Saturday, 29 March 2008


I am writing this on my new toy, a wireless ARCHOS 605, which obviously works but is a little less easy than using a PC while tightrope walking blindfold across the Grand Canyon on a particularly windy day. It would be easier to find a decent Bryan Adams song than to add photos using the ARCHOS, so don't expect photos...I should also take this opportunity to thank our friend Mitch for booking accommodation with wireless internet, allowing me to post this weeks Blog.

Since being in Canada I've added some new words to the Black vocab, including:-

"Snickerdoodle" - which basically means something which fails to live up to its description. This comes from a dessert that I ordered at "Grahams" restaurant in the little town of Glacier, in Washington state. Any food title containing "Snicker" to my mind conjures up, at the very least, chocolate & peanuts, not some plain dull cookie with little or no flavour. This incident reminds me of another dessert disaster when Mrs B and I visited Fire Island. I asked the waitress in the restaurant we were frequenting, what was the best dessert that they served. There followed a mouth-watering description that left me salivating and desperate to try the wonderous concoction. I immediately put my order in, only for the waitress to reply "I'm sorry Sir, there is none left" Aaaarrrrgggghhh how cruel is that?

"shortsicles" - shorts that immediatly turn to ice once you leave the warmth of your out door hot tub. That's just nasty.....

"Nickolepsy" - An ability to sleep anywhere at any time, as practiced by Mrs B. This includes mid conversation, most films, chairlifts. I've yet to see Mrs B sleep while skiing but it can only be a matter of time.

"F*ck" - While at first it might sound strange to include a word that is in everyday use, I've put it in for its rarity value i.e. not often uttered by Mrs B. This rare event occured when I informed a famished Mrs B that we had missed the cut-off run for the mountain restaurant we were making for. Mrs B also came close to a second utterance of the "F word" while attempting to review this very BlackLOG on the ARCHOS.

"Chairasplatterphobia" - The fear of getting catapolted out of a chairlift and left in a crumpled heap in the snow. Oh yes, after over 20 years of skiing I finally managed the embarrassment of a ski injury caused by chairlift. I've been informed it was worth the wait and I now proudly sport a nose that does a very convincing Gerard Depardieu impression and ribs that only hurt when I breath, move, stand still or hold my breath. In fact the only time that they do not hurt is when I'm skiing, or that would have been the case if I had not managed to take air sideways while doing around 30 MPH about four days later. Since I don't crash very often these days I try and make them spectacular when I do.....fortunately I landed on my head so no real damage was done.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Save me from posh hotels

Save me from posh hotels

What is it with the rich? Have they truly become incompetent when it comes down to every day living, through years of inbreeding, or is it they been mollycoddled to such an extent that they are now incapable of thinking for themselves? I stayed at The Ritz Carlton - Berlin recently and was somewhat bemused at being personally shown to the lift, which, incidentally, was only around 10 feet away from the reception desk, next to the large sign saying "lift". I was then given a lesson in pushing the button for the floor I was staying on. I'm quite proud of the fact that I must have passed the aptitude test as I was allowed to travel in the elevator on my own. There followed a few minutes of hesitation and confusion when I reached my floor and discovered there was no one there to meet me. I went through a whole gambit of emotions:

Rejection - I obviously don't look rich enough to require assistance at every step that I take!
Sorrow - who's going to chew my food for me?
Fear - Am I going to have to tie my own shoelaces?
Joy - after the initial mistake the hotel realised that I'm not incapable of living in the real world and I am able to make decisions for myself, even if they are often wrong. Like staying in posh over-priced hotels....

I recovered enough to work out where my room was........ I'm now left with a vision of legions of "not quite rich enough" people wandering aimlessly around posh hotels unsuccessfully looking for their room. I wonder, if Bob Geldof finds out - might we get a whole new series of aid concerts? "Twat aid" perhaps?

Thursday, 20 March 2008

It should not be allowed.....and I don't mean me traveling

I could have done without this one, especially as I am only just recovering from last week's unbalanced episodes. The scene is early morning and I'm in an airport lounge, I look up just as a woman wapped out her left breast and attached a small wailing child to it (up to this point I had been blissfully isolated from the screeching noises by my Ipod and the inner ear headphones that cut out such distractions). It put me right off my "Frappacino, Columbian fresh whole coffee bean with cinnamon shavings, extra extra light Grande" (with extra cream). I had intended to avoid the extra cream but while I was attempting to remember my over-complicated order, of just one drink, I realised that Mrs B was not available to police my bad drink intake (besides I'm firmly of the belief that the double extra light more than offsets the extra cream, even if it does not address my Carbon Footprint, but that is a whole other issue).

