Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I appear to be a mass plant murderer

Cate is in Johannesburg today and has finished the job she had to do early. She went with Hermann and another colleague to a Lion Park where she was mauled by a small Lion. She said it was very cute and she did not mind at all being mauled – and it was probably not really a mauling – more a sharp pawing. So she has been patched up and is on her way home - and tomorrow we leave for Berlin.

I have heard nothing from the printer cartridge people – well that is not quite true – they have sent me some email information about some more products that I could buy and that they could send to Australia – but I guess that they have lost interest in the stuff that I bought and that I will not hear from them again about that for a while – if ever.

I will ask Rozalin to speak to them in  a week or so to see if she can muster any enthusiasm on their part – but I think she will be struggling. There is no point in my trying because you can see their standard of English – and my German is worse.

I have broken all previous records for killing the plants on the terrace. One of these was just a pathetic weakling and has thrown in the town completely and turned brown. What a wimp. The other one is no navy SEAL and is certainly on the way out – but may last another month.

This is not for lack of care. I have loved them and nurtured them like they were my own children – which of course they are. I am not sure what I am doing wrong but it is obviously something serious and I am expecting a visit from the Royal Horticultural Society revoking my rights to have plants of any description under my care. 
One of the problems is of course is that I know nothing about plants. To me a plant is a plant. You plant it and – it grows – or it dies – it can make the choice as far as I am concerned.

These two have made the choice and next year - if I am allowed - I will give another two the same opportunity.

Cate says she wants another two this summer.  I say what would be the point of this? What am I – a mass plant murderer? They will have a picture of me near the Kassa in Dehner. There he is! Killer! Don’t sell him any plants!

The photos are from our courtyards. There are two leading out to our building entrance in Am Heumarkt - which means literally ‘in the Hay Market’. So many years ago our street was probably where the hay market in Vienna was - or not – I have learned that these names do not always mean what they seem to mean and as all the history books are in German well….you know. As always - click to embigiate. 

I will probably report from Berlin where we will be for the next five days.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Really - I am just in the country next door!

I love these new printer toner cartridges that tell you when they are empty. Remember the days when a cartridge began to run dry and print became all streaky and wobbly?

You could take the cartridge out and shake it from side to side and get it to print a few hundred pages more. This decision making process is now no longer required by the customer. The new cartridges make the decision for you.  The toner lights goes on. It’s all over! It’s like the flat green line on the machine the goes beep in the medical shows.

I am empty. I am not printing another page. It’s good night Vienna.

Oh purleease! Are you telling me there is not enough toner inside you to print one more page? Not a single solitary page?

There may well be – but I am not at liberty to release that information -  and I am not printing any more. I have finished. My tour of duty is over. Ich bin Kaputt! Please play The Last Post and insert a Genuine Replacement Part.

You can open me up and check if you like. That is if you would like to look like a chimney sweep for the next six weeks and have your house and pets covered entirely with a fine layer of black, oily ink that will NEVER dry and that you will NEVER get out of your clothes – especially the white ones. Go on – have a go. I love it when people do that.

What I do find in Vienna is that it is extraordinarily difficult to buy reasonably priced cartridges for my printer. I can buy them from the local store for about €80 but I can get them online from a supplier in Germany for €36 plus delivery – except that the supplier hasn’t got the hang of selling them online outside Germany yet so we have to do a lot of toing and froing to actually get the order done.

What I mean is that I go on line and order and they quote and I order and I pay direct to their bank account in Germany. A few days later they send me an email saying that it is extra to send to Austria so I have to send them the additional amount. They have not been able to program in the postage to Austria – this is apparently very difficult.

Mostly this works OK but it is very tedious. 

On the weekend I ordered some cartridges and saw that I could now pay with PayPal – so I did that – and on Monday morning I got an email from a man saying that it would cost me an extra €20 to send the cartridges to Australia. WTF?

I also got a consignment note from DHL saying that the cartridges were in fact on their way to my address in Australia. Oh Dear. (OK so my PayPay account uses my Australian Bank Account – but really!)

I sent a message back saying it would probably be better if you sent the cartridges to me in Austria because that is where my printer is.

Sandra Eckelman from the cartridge people has responded saying

‘Best thanks to for your purchase. It concerns a secured payment over PayPal.  Unfortunately the address not manually subsequently can be changed. We ask for your understanding.’

To which of course I have responded that I do indeed understand -but it does not advance the resolution of my problem - and do they have a solution in mind in regards to getting the printer cartridges to the actual address requested for the delivery. That is – in Austria – which is next door to Germany. If you peek out your window you can almost see me.

Look – I do not expect a response – and if I get one it will probably be along the lines of the German customer service mantra ‘the customer is always wrong and/or fucked’ so on this basis I have ordered more printer cartridges from another supplier.

I expect that this cartridge retrieval process will be a long an excruciating one and that I will have to enlist the formidable skills of Rozalin to actually get hold of the cartridges – but even with her involved this will take some considerable time – and indeed may not be possible.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ducks for Maalie

A Memorial Service was held on Friday 28 May  for Maalie – apparently near his home town of Askam-in-Furness. The mourners then apparently adjourned to his house in Steel street.

I am having difficulty coming to grips with that. Did they look at it first? I hope there was a policeman at the door to issue tickets to let them in four at a time. I hope I have it wrong and they instead adjourned instead to the Black Dog.

The ceremony was at 12:15 UK time so I met Merisi in Stadtpark about an hour before and we wandered up to St Stephens’ Cathedral.

Merisi bought two white roses and while we waited we had some coffee in the café opposite the cathedral. It had been a gorgeous morning but the storms were coming.

