Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rovinj round the world

I've bloggled about Croatia before, when we went (pre-sprog) to the South of the country, and had such a good holiday there that we wanted to return and sample other bits of the country.

In the interests of variety we thought that, this time, we'd head a bit further north, to the town of Rovinj. We also dragged our two year old son along with us because "stay-at-home" children are a bit of a hot topic in the media at the moment.

I would've been content to let him roam, happy and free, like a wild boar piglet amongst the aisles on the plane but, according to the narrow-minded profiteers who run the airline, we had to pay for my boy's own seat. Apparently there are health and safety reasons with regard to free range children on aeroplanes, especially during take-off and landing. And presumably crashing.

Despite protestations that he's only a half-size human, I still ended up forking out for a full size seat, so he'd better appreciate the holiday because he's already costing us a fortune, and that's just on Cattle Class. He rewarded us by enjoying the flight and shouting "Daddy got a willy! Willy called a penis!" at the other passengers.

Reward indeed.

After a meal of Croatian fare, which is apparently cold meat and an olive, along with bread you could stun a badger with, we landed and made our way to the hotel.

It was situated in a local nature reserve, and although we didn't have a sea view, we did overlook some nice trees (see earlier post if you want to look at a picture of trees, although why you would do that is beyond me, when you could go and look at real ones outside, unless you're reading this in prison or an iron lung or something, in which case, you should've thought of that before you did whatever it was that landed you in prison, although perhaps not the iron lung, unless you received the wound whilst falling out of a window during a burglary, in which case them's the breaks I'm afraid, now use your head stick to follow this link), and were about a mile from the old town of Rovinj itself.

The following day, after a breakfast of cold meat, an olive and some bread you could use to chock a Fokker, we made our way into town, the suitably catholic centre of which is a church on a hill:

I like churches. This might sound odd coming from a standard English atheist, but they are generally nice buildings and are historically important to many cultures, including my own. I have even been known to give the odd shekel to stop a steeple collapsing on it's vicar, but only after they've had to endure me trying to convert them (rarely successfully) to being a Jedi.

This church is dedicated to someone called Saint Euphemie. I don't think she was christened Saint, but I'm not totally sure about that. I presume she was canonized afterwards, although it would indicate a particularly pushy set of parents if she was named Saint. Like naming your kid Prime Minister Dobson, or Ayatollah Smith.

To be canonised, you're supposed to have done a miracle (thanks Wikimisledia!), so I thought the adopted saint of Rovinj might have turned a pillar of salt into gold, or rid an aeroplane of mother flipping snakes or something (my theology is hazy on these points), but apparently, it can be more tenuous than that.

According to local legend, St Eupheme had already been killed by Roman lions (in the days before the Health and Safety Executive were around to point out the inherent risks associated with keeping heathen lions in close proximity to tasty Christians), and her body washed ashore at Rovinj. Being short of Saintly types in the area, they thought "She'll do!" and saintified her.

Doesn't seem much of a miracle to me, the ability to be killed and then washed in with the morning tide. I reckon I could do it. But then, I'm not a theologian, so whilst I would prefer it if Saints resembled the X-Men, I have to accept that they might not be quite as full as bodacious awesomeness as one might reasonably expect. Imagine St George with freakin' laser beams coming out his eyes, man. That'd be a cool bank holiday.

In the strangely death-obsessed organisation that is Catholicism, they do enjoy showing the gruesome manner of St Euphemie's death in a wall mounted frieze:

It's quite an emotive piece, although the effect is a little dulled by the lion licking her foot, who looks like the one out of the Wizard of Oz:

"Oh, if I only had a heel!"

The Church of the Washed Up Cadaver was quite inclusive though. I looked up and saw the standard paintings of various holy folk going about their cloud floating business on the vaulted ceilings:

This business seems mainly to involve looking down with heavy lidded eyes that I believe is supposed to represent worthy intellect, but usually makes the subjects look like they've smoked a huge cone of Amsterdam's finest. No wonder they're on clouds.

