Thursday, April 30, 2009


Ok, so after much bullying and pushing by D'manda, I have decided to update this blog. I was not in Her Royal Majesties Prison, nor was I knifed at Brixton, I've just been really really lazy.

I now have a sweet job with the Animal Health department and am based in Westminster, just near Big Ben - more to come on this one soon.

Given that this could be my last post, due to the global pandemic of misconceptions sweeping the media, or just because I am extremely slack, I've decided to pen an ode to the what really is a potentially serious situation......

A cough, a hack, a sneeze, ACHOO
Oink, oink said the pig, I’ve caught the flu
Should I go to work, it’s do or die
Yeah, right mate – and pigs might fly!

But he went to work, and the virus spread
It made heaps sick, and many more dead
His boss died too – and he thought he was a fakin
I guess that’s the price for bringing home the bacon!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

G’day everyone - I’m back! I was not run over by a red double decker bus, nor was I arrested at Buckingham palace for mooning the queen, nor, as it has been suggested, was I cloned and reinserted back into AQIS (I have been told my doppelganger has started working for us!) . I have been very slack in doing this blog - I still have a couple of cities to write about too. In some ways, a lot has been happening - yet in others nothing! There are some pretty funny stories coming up from the actual tour, so I will continue with that, but first some really quick dot points - I will cover these in future ramblings!
  • We finally stopped couch surfing 6 weeks ago and moved into our own unit. 6 weeks rent for bond, then 8 weeks rent up front - which in Aussie dollars was about 11K - was quite a blow to my long service pay.
  • Despite being registered with several recruitment agencies and despite my significant skill base (yep, I still have a big head) I was unable to secure work.
    A month ago, I bit the bullet, clinched the cliché, and became a bar tender - or as I prefer to call it, a “pint master”. I get a whopping five pound seventy two an hour - which is 3 pence above national minimum wage! For three weeks I worked there full time, but have now gone to part time.
  • 7 days ago, I secured a 4 month contract with Lambeth council. I have more than doubled my hourly rate and am now on thirteen pound fifty four pence an hour. I only have to do a 35 hour week to boot. Because the rent is so expensive - and not to mention all of the other frivolous spending - I also work the bar. I don’t know how long I will be able to maintain it though. I get up at 7:30am, catch a packed tube to work by 9, leave work at 17:00, get to the pub at 17:45, then work there 1800-00:30. I do this Mon, Wed and Fri nights. Works out I do 53 hours per week.
  • My new job is as an “operation support officer”. Basically, I am an admin biatch! My unit supports the “Street Care” team - which is the group that deals with keeping the borough clean - be it through street cleaning, rubbish collection, graffiti removal etc. I deal with abandoned vehicles and commercial waste - I provide admin and clerical support to their enforcement team - think AQIS Compliance and Investigations Unit - but there are 20 or so officers in it.
  • My main role is updating an archaic computer system - almost as bad as COMPILE - that’s right - Customs Online Method of Producing Invoiceable Lodgeable Invoices - who could forget that old beast!
  • I have been kissing arse and kicking date! I have been using the system for the last 5 days and in that time, have created a 10 page user manual for it and have designed a process diagram of how it actually works (ala my famous COMPILE/AIMS diagrams). This was noted by one of the managers, who whispered to me they are thinking of upgrading me from office biatch to Business Analyst - which basically means I will be drawing out heaps of data from the system and analysing it to produce things like key performance indicator information. I am hoping it will also be a significant pay rise!!!

Anyway, that’s enough of an update on that side of things for now - will finish off the trip blogs now. I will be touching on some of these things in future blogs.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When in Rome....

…became one of the more annoying catch cries on the bus - but what the hell - we WERE in Rome!

Well - almost - because after we left Florence, we dropped into a little city called Orvieto. It’s a city which is perched on an volcanic tuft in the middle of a valley. The sight of the city was chosen as an excellent defensive position. We parked at the bottom of the cliffs and caught a funicular ( )to the top. It was a cloudy misty day as we wended our ways through small dank cobbled alleyways and red shingled roofs. We ended up in the main square, where there was a magnificent church - which looked like a zebra from the side, but its front was ornately carved.

