Thursday, March 31, 2005

Just when you think it's all over....

Well, when I say sorted, what I actually meant to say was, err, kind of sorted.

Letter no. 3:

Dear Sir/Madam

I thought it was all sorted. I hoped it was all sorted. You hoped it was all sorted. I should have known better.

You may think this is fun. But I don't want to keep sending you these emails as much as you dont want to keep receiving them.

This morning, as you well know, I eventually spoke to the elusive Lisa and managed to get a verbal confirmation of my flight change. I asked for, and was told that I'd be sent an email confirmation of all the changes - so that I could print it out as proof in case any misunderstanding arose.

Well you can't be too careful with companies with a track record of incompetence can you?

Bearing in mind what has happened so far this week, 7 hours after being told I'd be sent a confirmation and a matter of minutes before switching my PC off for the final time before departing on my trip, would you care to hazard a guess as to whether I had received the confirmation or not received the confirmation?

Of course I hadn't received it. I wouldn't be wasting both of our times telling you about it if I had have received it would I?

So I rang again. And was given a few excuses. None of which I wasted time absorbing into my mind.

Then hey presto, an email suddenly appeared.

It's really not good enough is it?

Is there any chance you could find it within yourselves to furnish me with a reply telling me why my service has so far been shocking.

Yours close to tears



Well you'll be glad to know that the situation is now sorted. You can extinguish all candles.

As much as I was enjoying this email 'duel' with Opodo it wasn't actually getting me anywhere and getting anything sorted - especially as the duel was frustratingly all one way due to their inability to respond.

So I decided to bite the bullet and ring them again, something I was previously determined not to do.

I got as far as being on hold when I got another incoming call.

I answered.

It was Lisa. You know, Lisa. You do - you know her. The one who started all this. If ever you speak to Opodo in the future, please do me a favour and ask to speak to Lisa.

Apparently she'd been off sick yesterday, which I thought I'd copyrighted as my excuse for not calling people back - must check that. Obviously Lisa is the only person who works at Opodo - which would fit.

To cut a very boring conversation very short - it was as easy just being booked on another flight 5 minutes earlier, which apparently the airline had suggested themselves only last week.

Why it took a week to pass this message on is anyones guess.

I'm still waiting for an email confirmation of this conversation and arrangements, which judging by previous form, should be here around the time I get back. And I still haven't heard from their customer service at all yet. So they'll be on my hit list - which is not where you'd want to be after a morning of The Smiths on i-tunes.

But the sum total of all that is that I am off - for a few weeks only. Dont be too sad, I'll be back soon. I don't want flowers or anything on the route to Heathrow, please.

In the meantime Jake will be babysitting my blog, along with Young Watski and my Mother, if they can be bothered to write anything.

Jake's a bit boring and can waffle about rubbish a bit, so you shouldn't notice too much difference - it should, in fact be seamless.

There are a couple of rules to abide by when reading Jake:

1) Don't believe anything he says
2) Don't believe anything he does
3) Don't believe anything he says he does
4) Don't believe anything he says he's done

That should pretty much keep you in good stead.

Just make sure he keeps you entertained in the style to which you are accustomed.

Hard I know.

Goodbye - or as they say in Thailand: "You want to see ping pong show Sir?"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Letter to Opodo

Dear Sir/Madam

In February I booked flights from Heathrow to Bangkok International Airport and back, also booking connecting flights to Phuket and back at around the same time - all to take place within the dates 1st April 2005 to 17th April 2005.

Last Thursday afternoon (24th March) I was contacted by a lady from Opodo called Lisa who left a message on my answerphone informing me that my flight from Bangkok to Phuket, at 10.50am on the 4th April had been cancelled and could I ring back to discuss whether a change to 1700 would be good, or alternatively a change to another airline.

That change is not good, convenient or anything. Apart from a pain. But then it could be dealt with.

I called back straight away on Thursday afternoon, the person I spoke to couldn't get hold of someone in Lisa's department and promised that I would be called back later that day.

The following day, Good Friday arrived. I, seemingly along with the rest of the Great Britain population, departed on a weekend break - with the vast majority of them seemingly going my way too. I decided to take my holiday details with me so that I could be informed about any specifics if contacted by Opodo. I rang again on the way there in the afternoon, and got the seemingly standard response.