At the appointed time we went into the Cathedral and Merisi prevailed upon a young man who was fiddling about with audio equipment near the main altar to sneak our roses into the displays which were probably there for the Sunday Mass. He did this very deftly and there they were –splendidly on display – and I daresay that Jim’s soul will be well and truly prayed for on Sunday.

Then the organ started playing so Merisi and I sat for 20 minutes while this fabulous sound crashed around that magnificent temple – which I thought they had decked out nicely for Maalie – but it turned out it was for the Long Night of the Churches which took place that very night.

We then lit some candles and I lit one for Simon who could not be there and was so special to Jim – and to whom Jim was so special.

And then we had a fine long lunch at Café Central and wandered back around the city and back through Stadtpark. The storm had swept through the park while we had lunch and the air was damp and fresh. The grass was covered with leaves cut down by the heavy rain and the more delicate flowers had been flattened.

The Ducks were none the worse for wear and the Duck-Meister was in his usual spot looking after his charges. He is there in summer picking excess leaves and rubbish out of the water and he is there in winter breaking the thin ice near the edges so that the Ducks are never to vulnerable and also have some open water. We have desultory conversations. He does not like to speak about the ducks. He likes to be with them.

And so do I.

Naturally I took some special duck photos for Maalie. And one of this cool cat! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So this is the thing

Cumbria with Jim - January 2011

I am not functioning at all well for a number of reasons. After Jim’s death I have been very sad and spend a lot of time just moping about. I understand that this is a normal part of grieving and I just have to struggle through it. That is what I am doing.

On Friday there is a memorial service in England and a close friend and I will be lighting candles for Jim in Vienna – in St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

He would have liked that. He was not religious but often visited churches to light candles. After that we will have lunch together and remember a true friend lost. He was due to visit me this weekend. 

I am on a long program of trying to get rid of my migraines. Two weeks ago – because my lower dose was having some effect - my Doctor put me on the maximum dose of my anti-migraine drug.

The short to medium effect of this is to put me into a comatose state in the mornings and I do not surface effectively until after lunch. Until then I am less coherent than Muffin and all I really want to do most of the time is sleep.

But I am making progress. I am now having fewer migraines  - and they are much less powerful than they were. I am confident that in a few months I will be getting almost no migraines at all. I think it is worth the struggle – but unless you have never had a migraine you will not know what I am talking about. If you have – you will give me you true blessings.

Cate is not here and is only briefly popping in on Saturday before popping out again. We love each other more than the sky and it is difficult for both of us to spend so much time apart – but these things have to happen if we are to live the life we do in Vienna.

The combination of these things means that it is difficult for me to get through the day - let alone blog – so I am going to have to take a break.

Normal service will resume when I get my shit together. In the interim I may post some photos – probably of Ducks

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Cate is doing a touch and go landing

I have included a photo of our lounge room showing the dimensions of my problem in respect of the lights. Now you can see my ladder - it is two meters high but is well short of reaching the high lights even if I stand it on a table – and even if Mrs Moneypenny sits on my shoulders.

On the weekend I tried to buy a ladder from Amazon in Germany but they would not send it to me (too big) so I will just let the high lights die one by one until they are all dead and then I will find an electrician willing to carry a ladder up six flights of stairs to replace the lights. Good luck with that.

The problem is of course that they are not normal globes – they are ‘down lights’ so have to be popped out of the fittings - and have new lights plugged into them and then re-fitted. I am telling you this in case you think that I can use a bulb changer thingy on the end of a stick – or Muffin gaffer taped to the end of a broom handle.

Now I learned yesterday that the love of my life is not in fact returning to me on Saturday from Peoria – well she is but so briefly as to barely be noticeable.

There has been one of those Goat Things in another of her places of interest so she is doing a ‘touch and go landing’ on Saturday and will arrive home at about 9:30 AM and depart for the African Continent at about 5.30 PM.

This will give me just enough time to wash and dry her undies and iron a few essential things for her - and it will give her time to catch 40 winks because she will be pretty well shagged out after a gruelling week of meetings – and because where she is now she can only get Fox and this would knock the stuffing out of any sensible person.

But - if all goes according to plan I will meet her next Wednesday in Berlin where we are having a belated birthday celebration for me.

Amazingly – we have not been to Berlin before during our time in Europe and it is somewhere we would really like to see.

Berlin is one of those places that Bomber Harris actually got to flatten completely. Every building, every stick of furniture, every piece of plumbing – he bombed it back to the stone age.

I think he was working on the basis that what the Allies would need most in Berlin after VE day would be rubble to fill in the bomb craters so that they could build car parks for the new football stadiums and Marks and Spencers stores.

So opinion is divided on whether he was actually a war criminal or a leader in urban redevelopment.

But – hey – I am told it looks fabulous now – well I mean the part that the Communists didn’t get their hands on because they were not renowned for their architectural skills – or road building skills – or indeed much at all really. 

I have chosen – I think – a really nice hotel – using a brand new formula. I am not going to tell you what it is until I see if it works.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am the huggee rather than the hugger

I have had some people congratulate me on my new Blog. Well I have no clue about these things. I write blogs and click ‘publish.’

The designer is Steph Waller whose link is at the bottom of the page. She is a web page designer, musician, composer, writer and multi-talented person who was sucked up by mistake from Ventura in an early Rapture and then spat back into Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The marvels of modern technology enabled her to transform Badger’s blog from afar. I am planning on visiting her one day when – with the aid of the Green Fairy and the Beatles on vinyl – we are going to explore the wonders of the universe.