There were heaps of artworks and items of religious significance inside - mind you, we were a little bit over historic stuff by now. For those that are interested, here’s some info about the stuff inside:

The fact that it was raining and misty made it even more magical to be in this city - you could really imagine what it would have been like in it’s day.

After our very quick stop here, we continued driving south to Rome. The further south we went, the more the country side and climate changed - getting flatter, hotter and more populous. Instead of going direct to our accommodation, we were dropped at an overland train station. The train that picked us up looked like it was straight from the American Bronx - covered in graffiti, dilapidated and in disrepair. The group got on all shooting each other looks about the state of the transport.

After about a 30 minute trip, we got out of the train in the middle of Rome to begin our walking tour. There were people everywhere - the tour guide said it was not even busy! I can see why it’s one of the biggest towns for pickpockets - there were that many “soft” targets everywhere.
The walking tour lasted about 4.5 hours - there is no way I will be able to describe everything we saw or felt on the walk. The amount of history in this city is amazing - I can see now why Italians are so proud of their heritage. Around each corner there was something to see, photograph or to talk about. I did not like the crowds - god forbid being there in peak season - or the dirtiness of the city - everything was grotty and grimy.

For me, the three main highlights would have been the Trevi Fountain - - what the pics do not show here were the masses of people that were surrounding it. There is a superstition that if you throw a coin over one of your shoulders and it lands in the fountain, you will find love. We fought our was down to it, not to throw a coin, but to fill up our water bottle from the aqueduct. While we were down there, we saw some Asians - standing about 10 steps above everyone else. There would have been 20m between them and the fountain, and about 100 people. They turned and threw their coins - which proceeded to brain people in front of the fountain. They turned around angrily to see which twit through the coins at them - but the Asians had moved on. Even funnier when it does not happen to you!!

After almost losing the tour guide on the next stretch of the walk - about four of us ran breathlessly through the crowd to catch her up again - we turned a corner and ended up in the square with the Pantheon. It was simply breathtaking!

It’s an amazing building! After a talk about this history of the place - which you can read in Wiki - we went inside. There are large drains built into the floor, not just to drain water that falls through the giant hole in the roof - but to collect water from rain clouds that form IN the building! Amazing…..

Three guesses as to the other building that gets a mention here - that’s right - it’s the Colosseum - - the fact that it‘s standing at all after this amount of time is amazing. We walked through it’s arches with a sense of awe - especially when considering some of the Roman movies - eg Gladiator that are based on this point in time. I am reading a book at the moment in fact, by Robert Harris called Imperium - I am appreciating it a lot more now that I have been there and have seen some of the things he talks about (back in the golden age)

That night, we stayed in a caravan park on the outskirts of Rome. We caught a train back from the centre of town and then had to get a bus - one of the craziest bus rides I have been on. There would have been 120 plus people on a bus built to carry 70. I was squeezed against the front windscreen - almost in the drivers lap! We cruised through the campsite - past a bunch of bogans at the pub/club and found our cabins. We thought the bogans were German - but when we went back up and had dinner and a few beers, found out they were a version of Irish Pikers -

I should day they were not as bad as in that vid - but they were close! They Dads were rough as guts and playing cards. Their kids were little shits, swearing and running amok - getting their dad’s trays of beers, while the wives were dressed up to the nines drinking cocktails inside. One of my Irish mates later told me the pikers go to Europe in their flash cars and smuggle cigarettes back into the UK duty free - among other things.

That night, we got fairly pissy at the bar - a couple of the girls had issues with one of the pikeys trying to dance with her on the dance floor. One of the other lads stepped in and helped her out without drawing their wraith. It was into the 6th or 7th pint, when we discovered the Shisha room at the back of pub - about 8 of us went in and had hits from the hooka until we got kicked out at 2am…..