Although this has nothing to do with this weeks
Blog, I know some of my regular readers struggle when
there are no Pictures to look at

I don't care how natural an act this is, unleashing your love dumplings in the middle of an airport, in front of poor, unsuspecting Englishmen is just not cricket. As a nation we English just don't feel secure about this sort of thing. Wanton nakedness might be all the rage across Europe and in the safety of our English minds it certainly sounds promising, but when it's literally shoved in our faces............ eeeeekkk.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

The final proof, I am unbalanced...

I've been doing Cat impressions for the last few days, which basically involved sleeping for most of the time and then casually throwing up at inopportune moments. The cats have been very supportive i.e. joining me in the sleeping part. My worst moment was when I had my head down the toilet and Mischief jumped up on my back and went to sleep. I guess I should have been grateful it was not McG.

I should point out that this was not me or Mischief but
a picture I was sent which seemed appropriate. Top tip
men should never appear naked in front of cats, don't
forget they like playing with dangly things........

This all came about through an ear infection that I think I got on Sunday's bike ride. I must apologise to Mrs B and Kirsty. Despite my misguided attempts to protect the integrity of the BBC weather site, it was real rain and lots of it. I was afraid that they would not join me on a ride and I was desperate to show off my new bike. Mrs B could tell it was real rain - despite my efforts - having experienced swimming through Berlin with me a few weeks back.

My new bike, nice but not worth losing your lunch over

I never realised how bad an ear infection could be. Although I had no actual pain, every time I tried to move, the room would start to spin and move in and out in peculiar patterns. I guess like having a bad LSD trip during an Alton Towers ride.(No, I have not taken drugs but I have listened to "Lucy in the sky with Diamonds" at full volume while spinning around as fast as I could. What can I say? I was young and it seemed like a good idea).

When ears turn bad. I'm just hoping that
my infection does not get this bad. A few
days later this man's ear had to be amputated

In between my cat impressions I was doing rather impressive crab impressions, moving left and right but never forward. I was tempted to ring the vets but decided on balance that they probably don't see many live crabs in Bishops Stortford. So I gave NHS Direct a chance. I must say NHS Direct were fabulous - telling me not to panic but advising me to see my doctor ASAP, before calmly adding "If symptoms get any worse call an ambulance!!!!" Wow, so really nothing to worry about then. I amazed Mrs B by managing to get hold of a Doctor's appointment for that very afternoon, normally you have to make appointments six months in advance and have a letter from a local undertaker stating that you are at death's door and they have already taken your measurements for a wooden overcoat.....

Mischief not impressed by my failure to purr.
Barfing just does not provide the same reassuring tone

Friday, 7 March 2008

Berlin part two - Abandoned in Berlin

After our weekend in Berlin Mrs B had to return home, a little soggier than when she arrived but now brimming with German culture to make up for it. Leaving me to face the Germans on my own. I’m afraid I don’t have a good track record with dealing with groups of Germans. On an individual basis I get on quite well with them, I just don’t get the whole "taking over thing" when they group together? (Liebenstrauber, if I remember my history classes. I end up feeling like Poland after any prolonged dealings with groups of “Them”).

Let me take you back in time, to when I was not much more than an ankle-biter. The scene is an empty beach in Portugal. A group of English kids are playing football on that beach, which stretches out for miles in both directions, did I mention it was empty. Out of nowhere a group of German teenagers, probably about six years older than us, arrive and set up a volleyball net in the middle of our pitch. Wow, that left an impression on me I can tell you – especially when I ran into one of the Poles holding up the bloody net (They were obviously doing all sorts of menial jobs in those days as well). We put up a valiant fight but without the help of the Yank kids sitting at a nearby cafe, who were doing a passable impression of Switzerland ie staying neutral, we were soon driven off the beach.

Move forward again to the present and I’m having breakfast in the hotel dining room. I had just sat down at an empty table when a couple of over-stuffed German battleaxes began “occupation” of the table next to me. Shortly after this a friend of theirs (same build, equally ugly) plonked herself at my table without saying a word. I looked around the fairly empty breakfast room and spotted more of their friends relentlessly trundling towards me. My first thought was to stand my ground and try to hold out. I then realised that I was on my own with no hope of reinforcement. Besides, after I had sat down at the table I realised the previous occupant had spilt their juice all over it. It might have been a retreat but I feel it was a glorious one, in the best traditions of Dunkirk. They were more than welcome to my damp old table, if it was that important to them. Without a backward glance I went off in search of dryer parts of the dining room, preferably a table without room for a volleyball net (don’t say I never learn).

