Friday, March 30, 2012

You have to drink 3 litres of disgusting muck

Looking towards Michaelerplatz and the Hofburg

I have been quiet for the last few days because on Thursday I had to have one of those internal examination thingies where they poke things into your top and bottom. When you are preparing for this you do not feel like doing much at all. 

This meant that for basically 48 hours before the examination I could not eat.  Worse - I had to go through the routine of drinking 3 litres of disgusting muck to clean out my innards – which it did very successfully. I should have washed it down with Jameson but needed to keep a clear head so as to find the bathroom every 15 minutes.

So when you can’t eat you think about very little else but eating  - and when you try to take your mind off it by watching TV you discover that most of the advertising is for food.

This is something I do every three years or so and it never gets any better.

Then the Doctor discovered that I spoke a little German so decided he would use my time with him as a German improvement opportunity for me - and spoke only German – and told his nurses to do the same.
Cate in Abaya

This made the whole experience a bit more difficult but entertained them tremendously which is good because I was happy to do anything that would make the job they were about to do a modicum more pleasant.

But anyway – everything is in order inside me - but the strange thing was when I got home I did not really feel like eating so just had a cup of tea and some biscuits - and the food advertisements on TV did not bother me one little bit.

Cate is back from Algiers – and liked it a bit more than she did last time – but still does not think it is worth a visit for me. I am not so sure. I have been looking at it and it looks quite fascinating – and I have always wanted to go to the Casbah.

Next week she goes to Saudi Arabia so will have to wear her Abaya so that no one can see her ankles. She does not have to wear a Niqāb.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What more incentive could they want?

A new plant

Well so much for sentimentality. I hung on to my crispy plants for as long as possible but finally accepted that they were well and truly dead.

How Sissi treated the old plants
So on Friday I girded my loins and went to Dehner to look for replacements. I settled on two tough looking Buchsbaum (Boxwood) plants that look like they can stay the course.

We have had these before and they were monstered by Sissi when she was tiny but she has lost interest in plants now and is more focussed on destroying the rest of the apartment. 

What I would normally do is empty the pots and start again but this is tedious beyond belief so I just tore the old crispy plants out and put the new ones in there.

I have told them that everything else in these pots so far has died and that – while I will do my best to nurture them – they are basically on their own.

What more incentive could they want?

Friday, March 23, 2012

It just feels too springy

Franz Schubert in Stadtpark
I am thinking that we are not going to have any more cold weather. I have changed the heating settings in the apartment and we can now have the terrace doors open during the day. Monika and Sissi are enjoying lying outside in the spring sunshine.

Because of Monika’s incapacity to master the relatively (I think) simple task of walking through the cat flap – if it is closed – I have to take the flap off for her or open the terrace doors. This year I am going to make another mighty effort to teach her – but when Muffin popped her clogs  she was 19 years old - and she had never learned how to do it.

Fiddling around with the various air conditioning and heating settings at the end of winter sometimes has dire consequences and provokes snow or ice storm -  but this year I am confident. It just feels too springy.

Next week I am getting our bikes serviced - ready for our annual attack on flab and unfitness. This is probably a forlorn gesture as in a month or so it will actually be too hot to ride during the day - and we are just not good at getting up early on weekends.

However – this time every year I am seized with the desire to really make an effort – and sometimes this feeling stays with me until summer actually arrives and I can lapse into a torpor as the sun melts the tiles on our roof.

Next week Cate will be in Algiers which on the surface sounds interesting - as before the French departed it used to be a vibrant cosmopolitan city. Not that I went there but I have read about it and seen films so it must be true.

However she has assured me that it is not now worth a visit – being dull and lifeless and stultifying. Sure she has only seen it from the inside of a taxi but I trust her judgment on these things.

Enough said. I will save myself for another trip to somewhere that I really want to see. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Moscow is a different matter altogether

Cate is in Moscow this week and the cats and I are doing our usual thing.

I could - if I wanted to - go on some of these trips  - although I would be on my own because Cate is working both night and day – and I do occasionally go if it is somewhere new and exciting and we can tack a weekend on.

But Moscow is a grim place and not the most exciting spot to be in. It is also hard to get a visa and you have to go through the nonsense of being invited by someone and then jumping through hoops. 

Perhaps I have not seen Moscow at its best - but what I did see reflected the dead hand of communism – with some of the world’s most unattractive buildings – although the Seven Sisters and some other notable places are worth seeing.  

The Metro system also has some wonderful stations. The entrances and exits are clogged with drunks but if you can circumnavigate these there are some sights to see.

But because I speak no Russian – and as far as I can tell no Muscovites speak any English – it is just damned hard to get around and do things. Some of the food is unspeakably bad and of course every Muscovite smokes so it is difficult to escape this no matter where you are.

Saint Petersburg is very different and is one of the wonders of the world.  An absolute must see.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Putting on the Ritz

Vienna 1st District
My worst moments are when we arrive at hotels and I see the look of disappointment on Cate’s face.  She employs a range of expressions and phrases to register her level of disappointment when we arrive at a hotel in an area that has recently been blasted to smithereens by Al Qaeda.

Now – as I have said before – I take an enormous amount of time and effort to choose hotels. I look at all the pictures and I read all the reviews and I look at the map to see where they are.

It is simply not my fault that they turn out to be be rat-infested hovels in disused railway yards where gangs of cutthroats roam at will.

Cate’s worst expression is  ‘this is nice dear’. This means a catastrophic failure and will be followed by series of supplementary comments as she examines the room. These might include such things as:

Look the bed has moss growing on it –  at least we know which direction is South.

How cute – they are using 50 watt light globes – so environmentally conscious.

Meanwhile I will be trying to reconcile the wreck of a hotel with the images I saw on the internet – knowing full well that none of the photos showed rooms that looked like prison cells.

The problem always is that I try to operate to a budget and to get quality within a certain price range. But these things are mutually exclusive.

But last year I changed tactics. I always start with the 5 and 4 star hotels and see if they have special offers for the days we need. And they invariably do. I often can get a really nice hotel for half the rack rate.

Of course some of them turn out to be not quite as advertised – and I can still pick hotels in the wrong part of town if we are going to a new city.

The hotel I picked in Stockholm last year had rave reviews including ‘best hotel I have ever stayed in’. This clearly from someone who did not travel much and whose experience was limited – probably  to the YMCA.

Anyway – so we are going to London in April on the way to Oxford where Cate is attending a conference. So I searched and found that the Ritz in London had rooms at half price for the two nights we needed.

I have always wanted to stay at the Ritz and rub shoulders with the rich and beautiful people. Although I imagine they have people there to stop this happening and we will be ushered to a special elevator labelled ‘for people who really shouldn’t be here and came here on a special rate’.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This time I am being really careful

Vienna and Monika today
I have been neglecting my blog – and blog reading  - for the last few days because I have been involved in a few exciting projects.

First there is the preparation for Spring.

This involves unwrapping the dead plants from the failed winter protection, re-installing the cat door and putting cushions outside for the cats to lie on.

These will not be as cosy as my keyboard where they have been lying all winter - but will have to do.

The most exciting thing has been my annual cocking up of our home leave.

Rozalin booked our international flights for us  and I had to do the peripheral things like booking accommodation, internal flights and rental cars.

This is always a traumatic experience as I am just not good at coordinating  dates and times and invariably there are parts of the trip that suffer from  shoddy workmanship.

It’s not for want of trying - but I just have no skills at this sort of thing.

I have had some fabulous cockups – the most memorable being booking a flight from Paris to London – to arrive in London the day after our flight to Australia had left.

We discovered this a week before the event and of course our tickets could not be changed so we had to buy new tickets at four times the original cost that we had paid six months previously.

This time I have been very careful. We shall see.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It is a bit weird

I hate those new word verification thingies from Google (I have no idea what the correct name for them is). It says you have to prove you are not a robot.

It is now so damn difficult to post comments to blogs – sometimes I have to scroll through 4 or 5 before I can get one right.

So - not wishing to continue to put my readers through that - I removed the requirement from my blog a few weeks ago.

At least I hope I did.

So (I think) you can just post a comment and don’t have to do anything at all. Perhaps someone will tell me if that is true.

So anyway – I expected to be buried under a mountain of Spam – but this has not happened.

There have actually been a few Spam comments that I have seen in my email. (I have always got my blog comments by email so that I can remove Spam immediately).

But when I go to my blog to remove them - they are not there. Where do they go? Who removes them? Is there a special bog somewhere that collects all the Spam posted to all the blogs.

I hope it belongs to Rick Santorum.

I am not complaining about this – but it is a bit weird?

Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

Monday, March 12, 2012

The way we dance

When we were in Amsterdam last year we wandered into a shop called Smellik and Stokking. It was full of wonderful sculpture by a number of Dutch artists.

A piece that captivated us was a sculpture by Leon Veerman. It is called ‘the way we dance’. I took a picture of it at the time because we thought it was so special.

It is two Penguins dancing and you can spin them around on their feet so that they assume different poses.

Well we just dearly wanted it but it was much too expensive at the time so I have spent the last six months making savings from the housekeeping and we were finally able to buy it.