Cate called me from wherever she is to say that she had a dream that she got a telephone call that they had pulled me from the wreck of a black Mercedes Benz and that ‘I did not make it’. My son Lenny was with me. No word on his condition in her dream.

I assured her that I was fine and that Billy Benz was tucked up safely in the garage and apart from a mild collision with the white Audi in that very same garage last week there was no damage to us.

This is not new – I have collided with the Audi – in a minor fashion – almost weekly – for years. Indeed it is almost impossible not to in our microscopic garage – but it is a mere brushing of our plastic bumper bars. 

As far as I was aware Lenny was also fine although I have no doubt that at some stage during the last 24 hours one or both of his dogs have pissed on his legs.

I am not superstitious – hence my lack of belief in religion and stuff like that – but am not entirely averse to partaking in premonitions – so will be extra careful for a while.

I did not mention that last weekend when we had Rebecca and Rachel with us we also had my daughter Molly and her friend Andy - aka Neanderthal Man.

I did not attempt to explain the situation to Mrs. Moneypenny because Andy is married and Molly is not - but Andy and Molly are not sleeping together – well they are sharing a bed but not - well you know what I mean – but Mrs Moneypenny’s eyes would have glazed over.

Andy and his wife are separated – well they live together – but she is a Lesbian and the whole things is a  bit complicated. You can see how Mrs Moneypenny would have been hyperventilating with that one.

But Andy wanted to see Vienna so he said could he come and stay with us and we said sure but you will have to sleep in the cat’s bedroom – it is called the cat’s bedroom because it is adjacent to the cat’s bathroom -  with Molly because Rebecca and Rachel are here and they had a priority booking for the guest bedroom.

Anyway when Andy was leaving he gave me a hug and wondered whether he should have - so he asked Molly who asked me - and I said sure I like hugs and in fact I am a very huggy person except at my age I really have to be the huggee rather than hugger because uninvited hugs from men my age are a sure-fire way of getting the police involved.

Anyway Andy is a very nice guy and is not called Neanderthal man because of his appearance but because he looks for fossils all over Europe. Naturally – being a scientist – he is also an Atheist – so we had a bit in common.

He sent Molly and I on chase looking for the skeleton of a very small horse but we were unsuccessful – but we had a delicious lunch at Café Schwarzenberg – where the waiter remembers me and showed us to a reserved table. Being recognised by a waiter is an occurrence so rare in Vienna as to be marked by balloons and a parade.

Janice left a comment yesterday on an earlier blog and finished with ‘and while I almost never agree with you, I do enjoy reading your blog.’Well – this almost knocked my socks off. ‘almost never agree with you!’

You see I thought that I was a fairly rational person with reasonably rational views and I had hoped that most of my readers could agreed with at least 49% of what I said. Almost Never! Suffering Snakes! That’s getting towards how I feel about Sarah Palin! But - I am sure Janice is a lovely lady - and she reads my blog - who can complain about that. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can you see my problem now?

Wombat - Tasmania

As I write this Cate is in Washington visiting her brother Will who works for the World Bank. He actually lives in Vienna Virginia – now isn’t that a hell of a coincidence.

He and his wife Kris have lived there for a very long time – I am guessing 20 years. Yes he is Australian and his wife  both still speak Australian – but have adapted to life in America. Well as much as an Australian can adapt to life in America. I mean they shop at Costco and drink Bud but they sure as hell don’t believe all that rightwing crap and they did not stand on the front lawn on Saturday waiting for the rapture. On Saturday night that had a good old Aussie BBQ with Cate.

Cate will probably be shopping in Tysons Corner Galleria because the USA is the best place for a girl her size to buy clothes. Did I say that out loud? I will just go and put my head under a cold tap.

Not that – I hasten to add – she is large – far from it – indeed she is microscopic – in fact she can barely be seen with the naked eye. But it is just that European sizes are preposterously small and all business clothes are preposterously expensive.

And she has been through the horrendous experience of walking into shops in Vienna and having the haughty sales assistant say ‘there is nothing in this store that would fit madam.’

To which of course the only response would be ‘well there is something under Madame’s jeans that would fit over Frau or Frauline’s head’.

I have prepared for the onslaught on the main credit card by shoveling some extra cash on there. I have suffered the indignity once before of having Cate ring me from Tysons wailing that her credit card had been declined – Oh the humiliation – she cried!

I gently reminded her that she had three more on which to draw – why so many you ask – well when we got to Vienna thy positively threw them at us – and of course we still have our Australian credit cards.

But still a girl does not need that sort of stress when she is in the middle of a massive buying spree and up to her ears in bags from Macy’s, Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue – even if some of these are being carried by her Sister-in-Law – who is egging her on to even greater heights of extravagance. After this she will stagger off – with her extra luggage – to the Head Office of Ducky Pharma in a place I can no longer mention - but let's call it Peoria. 

She will prepare for the almost unbearable excitement of this by taking tranquilizers so that she does not actually burst any blood vessels when she touches down in the entertainment capital of the mid west during race accompanied on the airplane by racing car drivers, engineers, buxom blonde ladies with big hair and all sorts of other exotic people.

She flies back home next Thursday so will of course be devastated when she learns that she will miss the big race by a few days. One year when she was there they took her to the ‘actual track’ where the Peoria 1000 takes place and she said some of the people she was with got down on there hands and knees and ‘kissed the track.’ She declined to participate in this ritual and spoiled the moment a bit by asking ‘what happens here again?’ 

She is not good with sport of any kind. They also took her to a baseball game but she of course had no idea what was happening – having never seen a baseball game before – so spent the entire game speaking to a Legal Counsel from Germany. She did have a hotdog which she said was good – but it had a bit too much mustard.