The next morning, slightly hung over, we traipsed into Rome again on the train (this one was much improved) and went to Vatican City. Although I don’t have a godly bone in my body, it was ok to see - I just filtered the guph that our American tour guide (stars and Jesus in her eyes) gave us as we went through. It was funny to see the jokes that Michelangelo pulled when painting the chapel ceiling - eg painting a cardinal’s face that he did not like on one of the “evil” characters in the bible. There were a few others too - like a cherubic angel giving one of the old popes he did not like the 1500’s version of the finger.
Mark and I set a challenge in each city - and that was to walk to the top of every tower, dome or spire that we could. We climber the roof of the Vatican which was pretty cool - but damn there were a lot of people up there - we shuffled up and shuffled down again. This took a lot of our day up…..but we did not waste it!

We left the main Vatican precinct, headed to a little café and had a huge lunch and a few beers. Then we negotiated the train system and headed back to the Colosseum - it was certainly worth going back for another look. That afternoon, we also took in some ancient ruins that were excavated next to it - whilst most of it was knocked down and rubble, it was still very cool to walk through and check it all out.

There is so much more to say about Rome - but I have run out of steam. The next update will be about Venice…..


Saturday, July 12, 2008

There's something about Mary....

Before I get into this post travel blog update, here’s a brief run down on my current affairs….
Still have not found work - although there are plenty of jobs out there - they just don’t pay very well at all. I’m holding out for a pay scale that will reflect my experience and knowledge. I have been trying to get into government type work in legislation, policy formation or computer IT stuff. To date, have not even had an interview. Mark has registered with about 8 different recruiters and keeps getting put forward for positions but they keep falling through. Whilst we don’t have jobs, we can not move into a place of our - very frustrating. Apparently the job market here gets better in September when people depart the coming cold in droves. As they say on League of Gentlemen, hokey cokey, pig and a pokie - good morning job seekers! ( )

The weather here is certainly not much chop - it’s a little like Melbourne where there can be four seasons in one day. Just this morning it was cold and wet - then it was windy and cloudy, now it’s bright and sunny. Whenever you go out - if you’re not sure when you will be home, you need to take a jumper or a coat just in case! According to forecasters, this is going to be one of the rainiest July’s on record!

Did someone order a Pisa?

One thing I forgot to say in the last blog, was us dropping into see the leaning tower of Pisa. The trip leader announced there was going to be a competition to see who could get the most creative picture with the tower in the background. Luckily, this was announced the day before we got there - Mark and I thought as one - we decided it was time to get Mary (the blow up sex doll my neighbours gave us) out from the suitcases under the bus. We had discussed pulling her out on the first day, but decided since we did not know what the people were like, we’d better hold off. We told one other person on the bus and had them help us take the picture.

When we got to Pisa, we had to park a km or so away - there were people and dodgy hawkers every where The little town is in the middle of nowhere - the only real attraction there seemed to be the tower. We walked into the castled walls surrounding the tower and was amazed at how many people where there - several hundred - how could we get a blow up doll out in the middle of all this?

We scouted the tower and found a little blocked off area to the back of the main area - admittedly there will still lots of people about - not to mention armed guards mingling through the crowd. Slipping Mary out of the knapsack behind a pine tree, we administered the breath of life to her. I should point out at this stage that Mary (just like her namesake) is virginal and has a savvy dress sense - she is attired in a sexy negligee, kindly donated by our ex neighbour - the polish wrestler.

Once she was inflated, we scoped the coast was semi clear, and rushed out to position her holding the tower up - one of the most clichéd pictures a tourist takes at this site. After several happy snaps by Kate - our confidant - we rushed back to the cover of the trees. We snuck a peak round the tree and a whole school group of teenagers - and their teacher were staring and pointing. Needless to say, we quickly deflated her and fled the scene! Needless to say we won the photo comp!!

We introduced Mary to the rest of the bus a couple of days later. She was a great hit with everyone - not to mention our tour leader Heather. She began to worship her and would always ask that we bring her out on the town! Heather became so infatuated with her, she would even cuddle her on the bus , would mimic her voice and talk to the rest of the tour and would strap her in the jump seat - the seat which folds down next to the driver - and make her wave to passers by - it was worth it just to see some of their expressions.

