Friday, August 17, 2012

Not much happens here

We are leaving for out trip to Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium tomorrow and while – as usual – it is my intention to blog – this may not happen.

I will have only my iPad which – while being a wonderful little piece of equipment – is not particularly good at blogging. And I rather doubt that many places we go will have Internet access.

However – I will do my best.

Before I go I have to report about an astonishing event in Vienna this week.

Firstly there is Dinner in the Sky. This apparently involves eating dinner while you are 50 metres in the air at the end of a crane. This sounds like a very bad idea - but apparently there are enough punters prepared to part with money to make it work. Why would you do this?

This sounds almost as good as Dining in the Dark which is the worst idea I have ever heard – but is a roaring success – proving once again that I have no skills at determining what will or will not be popular. But – again – why would you do this?

The second thing is that we almost witnessed the Viennese event of the week when the Twin City Liner crashed into the banks of the Donau Canal.

We saw the aftermath of this near catastrophe as we cycled along the canal and had to thread our way through the swarms of fire engines and ambulances.

Extra police were need for crowd control as the Viennese flocked to see this amazing sight.

Not much happens here.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

She is pleased with my progress

I have to bang on briefly about smoking.

The Federal government in Australia brought in legislation to force tobacco companies to sell cigarettes in plain packaging. 

The tobacco companies challenged this in the High Court – and lost.

Australia will be the first country in the world to introduce plain packaging on cigarette packets – and this will remove the last avenue tobacco companies have for advertising.

Contrast this with Austria where smoking is allowed in 70% of cafes restaurants and you can buy cigarettes from street vending machines.

Strange people indeed.

Now I know you were wondering about my German. Well I am still plodding along and having weekly lessons from Frau Knickerbocker.

She is pleased with my progress - but is very patient - and indeed we can now have a conversation – after a fashion – entirely in German. (Well – with a few English and French words interspersed).

I would make more progress if I did more study - but I lack the imperative to do so. 

At the current rate of progress I should be fluent by 2020.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

If smoking was an Olympic sport

In response to Sandy’s question about the Kiwis – they are the clear winners with 2.9 medals per 1m of population.

And in the final (promise) word about the Olympics – Austria is having a shakeup after failing to win a medal for the first time in half a century. I think they are overreacting.

They came 5th on medal table in the 2010 Winter Olympics and a country this size can’t be expected to be good at both summer and winter sports.

Of course if they made smoking an Olympic sport Austria would be a certain medalist and could well take Gold, Silver and Bronze in the ‘smoking in restaurants’ category.

Oh and I found Tahini – there was a large unopened jar in our kitchen cupboard. Cate had bought it some time ago and I had forgotten about it. I also know now where to buy it – and – as predicted – it is available in Merisi’s local Spar and indeed in SK Waller’s Walmart.

But I had forgotten about the big health food store on Landstrassser Hauptstrasse where they have all sorts of wonderful things.

Sissi and Monika wanted me to share this story with you. It’s about and Austrian farmer who wanted to shoot his cat but shot himself instead.

This is about average for Austrians - who appear to be immensely inept when it comes to firearms, tractors, roofs and trams. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Where are you Tahini?

A baby arrives in the Netherlands
I still have enormous difficulty finding thing in Vienna.

Today my quest was to make a pumpkin and goat’s cheese salad  - with tahini and sesame seeds. Well you can forget tahini – it is probably available at Naschmarkt – but that may be the only place in Vienna.

(I expect that Merisi will now tell me that it is available in her local Spar – which is indeed far superior to mine - and focuses on alcohol and chocolate).

It took me ages to find sesame seeds. After scouring the spice and condiments shelves in Interspar in Simmering I finally realized that they were probably in the baking section – and they were indeed. You can only buy a half kilo bag.

And the German word for parsley is petersilie – but this does not grace the shelves of any stores I have seen. One has to look for peterkraus – which is entirely Austrian word and does not appear in my German dictionary.