She and the German person were not particularly enthused by the local art gallery but managed to mutter encouraging noises so as to encourage the curator to greater heights. Well –  I mean – for fucks sake – it is Peoria – what did they expect! It is not the Louvre!

The Americans do good hotdogs. The ones you can buy on the streets in New York are my favorites and I actually look forward to them. American deli food is terrific if you know what to buy – I don’t so I like to go with a seasoned veteran. They know where to by the best Reuben Sandwich and if you get the best Reuben sandwich you can die happy.

American breakfasts are also brilliant but are also  terrifying if you are in a line with 50 other people shuffling along to get it to go. You only get one chance so you better be damn good and quick and do not do it with an Australian accent.

If you say it and he does not hear you or he does not understand you then you may as well be dead because you not getting any. He is now looking at the person behind you - who is now pushing you into the street. You had better try your luck somewhere else.

You are not getting any breakfast here. Here you are the invisible and hungry man.

So I am on my own until next Friday. This will give me a chance to get a few extra chores done. I still have to paint the cat door and 12 of the down lights have suddenly decided to pop their clogs ‘en masse’ – but I am not allowed to do the ones that are up really high – and I mean really high – they are about 10 meters high – for the reason that to get there I would need to stand on top of a ladder on top of a table and there is no need to go in to detail about what would happen if I did that except to say that blogging would probably would probably be done one letter at a time with me holding a pencil between my teeth – or not at all.

I might be able to persuade Mrs. Moneypenny to come and have an extra tea drinking tea and ironing session with me. I will have to clear it with Cate of course. If I catch her while she is in the middle of a shopping session she will be distracted and won’t be bothered what I do. 

Mrs. Moneypenny will tell me how her husband does not love her at all and does not want to have sex with her more her more than once every month and I am guessing that will not help me focus on getting my chores done one little bit. And I am certainly not climbing any ladders after that. You can see my problem can't you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I like to drink tea with her and watch her iron

Over the last year or so I thought that Muffin’s advancing senility might have plateaued on occasions - but it marches on inexorably. We can harness it’s advancing forces by – for example – keeping the heated floor in the guest bathroom on all the time so that she stays in there on the woolly bathmat in a comatose state for long periods of time - sleeping soundly.

I sneak in there and watch her sleeping peacefully – praying (see I do pray but not to the same Gods as everyone else who prays – I pray to the Fuckup Fairy) that she will pass away silently with one last little cat sigh and vanish to the same place as all dead cats. I think it is the same place as dead people but cannot be sure. I do not pretend to know everything like some people. There could well be a Cat God.

But for the last few days we had my Niece Rebecca and her partner Rachel stay with us and Muffin had to be evicted. My Niece’s partner is a woman and this devastated Mrs. Moneypenny who is our occasional and rather reluctant cleaner.

Mrs. Moneypenny comes from Latvia and works for an American woman as a child minder. She only does the one cleaning job – for me – I am not sure how this happened – but she does not really have time to do this as her life is dreadfully complicated and we have endless and complicated discussions about her life, her large family in Latvia and her husband as I help her sort through the very many issues she faces on a daily basis.

Her time here is chaotic as we drink tea and discuss her life. She fields important phone calls from her friends, checks her emails, posts to her Facebook account - and occasionally tosses a damp mop around the lounge room to rearrange the dust.

But she is a devout Christian and her Facebook page is splattered with Christianity. So when I mentioned that the guest room needed cleaning for my Niece and her girl partner she was most unimpressed. When I threw in that my Niece was of the Jewish faith she practically needed resuscitation.

So we had to sit down with a cup of Stockholm Blend Tea - which we import from Australia and work through the issues.

She agreed with me that God made everyone but she would not agree that God made gay people. She said that they chose to be gay. I argued that this could not be so because if God made them how could they choose for themselves. He was responsible for absolutely everything including the birds and the bees and the woods and the streams – he MUST have made gay people.

I lost that argument very badly and need to revisit the points that I made. I could never have imagined being outpointed by a Latvian child minder and occasional cleaner but there you are. She agreed that God wants us to love and accept gay people but that she could not agree with their lifestyle.

You will note that I made no effort to dissuade her from her Christian viewpoint – nor would I ever attempt to do so. Indeed – when she has low points – as when she gives me the weekly bulletin about her husband not loving her – I reassure her that God loves her.

She has been taught about God from birth. Her life revolves around her faith and her Church. All her friends are Christian. What would be the point of a curmudgeon like me trying to confuse her about anything at all.

Besides. She is very young. She is blonde. She is thin. She is tall. She is in fact a gold-plated Hottie.

There may be an occasion when Cate totally loses her senses and leaves me for another man – say her boss Huggy Bear – and I need to take someone home to Australia with me. My ribs are still giving me a lot of trouble and I will need a strong young woman to carry things – fetch water – make tea - stuff like that. Those Latvian women are sturdy!

Sure she can’t clean for nuts but what the hell. I like to drink tea with her and watch her iron.

But my blog readers are made of sterner stuff. You need to be tough and trudge through the occasional rant about religion. I am really quite harmless.

Where was I? Oh yes – Muffin.

When she is not sleeping Muffin prowls the house either meowing or yowling. Meowing is better. The yowling is banshee like. Not that I have heard a banshee but I have a vivid imagination.

It is worse when she finds a stray sock. It sounds like an air raid siren as she drags this fecking sock around the house wailing pitifully. It can go for some time and sounds like Dominique Strauss-Kahn having his room made up.

She is no longer allowed in the bedroom at night because she does not sleep at night. At night she walks. Endlessly. Up and down and around and across the bed. Imagine a single Morris Dancer on speed.