Unusually, they also had an atheist ceiling, which made me feel at home:

After a lunch of meat, an olive and some bread you could anchor a yacht with, we explored other parts of Rovinj.

The old town itself is very picturesquew, with many narrow stone clad streets that were so smooth and slippy you could have skated on them. Places like this, in which elderly ladies live although I can't for the life of me imagine how they get in and out of their own house without fracturing their neck of femur:

There's probably some local class that teaches elderly folk how to roll with the fall so they don't injure themselves, although I didn't see any on this trip, which is good I suppose.


I wouldn't class Rovinj as on a par with Dubrovnik in the south as that's particularly impressive, and has a bigger wall round it which is the definitive measure of how good a town is. Having said that, Rovinj is a beautiful place to while away a few days.

After an evening meal of meat, olives and bread quarried from the very heart of a neutron star we meandered our way back to the hotel, ready for some serious hardcore relaxing.

Mad for it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where is the giver of treasure?

The wondering wanderer returns, wondering if wandering about wondering, or indeed wandering, is worth wondering about.

Since I have been away, it seems that the blog world didn't also stop and I have some serious catching up to do. I don't know why this surprised me. Maybe, subconsciously, I had presumed that I was like some sort of cyber-Bagpuss, and that when I didn't blog, none of my friends would blog. In reality, I am probably more akin to Professor Yaffle, wittering on as though I know what I'm on about, when at the end of the day everyone knows I am nothing more than a bookend shaped like a woodpecker.

I really have to work on my similes.

Hands up how many of you read that as 'smilies'?

Hah, bet you feel daft now. You've got your hand up and you're probably on your own. Or in the library. Or one of those internet cafe things where they serve USB compatible paninis. I presume.

You may have noted that I have not got a particular subject in mind today, and am mainly posting because I haven't posted for a while and don't want my blog to rust, or get arthritis or blog-rot, or whatever it is an unused blog gets.

Considering I've just come back from an enjoyable week away in Croatia, I should have lots of things to blog about. And I have, but they're all jumbled up in my head at the moment, fighting it out with the after effects of premium strength lager and a berry aneurysm that I'm hoping will shrink any day now. As soon as they coalesce into something approaching viable blog-fodder, I'll spew them up and out like a lumpy broth of lukewarm brain-vomit for you to splash about in.

I also need to work on my metaphors.

I will, however, compare and contrast the views of the hotels we stayed in after leaving home. We went from Gatwick airport and so, in the interests of making things easy on ourselves, decided to stay over the night before as parking is included and it's not much more expensive than paying for parking only. You can pretend the holiday starts a day early. In Crawley.

The hotel was quite nice but they had to work with what they'd got, and in the middle of Crawley, what you get is the following view:

Oh wow! Is that . . . I believe it could be . . . the Inalnd Revenue office there? Is it? I think so . . . oh wait, no. My mistake. Looks very similar though. Never mind.

Compare that with the view we got from our room in Rovinj, Croatia:

See them? They're trees them are. They're relaxing, are trees. Well, the trees aren't relaxing themselves, obviously, I mean they're relaxing to look at. Unless they are relaxing. Do trees relax? They always seem so tense when you feel them.

As in Crawley though, there was a road nearby, and I saw cars on it nearly three times over the week, but I magnanimously decided not to complain.

I did get a few good pics out of my trip, and no doubt they will spill forth over the next few posts.
Be still your beating hearts, eh?

Another thing whilst I was away was that I got an award! Yay me! Go me! Gimme an Em. Em! Gimme an Ee! Ee! Me!

It was from the vunderful Vic at What Were You Thinking, a blog so full of talent that you could put a floppy hat on it and call it Sir Olivier, so if you haven't experienced her yet, then I recommend that you go and let her do her stuff to you right now.

Well, after you've finished here, I mean. come on. Be fair.

