Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Merlin reporting from Paris

Merlin reporting from Paris on Badger's behalf, just to say that a carrier pigeon has left several presents on my window sill, including a message from Badger, to let you all know that it's impossible
to blog from underwater so unfortunately he's likely to be incommunicado until he returns from holidays.

The text of the message was a bit blurry, but it said something about having seen manta rays doing what manta rays do, and the general gist was that all is well, not to worry, and he'll surface in a week or so.

I'll let you all know if any other pigeons/seagulls arrive bearing news.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

I shall remain under water for most of the time

I made a mistake about the bacon at breakfast. It’s actually called roast chicken bacon which I guess means it’s flattened pieces of chicken. It is really flat. It looks like it has been flattened by the man who did my fish the other night. This is an angry man who has a grudge against fish and chicken.
Which explains why there was no bacon in my ‘Caesar salad’ the other night. Which means that the only prohibited import on the island alcohol. Which means that alcohol is less offensive than pork - which I can sort of understand - and it makes as much sense as anything else to do with religion.
I will say no more about this otherwise Wan will be up me like a rat up a drainpipe.
I had a look at the thing about ‘Blogs of Note’ and – scarily  - it seems that they are chosen by actual people. This means that someone read my blog and thought that it was worth recommending to other people. I would like to meet that person and question them closely about what goes on inside their head.
Until I got my Blog of Note  award I was not actually aware that such an award  existed. It seems to exist mainly so that hordes of spammers can descend to flog their wares under the guise of congratulating me for the award. I have spent much of the last two days deleting these.
I have had other many nice and delightful comments which I have been pleased to receive. Thank you to all those wonderful people who took the trouble to leave these pleasant comments.
Many others do not understand the nature of my blog and seem to take some of my comments seriously. I have – for example – been berated for having a Viennese horse conduct a monologue with another Viennese horse about Fox news. It is apparently none of my business what happens in America.
What a great idea. Find new blogs and tell the writers what not to write in their blogs. I could amuse myself for hours doing that! Brilliant!
Well – excuse the fuck out of me but it is my blog and I will write what I like about what I like. There is no subscription charge and no obligation to read it – or to leave comments.
On balance I wish I had never received that award. I have checked and it seems that my blog will remain in a prominent position on the ‘Blogs of Note’ page for another week or so. 
There us apparently no mechanism for having yourself removed – except prayer. I may try that. It has never worked before but you just never know. 
I shall remain under water for most of the time – surfacing only to delete spam.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nudity is not permitted here

