiss Hospices on the Internet until we get back from our diving trip in the Maldives in April.

There is always the chance that a Great White will swallow me whole which I consider to be not a bad way to go – other options considered.

But I have decided that I am weary of not being able to understand what is going on around me.  So I am about to make another mighty effort to learn German.

Even Cate has been seized by the challenge and has decided to finally have that elusive second lesson.

Leaping Lizards!

Of course she might just be trying to postpone using that Electronic Piano that is sitting glaring at her in the corner of her study. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The traveller returns - briefly

German Cemetery Langemark, Belgium

Due to impeccable planning we were able to achieve all of our objectives during our week away. We covered an enormous amount of territory and travelled nearly 4,000 kilometers.

We saw more cathedrals than I had planned to – but then for me one cathedral is one too many in France because they all look exactly the same to me.  I did however see Le Mont Saint Michel which is quite a pile although to reach the actual insides of the cathedral you have to fight your way through some of other most spottily awful shops I have ever seen – but still – that is the way of the world these days.

We saw enormous numbers of graves and memorials. I visited my first German cemetery – there are not many of them around in France for obvious reasons so we took the trouble to find this one in Belgium and it was really worth the trip.

I mean it was not the average German soldier’s fault that some lunatic politician sent him off to be blown to pieces by the French and British cannons – and the German generals proved to be at least as crazy as their counterparts on the other side.

French does not improve with non use and I managed to mangle beyond redemption any number of conversations. It also does not help much if you throw in Germans words and phrases.

Cate praised my choice of hotels on two occasion so I think she might be taking Ecstasy. I will keep a close eye on her. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Here I go again

Australian War Cemetery – Villers-Bretonneux France

I regret to advise that the Badger is leaving you again. This time on yet another tour of Battlefields and Cemeteries.

This will be Badger’s third visit to Normandy, the Somme and Verdun but he never tires of it.

He is endlessly fascinated by the Somme and Verdun - where there was such a spectacular waste of human life that is impossible to really comprehend the magnitude of it - or indeed the bone-headedness of the nitwits in charge – and on both sides.

Nothing much has changed. Nitwits are still trying to win an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. The less said about Iraq the better.

And wherever there is a futile war with Britain and America involved you can just bet that there are Australian politicians just itching to feed young Australian men into the mincer.

I was ready to be minced in Vietnam when we could not wait to join the Americans in the colossal Goat Fuck that was the Vietnam War. What a good idea that was.

I was in the ‘Birthday Ballot’ but my number did not come up. Had I done so I could have joined some of the nearly 200 Australian conscripts who died for absolutely nothing.

I think about this every time I see the graves and memorials of the many thousands of 18 to 20 year old Australians who died in the Somme in France.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

This is it

This is what Cate has decided not to do next. 

She has wanted not to do this for ages and the time seems just right so she sent me out on a mission to find a Digital Piano.

I spoke at length to Helmut at  Wiener Musik Haus and he convinced me that the Kawai CN 23 was perfect for someone who may lose interest after a few days as it was so nice to look at and could double as a desk – as it will be in Cates’ study.

It was also immensely robust and could stand up to any amount of not being played.

I ran this by Cate and she gave me the go ahead – and it is being delivered today.

I made sure that Helmut demonstrated the efficacy of the Headphones and the muting buttons on the Kawai.

Yes. Cate can play as LOUD as she likes and I can hear NOTHING!

Cate may be quite good at this. Her sister Liz was quite good but as she was taught but Nuns in a Catholic institution can only play now if someone sits next to her and thumps her over the knuckles with a metal ruler after every few notes.

This sort of ruled out a career as a concert pianist and has affected her outlook on religion as well.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I may have a solution

As you are aware - I have been frantically searching for something for Cate not to do since she stopped not going to the Gym when her membership expired in January. She hadn’t been to the Gym for a year but that is not the point – edginess did not set in until her membership had expired.

