Thursday, May 31, 2007

Taggart: There's Been A Moardah!

All week at the Pink House it's been Murder Week.

Names are all put in a hat and players then draw three pieces of paper listing victim, location and murder weapon. All the information is, obviously, a secret.

The week is then spent holding a frying pan whilst trying to cajole your victim into coming into the back courtyard with you, whilst simultaneously looking askance at anyone holding a cricket bat and asking you "to give them a hand with something in the kitchen".

When you kill someone, you take on their intended victim and the person with the most kills presumably wins a prize.

So far, I have killed Jamie from Scotland. I drew his name along with the cupboard in the back courtyard as the location and football as a weapon.

As luck would have it he was in the back courtyard playing cards sat between some bird he was trying to pull and Marcos from Chile. Still not close enough to the cupboard though.

I bided my time and waited until Marcos, his room mate got up, before diving in. "Jamie. I need to kill Marcos" I whispered "Come over here, you need to tell me what room you're in". At first I didn't think he'd go for it, but after a lull he got up from the bench.

Closer, closer. Come on. He was level with the cupboard. Now! I tapped him with the football.

"You're dead" I said.

"Shit" he said.

"Give me your card" I said

He did. Who did I have to kill now? Me. He was tasked with killing me in the computer room with the cricket bat. Since I would have to be very stupid to kill myself, I had to draw again.

This time I got Fiona in the Front Courtyard with....wait for it......a unicycle. I assume they were running out of ideas for weapons. The problem with this was that I didn't know Fiona very well, and certainly couldn't talk her into coming to the Front Courtyard with me with a unicycle tucked under my arm.

So I waited until Tuesday night when everyone goes to The World Bar, exiting through the front courtyard. I placed the unicycle outside ready, and as we all set off I pounced.

"Fiona, I need to know how to kill Lyndon (her boyfriend). Come here, I need to know what room you're in."

It worked once. Maybe it will work again, I thought.

No. It didn't.

Fiona looked at me like I was an actual murderer. For a second, I thought she was going to go for it, but after a few microseconds of contemplation she went "No. Get away from me, Phil" and half trotted/scurried away into the crowd whilst looking back over her shoulder at me.

This is what it must be like to be a real-life pervert, I later thought.

There's no way I can now kill Fiona as she's rumbled me. Never mind, and anyway, no one has killed me yet.

It's been a fun week. Not least because everyone has been looking so shifty. And it's not unusual, as happened to me, for people get the wrong end of the stick and think that you are supposed to murder them.

A couple of times I have walked into a room only to see a girl bolt for the door.

Of course, that could be for entirely different reasons.

Sandy, #9

Yesterday, Chris came back into our room with look of glee in his eye.

That morning he had found a scrawled note stuck to the fridge with sellotape. In broken English it said (all errors are faithfully recreated):

"If you like Pink Bacardi and it's gone, yes, it was me. Tell me who you are and I'll buy you what I've killed. Sorry Sandy,#9 "

Sandy, it turned out, was a skater chick from Germany with a Purple hair and a vicious left hook. Immediately Chris saw potential here and asked me if I could think of any other notes we could write "from Sandy" to stick alongside this one,

Within 10 minutes we had come up with five more ranging from :

"If you owned a blue BMW 3 Series, and it's gone, yes, it was me. Tell me who you are and I'll buy you what I've killed. Sorry Sandy,#9 "


"If you owned a small dog, and it's gone, yes, it was me. Tell me who you are and I'll buy you what I've killed. Sorry Sandy,#9 "

Then within half an hour other people had begun adding their own. One began "If the human head in the fridge was yours.......etc etc Sorry Sandy #9"

I love it when a plan comes together.

Ja. Das Gut, Ja!

Was in the shower this morning when I heard The Porn Star pop her head into the men's showers to shout for Robert, her German friend (pictured below).

Robert, it turned out, was in the cubicle next to me, and confirmed his presence by jabbering a retort in German.

When I realised it was him I piped up from the next cubicle. "Hey bruder. Wie gehts?" I shouted above the din of the showerhead, prompting The Porn Star to ask quizzically "Who are you talking to, Robert", this time in English.

"Tell her we're in here together" I hissed to Robert through the partition and he immediately began to translate for The Porn Star.