This is the terrace of our Water Villa. The ocean view shows our dive boat (centre)  Dream Catcher 2 messing about off the reef.  It is probably waiting for divers. (Click to embigiate). This is Steph Waller's word and it is so brilliant I have stolen it. 
We go aboard on 25 April and will have our own ANZAC Day Ceremony on our own - or  with any other Aussies we find on board. 
During our last week in Vienna we had a different car. This is because Hermann – one of Cate’s colleagues, needed a bigger car to take his wife, daughter and daughter's friend to Italy.
This is fine except that we had to take Hermann’s car which is an Audi Quattro something, something and about ten times as powerful as Billy - and scary to drive. It is also wider than Billy and almost impossible to get into our parking space. It is like getting a Banana into its skin – but without touching the sides.
I had no wish to return the Audi to Hermann in the same condition in which I returned our first car to the rental company when we got to Vienna. This was also a very wide car, was a manual, was difficult to drive and had no proximity warning system – if you don’t count the sound of grinding metal on the sides of the parking bays. I have attached a photo to remind you of those days and how difficult our parking spot is. The Queen Mary is the one on the right. 
The man who collected the rental car was the first man I really, really disappointed in Vienna. There have been many since. We had a total damage waiver but you could see from his face that the amount we had paid was not going to cover the replacement of the steaming smoldering, wreck that was being presented to him by the very relieved customer who was now the owner of a gleaming new - and much smaller - Mercedes Benz.
Anyway – I drove the Audi as little as possible – parked it with immense care and returned it to Cate’s work garage as soon as I could. Unfortunately – the day after I had smashed my toe on the table – so hobbled back home on my blue puffy toe – thanking my lucky stars that I and the Audi had survived the encounter intact.
I started to tell you that story for a reason – but I have forgotten what that was.
We had dinner last night in the Italian restaurant in the resort. It was expensive. It was awful. But the staff are wonderful and attentive and pleasant. Fortunately there are other restaurants. They will also be awful – but different awful. We should have known better from our previous experience but the one thing you can say about us is that we never learn. Any resort with 'Paradise' in the name is going to be awful whether or not it is rated 5 star. It is like any country that is called a 'Democratic Republic of something' is going to be ruled by a crazy and demonic dictator. 
I had the most amazing Caesar salad I have ever had – or will ever have. I have secreted a sample in a glass jar and will have it forensically examined when we get back to Vienna, I am keen to learn WTF was actually in it. They had certainly run out of Caesars. The grilled fish and fries were edible although for some reason the fish appeared to have been flattened with a mallet. Perhaps they had imported a Schnitzel Chef from Vienna and he was learning the ropes with fish.  
When you get off the plane in Male your baggage is X-rayed. They are looking for alcohol –  and for pork - both prohibited imports.  This is a Muslim country. You cannot bring alcohol or pork products into the country. But on this island you can drink alcohol openly and there is bacon at breakfast.
Nudity is not allowed in the Maldives and we were given a note about this so Cate and I have been showering in our wetsuits. I am not sure everyone else is adhering to this particular regulation. We walked past the night club last night and there was sinning there on a grand - even biblical scale.
Why the compromise? If you have religious beliefs why impose them at the airport but allow infidels to sin and to blaspheme a mere 14 kilometers away - in god’s plain sight. Has this been designated a 'sin zone?'
I suppose we are all going straight to hell so it does not matter but what about all the poor sods who have to work here? Are they not contaminated by our presence? 

On TV you can read the Koran or listen to it 24 hours every day. I don’t need to do this. I know – or can remember what it says (I read it once) – or at least what it purports to say – because all of the many thousands of religions since the beginning or time have been derived from the same myths and legends and have had the same outcomes in mind.
They don’t have Fox so probably most Maldivians – I am guessing 100% -  probably think President Obama was born in the USA.

Friday, April 22, 2011

It started badly

It started badly when - the night before departure - I crashed into the lounge room coffee table with my bare feet and probably broke the little toe on my left foot. It is very badly swollen and blue and I am having trouble walking - but life goes on.
So I checked in online and found that the seats I had pre-booked a few weeks ago had been re-arranged by Emirates. As we are paying for ourselves we are of course traveling economy so I had chosen an aisle seat.
We were instead now boxed into the middle of a row of four so had no aisle or window access and the plane was completely full. I am not sure why this happens but my pre-chosen seat is often arbitrarily changed by the airline – even when I have some status – as with Austrian Airlines. It even happens to Cate who has Senator status with Austrian.
With Emirates we are traveling with about the of status of road kill so expected nothing less.
Particularly so after the series of emails I sent them last year when they refused to respond to my repeated requests for a response to our emails about glasses left on a flight. You may recall my wittering about this. After a series of emails to Emirates – none of which was ever responded to – I got a bit snarky and they have clearly marked my card for eternal punishment.
This is unfortunate because we are flying again this year on home leave on Emirates – because they are the cheapest – and I just can’t wait to see what they have in store – even in business class. I am planning to leave a present for them from Muffin in one of the Business Class life jackets.
Anyway – it was a good lesson because I had forgotten how bad long distance economy class flights next to a Japanese man who sniffs every fifteen seconds can be. It was a actually a cross between a sniff and a snort – let’s call it a snork– but it was disconcerting and could still be heard when I was wearing my Bose noise cancelling earphones and listening to German grammar.
Cate was particularly unhappy because we could not get into any lounges and were forced to sit with the ‘general public’.  So in Dubai she consoled herself in the 4 hour layover by quietly sipping Bollinger in the Champagne bar and dealing with her BlackBerry.
My next companion from Dubai to Male was an unhappy German who was not sitting next to his wife. He did not sniff so was quite satisfactory. He had big arms but by wedging my elbows between my knees end resting my head my stomach I could just fit into my allotted space.
A speedboat took us to the Paradise Island Resort where we were herded with a crowd of other unfortunates into a bar area and made to fill out many forms and told to sit and wait – for some time - until we were taken to our rooms. I became restless and this made our guards unhappy. 
This gave us our first indication that we were not actually in a 5 Star Resort as we had planned.  Well that’s not quite true. The prices are 5 Star.
You can get a mediocre bottle of wine for $90 and shrimp cocktail for $35 – but the resort is 3 Star. Bring your own Shampoo and Conditioner.
Actually, the accommodation is quite nice. We have a lovely Water Villa with excellent air conditioning, a fabulous big bed, a beautiful balcony and  spectacular views. It is not their fault about the dredging. 
For some weird reason I was nominated as a Blog of Note by Blogger. I cannot understand why. I do not write about anything interesting or important and have very few readers.
I assume it is a random sampling thing computer generated thing and my number came up. Life goes on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This is what gives diving a bad name