I've had the odd award before, which are usually in the form of a well-travelled internet meme, and comes with a set of rules and an attitude that suggests, if you don't accept it, you will be hunted down by the internet police and subjected to a vicious frowning.

This one is different though. Vic made it herself, and that, in my opinion, makes it a bit like when you get some dried macaroni and glitter stuck to a paper plate from a favourite niece, that you put up and treasure as if it was good art. You know, proper art, like one of those pre-Raphaelite fey maidens looking demurely at a rugged Prince in the distance, whilst wondering how big his willy is.

She even did her own award picture, with a capitalised P to show how respectful she is about my blog:

Now she has picked it, I am presuming she will move on to lick it, roll it and, in due course, flick it.

What more can a chap ask for?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Order of the Barter

We went for a really nice meal the other day at a local pub, which specialises in a "rustic" motif.

Rustic means the furniture is old church chairs, there's a stone-floor, a huge hearth with a log burner in it, and all the napkins are simple squares of cloth torn from the skirts of local washer-women.

Mostly though, rustic means bread. Lots of it. Huge great mounds of twirly crusted loaves with olives and seeds scattered both willy and, occasionally, nilly on them. I think this is possibly a well-to-do chef''s idea of what people think is rural and genuine, although I know lots of rustic people, and I don't recall them having home-baked loaves the size of VW Beetles on their Agas. They seem to buy Hovis Best of Both like everyone else. Only they make mouse sandwiches with theirs.

We weren't served by a rustic sort, which is probably for the best. An attentive and well groomed girl who actually knew the menu was our serving wench for the evening, although I suspect that employing an eighty-year old sheep-farmer wearing a sack and straw hat whilst chewing a barley stalk would, in all probability, be more genuinely rustic and might even encourage curious townies in to come in for a gawp.

"You's ready to ordurr? Oi recommendz the laaaaamb. Ver' fresh. Oi strangled 'er jus' this maaaaaarnin'"

He might shoot the dogs in the bar though.

Okay, enough with the stereotypical piss-taking. It's cheap and effortless blog-fodder and I will have none of it. Except for that last bit cos I've all gone and written it now and I'm lazy.

The food was good, and actually quite posh. I'm not sure how rustic salt and pepper squid is, but it was delicious.

Is there such a thing as a squid farmer? You'd need one well-trained dog.

One thing I did notice was that the pub prided itself on using local produce, which always seems to taste better than stuff that's traveled a few thousand miles. No idea why. Do vegetables get travel sick?

We've got a strange society where we have to pay extra for stuff grown nearby, and less for stuff from further away, even if it's another country. I suppose it must be a bit of a bind, travelling the local area looking for carrots or what-not, then making sure they're not riddled with root-blight, leprosy or rabbits. A lot more effort than simply Googling up a catering company and having them delivered in sealed plastic cases, bright orange and washed cleaner than a CBeebies dance routine.

But this pub had come up with a good solution, in the form of the following sign:

Clever. Make the supplier come to you, and offer them goods for goods instead of money. You get around all that pesky tax malarkey, and you both get something you want in exchange for getting rid of something you don't want.

Maybe we should all do it. Well, anyone who has things to exchange anyway. There must be scope to pay for goods with services and vice versa, as it's all very well swapping some sausages for a piece of furniture, but you wouldn't want to alienate dentists because they didn't have any chairs to exchange.

A bartering system would show us what we're really worth. People who make tables, people who grow and rear stuff, folk who know how to fix the plumbing or electrics, they'd all come out of this smelling like roses exchanged for pleasant herbs.

In general, if you're good with hands or your head, you're onto a winner. If you're a specialist in ergonomic nutrition or a TV presenter though, you're probably going to starve.

So everyone's a winner.

How far would bartering get you in this day and age though, if we gave up money. On the positive side, at least goods are a real thing, whereas money is imaginary. It would probably be quite agreeable for small, day-to-day things like, I don't know, bread, milk or sex, where you can offer your prize courgettes for some gold top or a happy ending. That kind of makes sense. It's the bigger things that might cause problems.