The problem is of course that I am using Australian cookbooks. If I switched to Austrian cookbooks I would probably find all the ingredients quite readily.

But Austrian food generally is a bit stodgy and lacking in imagination.

And the last word on the Olympics.

I was watching a morning show on SKY today and they were wittering on about how wonderful the British Olympians were and how badly the Australians did. (Giggle).

They went further to say that – while they came third overall in the medal tally – the really came first because their population is much smaller that of the USA or China. Oh really?

Based on that premise – with a population of 65 million and 65 medals – it equates to one medal per million Poms.

Australia – with a population of 22 million – won 35 medals which equates to 1.6 medals per person.

So there

I should report that front page of a local paper reported last week that an Austrian narrowly missed out on a bronze medal. It would have been their first and only medal.

But they are terrific at the winter Olympics and currently have the best ski jumpers in the world.

I will report further on the Olympics in 2016.

Friday, August 10, 2012

We have sworn not to use them

Apart from the weather – which is much to hot -  this is a good time of year in Vienna. Many people have gone away and it is relatively quiet. There are – of course – hordes of tourists but they don’t bother us where we live because we are off the main tourist tracks.

The downside is that many businesses close for a summer break and this has an impact on my ability to conduct the household duties in the appropriate manner.

For example – I cannot buy the cat’s favourite Katzengrass because the florist is closed and cannot get my jeans altered because Sali – the Änderungsschneiderei – has gone home to Croatia.

He is a reluctant tailor and does not like his job. I asked him once why he did it if he hated it so much and he said it was because that was what he was good at.  

But - Sali takes more holidays that anyone I know and during the skiing season he is away every second week. But his prices are the lowest in town – perhaps he has another income – may be he is a ski instructor.

To prepare ourselves for our cycling trip we have been cycling the Donauinsel a few times each week. The intention is – of course – to do this daily but we can usually manage to come up with an excuse so that we get every second day off. Fortunately – Cate can often schedule phone calls for our cycling time.

Not that we don’t enjoy it – we love it. But it is a hard slog in parts and it wears us out.

The bikes we are using on our trip are equipped with electric motors but we have sworn not to use these under any circumstances.

Yeh right.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

It will not be my fault

Netherlands 2011

Moving on from the Olympics – we are now preparing for our next trip. This is our annual bike ride and on this occasion is accompanied by a trip to Ireland with Gwenyth and PK.

We go to Ireland at the end of next week – and here’s the good bit – I am not responsible for anything!

I usually do all the travel and accommodation arrangements and am therefore held accountable for the inevitable cock ups which occur.

For the trip to Ireland Gwenyth has done everything - so if we end up in some rat infested hovel - scraping bugs off our festering bodes - then we know exactly who to blame.

In fact – we don’t know anything about what is happening except that Gwenyth and PK are picking us up at Shannon airport. It’s very exciting.

After that we go aboard the Miro for a bike and boat trip in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Last year we had significant problems in the Netherlands as we trailed after our group leader who pedaled like the hounds of hell were after her. 

This year we are doing a self guided tour and can proceed at our own pace.

This means – of course – that we well spend a lot of time being lost – as we did in Italy – but I believe that there are many bars and restaurants in the countries we are visiting - so we should be OK.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I can prove we are better

Another sunset

Australia is not faring as well as was hoped at the Olympics and there is much soul searching going on back home. No doubt we will have an enquiry after the Games and will discover the bleeding obvious – that compared with other highly developed countries – Australia invests almost nothing in sport.

Great Britain – on the other hand – is having a bumper Olympics and winning everything in sight. GBR has so far won 21 gold medals to Australia’s 2.

However – by the judicious use of statistics I can demonstrate that Australia is out-performing Great Britain.

If we allocate three points for a gold medal, two points for a silver and one for a bronze – and benchmark the total against the relative populations of both countries - we see that Great Britain has 1.52 points per million of population.