A 23 year old woman died while on her first Scuba dive in the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. The reports says:

“She failed to resurface during the introductory "resort" scuba dive.
Frantic fellow divers tried in vain to resuscitate the young tourist after pulling her body from the water. Sergeant Graeme Pettigrew of Whitsundays Water Police said initial investigations suggested Ms Morrow had become separated from the group while diving and failed to resurface with the other divers. "The person involved was on a resort introductory dive. She was not an experienced diver," he said. "She became lost from the group."

Excuse me?
How can a ‘resort introductory dive’ be conducted in open water? I did mine in a pool after a training course.
You just don’t let a new diver near open water until they have had quite a bit of training – because the first thing any new diver does under water when anything at all happens is panic.
And if it was in open water you would not leave their side – literally. There should have been a Dive Master next to that diver during every second of that dive – simply because so many things can go wrong so quickly.
Usually what a new diver will do is knock their regulator out of their mouth. This will immediate swing round behind them and - for a new diver - will take some finding.
What they should do is grab their octopus – or someone else’s octopus – and breath from that while they find their regulator.
What a person on their first dive would do is panic and without help they will probably drown. 
Which is crazy because the surface is not more than 10 seconds and a couple of kicks away but if you are on your first dive you know nothing and without help you panic and die.
What a shambles. Leaving a diver alone on her first dive. 
The young woman's name was Elaine Morrow. She was Irish and was on a working holiday. This has made me so gloomy I have put a gloomy picture up for her. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The reason Fiaker horses go crazy

Apparently the reason so many Fiaker horses have gone crazy lately is that they have installed TV in the stables near the Prater and some of the horses have been watching Fox. The monologue for the horses waiting near the Hofburg could go along the following lines:
I have my head in a bag and I am making a fair bit of noise crunching my oats but I can hear you starting that a-snorting and a-snuffling and a-shuffling your hooves thing that you do just before you do that crazy bat shit thing of galloping off through the Hofburg at full pelt - scattering tourists and frightening the shit out of everybody – me included.
Well now you listen to me – all that stuff they are telling you on Fox about President Obama not having a Birth Certificate is just plain nonsense. He has a Certificate of Live Birth which he has released and which the Chief Medical Officer in Hawaii has testified  is the real deal. That should be good enough for a Tea Party member let alone a horse in Vienna.
And that Donald Trump – he does not really believe that the President was not born in the USA - he is just pulling everyone’s chain. And he is not really going to run for President – look when he is making the final announcement – on the final night of ‘The Apprentice’. He does this stuff every four years.
And those Fox people know that their viewers are not going to vote. The few that can read and write and that get out of the house on election day are never going to get past the nearest Cinnabon.
They are just trying to juice you up. I bet there is a man in the crowd now just waiting for you to do your mad rolling eye crazy galloping horsey thing so he can put it on YouTube.
So you just stop that stuff. The last time you did this we finished up in Michaelerplatz a-frothing and a-foaming and covered in our own saliva and shit and the police were called and it took hours to settle us down and bloody Helmut cursed for hours and mumbled for days.
If we stand here quietly we will end up with two more circuits of Vienna and a quiet night in.
With luck I might get a pat on the nose,  a few cubes of sugar and an apple. I can assure you that being covered in your own saliva and shit guarantees that no one is going to give us a pat on the nose or an apple.
Put your silly horsey head in your bag and get on with it – and no you are not watching Glenn Beck tonight. That man is too crazy even to do a crazy horsey run through the Hofburg – with or without Fiaker.
The fine pair of horses above is in Prague.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I will not he here for the wedding!