"I can't get through to the GDS? team, someone will call you back today"

'Does this team exist' I wondered to myself.

Easter Saturday arrived and whilst taking a leisurely, if rainy walk around Holt in Norfolk I thought I'd break off to ring Opodo again. After being cut off (I'm sure it was a mistake), I rang back and again, no-one from GDS was available to talk to me, and even if they could, the airline would be closed till Tuesday so could not confirm any changes till then apparently. Nice job if you can get it. I wondered who was flying the planes. Not my problem.

"You'll forgive me if I don't place much faith in the fact that I'll be getting a phone call back from you do you? I've been told that before. You do promise it will happen don't you?" I said to the person on the end who promised lots, but delivered very little. Can you detect a theme? It turns out he had no intention of arranging a call back.

Tuesday arrived. During this period of time thousands of years ago Jesus Christ was crucified, stuck behind a rock, then arose from the dead before tucking into a load of Easter eggs - if you believe that kind of thing. A bit of an inconvenience I'm sure you'd agree, but in the present day Opodo can't seem to find sufficient motivation to call a customer back, when they promised. I reckon Jesus ought to come and work at your place for a weekend - he'd certainly shake things up a bit there.

I rang again on Tuesday afternoon, exasperatedly explained to the poor person on the other end what had happened, and what was going to happen, i.e, that we were going to get this sorted there and then. Amazingly this secret password got me through to the mythical GDS team (do only angry customers get through?) who crushed my enthusiasm immediately by saying that he could do nothing till 12 midday the following day (today), which was when Lisa came in and that he would call me back at 1pm at the latest once he had spoken to her.

Tell me. Is there a buck passing course that you good people at Opodo have to go on? I bet the people on the GDS team all passed with top marks - you must be very proud.

He also said he was doing all manner of impressive sounding things like putting notes on my account that only he and the airline could see. But ultimately they all proved futile and 'all talk' as the time is now 4pm and I still have had no phone call. I'd put money on me not getting one until I actually ring too.

Today is Wednesday, it is the afternoon. I leave my home at 6am on Friday morning (38 hours from now) to depart on a holiday, on which I'm not sure whether I actually have a connecting flight or not - even though I booked one. The worrying thing is that I don't think the good people at Opodo can tell me whether I have or not either, or at least are wondering whether they can be bothered to tell me.

I have people picking me at Phuket airport at the time the original flight is due to land. I can't tell them anything. They're going to be very disappointed when I'm not there, not as disappointed as me though - but I guess they'll shrug their shoulders and smile, as seems to be the Thai way of dealing with problems.

I'm not Thai though. And I won't be feeling like smiling - I can assure you of that.

I'd love to hear your excuses - but frankly I can't be arsed. And I don't want to hear some out of breath operator call me back within minutes of you receiving this email and pull all sorts of reasons and lies out of thin air about how they've been trying to sort it out for the last week - when the real reason is that it's taken me to complain before someone can actually be bothered to get something done.

You should be ashamed of your service. If you could be bothered.

Sort it out. Now.

Update - Thursday morning: I have now sent the following letter on to them.

Dear Sir/Madam

You may recall that I sent you this letter yesterday at around 4.30pm.

I'd just like to remind you that it is in fact a letter of complaint and complaints traditionally require a some sort of action before the complainant dies of old age.

Should I expect too see some solution today, or am I better transferring that hope onto something more achievable, like world peace for instance?

Yours Faithfully


Adventures in the rain

Well, JonnyB certainly laid the red carpet out for us this weekend didn't he? I was beginning to wonder what I'd done or said wrong for him to be inspired to run to the top of Norfolks highest peak Kate Bush style and re programme his weather machine dials to: 'piss it down' and 'all weekend' as soon as he heard we were coming his way.

Setting off in bright sunshine from the normally gloomy midlands on Friday, CJ and I were looking forward to a nice weekend of camping in Norfolk with maybe a bit of walking, and maybe some bike riding. Ooooh how nice it would be. Heh, more fool us - we had no idea as to the welcome awaiting us. No sooner were we putting the finishing touches to the tent last thing on Friday afternoon then the first spots of rained appeared like magic from the sky and accompanied us the last few steps of the way.

"What you doing?" The spots of rain appeared to be saying to me

"Looks like he's putting the tent up - shall we hang around for a while?" The rest of the rain came and said.

