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Happy Rant-astic Friday! Keep It Big And Dumb!

31 Aug

Every time I log on to Facebook I’m reminded of the futility of this “travel” blog, and indeed any written prose these days.

Here am I, presenting the world with at least my third* best material. Yet no one (not even people with meaningful things to say) seems to be able get any attention unless they condense their thoughts in to one sentence and write in on a “meme” or an “e-card”.

Whew! If you’ll excuse me I need to call an AM radio talk back program then go for my lie down.

*The best material I use in my secret gigs, the second best I send to the writers of Packed to the Rafters.

 

*SOME TIME LATER*

 

OK I’ve calmed down now, on to today’s topic. I was scared I wouldn’t have a topic for today’s post (not that its ever stopped me before, remember that nonsense about supermarkets?), but then I was perusing an Australian newspaper website when I happened upon this article.

‘Nine big, dumb travel experiences everyone should try’ is an article that is essentially promoting travel, therefore I am generally in favour of Ben’s aim here. I do have a few small issues to take though.

I’m not qualified to comment on all of the experiences he mentions, but one I definitely can comment on is having something stolen. Why does “everyone” have to have something stolen? While Ben asserts its an educational thing, I’ve never heard anyone say “man I’m glad I’m finally rid of that pesky passport.” Come to think of it I did have a quite a unique experience after having my camera stolen in St. Petersburg, but I’m pretty sure plenty of people have completed a lot of travels without going through that particular “learning experience”.

Another thing on the list I have not experienced but feel I can comment on in is “having dorm-room sex”. I can’t help but feel the logic is flawed here. Ben encourages everyone to “get even with the world” by makin’ some hostel dorm whoopee.

I feel bad for bringing Ghandi in to such a low-brow environment as this. But if “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”, then what will happen with the exponential breakout of vengeful hostel boot-knockin’? Think about it. If one couple is doing it in a six-bed dorm, by Ben’s logic that’s five other people who now have to “get even with the world”. And so it grows and grows.

Seriously though, it’s gross and annoying.

He also mentions Oktoberfest. I haven’t been there and I hear it is quite a bit of fun. But he also mentions “Oi, Oi, Oi” Australians. If and when I finally make it to Oktoberfest, I will certainly be taking up his suggestion of checking out one of the 13 other beer dens where the “Oi, Oi, Oi” crowd are not hanging out. I may be super-sensitive to it because I know they’re representing my beloved home, but honestly guys, it is unimaginative, annoying and embarrassing.

Finally, I was rather disappointed to see an entry on the list called “Do ‘the London thing'”. Well, I was at first anyway, since that meant I was taking part in a “big, dumb travel experience”. As you know from previous posts, I only take part in the most sophisticated and refined travel experiences. Also, being the alternative trendsetter I am, if I’d known it had become a “thing” to live in London I would have taken a job cattle-rearing in Mongolia.

Anyway, the fact is that at the core of the article, our friend Ben is giving people more reasons to travel. While I may not agree that “everyone” necessarily has to experience these things, it can only be a good thing to promote travel in whatever form people feel comfortable (or uncomfortable, as the case may be).

So that’s my rant done for now. As you know I’m back in London for the moment, so I will need to get a bit more creative with things to post about. Just between you and me though, I’ve got some pretty exciting stuff coming up. This may include, but is not limited to, a rigourous review of the pizza cutter fork and my honest and frank opinion of the original Total Recall. Until those heady days are upon us though, why not book yourself a big, dumb travel experience?

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

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Fads and Obsessions: Scripted Reality Bites

28 May

In my role as what passes for an amateur journalist these days, I’ve noticed that nobody does fads and obsessions quite like Britain.

For a start there is Brits’ preoccupation with the weather. This seems a shame as for much of the year Britain is known as “Europe’s car wash”. Though because good weather doesn’t come around very often, it does give Brits an enviable appreciation of the sunshine. Like the way I feel about eating lobster.

Then there’s the whole football (soccer) thing. I like football, and I wouldn’t mind this obsession if it didn’t encompass everything from game results right down to every player’s latest legal misdemeanour, or “team bonding session” (eeeeeeew!).

Which brings me neatly to the football player’s natural harvesting ground. Television. It seems that for a while now Britain has been gripped by something termed “scripted reality”. The chief offenders in this genre are shows you’ve probably heard of like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea. Or if you prefer your perfectly-framed reality with funny accents, Desperate Scousewives.

To give you an idea of what the show looks like (if by some happy chance you’ve managed to avoid this assault on intelligence), here is a shot of a typical scene.

Realising she’d bought ebony shoes instead of black, and would have to return them.

I’ve also taken the liberty of transcribing a passage of scintillating dialogue. I can’t be bothered finding out the names of these “real script readers”, so they’ll be called Burberry 1 and Burberry 2:

Burberry 1: I might try these on but I don’t know what size to get.

Burberry 2: What size are you normally?

Burberry 1: I’m a size nine but I might get a size seven.

Burberry 2: Why?

Burberry 1: It’ll straighten ’em out so they look proper fresh.

Burberry 2: Is that what you do, buy ’em smaller so they don’t crease?

Burberry 1: Yeah but everyone does that don’t they?

Burberry 2: No.

I wish I could say I made that up myself. Anyway, it seems to me the whole idea of reality is that its unscripted. Surely another name for “scripted reality” is a term that’s been bandied about the industry for a few years now. Drama. Though I’m sure we could think of a more accurate and less flattering one if we tried.

 

If you’re going to simulate reality, you best know and understand the subtle differences between reality and drama. For instance, here is a “scripted reality” meeting between myself and Noel Gallagher:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Hey man, yeah why not? In fact, come down to our hotel with us for a pint and meet some women with questionable morals.