Not going to Yoga will work but until my ribs are better I can’t not go with her and she can’t not go on her own. She has started the process of not doing Yoga by buying a Yoga mat. I am more practical and have not yet bought a mat and won’t do so until I definitely decide not to go.

I am a man who accepts my limitations. In any event my ribs seem to be getting worse not better. I may have to put off not going for months yet.   

Anyway I have been under immense pressure lately as when she is looking for something not to do Cate is like a caged Lion and has been prowling the house inspecting things. This is always bad news – for me and for Mrs. Moneypenny the cleaner.

‘When was the last time this was cleaned?’ she asks? ….unhelpfully peering at something that does not really need to be all that clean. Or…..’does Mrs. Moneypenny clean the windows?’

Well of course Mrs. Moneypenny doesn’t clean the windows – she barely has time to do the bare essentials

What with chatting over coffee (she adores my Caruso blend) – and then dealing with life issues - her life is very complicated so there is always a lot to talk about - and problems to work through - and a few urgent phone calls with her friends -  the time just flies. She does work very hard in the very little time she has available - but there is just so little time. 

I have told Cate that if she wants any real cleaning done she will have to pay for an assistant cleaner because Mrs. Moneypenny is fully stretched.

Anyway – one of the other bad things that has happened in recent times is that Cate has managed to get all her staff into place in her far flung empire across the globe – and this for the first time ever since she has been in the job – nearly 3 bloody years.

This means that she is now not as hard pressed as she has been and has recently had some spare time just to think about frivolous things for me to do. Spare me! This is an appalling outcome and has entirely disrupted my otherwise blissful existence.

Things like

‘I am thinking that perhaps that picture is not in the right place – it could be moved a couple of inches to the left!’

(Are you dear? Well why don’t you call Yuri Geller and he can pop around and move it with his spoon – my ribs are a bit dodgy at the moment).

‘Have you noticed that the light in the top corner of the lounge room is not working?’

(Yes I had dear – in fact two years ago – but as the ceiling is 10 meters high and I don’t have a Cherry Picker or a Giraffe there is absolutely nothing I can do about it).

Anyway I have been on a quest to solve the problem of getting something really useful for Cate to do (or indeed not to do) to take the pressure off me.  

I have the perfect solution – and something she has wanted for some time. I will keep her totally absorbed for some hours – or – if I am lucky – days or even months (Bliss!)

But if I get REALLY lucky some of her staff will be kidnapped by Pirates and she will be too busy to worry about what I am doing and what Mrs.  Moneypenny is doing (or indeed not doing) with the dust.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Well that’s it then

I wish!

Well that’s it then. 

We invited Liz and Darryl to Vienna so they could frolic in the snow and we now have what amounts to a heat wave. 

We just had an email from them saying they have their snows boot and cold weather gear and we are practically baking here.  It was +15 yesterday in Vienna. +15! They arrive next Saturday. 

The poor dears have endured floods, cyclones and heat waves in their native Queensland in recent weeks and they will come here to see what?  

The sparse remains of kitty litter in the streets and the very occasional dollop of frozen snow lying in isolated spots where the sun has not yet penetrated.

The Ducks are paddling about in Stadtpark preparing to make Duckettes. Viennese are doing for them what passes for gamboling in the streets. 

We went to Semmering on Sunday to see if there was some snow there. This is somewhere we could take the close to Vienna.  Well – there is – but not much and there will certainly not be any when we get back from France in two weeks time. They are practically skiing on grass now. How depressing.

I will spray ‘Santa Snow’ on their bedroom windows here so that when they wake up they will think for a minute it has been snowing.

I will pray to the Snow Fairy for one last burst of white stuff just so that Liz and Darryl can see Vienna in all its white glory – and I can get rid of some of the massive pile of firewood I still have in the lounge room in anticipation of a long, cold, white winter. Bah! Humbug!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Help Boost Austrian Exports

Now sure the Austrian economy is traveling quite nicely but we can always use a boost and what better way than to plug into the insecurities of some of our flakier cousins across the Atlantic to sell more of some of our famous exports.