She is perfectly well. She had a full and very expensive medical examination a few weeks ago. It is just that she is nearly 19 years old and is – well – ancient in cat terms - and a bit gaga.

There is nothing that can be done. Life must take its course – for every living creature.

This is what I will be like in a few years time and then Cate will lock me out of the bedroom and I will have to sleep on the bathmat in the guest bathroom. I rather suspect I will be sharing it with Muffin.

I have failed on the last one

Today’s rant is about lying politicians.

Firstly - in answer to all those unasked questions yesterday. No – I cannot prove that God does not exist. That is not my job.

My job is to look after Cate and the cats – love my children and grandchildren - be as kind to as many people as possible – have a nice life and do what I can to leave the world a better place than it was when I arrived.

OK I have failed on that last one but it was not for want of trying and when I was young and enthusiastic I really did care - but there are so many people absolutely intent on trashing the planet at the moment that it really does seem rather pointless to me when I separate my white and colored wine bottles and drop them in the bins outside Spar.

While I am doing this – and putting my cardboard in the special bins downstairs – the Republicans are gutting every piece of EPA legislation in the USA.

Are these people really so dumb that they do not know the difference between climate and weather? Do Republicans REALLY believe that there is no such thing as climate change or is it just a charade to try to get elected. I am being charitable here and assuming that they cannot ALL be fuckwits.

Do they not have children and grandchildren that they care about enough to try to do something – anything – to try to counteract the effects of global warming.

There is no developed country in Europe – or indeed the rest of the world - that does not accept that global warming exists and is a real problem. And Europe has been working on solutions and alternative energy sources for years.

America has been working mainly on developing alternative honking lunatics like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann who spout endless flapdoodle about how carbon dioxide is not dangerous and how alternative energy kills economies.

The problem in America is that there is no real constraint on what people say about anything – certainly there is no desire by anyone to tell the truth. In other developed western countries there is some sort of convention that you do not stand up in public and tell outrageous bare-faced lies.

In a budget speech in the US Senate in April Senator John Kyl (R) of Arizona claimed that Planned Parenthood “devotes more than 90 percent of its resources to providing abortions.” The actual figure is about 3% and his office later issued a statement saying that the Senator hadn’t intended his remarks to be a factual statement. This was in the US Senate.

The problem is that most of the speeches and comments made by politicians are not intended to be factual – and are in fact lies. Most of what is said by Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann is in fact complete bullshit. Sarah Palin’s ‘Death Panels’ lie was rated as the biggest lie of the last Presidential election. She repeated it in every speech she gave.

You can check some of the whoppers here.

And of course when they say all this stuff there are people with minds like the inside of ping pong balls who actually believe them! I am not joking!

A few of them can read and write – after a fashion - and I read what they say when they comment on forums – and it’s very scary. Now if they actually get out there and vote you could get someone like Michele Bachmann as President and – well – I would not want to be around when that happens.

Unfortunately I probably will be. So I have lost part of my incentive for recycling my empty milk cartons and now just throw them in the rubbish bin. See what this whole crazy business has done to me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Caution: Blasphemous Blog Follows

The truly wonderful Stephen Hawking came out yesterday and said that the afterlife is a fairy story – which of course it is.

The concept of all these invisible Gods hiding in the sky and promising us such wonderful riches when we pop our clogs is enormous fun - but is such a crock that in the 21st century it really is astonishing that anyone who has thought and read about it can still believe it. I guess it is a tribute to the vast religious machine that has banged out this crap since the beginning of civilization and continues to grind on in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are peddling bullshit.

I mean really – since the beginning of civilization we have invented how many Gods – probably at least 100,000? Because all Gods are of course our own inventions.

According to the Oxford World Christian Encyclopedia there are there are no fewer than 10,000 religions worldwide today and they flourish and disappear at an astonishing rate.

Lately – we have not been inventing quite so many religions because we have been understanding the world around us more - and people have not been quite so gullible – except perhaps for Mormons and Scientologists. And let me tell you – it takes a particular brand of lunacy to get involved with these whackos. And – spare me – a Mormon is a front runner for the Republican nomination for the US Presidency.

Does it ever strike Christians or God-followers of any description as strange that not one – not a single solitary God - has ever had the courage to show him or herself to his or her adoring flock anyplace – ever. Not a glimpse. Not a glance. Not a fleeting shadow. These Gods are so shy.

Oh sure - they will occasionally – every one hundred years or so send the Virgin Mary to show herself to some young children - who can then surprisingly convince millions of adults of what they have seen - but they can never be bothered to front up themselves. They just send the Virgin – or even worse – a weeping Virgin statue.

Anyway – I digress

What I love is when Stephen Hawking says anything at all because it brings the Christian loonies who read Fox out in their droves. I immediately pounce on Fox and devour the comments from the half wits - nay the quarter wits who inhabit these nether regions – that dark world where flesh eating trolls dwell – the comments sections of Fox stories.

Of course they have nothing but the bible. This is the only book that supports their beliefs. That ancient musty text. No one really know who wrote it. It was cobbled together many centuries ago by ancient scribes from who knows where - from myths and legends passed down through the centuries.

It has been altered a million times and re-translated and mis-translated and re-interpreted and everyone has their own view of what everything means and every Fox viewer knows that it is the true word of God and what every passage means - to them.

And to attempt to demolish the impeccable mind of Hawking these nitwits quote the Bible. Line by line. Verse by verse.

And I regret to say – they are preyed upon by rather more intelligent non-believers who goad them with rational arguments and send them into foaming frenzies and prompt them to respond with withering bursts of bible passages and – for some obscure reason – the Shroud of Turin – which is always trotted out as proof of God’s existence. Why not quote the Tooth Fairy?