Heather was a great guide - and we felt inclined to get her a gift at the end of the trip - and what better than a sex doll of her own! I cruised the sex shops of Amsterdam - will eventually get to that stage of the trip - feeling like a dirty old perve. I found a doll called Diana Stretch - excitedly fumbled my money out on the counter and took her back to the hostel. Just to see what she looked like, I blew her up. Unfortunately, I did not read the box properly - she was called stretch cos one of her legs sticks out at a right angle!! For those of you brave enough, you can google these keywords “Diana stretch doll” - I thought the picture was too crass to place here. NB - don’t do this on an AQIS PC!!!

Since she had been inflated, I thought it best not to return her to the sex shop. I debated with the rest of the room whether to give it to her or not - in the end we decided what the hell! We cracked her out on the bus on our last day - the reaction - she loved her!! She renamed her to Diana Damm - since that’s were she was “born”.

On the ferry from Calais to Dover, we got the two dolls out - in front of a heap of bewildered passengers - and reenacted the scene from Titanic!

Heather says she has a soft spot for Mary, but she loves Diana now. One thing for certain, she looks a lot classier when she is clothed - Diana that is - not Heather!

We recently caught up with Heather for a beer - she brought Diana with her to the pub! She had recently returned from another tour of Europe - she informed us that she made Diana the mascot for their trip - and the crew loved her! Diana (as does Mary [and Porky Paulina]) now have their own face books too!!

Anyway, this blog spot was a little side tracked - the next one WILL be about Rome!


Friday, July 4, 2008

Forging our way to Florence!


Departing the perfumery, we weaved our way along cliff tops, tore through tunnels (have never seen so many tunnels in my life!! - at first they were fun - then they became annoying as it became hard to read my book - the tunnel lights caused a strobe effect - thought I would have an epileptic fit!) and barrelled along bridges. The scenery and roadways were amazing. The road just goes across the side of a really steep hill side - giant arched bridges carried us over massive valleys - then the tunnels bored into the next ridge line, to be carried on another bridge again. It must have taken many years to build the road system. Before this, you would have needed to follow a very wriggly coastline.

Border checks were virtually non existent - the strictest place was UK/French border. We sailed from France straight into Italy without blinking an eye. One thing that was different was the way you were served in service stations. The attitude of the attendant was one thing - as was the stupid system! You had to look at the food through a glass fridge, then queue up to pay for it - you had to tell them in Italian what you wanted. You then needed to line back up at the counter, get grunted at by the attendant, hand over your receipt then finally get your food!
Another thing I am not sure if I mentioned yet, was he fact that you had to pay for toilets when you used them. If you did not, some of the toilet attendants (ahh, what a job) would get surly with you. Their purpose was MEANT to mean that the toilet was always clean - this was not always the case. We learnt that the best thing to do was use the toilet, then pay on the way out - if you thought it was good enough. I had great satisfaction using a dirty toilet, then upon leaving, throwing a handful of now useless Swiss Francs into their bowl!!

We wended down the coast and went through one of the biggest sea ports of the area - Genoa - we did not stop though. I saw container after container of terracotta pots being made ready for shipment to good old down under - also saw a heap of tractors and ag equipment. Here’s a link to the port -

The country side began to change as we moved into the Tuscany region - rolling hills and olive groves. After about 9 hours on the bus - fun, fun, fun - we made it to Florence - then we drove through it to our campsite 9kms from town. This was the first time we had been to a camp like this - it had about 4 restaurants, a bar, 6 pools, and catered to large groups of people and families. To use the facilities, you had to charge up a card and then flash it against a card reader to pay for stuff. It would have been nice if the tour guide remembered to tell us - cos we pissed a few store owners off trying to pay cash.

We had our first massive Italian feed that night - pizza, pasta and red wine. Then we hit the onsite bottleo and bought a bottle of vodka for 7 Euros! It was back to our miniscule cabins then for some drinks. I was a little bit tired from the bus - I was about the only one to have stayed awake the whole trip - so I hit the sack early - listening to the annoying Americans just outside of the cabin crapping on about how good they were.