No I do not mean the Wiener Schnitzel. I mean the Glock! What a weapon. Austrian manufactured - NATO approved! Nothing better at close quarters.

(I mention that the Knödel is a certain killer in hand-to-hand combat and is used by the Austrian Special Forces).

Now I have heard that sales of Glocks have rocketed since that unfortunate incident a few weeks go but clearly not nearly enough people have them.

Well – you can’t just let the loonies have guns. Everyone must have a gun and must carry it everywhere. In a holster – like in the westerns. No discrimination. Lock and Loaded. Ready to Go. Don’t step on ME.

My view is that if everyone has a gun and is carrying - then the number of casualties must surely diminish….over time. It stands to reason that at the sound of the first gun shot - if everyone immediately shoots towards the sound of that gunshot - then that national rate of attrition overall must drop – after some sorting out issues.

Now sure the casualty rate amongst people whose cars backfire - or who have bad coughs -  will be immense and there will be lots of false alarms and teething problems.

And just like in the old west - the hot tempered and feeble minded will take care of themselves on a sort of permanent basis.

It may be necessary to ban fireworks on Independence Day and similar occasions - or increase the duty staff in casualty sections and morgues.

Anyway I am about to start practicing for my next trip to the USA – for a wedding in September in Washington. I have an egg timer and will be setting this and walking in public places and shopping centers and when the bell tings I will be diving under tables and into doorways or grabbing little old ladies with shopping trollies to use as shields. 

I will be practicing with a plastic Glock on the basis that I can’t get a real one until I get to the USA and can satisfy the residential requirements by being there for 8 hours – or buying the necessary papers from a drunk for a quart of Bourbon.

Although papers are not really necessary. I read about a ‘gun show’ in Arizona where you can buy a gun even if you tell the seller that you cannot get a license to have one. 

I have been thinking about getting one of those vests that actors use that simulate being hit by multiple gun shots. You know - when the gun shots sound the actor falls  and the vest shoots out puffs of smoke and spurts of red stuff like tomato ketchup. 

I would do this on the basis that – from my careful observation – lunatic gunmen are too busy killing people standing up to worry about the ones who go down spurting blood.

Perhaps that is that answer. Everyone wears one of these vests. At the sound of the first gunshot everyone pulls the cord, pops their vests and falls to the ground spurting tomato ketchup. 

At the same time they all pull their Glocks and fire them at the only person left standing – the mad bastard gunman.

This sucker will be either dead from gunshot wounds or be so blinded by tomato ketchup that he cannot see a damn thing. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A small one was enough for me!

I have only been through one cyclone in Queensland – that was in Townsville in 2000. It was (I think)  a Category 3 that weakened to a category 1 by the time it reached Townsville. 

Even so it left quite a trail for destruction behind it and we were without power for a week. It took me a day to get the Banana trees out of the pool.

The man from Ergon Energy said that he could not send his men out to repair the power lines because it was wet and windy. Er…..well…yes …we just had a cyclone – it will be wet and windy for days. Perhaps they did  not have raincoats and galoshes.

Anyway the shrieking, roaring monster that hit the Queensland coast last night Vienna time was a category 5 which is too scary to describe. I have a Proxy Server which enabled me to watch ABC News 24 live out of Australia so I could watch the drama unfold and I could also watch all the Twitter messages.

My favorite story of the night was the one of the six people in their 60s who were in the home unit in Port Hinchinbrook. They had decided to tough it out and not evacuated but when the cyclone hit they realized that they had made a terrible mistake and called the police for help. Only someone who knew nothing about cyclones would first of all stay put when advised to evacuate and then secondly expect that anyone could move outside to help them once it hit.