Is there a limit to the size or value of things you could barter?

A car? A house?

I'm off on holiday tomorrow, so I wonder how big an allotment I'd need to barter my way onto a plane, into a hotel, onto some boat trips, get a hire car and then get home again?

Might be a bit of a grind taking that much veg with you. For a start, I'd have to start growing some, which sort if delays the trip. Then think of the size your suitcase would have to be. And don't some countries frown on importing vegetables?

So that's a non-starter. I need an alternative system to represent bartering.

How about, instead of actually taking the produce, you took some sort of IOU. Perhaps a bit of paper with "I promise to pay the bearer of this note the sum of thirty-eight turnips" written on it.

Obviously, there would need to be some sort of standardised rate of exchange, and the IOUs would have to be difficult to copy because someone is bound to make one and then pretend it's real. Some people can be such cheaters. Perhaps a really difficult picture with hands on it (no-one can draw hands), or a serial number or something. That'd work.

So, my radical new idea for bartering is a sort of hard-to-fake, individualised, paper-like token with a value written on it, which can be exchanged for goods or services that have been previously agreed to be of that value.

I'm a genius.

I shall call these tokens "barterums" and they will ensure equity between all the peoples of the world, where ability and skill will be valued appropriately! Goodbye inequality! Fare thee well, corporate fat-cats! Adios recession! Cheerio global economic crisis!

We should throw away all our money and start with my new system straight away.

Right, where can I get my barterums printed?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Imagine being a ninja.

Awe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . some.

More awesome than when you find a crumpled tenner in your back pocket you didn't know was there. More awesome than getting a perfect ice circle out of an oil drum in winter and then throwing it off a roof. More awesome than bears with laser beams coming out of their freaking eyes. More awesome than a cigar-chomping, motorbike-riding goddamn T.rex on Viagra with all Uzis and broadswords taped to his improbably weeny but impressively tattooed arms.

Actually, probably not more awesome than the T. rex thing because, let's face it, that would be pretty flipping awesome. In fact, just passing a CBT would be impressive for an extinct carnivore with limited brain capacity and a ravenous hunger for flesh (let alone carrying weapons and taking dodgy drugs bought off of the internets and staying still long enough to be tattooed), so that really would be full of awesome.*

Especially if the tatts were Hello Kitty ones.

Where was I?

Oh yes. Ninjas.

One might think that, in order to enter the hallowed and ethereal halls of ninja-hood, where silent, toe-thonged footfalls of imperturbable warriors wear down the stones of history with tales of almost mystical legend, striking fear into the very souls of enemies and friends alike, one might have to do a spot of training?

Learn the ropes, as it were? Get your ticket? Maybe pass an exam?

You might at least have some sort of annual ninja review with feedback boxes indicating that, yes, you have successfully reflected upon the use of concealment to assassinate your foes, and perhaps you would like more tuition in wanging shuriken about, but in general you feel there are no current issues that need immediate action, thank you for the opportunity of this continual professional development meeting.

Apparently not.

What you need is a mask.

It used to be that you could nip down to the local Akou-rner (aha) shop and purchase all your ninjoid paraphernalia in one big session, but what with the recession hitting both them and Woolies quite hard, this is no longer an option.

So, in order to help budding ninjinos the world over, someone came up with this rather ingenious method of fashioning your own ninja mask out of a T-shirt:

Of course, the very moment I saw this, I knew I had to attempt it. Who wouldn't?

Liar. You're thinking about a suitable T-shirt you've got for this very purpose right now, aren't you?

Go on.

I won't tell.

Only takes a minute. We'll wait. Off you go.

*Whistles - puffs cheeks out - picks fingernail - scratches inappropriately - hums theme from Monkey*

Done? Marvellous.

Good, innit?