ME: Nah mate, I would but I’ve gotta get back to write a travel blog entry. Those Ludacris links don’t put themselves in there, ya know.

NOEL: Come on man, you can come to the gig later and hang backstage with us!

ME: Do you have wifi?

NOEL: Yeah.

ME: Alright then.

(Exeunt)

 

To highlight the difference, here is what happened in reality:

ME: Hey Noel, can I get a photo?

NOEL: Fuck no.

 

TV drama connoisseurs will no doubt have picked the subtle differences, the rest of us are stuck in blissful ignorance of what’s real and what’s “scripted real”.

 

Safe travels, thanks for reading. J

Fashionate about the weather: the Melbourne of the Europe

11 Apr

As most of you would know by now (given that if you’re reading this you are either a dear friend or a fanatic who’s read all my back-catalogue), I hail from the fair city of Melbourne.

At least, I’m from a place close enough to Melbourne that if I meet anyone not from south-eastern Australia, it’s just easier to say Melbourne to keep the conversation rolling along. Sort of like anyone from north of Byron says they’re from Brisbane, anyone west of Adelaide says Perth, and anyone from New Zealand says Australia.

Anyway, being from Melbourne you wouldn’t expect I could complain about the weather anywhere else. Well you’d expect wrong. I wouldn’t usually complain to a global audience of at least seven people, but for the fact that I’m still living out of my backpack.

Not that I haven’t unpacked yet. Over the last month and a half I’ve managed to spread my clothes among the two wardrobes, large chest of drawers, small chest of drawers, and shoe rack that inhabit my room. But in the sense that I am still wearing basically the same clothes I left Australia with, I am still living out of my backpack. Put it down to laziness or cheapskatedness, the result is the same.

My gripe with the weather makers comes only because now that I’m gainfully employed, I have a few extra shillings to spend on clobber. However I have no idea what to actually buy, and I have no intention of committing a fashion faux pas.

I could start filling out my summer wardrobe, but the way it is at the moment here, I could easily be in need of my traditional London outer-wear again next week. Or even next month. As I bring this to you from the front window of Starbucks, I can tell you in the last week or so we’ve had glorious mild sunshine, hail, rain and freezing wind. Hence the swap from my usual park musings to my local coffee conglomerate.

Now though, it seems the weather has settled to its default setting, which if they could talk would be the weather makers saying: “Yeah it’s not raining, you could go out like that. But those clouds look ominous, better not risk it.” This leaves me and most of London in a perpetual state of weather anxiety. And if I can’t get outside for my daily jog, how will I discover new pubs nearby? Though admittedly I’d run in to less gangsta bees (reread this post if that makes no sense).

So what am I to do? Aside from the £12 Primark hoodie (bargain, couldn’t make it for that), and the body-hugging lycra of my new bike outfit, I am at a perilous crossroads of the wardrobe. If you think you can help with a suggestion or two, or if you want me to post pictures of the body-hugging lycra, please leave a comment below. I don’t know how much longer I can pull this look off.

 

Safe travels. J

P.S. In much more exciting news I’m off to Hamburg tomorrow to eat sausages, drink beer, and track down this guy. A post will no doubt follow once he’s safely behind bars.

Musical Chairs: No light at the end of the tube

21 Mar

First of all, I’m sorry. Sort of. Not really. I didn’t want my first bonafide foray into the glamourous world of amateur blogging to be me whining about something. But something has been bugging me ever since I came to London. Like most of us I take the tube to and from my place of employment. I’ll take a moment now so you can pause, stare wistfully in to the middle distance and longingly remember the bliss that was your last tube ride. If you’ve never been to London, imagine if you will:

  • The warm smell of diesel fumes mixed with crotch sweat billowing on to the platform as a train approaches (TFL has managed to achieve this despite the trains being electric, the crotch sweat is less of a mystery)
  • Being crammed in to a square-foot space with 13 other people, and no possible way of removing your jacket without goosing someone
  • Sweating profusely (particularly from your crotch) because of the inability to remove said jacket
  • Being goosed by the man next to you who attempts and fails to solve the jacket removal/goosing conundrum
  • Ploughing  your way through the crowd to get off at your stop, only to switch lines and do it all again (though hopefully you’ve remembered to take your jacket off before getting on the next train.

I realise public transport goosing exploits are nothing new to anyone. So why write about it? Because I’m scared. I’m scared that long enough in this city (wonderful though it is) will turn me in to a rude, intolerant muse for some idiot to write a blog about. Despite my poor attempts at humour and bad dandruff, I’m usually a pretty nice person.

Something I saw the other day really pushed me over the edge. My instant flash of white-hot anger presented a few problems as I had to wait until I got off the train, then several more days before I decided to start a blog when I could vent this anger. I know we all like our personal space, and rarely will someone choose to sit next to a stranger when other seats are available with nobody next to them. Which brings us to the holy grail of tube seats…the end seat. The end seat is so sought after because it carries the potential to be sat next to by 50 per cent less human beings. Happily, once you are safely in the end seat, you only need to ignore the human on one side and concentrate on the plexi-glass pressed ham by a standing commuter on the other. And all you had to do was dispatch of a blind, disabled pensioner.

The main source of my anger came the other day when I saw someone move from a regular seat to the end seat. I should clarify that the seat they moved from had no one on either side. It was a preemptive move just in case the carriage suddenly filled with sweaty, groping commuters before she had a chance to bring out her can of mace. Why the need to ensure as little human contact as possible? As much as it sickens me, I see it as a gap in the market. If you can no longer stand the thought of accidentally striking up a conversation with someone you don’t know, or having their newspaper brush innocently against you faux denim jeggings and having to mutter niceties, inquire about the latest sensation in commuting.

Until next time, mind the gap. J