I realized with a sense of relief a  week or so ago that I would not be here for the Royal Wedding so would not have to watch it.

I will be on a dive boat in the middle of the Indian ocean and I am sure that that will not have satellite TV there – although stranger things have happened. Most dive boats just have a collection of DVDs – usually all the Jaws movies.
Oh sure I am under no official obligation but as a loyal subject of Her Majesty I do feel as though that if I was here I should actually watch to make sure everything goes well and with the appropriate amount of pomp and ceremony. And no one does it better that the British. And not that I would mind watching it so much - but they do tend to go on and on and it would ruin my day completely.
I watched the last one and that went off a treat – it was only afterwards that it turned into a Goat Fuck - although if you can believe what you read it never really had  chance because Charles never did love Diana and only married her to produce sprogs. What a Toad!
And I must say that William looks like he might be alright. He can speak without mumbling, he is reasonably coherent, appears to be intelligent and he can fly a helicopter – which shows that he has a reasonable level of dexterity. If nothing else he should be good around the house.
The problem is of course that everyone wants the lovely young couple to be their King and Queen – now! Unfortunately there are some procedural obstacles in that we have a Queen already – who is not leaving – and a King waiting in the wings.
As I see it the Queen will not retire or abdicate and may well live as long as her mother – and then it will be the turn of Charles. This does not appear to be a prospect that is relished by many – particularly as he will be accompanied by Camilla.
I can view all this with an air of detachment as – while many Australians work themselves into a complete tizzy over the monarchy – I am completely relaxed. It bothers me not whether we have a King or a Queen or a President. Life will go on.
A few years a go in Australia we had a referendum and 75% of Australians voted for a Republic but could not decided how to elect a President.
Some Australians wanted to elect a President by popular vote – meaning we would end up with either a cricketer, a footballer or the latest winner of Australian Idol.
Others wanted Parliamentarians to appoint the President – which means we would end up with someone who you would not leave alone in your house with your children.
So we still have the monarchy. People write withering Letters to the Editor explaining why each system is the only possible system and how Australian will collapse if we don’t change.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What an imagination Rozalin has

I need to remind you that on Thursday we leave for our diving trip to the Maldives and a cone of silence will probably descend on Vienna for Dummies. I always intend to blog when I am travelling but rarely do for one reason for another. 
Last time – in Paris - it was because I could not get my iPad to operate the way I wanted it to. This was even with the application of several Calvados in the café next to the hotel. No to me silly - not the iPad.
This time I am taking my new MacBook Air and the blurb says we have Internet access but as we are literally in the middle of the Indian Ocean I am not confident that this will be the case – but you never know. Stranger things have happened.
We spent some time on Sunday afternoon trying to work out how to fit our dive gear and our clothes into our new extra spacious dive bags. We thought we had done it until Cate remembered that we would probably also need our wet suits. Damn! Back to the drawing board.
I thought that my ribs – that still hurt quite a bit – would be OK with diving – because I can put my gear on and take it off in the water meaning there is no weight on my shoulders and my ribs.
However - Rozalin mentioned to Cate a week or so ago that if my ribs had not knitted properly then perhaps the water pressure would crush them into my body where they would puncture my lungs and kill me. Hmm…. hadn’t thought of that one. What an imagination that woman has.
I saw my rib Doctor last week (about my knee this time – it has been giving me problems for years) and also asked him about the lung puncturing scenario.
He had never been diving but when has was very young had worked in the Sahara building oil pipelines. This was too hard so he decided to become a doctor.
He thought about the problem for a while and had no answers.  I told him that I would be wearing a wet suit that would equalize the pressure so that I would be perhaps crushed totally – not just in parts – but he did ask how deep I would be diving – which shows that he did have a real understanding of the problem.
The final outcome was that I should probably try it and see what happens. This is what I was planning to do anyway as we cannot cancel the trip at this late stage.
He did sugges that I should pay the knee bill before I go on the dive trip.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vienna has gone to hell in a Fiaker

On Sunday a pair of Fiaker horses went berserk and caused havoc.