I decided to use a white T-shirt, mainly because I couldn't find my black one, although this does indicate the innate suitability of the black T as a ninja outfit. I could then claim to be a "good ninja" as white signifies purity and goodness (like cocaine), or maybe death if you're Chinese. Either works for an enigmatic super-warrior like this:

I'm even making a suitable ninja-esque sign, which I got from Big Trouble in Little China to be sure of it's authenticity. I was going to do the Shocker, but ninjas aren't shocked by anything except the power of love to overcome hate. And shoddy electrics.

The art of appearing as if from nowhere is the mainstay of ninja abilities, surpassing even their formidable slapping skillz. The bright white ninja is, therefore, at an obvious disadvantage in the twilight world of ancient martial arts organisations. It's pointless being a silent assassin, sneaking up on camel-toed slippers to dispatch your adversary if you're more visible than a burning giraffe.

In order to be a proper ninja, I realised that I needed something superior even to the dark shadow-like imperceptibility of the black ninja. Something that demonstrated the inconspicuous limits of cloth and fabric.

I did consider beige, which is impressive for not being noticed as a shirt, but still gets the odd look when worn as a mask down at the Post Office. Actually, I've since discovered they are quite touchy about people wearing masks in the Post Office. Whatever happened to the customer is always right?

After some thought, I had the answer. For the ultimate in concealment, there's nothing short of an invisibility cloak that can beat the following.

I give you . . .

Camo Ninja:

"Where?" I hear you cry, looking frantically around in fear and confusion. Well, my timid little friend, look carefully at the above photo, around the central portion, maybe cross and unfocus your eyes a little as if trying to look at one of them magic eye picture things, and let the camo ninja appear.

There you go.

Camo ninja.

*I can't condone the smoking though. I read somewhere that it's bad for you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Read it and weep

Right. What am I up to next week?

Time to consult the old customised personal assistant organisation filing and notation system that I carry with me.

A 79p diary from the corner shop.

I've yet to find a high-technomological device that can compete with a small sheaf of papers with dates on and a ribbon in it for stopping me turning up to work three days early or getting a divorce due to anniversary-misplacement syndrome. It's tiny, lightweight, cheap, doesn't need recharging and has a simple human input and visual display system called writing things down and then reading them.

So, let's have a looksee:

Well, that all makes sense.

A day shift and a couple of nights, maybe a curry with Sue and Ami, and a gig on Saturday in Malvern, where I will wow the crowds with some ukulelage. It should be a realtively easy session because it's a live music and beer festival, with the emphasis on beer, so I'm not expecting anyone to be analysing my syncopation or missed notes. They'll just be pleased there's some noise going on in the background that isn't someone hurling.

Wait, what am I doing on Monday?

Er . . .

Ram nerts?

What are nerts? Why am I destined to ram them?

I have absolutely no idea what that is. Is it a place? A person? Have I arranged to do something that I won't be able to fulfill? Am I going to get a phone call on Monday saying "Where the hell are you? You're supposed to be over here with your ramming spoon! Those bloody nerts have got into the air conditioning now. Thanks for nothing, Nert ram reneger."

Then I'll get a reputation for not ramming nerts and be ostracised by the nert ramming community in the county, maybe the whole South West.

My brother suggested it might be code, and I've written it down backwards. Apart from the fact that it must be an incredibly important secret if I've also gone to the trouble of erasing my own memory about it, I fail to see how "stren mar" is any more sensible that "Ram nerts".

As long as it isn't something medical or employment related, perhaps I shouldn't fret too much, although I can't help worrying about it. It's like a loose tooth. Only in a diary. And made of ink rather than enamel.

See, it's got me making rubbish similies now.

If anyone has an idea as to what it is, let me know.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Get Away With Ya

I'm off on me hols in a couple of weeks. We're going to Croatia again which is just lovely, although I'm not going to recommend it in case you go there. I did once blog about it, and put some nice piccies in if you're interested. If you're not, I advise not following the link.