The whole argument is – of course – pointless - but hilarious.

Two lovely older women came to my door a few months a go to talk to me about God’s word. I said how did they know it was God’s word? Because it was in the bible. But how did they know what was in the bible was God’s word. Because it said so in the bible. What could I say to that?

More importantly. I had thought that there were very few baby ducks in Stadtpark because I had only seen three - and had thought that the rats had more than their fair share of eggs this winter. But – Melissa and I were coming back from lunch today and we saw a mother duck with 16 babies. Brilliant. Now don't get picky. I know there are only 14 in the photo but there are still two lazy ones getting out of the water.

Maalie would have been so pleased with this.

Maalie is not in heaven or hell. Stephen Hawking is right. These do not exist. Maalie has just ceased to be - which is what happens to us all when we die.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free of the hairy little fecker at last

I have finally consigned the fecking Reindeer rug to the basement. You will remember I am sure that we bought it from Lapland and it took pride of place in the lounge room in winter but it turned out be a vicious, spiteful bastard of a rug and started to molt something terrible.

And I don’t just mean molt – it was firing tufts of hairs into the air like you see those plants doing on the nature shows. I think it watched too much National Geographic while it was lying on the floor in front of the TV.

It was lying there scheming and anytime something went near it there would be a spurt of reindeer hair and the person or animal – mainly cats of course – would be covered and would scatter hair all over the place. Did it think that it was going to spread itself over the apartment and grow little Reindeer rugs everywhere?

Of course Sissi and Monika would then also lie on the rug to collect more hair and take it into the far flung reaches of the apartment and I mean all over the apartment. The hairs were absolutely everywhere. In our clothes, all our drawers, shoes, socks, toothbrush mugs, saucepans, microwave, fridge, oven, letterbox. I found some in the fruit section in Spar and on the seat of a tram I caught to Simmering.

First I moved it to the guest bedroom and this had almost no effect because these Reindeer hairs were the Vasco da Gamas of the dead animal kingdom and migrated all over the house even through locked doors. It was like snow. I had to shake the fecking stuff out of my underpants in the morning before I could put them on. Believe me when I tell you that you do not want to wear underpants with Reindeer hair in them.

So yesterday I waited till it was asleep and took it unawares. I pounced on it. It struggled like a demon - and rolled it up. Secured it with gaffer tape – wrapped it in two layers of plastic and then another two rounds of gaffer tape. Let the little fecker get out of that one!

I put it in a large plastic box in the basement. I can hear it struggling when I go down there but the gaffer tape I use is as strong as steel.

We are probably going to Iceland for Christmas this year and I think we will take it with us and let it go. It would be nice to see it bound off into the distance – free again – scattering great clouds of hair as it goes.

We would have to be careful as we free it as it could well turn on us and cause dreadful injuries. I will stand by with a lawn mower just in case.

I really hope as it races off someone brings it down with hunting rifle. I would like a picture of it. Or I could take it home as a trophy.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Life goes on........

But we have the books. I have been through the boxes once since we have been here and removed some that we wanted. Some boxes remained unopened. These were the ones that contained the books that were on the bottom shelves in the bookshelves in the hallway – and upon which our boy cat Bill urinated almost daily for about 7 years.

These were reduced to stinking piles of sodden sludge and I really did mean to throw them out but by the time I went to do this the packing man had packed them.
Leaping Llamas! What was he thinking when he picked up these dripping pieces of stinking, steaming goo and slithered them into the book boxes. Did he really think we wanted them? What was he thinking when he did this? Did he go to the truck and get his Kevlar gloves?

I mean these books were so toxic they could put them in cruise missiles and drop them on Gadhafi. That would bring him to his senses. Allah why are the fiendish Infidels doing this! WTF is this poisonous  muck anyway? Abdul – eat some of this and see what it does! Please Colonel…

OK I know what you are thinking. Why had I not thrown then away long before this. Simply – dear reader – because Billy would then have moved on to another row of books.  As it was – we sacrificed a row of books – one a pictorial history of Hitler’s early career – another Old Mills of English Waterways -  for the sake of preserving many others more precious to us.

I did not ask packing man why he had decided to do that. But I have learned that packing men will pack anything and everything - and not necessarily in any particular order or for any particular reason. The are told to pack. They pack. When the have packed everything they can see they leave.

If for example packing man is packing the books in the hallway and he needs something to fill the box - he might pop into the study and grab the keyboard from my desktop PC and put that in there.

When I am unpacking in Vienna it may take me so long to find that keyboard – because it is in a box with books that went straight to the basement – that I have to be sedated and put to bed with a cold towel on my head. I can assure you that no matter how hard you try and how hard you sob – a PC with a screen and mouse but no keyboard is not worth a pinch of Pelican poo.

And when I say bed I mean mattress because the bolts for the bed were not with the bed ends – they were somewhere else entirely and took some time to find.
There is also so much other shit in the basement that it makes me want to weep. There are towels so old and threadbare that they look like they came from one of the famous 5 star hotels that I choose so badly and so often.

A few months ago we went native and moved to this crazy Austrian system of having two smaller Duvets instead of one large one.  I don’t know why the Austrians do this but we have never been able to get it to work for us and spend our nights tangled in these stupid things and keep pinking shears by the bed in case one morning we wake up trapped and have to cut our way out.  They also facilitate access to drafts and cats and are damned unsightly. It takes hours to align them precisely with the center of the bed with me with a tape measure making chalk marks and rushing around pulling and tugging.  