(I am guessing it is difficult for only one of a pair of Fiaker horses to go berserk. The other one would not have a bar of it).

According to the Austrian Independent it was almost a major catastrophe which would have finished Vienna as a tourist destination.

To quote (selectively):

‘Dozens of holidaymakers fled in horror as two horses bolted in the heart of city.  The Fiaker carriage horses thundered through the Hofburg Palace’s main passage  – which is frequented by thousands of vacationers every day. Several tourists strolling through the busy passage managed to get clear at the very last moment as the crazed animals came galloping from behind them.

(Does this mean that some other thousands of tourists did not get clear? Did some tourists move before the last moment? Did the horses appear in front of any tourists or were all the tourist moving in the same direction? Ed.)

The incident was the latest in a wave of unfortunate occasions involving Fiaker carriage horses, which are one of the capital’s main tourism attractions.

Earlier this year, a six-year-old horse died on the spot under unclear circumstances in the city center.

(It apparently does not take much to constitute a 'wave' for the Independent. I am unsure of the relationship between thundering horses and a horse that dropped dead on the spot – other that that they were all horses.  The horse that dropped dead does not seem to represent a risk to tourists – unless they were under it at the time. Ed.)

The fatality was preceded by an incident in which a Fiaker driver was run down by his own carriage after the horses suddenly bolted.’


(Well that is just plain stupid. The driver is supposed to be on top Ed.)

I think they should put up posters on street corners. ‘Beware Thundering or Crazed Horses’ (In many languages of course). The German word for horse is Pferde which of course is complete nonsense.

Then on Monday a tourist was knocked over by a tram. This is a problem for many tourists who are not familiar with trams – which often come from – as far as they are concerned  - the wrong direction. This is a weekly event. (but with different tourists)

Sure trams are big and noisy but tourists wander about staring at buildings and taking photos with their mouths agape – and then Whammy! 

We may have to equip trams with big rubber bumpers – like perhaps the ones on jumping castles - because this happens a lot here - and you just cannot stop a tram on a dime. 

Two days ago there were fire fears at Schönbrunn Palace. Fire fighters rushed there because the alarms went off and they found a hot cable. The Independent is worried about the impact this may have on tourism.

I mean if there had been a fire – and if the palace had been packed with people – and they were trapped inside – and the doors had been locked – and the fireman had left their axes behind – and had no water - well it could have been a catastrophe. This was another narrow escape which could have ended tourism as we know it in Vienna.  

And just to top things off. The most photographed statue in Stadtpark is that of Johann Strauss.

I walked through the park yesterday and – would you believe it – it has been boarded up for renovations – until September. So it is obscured for all of the main tourist season.

What sort of message does that send to the hordes of people who flock there daily? I mean you may as well go to France and photograph one of the thousands of cathedrals under scaffolding. At least you go to France knowing full well that all the cathedrals are covered in scaffolding - and as far as I can tell have been since the 19th century. 

I am not sure where we go from here. The only good news on the horizon is the Toni and Guy (those hairdressing people from the UK) are planning a dramatic expansion in Austria. They currently have only one store in the city so I guess any expansion would be dramatic.

This should pull us out of the doldrums while we work our how to calm down the crazed Fiaker horses – and also stop them from dropping dead in their tracks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Leopold Hawelka is older than Muffin.