Florence link -

The next morning, we cruised into Florence for an organised walking tour. Normally we had a couple of things organised, then we could have free time to explore the city in our own time. We were warned about “Stendhal Syndrome” as we pulled into town - this link will describe it - lucky for me I did not get it -

The walking tour was great - even though it was raining and cold. It sort of made the old buildings seem more realistic. The sun did come out later and made a great day. The architecture and the statues sprinkled through the town were awesome. With our walking tour over, Mark, a new friend called Kate and I slipped away from the group. There were some annoying clingers on - so this was our only option J . We trekked away from the old town and made it to their university. It was still a little cold and wet, so we decided it was time for coffee and lunch. We found this large building which held a heap butchers, bakers, restaurants and fish mongers. With our broken Italian, we ordered our meals - I ended up getting “bread salad” by mistake (mine). It was stale bread mixed with salad and vinegar - quite tasty really.

After lunch, we slipped back into the main square - none of our tour was in sight! We climbed the main dome - which was pretty spectacular - there’s actually a dome within a dome. It was quite claustrophobic as we neared the top - almost walking sideways in a stoop between the internal and external domes. Great views of the city from the top - it looked very much like a medieval town from a fantasy novel - eg Raymond Fiest or Fritz Leiber ( ). Once we made the top of the dome, we decided to climb the tower next door. We ditched Kate at this point - she did not want to do the tower. We did a lot of exercise on the whole tour - most of it by climbing the main attractions! Here’s a link to the dome and tower

By now, we were a little over going into museums and art galleries - but we both knew we would cop it if we did not make an effort to go and see the original statue of David - even though we had seen a copy of him out in the main square. We lined up outside the main gallery for about 45 minutes before we finally shuffled through the doors. Leading up to the main statue were about 7 statues Michelangelo
( - take note this guys appears in a lot more history and our travels) had worked on through his life - the statues were incomplete - and seemed to be imprisoned in the marble - probably why they were called the prisoners!

The main statue was breath taking - I literally stopped in my tracks when I saw him! There were masses of people walking round him looking up at him with fevered eyes. We stayed in there for about half an hour just walking round him. We then moved into the main area of the museum, only to come back to David about 10 minutes later. Mark was that inspired, he bought a large poster of the statue.

Once we got out, we wondered round the town - totally over seeing anything else - although we did make it to the bridge in the centre of town that house’s lots of jewellery shops.

We headed to the restaurant and meeting point at about 7pm. We were promised a great meal, followed by karaoke - which we were a little dubious about. As it turned out, we were right to have been - the meal was good - but then when we went into the next bar, we realised we had been caught in a tourist trap again! About 3 tourist busses of Contiki tools turned up - we wanted out ASAP. One good thing about the bar though, they sold table kegs - 5L of beer with it’s own tap. Very cool!

On the bus back to the camp, I got talked into - well maybe the 5L of beer helped - into busting out the Dingo Rap on the bus - it went down quite well!

The next brief will be about romantic Rome!

Ciao for now……

Wednesday, June 25, 2008



Well, we departed Switzerland, just as the mist and cloud lifted, revealing the true beauty of our campground. We had breakfast in Switzerland, lunch in Italy and dinner once again in France. We drove through one of the longest tunnels in Europe - 18kms or so. The amazing thing was that they started building it 300 years ago!!

Nice was very nice! A coastal holiday town on the med - a blend of really old buildings mixed with the new. We were warned to keep a very close eye on our belongings as we pulled up to the bus stop. The bus driver said that he had occasions where scumbags had climbed on the coach as people were getting off to steal what they could! For this reason, one person from the trip had to guard the door anytime the bus was open. Despite being told to be careful, we did not see any crime in this town.

The tour leader, Heather, told us that if were to swim in the Med, we would find it very salty. A few of us scoffed at this. Later in the day, as we scrambled down the pebble (well rock) beach - first time I had ever seen a beach that did not have sand - and plunged into the freezing cold water, we realised she was right! The water was that salty, it aided floatation! It was very clear and cold - a pity the sun was not out, otherwise it would have looked magical. We dragged ourselves out of the water and lay rather uncomfortably on the rocks drying off. Not many people were in the water that day - only the tourists!

Here is a link regarding Nice:

Nice is very close to a range of famous towns and cities - Cannes - you may have heard of the film festival - as well as the principality of Monaco. We went to Monaco for the night - it was only about a 30 minute drive from where we were staying. Like Switzerland, it also was a fairytale town - more so for it’s man made beauty and the way it hugs the steep shore line. Here is a link to check out -

We drove past billion dollars worth of yachts and motor vehicles as we approached the casino. The amount of money in this town was amazing, The buildings were pristine, no graffiti in sight and no litter on the ground. The casino was just like any other casino I have ever seen - admittedly, I did not go into the main one - you needed to pay a 10 Euro cover charge just to enter! The “paupers” casino was set downstairs - even still it was very plush.

All in all, this was a very beautiful part of the world! We departed Nice early on the second morning and stopped at a perfumery - very interesting place to see . We were now on our way to Florence - which will be my next update!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Switzerland Section

Alas, I can not seem to get my video camera recharged, so the promised vids are still not ready for presentation. The weather here has turned and the "summer" days are almost equal to a cold winters day in Brissy! As well as it being my Dad's birthday, this Sunday is going to be the longest day of the year - there is some excitement - but also disappointment - cos it means we are on the slide to winter! Enough of this - on to the Switzerland part of the trip!

SWITZERLANDI would vote this place as the most magical country in the world! We stayed in a valley in Lauterbrunnen - about 72 waterfalls pour into the valley - it was magical! There is a big rock filled river flowing down the middle of the valley. We had got there just after the winter melt, so it looked spectacular! The only problem was that it was raining and a little bit overcast - but that did not dampen the mood or the spirits. Here is a link to it:

Walking through the green meadows, all you could hear were cows and sheep with their bells a-ringing. Apparently, they have these so they can be found in the fog/snow. A lot of the houses in the valley were made from pine and some where even built round about 1750! Unfortunately, or cabins were very small - we had to have 4 people in each cabin - you could not swing a cat in there - yet alone bend down to pull your socks on! One of the girls from Canberra had an unfortunate snoring problem - as soon as the bus took off, her head would be nodding and her snores would echo up the aisle. I had the misfortune of being placed next to her cabin - the snores reverberated through the wall and woke all of us up....

We needed to change our Euros to Swiss Francs - this was the only country we needed to do this in, so it was not too painful. We bought beers from their local general store - in front of it - was a cold little mountain stream that came from one of the waterfalls - the stream eventually fed into the main river. We were encouraged to leave our beers in the stream to chill them down! It was awesome. Also, if you stood still for long enough, big trout would swim out of the drain pipe and among the beer!

Had a bit of a bender at the bar on our first night in - got to bed at about 2am. We got up early the next morning and again had the choice of a couple of optionals - I decided to jump on the train that takes us to the top of the tallest mountain in Europe - Mt Jungfrau - . Our guide warned us that some people may suffer altitude sickness. I scoffed at the thought and eagerly awaited the train to take us up!
We stopped at a few mountain side towns on the way up - I expected to see Heidi come bouncing round the corner with a basketful of daisies. Still feeling OK - despite a little bit of a hangover.

We stop at a look out half way up - still feeling fine - unfortunately, there was a white out, which meant we had no views at all. We continued the trip to the top - and as soon as I got off the train, it hit me!! It felt like I was walking in space or under water. My heart was beating abnormally fast and it felt like I would faint. Several other people who got off the train were affected in the same manner. We walked through the big complex at the top of the mountain - and I felt worse and worse. All I wanted to do was get back down to the valley. Again, it was a white out on top, so the spectacular views which the brochures promised were not seen :(

I started to spark up on the descent back into the valley and was back in beer drinking spirits by the time I got back to camp. The little bar encouraged people to write on coasters and then hang them on the roof - my contribution was:

Pat a sheep, milk a cow
See the sights of Mt Jungfrau
Just don't do it if you are weak
Return to camp, beers chilled in the creek
Hit the bar, become a wreck
Enjoy your tour with Topdeck!

After two days here, I've decided it's definitely going to be a place to visit again - this thought was reinforced as we left the country to go to Nice (back in France) - driving past massive mountain ranges and glistening green lakes.

Enough for now - the next part will be about nice Nice!!