Australia has clearly outperformed them with a figure of 1.77 points per million of population. This is 16% better!

This clearly demonstrates the superiority of Australia athletes over their British counterparts.

If the figures do move in Britain’s favour I am sure I can think of another way to show how much better we are.

Incidentally – The Kiwis come out at 3.4 points per million – twice the figures for Australia – but I am not going to mention that in this blog.

Favourite moments from the Olympics so far:

In the Long Jump the Australian in silver medal position lines up for his jump. He settles – lifts his left foot to start his run……camera cuts to the sidelines where GB competitor is untangling himself from a wedgie. It dwells on him for a long time as he rearranges himself – them moves on to the next jumper. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

The blind men have been

Viennese sunset

The blinds in the studies are upstairs are falling apart.  These are important as we have five large skylights which allow in large amounts of Viennese sunlight – and the rooms get very hot indeed.

So hot that in our first year we had to buy and install portable air conditioners as this was the only way we could use the rooms in summer. But some of the blinds have been falling to pieces for some time. I have tried patching them up with gaffer tape but this gets so hot it just peels off.

We thought we would try and get new blinds.

Those of you who are regular readers know that there is a vast chasm in this apartment between wanting and getting.

The blind men first came to look at the problem about six months ago – and nothing happened.

Just recently two more blinds turned up their toes and develop tears and holes – I am not surprised they seem to be made of some sort of papery substance - so we had another go.

After being harassed by Rozalin – and missing two appointments – the blind men came again last week. They looked at the problem and asked  if we would like new blinds.

I said that would be nice.

One of the blinds had been pulled right out and could not be rewound – this happened while we were away – perhaps the cats did it. I asked the blind men if they could do something about this and they said sure - and reached up and tore it off. Not exactly what I had in mind.

I have had to cut up an old sheet and stick this is over the skylight to stop the blazing sun from melting me. It’s an interesting aesthetic effect.

We are not anticipating an early result.

But on a happy note - the air conditioning men came last week – unexpectedly – and beavered away putting new woggles in all the units. The last of the cardboard has now been removed and we now have a cardboard-free system.

And – miraculously – everything is working just fine – even on the hottest days. It took us four years to get to this happy state.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Almost an Olympian

Practicing for the Synchronized Cats event

I have been a bit quiet for the last few days as Cate has been away in Beirut and I have been catching up on some chores – and watching a bit of the Olympics.

I have not been able to come to grips with most of what has been happening but I have watched a little bit of the Sailing, Swimming, Cycling and Fencing.

I don’t understand Badminton. They hammer the shit out of that little feathery thing and it goes about two inches. I would bring some technology to bear on that problem – get rid of the feathers to start with.

It is a little known fact about the Badger that he is a former Fencer and was – many moons ago – President of the Sydney Fencing Club - and junior club champion.

My potential Olympic career was stymied by shoulder problems and I always like to kid myself that without these I would have been picked for the 1964 Olympic Fencing Team.

So I retain an interest in this sport – but so little of it is shown on regular Olympic coverage in Australia that it is pointless even trying to catch it.

However – this time we have 24 Olympic channels on BBC so we get to see everything – and without advertisements. Bliss.

It is especially good being away from Channel 9 in Sydney which has a long and sordid history of completely massacring major sporting events with an overwhelming amount of advertising – and brain dead commentators.

The British have not being going to well so far and – as expected – are starting to turn on the unfortunates who have missed out on medals.  They are renowned for eating their young.

The athletes are apparently not trying hard enough – despite the crowds giving them 100% support. “We are trying our best – why aren’t you?”

An interesting incident was a young man who sent offensive tweets to British diver Tom Daley – who failed to live up to expectations.  

The Twitterer was arrested and released with a harassment warning but was bailed to return pending investigations.

Is this a bit weird? How many offensive tweets are posted each day – perhaps a million? How interested would the police be if it was an average Joe who complained?

This is a slippery slope indeed.