"Who are you talking to?" CJ said.

I may be daft, but I'm not daft enough to tell her that I'm talking to rain. Now that would be daft.

"Err, the rain" I replied. Lying was futile - I would only have been found out anyway, and lying and talking to the rain aren't good.

I didn't hear what she said next. And didn't want to ask. I don't think I would have liked it. Or even understood it.

Anyway... Raining for a while? Try all bloody weekend. And when it wasn't raining - which happened conveniently to be in the middle of the night, the heavier drips would then fall from the tree we had pitched under, onto the tent to make an even louder sound than the rain itself.

To rain or not to rain - that is the question.

Luckily CJ's parents had a caravan, which was dry, and where we squatted for most of the non sleeping hours. But when kicking out time came, it was almost like putting 2 cats out for the night, at which point we'd mooch and mutter our way along to a cold tent to have our sleep continually interrupted by rain, drips and cold floors.

Not content with that little endurance test, Norfolk had another surprise in store just for me in the form of cold showers in the male shower cubicles. Much to the amusement of CJ, whose own shower cubicles came equipped with steaming hot water. It was like being back at school again, doing the cold shower hop.

Sunday evening, after a throughly miserable weekend where the rain did not stop for one minute, we decided to cut our losses, pack up and head back home.

Norfolk. Bugger off!!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Adventures in the sun

Insired by Mike's 'Gay, gayer, gayest' competition, I thought I'd tell of you the time when, I, err, read on and you'll get the idea.

You have to understand that I really have had to think whether it's wise sharing this story with you.

Many years ago Young Watski, Jake - who coincidentally, along with my Mother will be blog sitting when I go on hols soon, and a guy called Pete went with me on our yearly lads holiday, this time to Magaluf. Real quality places you know.

God, I really am going to get killed for telling you this.

We were on holiday for a week, of which we'd only been there a few days. In this time we'd made friends with most of the rooms above, below and next to us. The ones in the room next to us were 4 young girls from Peterborough on their first girls holiday. They latched onto us from the beginning and we took them out with us for the first few night to make sure they were safe.

Our rooms were about 7 or 8 floors up but used to nip over the gap between each others balcony to borrow things, beer mainly. It was a cosy arrangement and they did the same back.

It was really hot and the middays especially used to get very hot, having a couple of 'Brits abroad' with us we used to nip back to the room about this time to get out of the heat and invariably ended up playing cards for shots. Which we used to fix to make sure Jake lost, and who as a consequence would get very drunk, which made it easier to fix and so on. Don't worry Jake - I wont put the photos on. For a small price.

This particular midday, the girls had gone off somewhere so Young Watski nipped over the balcony to find some alcohol as we'd run out. He came back, not armed with a litre of Majorcas finest liver remover, but with a video camera.

He came up with the idea that we should film something on the camera, sneak it back in their room and not say anything about it, so they'd find it when they got back.

Hmmmm, what to do. We threw around a few ideas but none of them were that good.

"Wy don't we do a spoof gay porn?" Young Watski said. This was actually the worst idea of the lot. And typical of him.

But amazingly we did. Pete assumed the role of cameraman, he was also the narrator. The script was that he was pretending to be the girls next door neighbours (funny that) and doing a tour of our apartment on their camera to introduce ourselves.

He started off on the balcony and walked through the door into the bedroom:

"And here we have Watski, Young Watski, Pete and Jake's apartment, let's have a little look inside"

And in he walked to the bedroom to be greeted by a Young Watski, who apart from a sock over his nether regions, was totally naked, pretending to be whipping a similarly naked Jake with a belt.

Shocked by the sight he then looked up with the camera to the wardrobe where there was a little gap between the doors where you could just see me, and see that I was pretending to knock one out over this sight, this was emphasised by the 'tap, tap, tap' knocking sound on the wardrobe door..

Whilst this was happening Young Watski had secretly taken over the camera and Pete had run around the other way into the main room via the balcony and was writhing almost naked on the floor in the midst of a couple of packs of porno playing cards that we used, just in time for Young Watski to walk in, carrying on the tour of the apartment with the camera.

Our work was done. It brought a new meaning to the phrase 'and I'm spent'.

Video camera safely replaced we said no more about it during the rest of the holiday, apart from a few giggles. We've actually very rarely discussed it at all since then to be honest. How do you?