So – given that the stuff we brought from Australia was nigh upon rooted  – I sent to the UK for some new ‘Super King’ Duvets and when these arrived I allocated all the Austrian stuff for the guest room.

I then packed all the Australian stuff up and told Cate that I was going to throw it away. I said ‘Cate – I am going to put all this in the bin– immediately’. She said. ‘Yes dear – you do that’.

The next day she said ‘You didn’t really put it in the bin did you?’ and I said of course I did not – it is in the basement in plastic bins along with all the other stuff that we have never thrown away. Like the two old vacuum cleaners down there that still work. If one actually died and could not be fixed at the repair shop we would probably have it cryogenically frozen until a cure could be found.

Mind you – the basement is now so full I have take care because the bins are piled high and I run the risk of being crushed and it would be a hell of a way to go to be suffocated under a pile of old bed linen and towels. Not that there is  much danger from towels so threadbare you could watch television through them – but there is an enormous number of them. 

But I promise – next time we move – I am really, really going to throw all this stuff out. I am so not going to take all this shit with us when we go to America – or anywhere else for that matter!

Although - I see that U-STORE-IT in Peoria has got some great rates – and they speak Spanish.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Farewell Maalie

I met Jim Fowler – aka Maalie – through his blog. I had not know him very long but we became very good mates quickly.
He was a regular visitor to Austria for its birdlife and always stayed at Illmitz. Near lake Neusiedl – not far from Vienna.  Last time he was here he also stayed with us for a few days in Vienna and was due to stay with us again at the end of May.
I spent a week with Maalie in Cumbria in January and he showed me all over the Lakes District. He truly was a delightful and indefatigable host. He was divorced a few years ago and one of the grounds cited by his then wife for the divorce was his ‘youthful exuberance’.
Indeed his exuberance had no limits. He would bound out of bed at the crack of dawn to make me a cup of tea and he would flog me around Cumbria from dawn till dusk pointing out countless birds and lakes - and he would actually test me on the fecking birds -
‘Quick Badger – what bird is that?’ he would shout
‘Um…Umm….it’s a Black-necked Grebe Maalie’ I would squeak  - saying the first name that came into my head – from the few names and birds that I memorized from my iPhone Bird Guide App the previous evening.
And occasionally I would get it right and he would be well pleased with me.
‘Well done Badger’ he would say ‘We will make a bird watcher of you yet’
‘Oh please no’ I would think because he would tell me about the freezing hours he would spend motionless in hides waiting for the Lesser-crested Mugwump to appear just so he could record it – because it had not been seen there for 5 years.
My problem is of course that all birds look the same to me – as I recorded in this blog after my trip.
He was full of life. He would say to me that he wanted to use every moment of his life to the fullest while he was healthy because he never knew what was coming next. Well he certainly did that. He wasted no moments at all as far as I could see. He ran up the fecking stairs to bed!
He was a good cook and would make me massive meals of things like fish pie and steak and eggs and the only way you could assure him that you were satisfied was to have second helpings.
After this I would waddle into the lounge room and we would have marvelous fun watching really old movies such as ‘Reach for the Sky’ and have a wee dram together. Last time I went there I took him a bottle of 18 year old Glenfiddich -and it was a fine drop indeed. 
He stayed with Cate and I a few months ago and we sent Cate to bed early. He and I stayed up for a very long time and had more than a wee dram. We drank to the wee hours -  and then well past the wee hours and spoke about life and birds – with and without feathers – and about the universe and matters great and small. Much I do not remember but it was important at the time.  
Like me, Maalie was an Atheist and had absolutely no fear of death. Like me – his only real concern was not understanding how everything fits together - and the thought that ‘wouldn’t it be nice to know how things turn out after we have well and truly gone.’
The only disappointment in Maalie’s life is the one we can’t talk about in this blog because it can affect other people.  It is the one thing that bothered him and the one thing that was beyond his reach - and would have made him happy beyond his dreams.
Other than that – he was just about the happiest damn man I have ever seen. I could never imagine that getting up at three o’clock in the morning to ring birds could make anybody happy but my mate Maalie was exceptional.
I took the finest photographs I have ever taken when I was in Cumbria. These were taken with my little Canon Powershot G12 and have not been digitally enhanced. They are in Picasa attached to the blog and the one with me on the stone bridge was taken by Maalie. I will post some more photos of Maalie in Picasa.
For a couple of years Maalie had been mad keen on Kayaking and this is apparently how he died. I am not sure of all the details yet but I lost contact with him on Thursday.
Maalie and I would exchange text messages or phone calls almost every day and he did not respond to my texts or messages on Thursday or Friday.  I was sent a link to a Cumbrian newspaper on Saturday morning about a police finding an empty Kayak on Coniston Waters and I knew then what had happened.  I have since learned that he died yesterday but I still do not know how or why.
I have not met his sons or sister and I probably never will. But I know a lot about them - and especially how much he adored his sons.
He was a very special man. A biologist, cricket fan, true friend, remarkably intelligent and excellent fun to be with. I will miss him terribly.  
It is my birthday tomorrow. He was with me on my birthday last year and I will have a wee dram for him this year. He was only a year older than I am.
Farewell Maalie.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