There are people you do not expect to still be with us and one of them is Leopold Hawelka.
Café Hawelka is of course an institution in Wien and has been around for a very long time indeed. 
I had assumed that Herr Hawelka had left us a long time ago and was astonished to learn that not only is he with us but that he turns 100 today.
The café is now run by his grandsons and Leopold still goes there every day – and probably still tells them what they are doing wrong.
‘In my day we did it this way….’
I haven’t been there for a while and simply must go there again soon.
The photo is from Wikipedia. Merisi will have some wonderful photos but I could not find any as she does not allow us to search her treasure trove of fabulous goodies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I want two volunteers for the terrace

It is time to go through the annual ritual of choosing two plants which will give up their lives to grace our terrace for summer.
This is a daunting prospect as no one likes to send plants to their death – although – one of last year’s plants has sort of made it.
Sort of made it in the sense that if you wired it up it would not be flat lining – there would be a faint pulse – and we will try to bring it around during the warmer weather. 
I am putting it on a diet of Extra Strong Bushells Tea and Vegemite. 
So it is not a suicide mission – there are some chances for survival – and I will outline these when I talk to the plants chosen for this dangerous mission. 
There are two problems faced by our plants.
Our terrace is exposed to the elements and these are the blazing sun and the snow and icy cold in winter. It also gets bloody windy in Vienna.
The other is what was once a small black cat but is now a cat the size of a panther. She likes plants – a lot. She has probably been black-listed by the Royal Horticultural Society.
So I need hardy plants. When I go to Dehner (the plant nursery)  I don’t want plants that shout how pretty they are. I want plants that shout how tough they are. 
I want plants that shout ‘Hey – I could get through the Navy SEALS course’.
The photos shows Sissi when she was very, very small. She is about ten times this size now and eats her own weight in raw chicken every day. In summer I shall put a saddle on her and give rides to children in Stadtpark.
But if you do want to see nice photos of Australian flora you should visit freefalling because she gets about a bit and is a truly excellent photographer. She has a number of blogs so you have to ferret about a bit to find the nature and Australiana photos.
Cate is in Algiers. She is mightily unimpressed and sadly disappointed. I am guessing that it lost all of it’s cosmopolitan-ness when the French left and is now – by our standards - a dull and lifeless Arab country.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The SAO is a magical biscuit

William has suggested that Aussies are a bit strange with their fetishes for Vegemite and other strange substances but I can assure him that each group of expatriates brings with them their own set of addictions.
In Vienna we have Bobby’s where the English can indulge their needs for a wide range of English Marmalades, Honeys, Mustards, Teas and an astonishing range of unique – and sometimes terrifying foodstuffs – including Porridge.
Indeed this is where I buy my personal Winter Porridge because as far as I am aware it is the only place in Vienna that sells it. The Viennese do not eat Porridge. 
Bobby’s also these days sells a range of American stuff including Hershey Bars -which are apparently essential to sustain life in America. Much as Cherry Ripes are to Australians.
Incidentally – Cherry Ripe is on Facebook and has 5,652 people who like it. I thought it would be more than that. I think this shows a lack of commitment.
Virtual Vienna Net is an online expatriate site which exists to provide a support network for English speaking expatriates and one of the main topics of conversation is always where – for example – one can find the closest source to where one lives of Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise.
Or where to find the exact match for particular American products so that one can precisely reproduce Momma’s crunchy Apple Cinnamon donuts because the kids cry every night without them if they are not EXACTLY like they are in Peoria. 
The French are OK because the Viennese invented the Croissant and they are everywhere (but they are not as good as French Croissants). 
I have managed to find substitutes for most things – except of course Vegemite and Bushells tea for which there are no equals. But there are many things that are very different and one just has to live with. 
Bacon here for example is very different to Australian Bacon. I am not sure why but it just is and you just have to get on with it.
But on the matter of the might Sao about which William was so disparaging. To some people the Sao is just a dull, lifeless, tasteless cracker.
Now I need some support from my readers on this but my view is that the Sao as a biscuit is peerless, Without equal. The Prince of biscuits. On a scale of 10 it is a 10.
It has the perfect texture and taste and is a chameleon. It lends itself to any occasion – gracing any table. It is perfect as an accompaniment to cheese but can take center stage as the base for sliced tomato with cracked pepper and sea salt – with a cup of Bushells Tea. Bliss.
Or – in versatile mode it can bookend a Sao Vanilla Slice!
Sure it does not have the Panache of an Iced Vo Vo but that is like comparing a Ferrari with a Holden Ute. And it is the Holden Utes that are the backbone of the nation and get the job done.
A Magical biscuit. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My tea would kill a brown dog

I can only ever remember drinking Bushells tea. I know there are many other types although I cannot think of any at the moment. 