The following week, when back at home, we couldn't help but think of this video and the impact of it.

We thought about the girls who'd be telling their parents what agreat time they had, and about these great Mansfield lads they'd met who looked after them. Before they gathered round as a big family to watch the girls video memories of a great first holiday away.

Only for the sights of Magaluf to be interrupted by the aforementioned great Mansfield lads not quite as they remembered them.

Right, have a good Easter. I'm off up JonnyB's way for a few days. No misbehaving.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Danger at the Bottom of the Garden.

I dont like gardening, im not very good at it. Maybe i dont like it because im not very good at it. Gardening is a very British thing, but also very slow, and pretty unrewarding. It seems to be lot of work just to get it back to the postion it was in before Mother Nature stuck her nose in. Pruning, preening, potting, etc.

Maybe i dont like gardening because it seems like nothing much happens. Im not a plan ahead type of person, i want my things now and that includes the plants that ive just put in the garden and the seeds ive just sown. If im considering spending a few hours in the garden then the least the plants could do would be to not wait till next Spring till they show me the fruits of my labour. Ive lost interest by time the blooming comes around.

Or maybe i dont like it because everything changes from the way i left it? If im doing the garden then i want it to stay like that. Exactly like that. I dont want to be messing around with it every week. I can get quite motivated every now and again, but a garden is a whole summertime commitment - my motivation wanes around May.

Im good at mowing the lawn, thats my job. I can do that. And strimming. I have to call my Mum for anything else, she picks the plants for me, she picks the pots, she tells me where i should put them, she comes to give them mouth to mouth resuscitation every few weeks. A typical phone conversation with my mother goes along the lines of:

Watski: "Hello"
Watski Mum: "Hello Duck"
Watski: "How are you?"
Watski Mum: "Have you been watering those plants?"
Watksi: *Damn - the plants*. "Errr, yes?"
Watski Mum: "You havent have you? They'll all be dead!"

Actually, before all this happens, right back when the garden emerges from its winter hibernation, she says to me 'why dont you have the garden paved over? it'll make it much easier for you to manage'. A good idea in theory and probably in practice but Im not a great fan of this idea as much as i dont like gardening, a garden is meant to be green and have things growing in it.

Not growing through it as any paving on my land would have. And nothing says 'crap gardener lives here, i kill all plants within days' more than paving or gravelling where garden should be. I dont want the rest of the street having their suspicions that im a crap gardener confirmed. Although having black grass probably did that trick for me anyway.

How do people become good at gardening? Was Gardening a GCSE option that i didnt pick? Or maybe it was a sub-category within Geography. I dont have a perfect lawn, Ive got a kind of patchwork lawn. Its a bit yellow and dead in places, and a bit green elsewhere. There's also the sign of a few weeds coming through, and its a bit uneven and a bit bare in places. It looks nicer than youre imagining it though.

But i dont know the first place to start to begin getting a nicer lawn. I did a bit of the old weed and feed, but ive now got dark patches on my lawn, and there are a lot more dead patches now than there were before. Ive chucked a box of grass seed on it which the birds enjoyed thoroughly, but it doesnt seem to be catching very well. I need a garden SOS, or perhaps just an old man. Why do old men know everything about gardening. Do they get given a 'great gardener' tablet on their 65th birthday?

Theres a bigger problem facing me in my garden though. Frogs. And Toads. They are a right pain. Not because they do anything they shouldnt do, just because theyre there. I dont like Frogs or Toads, and its not a mild irritation. I really dont like them. Ive graduated from where i was a few years ago where i would run in the house and lock the door if i saw a Frog in the garden, to just not going in the bit of garden that a Frog was spotted. It can be a bit unsettling though because they tend to pop up when you least expect them. I dont know where they come from, i havent got anything moist for them in my garden. No pond or anything. And none of my neighbours have, or their neighbours. So the Frogs are just targetting me. They know i dont like them and theyre enjoying it.

Every time i mow my lawn you can guarantee that a Frog (we'll refer to Frogs and Toads as Frogs from now on) will jump out and hop around for a bit in mock terror with its mates falling about laughing in the background. I dont know why it bothers hopping off, because if i felt inclined to chase after it i could easily catch it. Thats if i were a Frog predator. But im not a Frog predator, Im the opposite of a Frog predator - I tend to be going the other direction to a Frog when i see one, but ten times as fast. It might as well stay where it is, its going to be just as far away from me as if it had hopped off in its own chosen direction.