"Wass?!" she retorted in confusion

"Can you do my back, Robert" I said

"Sure how's this?" replied Robert adding "I'll just bend down to pick up the soap"

The next thing we heard was the door slamming. Think she bought it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another German

Heir Robert Muller, no less......

Me and Jen

Some More People

Some lovely Germans: L to R: Carina, Gunda and Moi

Pink House Crew

(From L to R): Jen, Me, Matty, Siah, Guillaume, Mark, Dave

I Am A Pimp

Siah, myself and Jen.

I'm the one in the middle.......

Some People

Three Phils......

Two out of the three Phils

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Texas Pete. Or, Rather, Dave.

Forgot to tell you about this. Few weeks back I came back to my room to find a Texan loading a 7 foot long harpoon gun.

I thought it best to make friends with him.

Actually Texas Dave turned out to be alright. He had been in the Outback for a month catching his own dinner with his harpoon.

Now. When you get into customs in Oz you realise how paranoid they are about allowing anything into the country that could destroy their delicate ecosystem. Things like soil, bats, Fanta, tulips, Nutella, weevils, Tracker bars or air.

When, after re-entering Oz after a brief trip to NZ, Texas Dave got to customs they said to him "What's in the box, mate?"

"A didgeridoo and a harpoon gun" responded Dave

"Oh my God! " said customs "Have you any idea how dangerous that is? A didgeridoo? It's made of wood for Christ's sake. "

"What about the harpoon gun" said Dave

" Never mind about that" said customs "Get that didgeridoo in quarantine. Now!"

And so Dave's didgeridoo was impounded, X-rayed and probed six ways from Sunday, and kept in storage at Sydney airport for three days at a cost, to Dave, of A$75.

When Dave left the hostel he annoyed me, however. He turned on the light at 4.30am and decided to start packing. Why he didn't do this before he went to bed is not obvious.

I wasn't going to say anything though in case he came over all Captain Ahab.

Bye Bye Pink House?

My lovely friend Jen decided to move away from the Pink House to travel but, when she then got as job as a nurse, decided to move back to Sydney.

She decided to try another hostel. She picked the Rooftop Lodge Travellers Hostel in Glebe, and asked if I wanted to come and have a look at it.

So at 10.30 we rocked up to the hostel. And do you know what - it's very nice. The rooms are closer to university accommodation, nice carpets, MDF wardrobes, en suite bathrooms, free internet in every room, free laundry and a rooftop terrace with room for about 100 people, with a view of the Harbour Bridge and 4 barbecues all regimentally lined up like tanks on a military parade. The price was roughly the same as well.

My only concerns were that, first, it's a bit out of town and second, the place appeared dead. The atmosphere in Pink House is great. The standard of living is not. So I have a decision to make. Should I stay or should I go? Could I be trading in for a better model only to discover some hidden costs? The grass is greener indeed.

So Jen is to be my little guineapig. She's going to try it out and give me some feedback. And if she likes it, I might swap. Or I might not.

Radio Gaga

Chris, 27, from Eastbourne, is also in my room.

Me: So what do you do?
Chris: I work in radio
Me: Oh really, I worked in radio. What did you do?
Chris: Just a producer. Did some stuff on Capital, EMAP, Chrysalis
Me: Me too
Chris: Who did you work for?
Me: Drum. Part of PHD
Chris: Oh I know them.
Me: You know the Guardian Guide ads on Chrysalis?
Chris: Know them? I produced them
Me: I did that deal!
Chris: No way. Do you know the scriptwriters Jo and Sophie?
Me: Yeah. They were shit. I used to have to rewrite all the scripts before they were recorded
Chris: Ha! Yeah I know.

Me and Chris: Eeeeeeeh (the noise of two people going "well, would you believe it. What a small world)

Health and Efficiency

I have decided to give up drink for a week. Not that I've ever been a boozer but it's so easy to claim your free beer here, or blag a mug of goon there.

I never overdo it, but I think it's beginning to take its toll. Poor quality alcohol, poor quality pizza slices and poor quality sleep are not among Gillian McKeith's recommendations for a healthy lifestyle.

All drink and no sleep makes Phil a grumpy boy, so last night (Thursday 24th) was my last drink for a week. I'm hoping I'll stop feeling grotty and get a bit of energy back.

I'm nearly 30. Just can't keep up, like I used to.