I like very strong tea so had to use more tea in the pot than suited anyone else and this was always inconvenient. Then a few years ago – actually probably many years ago – Bushells introduced Extra Strong Tea Bags. What a marvelous invention.
There are snobs that say tea bags are not real tea. I don’t think this is the case when you drink tea as strong as I have it. The taste is not subtle. My tea would kill a brown dog.
I used to take these tea bags with me when I traveled overseas because I never really liked any other type of tea – and especially in the USA where the tea can be absolutely poisonous.
So when people asked me if I would like tea I would say yes please and tell them I had my own tea bag. They would think I was strange but I would rather be thought of as strange than drink tea that I did not like.
Especially if it is Orange Pekoe because that makes me vomit – and almost immediately. I can use it as an emetic.
But Bushells tea for me was never really the same away from Sydney because the water is different - and the water is a big part of making tea what it is.
So – in all the time we have been in Vienna – I have never had a cup of tea – I had assumed it would not be worth drinking - until a week or so ago.
Naturally I brought with me some hundreds of Bushells Extra Strong Tea Bags and they have been sitting there staring at me sullenly. I have used some for visitors but have  never used one for myself because I just knew I would be disappointed – and was not prepared to face that disappointment.
But my favorite breakfast drink was always Bushells tea and this particular morning I was desperate for a cup of tea and I thought I would give it a try.
It was brilliant.
It brought back all those memories of when I was droving mobs of sheep with my son Lenny and we would stop by a creek and rest the horses – boil the billy – throw in a handful of Bushells and have a hot mug of char and a bit of a yarn before moving on.
Now Merisi – who knows about these things – has told me previously that Viennese water is some of the purest on the planet. She must be right because the combination of Viennese water and Bushells tea is just nectar of the Gods. It must be good. It conjured up memories of things I never did.
It is now my daily breakfast and evening drink and of course I am panic stricken at the thought that I will run out.
Fortunately we have visitors in May who will now have some unexpected baggage. Anyone else reading this and planning on visiting will now know what to bring. We are OK for Vegemite.
The other things that I miss – surprisingly because they are so innocuous – are Sao biscuits and Salada Crackers. Weird. They just have nothing like them here. Sure they make tasteless biscuits – but not tasteless in the same sort of unique tasty way. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's Mac Time again

I was Face Spammed yesterday and all my contacts got weird stuff from my Facebook account. This saved them from the trouble of having to read the weird stuff on my Blog.
I remember years ago Mr. Gates told us the Spam would be eliminated completely by  about 2008 but I read somewhere recently that it still comprises about 90% of Internet traffic. 
It would not seem to be that difficult to do - except that almost all of it seems to emanate from places like Russia that do not give a toss about what happens on the Internet unless it is critical of the government - in which case the perpetrators can expect to be killed almost immediately.
Someone wrote a book recently saying that Mr. Gates is not really a very nice person and has apparently sometimes been unkind to some people in his life.
Wow. That’s so…so….normal.
Mr. Gates has also given more to charity than anyone else in the history of the world. I think that counts for something. You could almost forgive him for Windows for that. Almost. 
I bet he has never un-friended anyone on Facebook.  I bet he has never used Facebook.
Mr. Jobs on the other hand is apparently a complete Plonker and is rude and unkind to almost everybody – but has assembled a wonderful team of talented people who have made some of the best products ever invented.
My Blog is late today because this afternoon I received my MacBook Air - and it is just delicious. It weighs just about as much as my Eric Bompard Jumper and is just as gorgeous.
Transferring files and settings from Windows computers used to take days and required a re-load of all the software.
When I turned on my MacBook Air  it asked me if I had any other Macs from which I wanted to transfer - and then found it and wirelessly transferred all the files – and settings – and programs.
I did not have to re-load any software. My MacBook Air is now an exact duplicate of my iMac – without of course the 28,000 tunes or zillion Gigs of photos – I don’t need to carry these around and the baby Mac does not have the capacity for them.
It is hard to imagine that I spent all that time wandering in the wilderness with Windows machines when I could have been using Macs. It is the first anniversary of my iMac this month and I have yet to have a crash.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh Dear – did I do something else?