Berlin Airport Security
I wrote this part of the Blog on a much cleaner machine (As a reader ask yourself “Can I tell the difference?” I bet you can’t.) I had been abusing the waiting time at Berlin airport, putting together my Berlin trip Blog. I completed some of it while having a coffee outside the departure gate and then decided to proceed through security. Things went ok as I put my lap top in the security box and then started the process of removing everything from my pockets, my watch, my belt, my jacket - the works. I proceeded through the metal detector. Nothing. As I put myself back together one of the security women pulled me to one side and said that they needed to do further checks on my Lap top. (God had someone been reading my less than flattering German comments?) I was frogmarched back out of the departure lounge and taken half way around the airport to a seedy little room, containing a funny little man and what looked like a futuristic vacuum machine that was built in the 50’s. He proceeded to Hoover my keyboard and used a cloth to clean the screen and the outer casing. How nice I thought, caught feeling somewhere between grateful for the free cleaning service they were providing and victimised by an over-zealous security regime. Once he had given my PC a clean bill of health, I was escorted back to the Departure lounge. At least I would get fast tracked through security, I thought……. Not a bit of it. There I was, back stripping myself to the very core of my being. If you remember last time I walked through the metal detector: not a peep. This time it went off like McG when you put down an empty food bowl for him. I looked into the eyes of the very same security guard who had ushered me through 20 minutes earlier. Out came the magic wand that beeped its way across every inch of my body. Not only did I get a free laptop clean, but an intimate body massage to boot. Did I miss something? Was I the 1,000,000th Airberlin passenger?

It’s a small world.
On the way out to Berlin I found myself sitting in front of Steve and Rachel, who live near us and who I occasionally run into at the gym. They were off on a fact finding trip to Berlin to check out property investment opportunities. While Mrs B failed to complete the purchase of an umbrella, despite Berlin having a Noah style rain setting for our entire stay, Steve and Rachel not only found but purchased an apartment. What can I say? There are a lot of different umbrellas out there, and you should not rush into making a choice. I just hope that they have purchased a property on high ground….

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

The joys of Berlin in the rain

As I had meetings in Berlin on both Friday and Monday I decided to stay and make a weekend of it. I had a difficult time persuading Mrs B to join me.

Me - “I’m thinking of staying in Berlin for the weekend”

Mrs B - “Great”…seconds later… “Ok, I’ve booked my flight, where are we staying?”

Me - “Not sure yet, I’ll let you know.”

That bought me enough time to cancel the Berlin Flea pit that I had booked and find something a little more upmarket, ie suitable for Mrs B…. I still managed to find us a hotel furthest from anywhere we ended up visiting. Doh!

The trip out
Mrs B will vouch that I am one of life’s nightmares when it comes to losing things. I can be given something, put it in my pocket and then when looking for it a couple of minutes later, take half an hour to find it again. And that’s with a limited number of pockets. In most situations I’m fairly calm but give me a ticket or a passport and I become Mr Paranoid (That’s why I love the concept of ticket-less travel. Sadly reality is they still thrust a ticket in your hand at check in, giving the likes of me ample time to misplace the damn thing between the check-in desk and arrival at the plane door). I’m thinking of starting a campaign to have all tickets, passports and any documents required for travel to be put on elastic and threaded up the sleeves of all travellers, like those mittens that young children have with their Duffle coats. While I appreciate that this is probably a unique problem, that applies to me and a select bunch of "special people", I don’t see why I should stand out any more then I already do.

Sadly our plans of an exciting tour of Berlin became a bit of a wash out, as Germany’s (possibly Europe’s) entire rainfall chose the weekend to have its conference in Berlin. This left us taking a bus tour of the city, which was of limited success, as we peered through sheets of over diluted rain and misted up windows. It got so bad that at one point all we could see was drowning rain drops.

Berlin, the city where water comes to drown its sorrows.

That left us with museums. They always sound like a good idea but in reality ......

It all started very promisingly at the Check Point Charlie museum, close to the site of the famous East/West cross-over point. Lots of ingenious ways that people used, risking life and limb, to get from East Berlin to West Berlin. After 30 minutes all I wanted to do was use one of them, no matter how dangerous, to get me out of the damn museum. I don’t know about you but Mrs B and I can only take a limited amount of culture before melt down. Then our brains turn to mulch and start trying to ooze out of our ears. At this point only food and distance from anything slightly resembling culture can save us.

Mrs B doing a passable impression of a Border Guard,
while the woman next to her looks like she could do
with some elastic threaded up the arms of her coat....

The Jewish museum would not even let us in, because we did not have our passports on us. I’ve had easier times getting in and out of countries. We went back the following day with passports in hand. It turned out they only wanted to use them as security to stop us running off with the Ipod audio guides they handed out. True to form I lasted about half an hour before I had had enough, by which time I had lost Mrs B in the huge expanse of buildings designed by Daniel Liebeskind. Some of it is meant to represent the despair of the Holocaust,I'm not sure about that but since it was laid out like Ikea I could relate to the sense of despair of having to travel through the entire building in order to get out. Aaaaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhhh !!!!

It looks like it's starting
to brighten up.....Not!!!

Next time see what happens when Mrs B abandons me not in a museum but in an entire city, it's not pretty......

You just missed my Cossack dance routine; I was
so impressive, I managed to clear the streets.