What with the world spiralling into an economic abyss where we will have to eat caterpillars and drink gutter water until climate change, terrorists or swine flu finally finish us off because Princess Diana isn't around to save us all*, holidays to far off climes where they speak different languages and eat the parts of animals you previously thought were only used for glue-making may become a thing of the past. We shall all be restrained to our own shores, unable to pay six-months salary for a plane-ticket to Tenerife.

Showing some of the true insular spirit of the island race that I have grown up with, by questionable virtue of being born here, I am going to make the most of such a situation.

I've bought a tent.

Now, I've had a tent before. It was a three-human nylon thing I got as a reward for selling pest control contracts to dirty restaurants about fifteen years ago, so it's looking past its best. The bits where the poles are threaded through are ripped, so it takes about twenty minutes to erect without causing damage to the fabric.

Heh. Erect.

Like a penis.

It's also a pre-child tent, where you get dressed in a crouched position and have to go outside to pull your trousers up, letting everyone see your wearing the same faded undercrackers as yesterday because you forgot to pack anymore.

Note to self. Remember pants.

So, a new one was required, one which you can stand up in, where you don't mind spending all day if necessary, and where you can clean up children to see if they're yours under all that dirt. I saved up and researched the current models available.

Unfortunately, I've recently been made aware of a different type of tent. It's made of canvas and harks back to days of yore, when Mongolian hordes, Siberian steppes-folk and boy scouts felt the need for a spot of rampaging, reindeer herding or rampaging. It's called a Bell tent, and looks ace.

I had to have one. Cue a few bids on a well known internet auctioning website where I procured a second hand jobbie, used only once and in great nick although, judging by the hair content shed onto the ground sheet, the previous owners must have had either a large dog or a yak undergoing extensive chemotherapy.

Now we're all set up for some camping hols in this country. This might become very popular in the near future perhaps. We took it for a test earlier this week, and all was well. The campsite sold decent home-made scrumpy for two-quid a litre (and I'm still not blind), there was a boating lake where you could row for free, and acres of cundryside to explore. Here's our set up:

Nice innit?

But will staying in this country, a tourist attraction in itself but not the most reliable when it comes to weather, be a problem for modern generations who are used to travelling abroad? A million Brits a year go to Florida, apparently. Will they be satisfied with anything less than 100% humidity, a temperature usually found on Mercury, and a police force who stop you to ask why you're walking along the road.

They honestly did this to me. I was out for an hour in a suburban area and didn't see anyone else, and the coppers thought it odd. I explained I was English and they seemed to accept that, shaking their sunglasses and driving off in air-conditioned splendour, all the better to keep their guns cool I suppose.

Before my son's second birthday, he had already been to France and Barbados. I remember the seven-hour Barbados flight because, hilariously, he had a bout of diarrhoea and was sick. How everyone on the plane laughed and laughed and laughed. Good times.

And yet, foreign holidays were not all that common when I was a nipper. When you thought of the word 'holiday', you thought of the sea side, and ice cream, and donkeys, and ice cream, and caravans, and ice cream, and sand castles, and ice creap, and sunburn.

Also, the occasional ice cream.

When I think back to my childhood, through the beer-laden mists of rosy reminiscence, the most perfect, most memorable holidays were not about where you went, but who you were with and what you did with them. I remember faces from when I was seven, of other kids I played with, yet I can't recall where it was. There was sand involved, and dunes, but other than that I can't say. I just remember a hell of a lot of fun. Even when that kid stood on a broken bottle and had that clotty mix of blood, sand and tears from an impressive cut on his foot, it was still fun in a strange way, running to get help, watching as it was washed and he poked it for our entertainment making it all bleed again and getting told off by his mum. Still fun. More for us than him, perhaps but . . .

The strongest memories are of being with my brothers, with my Nan and late Grandad, with my Mum and Dad, and making new friends. The extra expense spent on relocating to another part of the world doesn't guarantee those things that make a memorable holiday, and that's what I want to give my son.

I'm hoping this tent will be the making of some new memories for all of us.

* I wish people would stop leaving the Daily Mail out.