I have a long standing friend in Australia – who I actually worked with once. In fact when I was a Director in a bank I got him a job there.
We have know each other for many years and correspond irregularly. He is a Search Consultant and I have occasionally spoken to him since I have been in Vienna about various things.
He has the habit of sending out snippets of things to his email mailing list and occasionally sends out pieces from Murdoch newspapers in Australia – usually the Daily Telegraph – about the perceived numerous faults of the Labor government.
The Daily Telegraph in Australia to my mind is one of the worst examples of Murdoch publishing trash - and is up there with Fox in America. There is simply no attempt at balance or dispassionate analysis. It is blathering right wing nonsense.
So I sent back what I thought was a humorous reply suggesting that if I read anything like that I would have to wash my eyes out with soap and boil my iPad in Rosewater. I accused him of peddling right wing trash. It was my usual response which – usually – gets a laugh.
I received an unexpected stinging response from a very offended correspondent who proclaimed his lack of political bias and his deep offence at my remarks. He provided me with his long list of regular reading. He also said that he had taken me off his mailing list. He asked what I personally read to keep myself informed of world and political developments.
I naturally apologized profusely for my gaffe and pointed out that my remarks were my usual attempts at humor but were obviously too heavy handed.
My apologies were accepted and the request for my reading list repeated. I sent this and did not hear from him again.
I noted today that I had been ‘un-friended’ by him in Facebook. The only way you notice this – by the way – is that the person is no longer one of your friends.  You get no message.
Oh Dear – did I do something else?  
I revisited my ‘reading list’ email and there it is. Down the bottom I had put that I am a member of Australian Atheists. When I saw this I remembered that my friend is a very devout Christian and this would have offended him deeply. Hence the Facebook plug pulling.   
But is this not an overreaction?
I mean I am happy to have Christians as friends. There are even Christians who read my Blog. Well – only two that I know of – my Brother and his wife – and they have to it do sometimes it with their sunglasses on and their hands over their ears.
(My Sister-in-Law has said that sometimes she has read the Blog and said to my Brother ‘Don’t read the Blog today!’)
Aren’t Christians supposed to turn the other check or something like that. I mean to ‘un-friend’ someone just because they are an Atheist is a bit tough. It is not as though I am a bad person and am unkind to Cats – or kick small children – or don’t drink Calvados.
I am feeling quite unloved by this and think that my friend should look into his soul and search for the goodness that is there so that he can reach out to me again through Facebook.
On the other hand - Fuck him!
To cheer myself up I have put up some special wallpaper just for the day. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Happy Birthday John!

Badger and John in Tuscany.
I don’t do Birthday Blogs very often but I have a very special friend named John who I rarely see and who I miss a lot. 
I met him many moons ago and was best man at his wedding - to the lovely Christine.
For one reason or another we have never really been in the same place together for the last 20 years or so. 
But when we see each other it’s just like pulling on an old jumper. We are immediately comfortable and relaxed and he tells me the same jokes he has been telling me since 1968 – and I still laugh. 
Last year at about this time we all went to Tuscany together and had a wonderful time in a tiny little village called Bagni di Lucca. 
We ate wonderful Italian food and drank wonderful Italian wine and toured the countryside. John and Cate spoiled things by cheating at Trivial Pursuit but Christine and I let this pass in the spirit of not spoiling a good holiday.
They are not coming to Europe this but John is going on a four month tour of Australia in a campervan with one of his mates. i.e. without Christine.
Well – at no stage did I say he was entirely normal. Christine is apparently happy for him to do this on the basis that it will the first real peace she has had since they were married. 
I don’t have to see John for him to be my best Mate. I know he will always be there for me (unless he is playing Golf) and he knows I will always be there for him. 
I won’t see him when I am in Australia in August because he will be in a Campervan somewhere near Darwin – and there are limits.
Anyway - it's his Birthday - and he is nearly as old as I am. Shriek!
Happy Birthday Cobber!