Theyre just dozy creatures though. It can see im mowing the lawn so why does it head off to the outer edges of the lawn where im going to be using the strimmer soon?. 'We're going to come into contact mate if you stay there, and both of us dont want that trauma again do we? Especially as im holding a rapidly rotating bit of wire inches from your froggy face. It could be messy for both of us if you do some hopping now.' Why dont they just hop off onto the patio, wait a few minutes till ive done, then hop back onto the garden to finish off whatever it was doing. They could arrange for the entire Frog population of my garden to wait patiently on the edge of the patio while i do the lawn if they wanted. We'd all be much happier. Better still, go and live somewhere else.

Youd have thought that the sound of a lawn mower starting up would make all the creatures in the garden think 'hello, that sounds like the lawn mower, id better make myself scarce if he's going to be doing the garden'. You can imagine the conversation between 2 spiders:

Spider 1: "Mmmm, nice flies"
Spider 2: "Did you hear something then?"
Spider 1: "No, its just you"
Spider 2: "Ssssh, there it is again"
Spider 1: "What is it?"
Spider 2: "Could have sworn i heard the mower then"
Spider 1: "It is the mower. Quick, RUNNNNNNNNN"

But no, they wait till the mower is almost on top of them before making their mad dash for freedom. Frogs, spiders, beetles, the whole garden mafia. All of them sat in the garden thinking 'oh, he's doing the lawn. He wont come over here though'. Of course im going to be coming over there and doing that bit, im not doing a garden mohican for your sake. Run off now before i get over there.

Take last night for example, nice night to mow the lawn. It needs doing so i get the mower from the shed. I dont even complete one row of the garden before a frog jumps out. Id been in the garden less than 20 seconds before coming face to face with the wee beastie. This cheeky little bugger though decides he's not going to hop the other way from which im moving, no, not this Froggie. Chuck Norris here decides he's going to hop towards the mower in some sort of suicide frog routine thats obviously been weeks in the planning. After bouncing off the mower and inadvertently showing me his belly he quickly re-assesses his strategy and decides he likes the thrill of being pursued better. Unbeknown to Chuck, im not pursuing him, its just that his route of escape happens to be exactly the same route as im taking the mower.

If he'd just done a couple of hops sideways then he'd have saved himself about 30 hops up and down the garden at the front of the mower being terrified witless. Maybe he enjoyed it, or it was the frog version of Chicken. Maybe he needed the exercise, and all the garden frogs were sat watching fattie being chased by the human.

Maybe some Frog is sat in his garden den now with the rest of the teenage Frogs supping beer and being sworn in after passing the Frog gang lawn mower inititation task:

Frog gang leader: "Here it comes, jump in front.......NOW!"
Prospective Frog gang member: "I cant, i cant...."
Frog gang leader: "What do you mean you cant? We're here now. Dont worry, we've all done it. Some of us now even do it for fun"
Prospective Frog gang member: "What about the human?"
Frog gang leader: "Dont worry about him, he'll run a mile"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Will he?"
Frog gang leader: "Yes. Now, do you want to join the gang?"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Yes"
Frog gang leader: "Well, jump in front of the lawn mower then"
Prospective Frog gang member: "Gulp......wahaaaay"

So anyway, the Frog eventually realises im not chasing him and hops off to hide in the edge of the lawn affectionately known as Strimmerland. And i go off and finish the garden off in relative peace, casting a glance in his direction every now and again to make sure that Chuck isnt planning to surprise me again.

He doesnt need to surprise me, he's hired one of his Toady mates to lurk in the rocks at the other end of the garden and hop out as i get near. Id been double teamed. Luckily this Frog isnt on the Mower flight path, but Frogs have a habit of panicking and thrusting themselves into the path of an oncoming mower in a moment of amphibian madness. Luckily this one held it together a little better and we watched each other until neither of us were threats to the other anymore.

Finishing the garden i was relieved to note that there were no more Frogs, although sometimes seeing a frog is better than the thought that one might pop out at any moment, im particularly conscious of that thought. They were probably there, but out of my eyeline, watching me. I was also relieved that i didnt have to go back and do anymore of it that id missed, i find myself missing lots of grass as im too busy watching out for Frogs. And the patterns tend to go in nice zig-zags.