At full blast they crank out fully two Mouse Power

One of our many problems is that we can never throw anything away. It’s a serious issue because we just accumulate masses of crap. Any time we buy replacement things they turn out to be additional things. Towels for example. We buy new towels but we have never thrown a towel away in our lives – ever.
See you think I am joking but I am not. There are big boxes in the basement marked ‘old towels’ and ‘older towels’. I get the old towels out and say will I throw these away and Cate says – no we had better keep them for..…um…. And I say yes you are right you never know we just might…..
Well – if a 737 comes down in the courtyard we sure as hell are going to need a lot of towels to.…..well..…I am sure that one day we will need the towels for something.
When we left Sydney we had a real chance to rid ourselves of some of the steaming piles of crap that we had stored in cupboards and the roof spaces. I mean this was not an attic – this was crawl space. We have a tiny house there – right next to the city – I mean 10 minutes drive from the Opera House - and there is not much storage space.
I had to go in there to those tiny spaces on my hands and knees like a child laborer in the coal mines in the 18th century - dragging a wooden trolley behind me to store this shit.
And I had to wear a bicycle helmet because otherwise I would knock myself unconscious on the cross beams – and generally speaking it was like a sauna in there in summer and like a refrigerator in there in winter so it was not an easy task to store stuff that normal people would be happy to burn in the back yard incinerator. And the bugs up there were as big as kittens so I needed to use the cattle-prod App on my iPhone to keep them at bay.
So rather than doing what normal people would do and throwing it all away before we came to Vienna we decided that we just did not have time – correction – Cate just did not have time - and I do not have the delegated authority - to throw anything away on my own - so we brought it with us.
Except for the piles of shit that we stored in Sydney. Now if some dispassionate observer - say the Salvation Army – looked at what we stored in Sydney – they would probably send us emergency food parcels in Vienna. The Salvation Army would have thought it was the discards from the collections of ‘National Sad Bastards Week’. I mean it was really pathetic and is the type of stuff that would not be acceptable to the average refugee. In fact the average refugee would have complained to the UNHCR - saying we are refugees but we do have minimum acceptable standards.
But some of the stuff we brought with us was worse.
We brought – for example – 42 boxes of books. But we did not bring our bookshelves because – although our apartment here is much bigger than our house in Sydney – we did not see where we could put the bookshelves. Most of the wall space here is taken up by stupendously large air conditioning units which do not work.
There are about 12 of these – each the size of a Cadillac Eldorado. They are almost completely useless – except as ornament stands. The units are big enough – theoretically – to cool - say – Madison Square Garden. However – at full bore they each pump out about the same amount of air as a flatulent mouse does after an evening munching on baked beans.  
They are slightly better in winter and increase in mouse power (MP) to about two each.  Endless trips from the very friendly and highly enthusiastic air conditioner repair man has gotten them to their current finely tuned state.
Last time he came – in the middle of winter – he said that they would work better if we turned them off. You see – you think I am kidding you again because you know about my sense of humor - but this time I am not joking. That is what he said. After 2.5 years of visiting us and trying to get them to work he said – in winter the fans should be turned off and the heaters would work better. No - stop laughing - that is what he said. Rozalin was as astonished as we were and emailed the company for confirmation.   
Well I must say that surprised the shit out of me. To get something to work you turn it off. Well I am up for anything so we tried it. Guess what. It went from freezing to completely stone cold mother fucking freezing. We turned them back on and cranked them up to fully 2MP and then wore thermal underwear and winter clothes inside the house.
To be continued…..

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wow – was that 15 minutes?

Since I have been writing my blog some people have said to me that my blog is so good I should write a book and become rich and famous. Well I used to tell them that really was the stupidest thing that anyone had ever said to me but of course I had nothing to back it up with - but now I do.
Now I could say that between 22 April and 5 May more than 13,000 people viewed my blog at an average of about 1,000 per day. Since 6 May – when I disappeared from the Blogs of Note page – the average daily viewing is about 100.
That is – 13,000 people found my blog so fascinating, so absorbing, and so hilarious that they could not wait to leave it – forever – leaving a trail smoke and of burning rubber.
Unless of course they are all afflicted with paroxysms of laughter and are rolling helpless on the floors of their lounge rooms and studies – unable to get back onto Vienna for Dummies for trembling so much with mirth and fascination.
Anyway the locusts have feasted and departed - and it’s just us left. Back to normal. But from the 13,000 or so casual visitors who arrived from my unexpected burst of ‘Blog of Note’ publicity I seem to have picked up a a few new regular readers.
I am not sure if these are stayers because a quick trawl through the new ‘followers’ reveals some of them to be committed Christians - so when I am roused by some bible bashing lunatic who wants to flog gays or garrote lesbians -  and I go on one of my rants - they will vanish quivering into the night clutching their rosary beads or whatever weird shit they do when they are terrified by us pagans - and abandon me forever. I expect to be de-followed quite often over the next few months. I have girded my loins in anticipation of these bitter blows. 
As for some others – well this follower has got to be a bit suspect. The profile on the blog page says:
‘GOLDEN PHOENIX -A CHINESE RESTAURANT at Tangra Township, Kolkata. We will treat you like 'guest' at our premises. Car Parking Available’
Next time Cate is in Kolkata I will ask her to pop in and check to see if they are regular readers. And there are a few others like that – and there are others that are completely impenetrable.
I am undismayed. I started the blog for my children and a few friends when I came to Vienna. I blog because – like William – I enjoy blogging. It keeps Cate amused when she is away – which is a lot of the time – in far flung and often gruesome places.  I have attached a picture of her in the gear she is wearing today in a country full of very strange men who are so frightened of women they cannot bear to look at them.
There is nothing that makes me happier than when she says that she enjoyed my blog. Well – actually Caramel and Pecan ice cream will almost do it. Not that she does it very often because she does not like to spoil me – or else I may not try hard enough.
About once a very twelve months she says that she enjoyed my blog so much it made her laugh. That makes me so happy I usually rush out and buy a new Mac. Hey – maybe that’s why she doesn’t say it all that often.