'Yes ma'am we will just fire up the Hummer and get right round there and bring you around to our underground concrete bunker and give you some hot cocoa and you can watch Avatar while we make you some Bacon and Eggs'. 

There was lots of praying going on and this always works a treat. I mean – people prayed when the floods came - and then the water went away – see prayer works!

Anyway – all this apocalyptic stuff is a clear sign to me the god hates women. We have a female Prime Minister, a female Premier in Queensland, a female Governor in Queensland and a female Governor General in Australia. 

It’s all too much. God wants this to stop and until it does he is going to keep sending floods and stuff and letting the English win the Ashes. You have been warned.

Or it might just be because that steaming bone-headed, bat-eared nincompoop  Tony Abbott is the Leader of the Opposition. What a Dickwit!  PLease donate do that we do not have to have a Flood Levy! Is he advised by Humphrey B Bear or are his ideas his own?
Incidentally - there was apparently some concern that when I was in Cumbria Cate was 'Home Alone'. This was not the case. How would she live on Vegemite Toast for a week? How would she get too and from work? Who would iron her clothes. I mean....really! She was in Turkey. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cumbria is a special place indeed

Cumbria is very special – not the least because of the presence of that culinary magician and Birdman Maalie. 

It was my first trip there and will not be my last – although it is unlikely that I will go there again in winter. Two jumpers, two pairs of socks, Ugg boots and Ugg gloves could not keep out the chill from the Irish Sea and my loose ribs were rattling around all week. 

I took some photos and some turned out quite nicely. I have put a few on the Picasa album on my Blog. The link is never there so just click on one of the photos and you will eventually find your way. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Canon was DOA

I regret to advise that my Canon 500D has been officially pronounced DOA by Canon. It can be resurrected - but at such an enormous cost as to render such resuscitation economically unviable.

The technicians at Canon were so distressed at the nature and extent of the injuries suffered by my Canon that they are holding an inquest and have asked that I attend as a witness. I have said that I am too badly injured to attend myself but am sending my own X-rays as evidence. Apparently a couple of the techies are receiving counseling.

Mr Soyka in Praterstrasse is ordering me a new Canon 60D and this will be here in time for our trip to the Somme with Liz and Darryl in two weeks time.

If all goes according to plan I will drop it onto an unexploded WW1 bomb and blow it to smithereens.

The 60D is one of the new-fangled Canons with about 60 Trillion pixels that can photograph dust mites on the eyelids of birds flying 2,000 meters away. This will be very useful and will be fabulous for Duck photos which is what I take most of. It will not be long before the Ducks in Stadtpark will be asking for royalty payments.

One of the great joys of being in England was that people speak a kind of English. In fact they speak many different kinds - and I encountered a few of these – but I could understand all of them.

And it was absolute bliss being in a shop where I could browse the shelves and look at old familiar things that were lost to me so long ago – and read the labels. Bliss.

Maalie had to drag me away from the Porridge shelves – but he did give me a packet to bring home. 

In an attempt to un-knit my ribs Maalie took me rallying over what he said were the two most dangerous roads in Britain. These were Hard Knott Pass and Wrynose Pass and would have indeed been a bit of a challenge for an ordinary motorist - but Maalie is no ordinary motorist – and was not deterred by the ‘Road Closed’ signs and patches of black ice.

He could not find his glasses and his wooden leg was a bit sticky but even so he gave an excellent account of himself. 

We cheated death or more than one occasion when he swerved to try to murder Pheasants on sheer precipices (‘Good eating Badger’ he shrieked maniacally)  but I was unshaken.

I am of course a veteran of Australian roads and particularly the Pacific Highway - which is the ‘main artery’ between Sydney and Brisbane but which in parts would be too dangerous for the Dakar Rally. Maalie would love it.

Anyway Maalie and I and the Pheasants survived. We did dine sumptuously on Pheasant one evening but it was not one of Maalie’s road kills. He assures me that he does not (shudder) eat Badgers.