Pass me my slippers and that copy of Saga magazine, will you? Oh good the Antiques Roadshow is on tonight. An hour special on Wedgewood Pottery? Can't wait.


When I am a millionaire, when I have a supermodel girlfriend, when I have won the lottery, when I have won an Oscar, I will probably have a holiday home in Watson's Bay. Or Vaucluse, I'm not fussy.

This is the posh part of town. No wait, it's the if-I-kept-all-my-money-under-my-mattress-and-fell-out-bed-it-would-take-me-5-minutes-to-hit-the-floor part of town.

Gated communities, intercoms, Porsches parked in front of remote control garage doors, stunning views of the harbour, tree lined avenues. You know the sort of thing.

Speaking of trees and views, here's a short story about a tree and a view.

Some mega-rich local resident contacts the authorities complaining that his view of the harbour from the upper mezzanine is ruined by one of the trees on the tree-lined avenue. He tells them unless they do something about the 50 year old tree which has been there longer than his split-level, gravel-drived, faux-Spanish villa he will cut it down.

Authorities say "Don't even think about it" and the millionaire backs down.

Then a little while later the tree mysteriously begins to lose all its leaves and dies. Poisoned say the experts. The authorities have no proof as to whodunnit, but lets say they aren't looking for any suspects.

Instead they take to hoisting this banner over the dead tree saying "This tree has been poisoned. If you have any information then call......." in attempt to guilt trip the perpetrator into confessing.

So far no such luck.

Watson's Bay is a little further round and is home to Doyle's World Class Fish Restaurant and a nudist beach full of old men with shrivelled willies.

I know which I'd rather visit.

I can't stand fish
Here is video blog #4

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Roll Call

This last two weeks at The Pink House has been brilliant. Brilliant. I don't know why, really. I just think that people are beginning to bond. It's so important to find decent people. Here are some decent people I have met. I love you all!

Matin (or Matty for short)
I've spoke about Matin before. He is from Tehran and is learning English. He is really coming out his shell and has decided to pretend that he is Mexican for no other reason than to amuse himself.

He has started calling himself Diego, moaning that the American's stole Texas from him and claiming he can make Tequila.

He came unstuck the other night though. He was chatting up a woman and casually dropped into conversation that he was Mexican. "Oh" said the woman "I am from Chile" and launched into Spanish.

"I'll be right back" said Matty/Diego and promptly did a runner.

Siah is a stunner from Vancouver Island. Her Dad is a hippie and she has 7 brothers and sisters all called things like Vertical Porridge Incident, Doncaster Bypass Expectation and ATM Parsnip Wildebeest.

I have been spending a lot of time with her on account of her being a massive Radiohead and Muse fan and also being almost as intelligent as me. We visited Coogee together. She took this photo. As you can see, she went arty.


Jen is a star. She is a nurse from Cambridge and so has a proper job. Whenever she talks to me about her profession I feel guilty; nursing is such a tough job. She is also a bit mental and is not afraid to indulge in the odd skydive, bungee jump, canyon swing, white water rafting expedition.
I have been hanging around with her a lot. I like to think of Siah and Jen as "my bitches". Of course if they knew that they would probably beat the crap out of me. This is Jen's website. On there you can find a video of her doing the biggest Bungee in the world in NZ. Please visit and say nice things.

Phil and Phil

Two top guys from Weymouth, both called Phil. We shared a room meaning there were three Phils in Room 2 at one point. They are the best dancers I have seen who are not black or gay. They know all the words and dance moves to 5ive's greatest hits. Little Phil can do the best Jar Jar Binks impression I have ever heard. I was sad when they left.

Mark and Dave

Spent a lot of time with the guys from Bracknell. Both are doing a bit of travelling before they go to Uni. They are both football fans. I shan't hold it against them as they came in handy udring the sports round in the pub quiz.

Sour Kraut

It's been a soap opera round here the last few weeks. Like a budget version of Neighbours.

So here's an update split into handy themed paragraphs.

All Change

I've had to move rooms. The Pink House has decided that my room, Room 2, was to be turned back into a common room. I am now one door closer to reception in Room 1.

This pleased me because it pissed off a German porn star. Well, she's not a porn star, but she dresses like one, and has as much elegance and social grace.

She is the single most annoying woman I've met in the hostel so far. