Wednesday, May 30, 2012

She will never miss them

Belvedere and 4 Ducks 29 May 2012

Well Cate has finally escaped from India and is now in Dubai where she says she has a suite at the Mövenpick hotel. I think having a suite means that she has a table and chairs as well as a bed.

But maybe not. Because she travels so much she often gets upgrades to pretty special rooms.

She says that the Mövenpick is not as nice as Raffles where we stayed – but she is there strictly on business this time so can’t expect too much.

I have been spending some time in the basement trying to organise the shemozzle down there and throwing away a few things. I can’t tell you what these are because Cate will immediately decide that she cannot live without them.

However, if I never tell you what they are I guarantee she will never miss them.

OK I will tell you a couple of things. There was an old rug and a couple of old pillows.

I noticed that the Reindeer Rug is still lurking down there. I wonder if we should give it another run upstairs. Probably not – Mrs Moneypenny may have a nervous collapse.  

I just know it is busting to shed all over Vienna again.

Monday, May 28, 2012

We cannot hear the barking


I am fortunate that the incessantly barking dog in the next door apartment cannot be heard from our apartment. We have big thick doors and walls and almost no sound penetrates.

But every time I leave the apartment – or come back – I can hear it yapping.


Now I have nothing against small dogs.  I don’t know why god made them so noisy but I am sure there is a reason – just as I am sure there is a desperate need for Irukandji jellyfish - although it’s hard to see what that could be.

But small dogs I cannot hear do not bother me much. Although I do wonder whether or not my neighbours are deaf. Or is it that after a while they no longer hear the yapping and it just becomes background noise?

I could ask my son Lenny who has two small dogs – but I am sure they are very well behaved. Although the crazy one (also named Lenny) was not present last time I visited. He goes ape any time there are visitors and tries to tear their clothes off and urinate on them. I think he is a Republican.

In Sydney we had – for a time -  the neighbours from hell. They bought the house next door and renovated it from top to bottom. But he ran a building company so they only worked on the house sporadically – when his business was slow.

This meant that a job that could have taken three months took eighteen and we all nearly went stark staring mad in the process.

There would be a lull for a few weeks and then the hammering and sawing and yelling and loud music playing would start up again at dawn. This would go on for a few days and they would go away – possibly for a week – possibly for a month.

Muffin in fact did go mad and licked all the fur off her abdomen and sides. It took her a long time to get furry again and she never recovered fully.

Anyway they had two small dogs who they kept inside while the building work was going on but once it was finished they let them out of the house and they would have barking competitions for about 22 hours per day.

They also sat in their back garden and smoked incessantly (the people not the dogs). Apparently they did not smoke in their house so as not to offend themselves. The smoking and the dogs effectively destroyed our outdoor life and we retreated to our lounge room and then came to Vienna.

Now we only have to worry about the people who take their dogs out each day to defecate on the pavement.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who would steal a pair of pliers?

Well the boxes have been brought up from the basement. Cate asked me if they smell. Well of course they don’t smell. They have been in a perfectly dry basement for four years.  But they will be very dusty -which is why I am not going near them when Cate opens them. I am allergic to dust.

The (very bad) photo is of Sissi standing guard over the boxes – with Stephansdom in the background.

Did I tell you we have new neighbours? The Beckenbauers moved in next door a few months ago (replacing the Katzenjammers who went back to Hamburg).

They seem like a nice family – as far as one can tell these days. Herr Beckenbauer is German and Frau Beckenbauer is French and they have been in the USA for the last few years and he is now working for the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The day they moved in they came over to see me (Cate was away) with a bottle of wine. Which we drank.

The next day Frau Beckenbauer came over to borrow some ‘tongs’ to put their furniture together. Turns our she meant pliers - but we got there eventually after we had explored my kitchen.

So I gave her three pairs of pliers of varying types and two days later they left two pairs on my doorstep. One pair was missing. What to do?

Now – having thought about this – I am convinced that they would not wilfully steal my pliers. So – they have either made a mistake or the pliers have been stolen from my doorstep. This is possible – other things have been.

Perhaps a discerning thief appraised the three sets of pliers and thought ‘those two are rubbish but I will have this set’.

So I could go to them and say – you have forgotten  to return my pliers. A normal person would do this – and sort it out.

Me? I dislike confrontation of any type and would hate to start our relationship off on the wrong foot.

So I just bought a new pair of pliers from Hornbach. I may not have done this if they had borrowed the Mercedes 200E.

But they do have a small dog that barks incessantly. More of this later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bad news and good news

Cate rang from Delhi to say she had some good news and bad news.

The bad news was that she was not coming home for the weekend – the Goat Thing in Delhi being bigger than she had imagined - so she needs more time there.  She will go straight from Delhi to Dubai – so I may see her at the end of next week – just before she goes to Shanghai.

The good news is that I have more time to bring all the boxes up from the basement before she gets home.

She has actually no idea how much stuff is in the basement because she has never been down there. Any time I have something for which there is no room in the apartment I ask what to do with it and she says to put it in the basement - and this has been going on for four years.

So the plan is that I will bring boxes up from the basement – Cate will open them and cull the contents and I will take the reduced contents back down. Our surplus books can go to a charity store in Salesianergasse  which sells mainly English language books.

The rest of the stuff will probably go into the trash (because it is) unless we can find a home for it.

Now – I will not be opening or vetting the boxes on the basis that it will be too dusty. That is good.

Cate will be doing all the vetting and culling. That is bad.

She is not good at throwing things away.   We still have – for example – mountains of stuff from her high school and university years – and these were not events which took place recently.

In the book department I can envision a scenario where she discovers long lost treasures which have to be re-read.  So the outcome of this may be that we get much more room in the basement but we transfer mountains of stuff back to the apartment to be put on the ‘unread books’ pile.

Anyway – I start this task tomorrow. I will keep you informed. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You should always throw as you go

Bad Ischl
When we arrived from Australia we had quite a bit of stuff that we knew we would need – but that did not fit into the apartment. This included our Scuba gear, tool sets and (I kid you not) – 50 cartons of books.

The books remain almost untouched because there is simply nowhere to put them. We have a big bookshelf that is full of some of the books we brought with us and the books we have bought since we have been here.

There remain –in the basement – 43 cartons of books.

To this has been added enormous piles of stuff including old towels, old sheets, old rugs and the accumulation of 4 years living in an apartment.

Also there are the 8 chairs which go with our Nicholas Dattner dining table. For a change of scenery we got new leather chairs but we cannot throw the other chairs away because they go with the table – which is very special.

It is made from a single piece of timber from the old Goldsbrough Mort wool stores in Melbourne and has its provenance detailed on a bronze plaque underneath the table.

To this we can add the roof racks which I bought for the car three years ago in anticipation of driving with our bicycles to various scenic places in Austria. Needless to say – this has not yet happened.

It is now very difficult to get into the basement so I have decided that the time has come to make some ruthless decisions. This is the penalty you pay for not adopting a throw-as-you-go policy.

To be continued 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Surely it was not the Foos?

Cate is in Delhi this week so the cats and I are having the usual knees ups.

I have a number of chores to do while she is away so it will not be all beer and skittles.

Firstly there is the matter of the crispy plants on the terrace.   I am really reluctant to replace them because I know the inevitable result – but I will have to dispose of the two corpses and can hardly leave two large empty pots staring accusingly at me. And no I refuse to succumb to plastic plants – yet.

I have given the subject of their demise some careful thought and have narrowed it down to:

Not enough/too much water

Too hot/too cold

Too much sun

Not enough/too much fertilizer

Too many Foo Fighters videos (the plants have a front row seat for the TV  and I tend to watch-listen to too much music on my 25 satellite music channels when  Cate is away).

Using the old soil from the previous plants (which also turned crispy). I think this was the real problem – as was suggested by fmcgmccllc.

This and not speaking to them enough. Well it is hard to have a conversation with plants that you know are on life support and going to die at the first opportunity.

What do you say? Hello my little Buchsbaums – how are they hanging? What are you going to do today - apart from turning crispy I mean?

So when I start again I will start with a fresh batch of potting mix and perhaps some hardier plants. My track record with Buchsbaums is appalling.

Also as they don’t seem to like hot OR cold weather maybe I will bring them inside from the terrace during the months when the weather is a bit extreme.

Perhaps into the bedroom where they can be really comfortable – with their own Doonas.

Maybe I need a gardener?

My other pressing task is to clean out the basement. (Shriek)! This is much harder then killing plants.

More of this tomorrow.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Because I am going deaf as well

So the person who sent me the mouse mat has not disclosed their identity.

Of course it could be that they sent the mouse mat assuming I would know who it was from – and send them a thank you. They may not read my blog and realise that I do not know who it was from.

Of course I am now racked with guilt because I have received a present which I have not acknowledged. This will make me fret for weeks.

Or maybe they wish to be anonymous.

Anyway I was asked for a picture of my new watch so here it is.

I have never been a watch aficionado. For me watches are things that you have on your wrist so that you can tell the time. I do not – for example – understand Rolex watches. I could never comprehend why someone would pay so much for a watch.

In fact I have never paid more than €100 for a watch in my life. The last one we bought for me – on Cate’s birthday trip to Denmark – was a Skagen.

It was not a success because it is so hard to read but it was just the thought of having a Skagen watch that attracted me. It cost €100.

The one before that was a Pierre Cardin (?) watch bought in Australia at an airport for $100 about 7 years ago. Now why would anyone buy a Pierre Cardin watch? Well – it looked nice – and was not expensive.

But after all this time there are bits and pieces falling off the hour hands so it was time to upgrade and I thought – for the first time in my life – given that I have reached such a vast age – I would like a nice Swiss watch.

In the Dubai Mall – which is the largest mall in the world – there are more watch shops than I have ever seen before – including shops selling brands of which I have never previously heard.  I bet – for example – that you have never heard of a watch brand called Glashütte.

We ventured into this store – briefly – and were shown a nice little watch for €9,000 – I think this was their cheapest.

So eventually we staggered into Baume and Mercier (established 1830) and found a modest but beautiful little classic watch at a very affordable price.

The first time we went in there the young lady (in full Abaya) said that they were was no discount on the watch I wanted. We went back after Cate did some shopping and there was a man there and Cate got a €200 discount on the same watch.

So I finally have my genuine Swiss watch with which I am well pleased. It has a large face which – with my failing eyesight – is most useful. My next watch will have to be one that shouts the time at me – because I am going deaf as well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I use a matchbox for the white king

Some kind person sent me this mouse mat in the mail. It came via Deutsche Post from a European supplier. No card and no message. 

So thank you to whoever sent it.

My son Lenny has been giving me a sound beating at Chess recently so I thought I should do some practice.   I bought a book and a Chess set and put it in my study.

Sissi likes the Chess pieces. She knocks them on the floor, carries them round the house and hides them.

She did this when we were in Dubai and – while I found most of the pieces – I now have to use a matchbox  for the white king.

And Vienna has its first Cat Café

This is one of the strangest things I have ever heard of but who knows - perhaps it is just what Vienna has been waiting for. After all – dogs in restaurants and cafes are quite common. But I don't think it is the right environment for Monika and Sissi. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I would not like to be there in summer

We are back from Dubai. Dubai is a desert with many tall buildings and some really big roads.

It is very hot. It was 40° most days so we did not do too much in the way of touristy things but we did go to Dubai Mall which they tell us is the largest shopping mall in the world – with 1,200 shops and in ice rink and cinemas and restaurants and stuff.

It is very much like every other large shopping centre I have ever see – but bigger.

Cate took me there on my birthday so she could do some girly shopping while I counted the shops to make sure they were not telling fibs about the number.

But she did buy me a lovely Baume and Mercier watch. I needed a new watch because the hands were falling off my old one. Everyone makes watches these days. There is a watch for every fashion label and even ones for car makers such as Maserati. Makes no sense to me.

On our last day we were planning on going to the Souks but we got caught up with other stuff so did not have the pleasure of  bargaining endlessly for stuff we did not need.

The only photos I took were of the fountains of the Burj Khalifa – which until recently was the tallest building in the world – but the photos are so bad they are not fit for viewing. But I have given you a couple so you will get the idea.

I would not like to be there in summer. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Room with a view

Well we were almost on our way to Dubai but we arrived at the airport to find that our flight had been cancelled 10 minutes previously because of a ‘crew shortage’. Brilliant.

After a great deal of farnarkling we were offered a flight via Bucharest on Duckair or a flight via Rome on Austrian and Emirates. We accepted the later and then the miracle occurred. Cate had already been booked on an Emirates flight that left a couple of hours after our original flight.

Holy Toledo it is hot here. I have spent the last two days messing about while Cate deals with some business issues and today we are getting out and about.

Raffles hotel is fabulous and we have a room with a view of the Wafi Mall car park.

No photos yet but will take some over the next two days.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

There is only one problem

Sacre Coeur from Molly's kitchen window

Well I am in Paris in Molly’s apartment. It is bigger than her last apartment by a couple of square metres – which is a lot for Paris.

I am sleeping in Molly’s bed – which had to be trimmed with a hand saw to fit into the bedroom – and she is sleeping on the sofa bed – which I had to assemble when I arrived.

I could not really understand the instructions – which for me are always usually impenetrable – but achieved this without too much fuss at all and amazingly – it works and turns from a sofa into a bed.

The only problem with Molly’s apartment is that it is on level 5 - and there is no elevator. This does not bother Molly at all because she hates elevators and is very fit - but it does mean that my expeditions into the wide world are planned carefully.

I brought the smallest suitcase and the fewest clothes I could – but in any event Molly carried the suitcase for me up all those stairs while I panted along behind her.

Merlin – her cat – has so far pretty much ignored me but on the upside he has only scratched me once. I expect that he will get used to me again after a few days and start smooching around me on the day I leave.

So far we have been to two excellent Japanese restaurants – which abound in her area. On the whole it is nicer than where she was. There are almost no tourists and – because of this – the prices of everything are a lot cheaper.  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Justice has been served

They do have cushions but love the table

I hasten to add that of course the cats can get out onto the terrace when we are away so they are not stuck in the house. Indeed in the warm weather they spend most of their time outside  basking in the sun and admiring Stephansdom.

Now there is of course a problem with Monika who cannot use the cat door (as I have tediously enunciated previously) and will probably never learn – so I think I will leave it open and hope we do not get any really bad weather.

Otherwise she looks morose when Sissi goes outside and lies in the sun and she has to make do with shredding the rug.

And Schladming has been cancelled. Cate has to go to India to deal with some issues on the sub-continent and is leaving on the Sunday – which would leave us hardly any time at all to gambol – so we will schedule it for another weekend.

And I am pleased to report that justice has been served and that Cate has been fined for speeding on our trip to Salzburg. Which is crazy because she was caught doing 121 kph in a 100kph zone – which almost everyone does – so the speeding fines in Austria must be the biggest source of government revenue.

However I am still well in front – but am being much more careful of late. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We love gambolling in Schladming

Schladming-Dachstein from the hotel 

Next week Cate is going to Cairo so I am going to visit Molly in Paris. I am quite sure that I will have a better time than Cate.

Molly and I will mooch about drinking coffee and wine and visiting graveyards to take pictures of cats. This is our favourite thing to do in Paris. Molly has also promised to take me to the Japanese quarter where there are some fabulous restaurants. They are all microscopic and you often have to line up to get in – but it is well worth it for the sensational food.

We both get back on Friday and on Saturday we leave for Dubai. Cate is going on business and I am going to have a look around. 

Then we get back on the following Friday and go straight to Schladming- Dachstein where we stay for a few days at our favourite Austrian hotel – the Schütterhof

We have been there a few times before and always have a nice time gambolling in the woods and fields.  There are some wonderful walks up into the mountains – where we struggle up pathways while fitter people (i.e. almost everyone else) bound past us.

Last time we did this we were sagging with exhaustion near the top of a climb when a man RAN past us carrying his infant son on his shoulders -  and the child’s stroller under his arm. 

The problem with our plans is of course that the cats are on their own for longer than we would like - and we know that they miss us when we are away.

Mrs Moneypenny will call daily to feed them and will spend some time with them but they are so used to having me with them every day that we know they get a bit lonely. But they do have each other and are as happy as clams with this.

But it cannot be helped. It is what it is and I will make it up them when I get back.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It wasn't my fault

Stadtpark - the way I like it best

As ESB Boston has predicted – the air conditioning is running better after a few days on cool. Which is just as well because summer has arrived early in Vienna and as I write this at 6:00 PM it is 29° outside.

This would not be a problem if we were in a different apartment but we are on the top floor and have lots of skylights. Wonderful in winter – not so good in summer.

I get worse hay fever in Vienna than I did in Sydney and I don’t know why - because in Australia we have wattle and all kinds of hay fever inducing stuff. But worse it is - and I have to take a lot of tablets to combat the effects - which include a lot of sneezing and someone rubbing sand into my eyes.

However – it was not hay fever which caused me to back into an oncoming car in the car park at my favourite shopping centre at Simmering yesterday.

It was one of those situations where I was parked next to a gigantic 40 tonne Koala-crusher (The ideal car in Vienna) so had no view to my right rear.  I hate this. You have no idea what is coming and the only way you can find out is to edge your car out and hope for the best.

So I started ever so gently to sneak out – having no idea what was coming – and scraped a car which was whizzing up behind me.

They took it very well - and – after a fashion – the exchange which followed proceeded as well as could be expected. Herr Winkler (no relation to The Fonz) did not thump me – and prevailed upon his wife not to do so. I told them I was from Australia – hoping that this would mitigate their feelings of animosity.

As Herman had no English - the proceedings were somewhat laboured and we used terms unfamiliar to me - but Frau Winkler filled out the forms and we parted company on fairly good terms – in fact Herr Winkler shook my hand before leaving and Frau Winkler softened her glare.

There was no damage at all to Billy.

Not that Billy remains in pristine condition.  He has had quite a few minor scrapes in our horrendous car park  which requires supremely high levels of skill, judgment and  dexterity in order to slot a car into a spot which is only inches wider than the car.

I don’t know what happens next. I imagine I will have to pay a lot of money and do time – although I am hoping to get off with a good behaviour bond.