It is a delightful piece of work that makes us smile when we look at it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ungrateful I call it

Well spring has sprung and all over Vienna tiny little plants and blossoms are emerging from winter and starting to reach for the sky to savour the warming rays of the sun.

Not on my terrace. One of my Spindelstrauch plants (Euonymus Japonica ‘Aureomarginata’) has decided that this is the perfect time to turn up its toes. The other looks like it is on the way out.

To be fair – the dead one has looked a bit crook for a month or so but in the last week it has just tossed in the towel. It now has crackly leaves which is never a good sign. The one that is hanging on is starting to go yellow at the edges – heading towards crackliness.

This is an appalling act of treachery and ungratefulness.

I wrapped them up properly for winter and looked after them all during the cold weather - and they repay me by dying at the first sign of warm weather.

When I think of the trouble I went to choose them and pot them with just the right mix of stones and pebbles at the bottom of the pots for proper drainage – and then the very best potting mix and first class fertilizer.

I mean I didn’t expect a round of applause but is it too much to hope for that a plant can live on my terrace for 12 months?

It makes me sick.

Ungrateful I call it. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What will they think of next?

Schloss Halbturn

I got a nice surprise this week when I discovered that I can now get BBC on my SKY box.

I used to have BBC 24 hour news but this vanished some time ago - and now it is back together with BBC1, BBC2, BBC3 and BBC4.

BBC has some good TV so I may now be able to watch something.

The only way I can do this at present is by recording a program and zapping the ads. This is tedious beyond belief – but I refuse to watch cable TV – for which I pay – and then be bombarded with ads for English products which I cannot buy.

I make an exception for Golf – but I watch that without sound. You would understand why I do this if you heard the commentators wittering and yammering.

Merisi told me about this fabulous site Pinterest where you can steal photos from anyone you like and post them on your own board. Its fabulous. Have a look at how many photos have been stolen from Merisi's Vienna for Beginners

What will they think of next?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Give or take 100 million years

Photo by Merisi 

So last time I was in Australia I asked my older brother if he still read my blog. He said ‘not so much anymore’. 

And I know why – because he is a Christian and I used to bang on about my being an Atheist and I also used to rant about politics. I also used to use bad language but rarely say fuck anymore unless it is absolutely necessary – to make a point.

But there is simply no purpose. If I talk about religion or politics it simply makes people edgy and – in the overall scheme of things – it doesn’t matter what you believe or who gets elected. 

Planet Earth is going to hell in a hand basket and we will soon all have the opportunity to meet our maker – or not - as the case may be.

But I am sick of people telling me when the world is going to end. Apparently it is scheduled by some people for 2012 – (shit that’s this year!).

But I know precisely when the world is supposed to end. In about a billion years when our sun starts to turn into a red dwarf. I know that’s not really precise but give or take 100 million years and you would be about spot on.

That’s when it would have ended if we had not comprehensibly fucked it over during the last few hundred years – and continue to do so at an exponential rate.

I’d give it another 200 years – max. I think at the current rate of destruction that’s the best we can hope for before the planet becomes uninhabitable. 

You can lop 20 years off this if the next US President is Rick Santorum.

I had my regular heart check-up last week.  I have some damage from high blood pressure a few years ago so have to keep a watch on it.

Anyway – I had a complete going over and a stress test and passed with flying colours. I am in no worse shape than I was in 2009 when I had my last test.

Even so I think it unlikely that I will be here for the end of life as we know it.

Thank God for that.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The cats are rubbish at poker

Unhappy cat on the Paris Metro

Molly has finally settled into her apartment so I am going to visit her at the end of March – and will stay with her. She has a second ‘bedroom’ which is apparently more like a coat cupboard – but it will be large enough for me to squeeze into if I slide in sideways.

I usually have to stay in a hotel and my record of choosing habitable hotels at an affordable price is not good. In fact I think these things are mutually exclusive. As far as I can tell Paris takes the biscuit for the most expensive hotels on earth.

I am an expert at choosing rat infested hovels in the worst parts of Paris – thinking optimistically that if they charge €200 per night it can’t be too bad. Ha!

The catch with staying with Molly is that she lives on the 5th floor and there is no elevator and I will have to schlepp my suitcase up there – so I will be travelling light. On the bright side I will be getting lots of exercise.

Also she will probably charge me only €20 per night – and no rat would dare show its whiskers with Merlin on the prowl.  

Cate goes to Washington tomorrow and will be away for a week so it will be the usual drill for us here. Non-stop partying and staying up to all hours drinking Jameson - smoking cigars and playing poker.

The cats are rubbish at poker - I can always tell when Monika has a good hand and Sissi just cannot tell one suit from another. 

Can’t wait.