I then did the postage stamp sized plot with the nice line in black grass at the front of the house before packing everything away and watering the plants. Yes Mum i did. Then i started to put the bin out. I moved the bin and something moved beneath it. Yes, the final part of the Frog chorus was waiting for me just when i thought i was safe. He didnt do anything other than shuffle from underneath the bin to underneath the shed. He didnt move quickly at all, he was making sure i knew he was there, and that there was nothing i could do about it and i think he quite enjoyed the power.

Maybe theyre just having fun with me, they know i dont like them and that i dont like them in my garden so theyre just making sure i know theyre all about. The garden must be seen as some sort of Frog save haven, frogs contact other frogs to let them know of this great place to live where the owner doesnt bother them. Ive probably made a rod for my own back now. They'll be taking over soon. Now theyre probably planning what they will do for their next trick when lawn mowing time comes round again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A decision to make

One of the advantages of an extended sabbatical is that you can let elements of your personal hygiene slip. Not odour, although it is a temptation to adopt the hermit life and sit in my pit all day (Cue the Hermit association haranguing me). I'm talking more about the facial hair side of business.

I'm not actively growing a beard, but similarly I'm not in a hurry to shave my weeks worth of growth off. For hurry read can't be arsed.

And whatsmore, I'm kind of proud of it now it's progressed from the prickly feel of the early days to a much more softer texture. And I'm now able to rub my chin in a thinkers way giving myself an added air of authrority. But that's purely coincidental and not affecting my judgement in any way.

The only problem is that CJ isn't a fan. She mumbles and grumbles about it.

So I'm left with a decision:

The beard or the girlfriend - one of them has to go.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Drawing it to a close..

Right, this is where I end the New York trip blogs.

'Yayyyy', I hear you all say. 'Thank the Lord for that, talk about flogging a dead horse'.

Ungrateful sods, in the name of blogging I sacrificed time and effort for you and went away to New York for 4 days so that I could come back with something interesting and inspirational to talk about. I didn't have to do it.

No I didn't find anything, you're right.

I think I've managed to get enough mileage out of it now and bore you lot rigid in the process since I got back, so I think it's only fair now that I wrap this up in history wrapping paper, pack it away in the archives and look elsewhere for inspiration next week. I'm not going to follow the Unlucky lead and flog the hell out of a weekend away.

Anyway, before it goes just a few other things that I noticed whilst I was there:

In the aforementioned deli and on previous trips I'd garnered a penchant for Hazelnut coffee, which I ordered when we went in for our usual breakfast on the Saturday morning.

"Sorry Sir, we don't do flavoured coffee at the weekends"my favourite assistant answered

"Why? The machine's there though isn't it?"i said as I pointed at the contraption from which the coffee was extracted the previous 2 days.

"Yes, but we dont switch it on at the weekends"

You'll be disappointed to know that I was too jet lagged, and too polite to make too bog a deal out of it.

Why would a hotel put just 3 pillows on a double bed? What kind of people do they think we are? Is it a ruse to get couples to fall out? Our hotel did, which resulted in CJ and I drawing lots each night for the extra pillow - which CJ won. All of them.

I had to resort to fluffing mine out with towels and blankets to get it to the required height. The maids didn't take the hint either, faithfully replacing the towels into the bathroom and the blankets in the wardrobe each day as though we'd casually mislaid them, leaving just the 3 pillows. Bollocks to the tip.

And I found that the American accent is exceedingly difficult to understand, a conversation just seems to be populated with loads of grunts and winks. It's a club they all seem to be in - ordering a sandwich seems to be something along the lines of "eyyy, greee, buteee, ferrr, duuu, mo" and that's it. And the other person knows what they mean. I've had an easier time understanding cantonese. I've never had to ask people to repeat themselves so many times. It got embarassing.

So that's it - I was going to tell you about how I noticed that Americans seem to have an aversion to sitting next to people they don't know in cafes. They'd rather stand than take a spare place at an almost empty table. I was also going to tell you that the sirens sound effeminate, a sort of 'wirp, wirrrp, wooooo', but I've run out of time.

Normal service is resumed soon. Well as normal as it's ever been.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Stabbed in the back

"Err, a medium black coffee please" I asked when at the counter of the local deli in New York

"Any milk?" the heavily accented Chinese girl behind the counter said.

"Err, no thanks"

"How would you like it?"

"The coffee? Black please"

"No, how would you like it?"

"Err, normal please, just a normal black coffee, no milk"

"Normal? No - how would you like it?"

"Just normal?"

Suddenly a gruffly voiced woman entered the conversation

"Reeegular" she said in that really cool hard bitten New York cop style. Why does the English accent just seem so nerdy, so uncool when in a conversation with an American? I was almost ashamed to talk for fear of being laughed at.

"Ah regular" the woman behind the counter said before returning with my hard earned coffee

"Thank you" I said to the assistant and to my helper before walking away

"You'd have thought they'd learn the language before they come here wouldn't you?" said my back-stabbing gruffly voiced saviour when she thought I wasn't in hearing distance. Or maybe she didn't care whether I was or not.

'Well the cheeky git' I thought, 'I am using the proper language, it's not my fault you lot have bastardised it beyond all recognition after we gave it you to look after all those years ago'.

I was just about to turn round and go and tell her this when:

"Come on" CJ said as she linked her arm in mine whilst reading my mind.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Resist the fear...

*are you tired and sad? Find it difficult to get through the day?...* The advert on the TV said as I lay on the hotel bed waiting for CJ to get ready.

"Well, if she takes much longer getting ready then I could see my way to being like that" I said. To the TV. Oh God, I'm going mad. Is that a sign too? I half expected the next line to be: *Do you find yourself talking to the TV?*

"Did you say something"
said CJ as she popped her head round the bathroom door.

"No, nothing. It was just the TV" I lied. I'm not admitting talking to the TV, and I'm especially not admitting talking to the TV about CJ to CJ.

*...then you could be clinically depressed*
it resumed.

I wondered about it for a split second, yes I get tired. Hmmmmm....

*Ring blah, blah to talk to one of our professionally trained counsellors* it finished.

*Do you worry about the cost of funerals?* the next advert begun before I'd had time to dianose myself.

"Well I didn't until I found out I'm clinically depressed, and now the thought of funeral costs has sent me spiralling" I whispered.

*Do you want to burden your family with the cost of laying you to rest?* It ended.

Oh no, first depression, now funerals. My life is a mess.

*Did you know that a person in America is seriously asaulted every second? (waiver: I think that's what they said)* There seemt to be a theme coming through these adverts. It's a wonder Americans step out of their doors every day.

"Ready!" CJ announced.

"Shall we stay in? I'm not sure I want to go out anymore"

Friday, March 11, 2005

Welcome to America

"This way Ma'am" a lady with a surgically enhanced frown growled at CJ as she pointed her to the yellow line which meant she was next in line for the immigration booth.

"Over here Sir" I was beckoned the other way to my yellow line by another too officially dressed employee.

5 more minutes passed as the immigration officers stared out the increasingly sweatier travellers in front of us.

I knew from a previous visit to JFK that the security was tight here, but also knew that it wasn't a hassle and was very, very efficient if anything. In fact then, we were in Manhattan about an hour after touching down.

But this time it was just so slow. We were queuing for ages.

After being given our visa waiver forms on the flight, the Captain told us that we had to ensure they were correctly filled out as any mistakes would result in us being sent to the back of the passport queue school style to fill them out correctly. This would be a long delay apparently and probably be accompanied by some rubber glove action no doubt, just for being a fool.

I wasn't particularly worried as my new mate Mike would undoubtedly smooth any mis-understandings out for me though but I still studied my form for a while before filling it in. I then filled CJ's in and shoved under her nose for her to sign as she was too pre-occupied by her shift on 'Mike watch'.

Back to the queue and I was aware of CJ trying to attract my attention - she pointed to her form and pulled her 'you've filled it in wrong, you dope' face. I get this face a lot, it also doubles up as her 'you idiot' face and her 'you really can't be trusted to do anything face' too, amongst others.

She then said something to her guard who nodded, my hope was that in her hue she wasn't suggesting that I was carrying any illegal substances in certain orifaces. But the guard just gave her a pen with which she scribbled something on the form before returning to her place on the yellow line.

I then inspected mine again and I had indeed missed a bit off, how did I manage that? Ah, it must have been when Mike got up to go to the toilet. 3 minutes 55 seconds he was in there that time. What was he doing?

I sweated a little.

"Should I have filled this bit in too?" I turned and said to my line guardian.

"A Firm..." he replied.

And that was it. I held on for the rest but none was forthcoming.

'A firm what?' I was thinking.

Was he pondering his next word? Had he stopped on purpose as some form of psychological trick designed to get me to reveal where the stash of stolen diamonds I was carrying was?

Was he commenting on something firm about my person? I had been working out. Well I hadn't but hey, who cares as long as someone notices?

'Well thank you very much' I almost said.

Hurry up man and finish the sentence before I get summoned by the officer to be stared at. I also thought about saying.

God I hope these people haven't discovered how to read minds yet, I thought about thinking.

Then I realised I was in America.

And he was saying 'yes, you do need to fill it in'.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

When worlds collide

I remember as a young schoolboy about 15 years ago (it's true) getting up in the early hours so that I could listen to the Frank Bruno - Mike Tyson fight on the radio. I imagine that I wasn't alone. I'm not a massive boxing fan but there's something kind of special, even romantic about listening to distant sports events on a crackling radio. Around that time Tyson was one of the biggest superstars in the world.

Back to the present day and I'm stood waiting for CJ outside a shop in Heathrow when a large black man with a distinctive tattoo around his left eye comes out of the shop. For a split second he caught my eye, then he was gone.

In that split second the schoolboy and the mega star were in the same world. I could tell Mike felt the gravity of the situation too, and that he wanted to be my friend - why else would he arrange for BA to give us an upgrade which allowed us to sit about 10 rows back from him on the flight so that I could stare burn marks into the back of his seat and watch his every move.

Mike arranged it didn't he?

I know he did.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Things that are....


Well I'm back from the 'City that never sleeps'. Thanks for all the comments on the 'fucktards' thread. Great word by the way. I'll have to use that sometime.

I can only presume that the person who christened New York as the 'City that never sleeps' actually meant to call it the 'City that can't sleep', as it's full of jetlagged Europeans twiddling their thumbs at 4am. But I guess that version wouldn't look as good in the guide books.

And if by some miracle you are lucky enough to be able to sleep at 4am then it wont be long before you're woken by bloody taxi drivers beeping their horns at all hours. Either this is the norm or I went the weekend of the New York taxi drivers sponsored beepathon.

It seems that the first instinct of all NY (see, I'm down with the lingo) taxi drivers, regardless of whatever obstruction may be confronting them is to go straight for the horn, rather than the usual brake, gear, indicator, etc of more civilised societies. No wonder the place is backed up all the time.


I jumped so many times I nearly had to fit myself with rear view mirrors so I could see them creeping up on me.

The only solution that I can see is to make all potential New York taxi drivers sit in a room for 24 hours and have the sound of beeping horns played to them on repeat.

Or maybe we should just take them out. One by one. Here, I started already.

Must go now.



Thursday, March 03, 2005

Things that are...


"So are you looking to relocate?"
The guy from the recruitment agency asked as he was trying to get an idea of my circumstances.

"Definitely not" I replied.

Hey I know Mansfield's a bit of a dump, and that you'd expect that I'd take any opportunity to get out. But it's my dump. And I like it.

"Ok - not... looking... to... relocate.."
he slowly said as I imagined him writing it down.

"I may have a few things of interest, I'll just make a few phonecalls and may give you a call back later"

"Ok, fine" I replied, not expecting much. If past experience of recruitment agencies was anything to go by then I wouldn't be talking to him anytime soon.

An hour later the phone rang again...

"Hello Watski, yeah right I've just been on the phone to blah, blah, and they would love to talk to you - but you'd have to relocate to Scarborough for the job"

"That's great but I told you that I'm not looking to relocate"

"Ok yeah, I knew you'd say that but I just thought I'd ask anyway"


I'm off to the good old US of A for a few days. So no trashing the place while I'm away.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Things that are......

....a bit hard to explain.

I'm a little bit worried, wondering whether I'm beginning to get a reputation.

For some reason I always seem to be in my bedroom getting dressed or undressed when the woman over the road is either coming out of her house, or going back into it.

No matter what time of day or night I choose, she's there - or I'm there, if you're her, furtively glancing upwards. The first few times could be explained as coincidence, but it's getting more regular.

It's only a matter of time before her Bluto type husband come marching over to squash me.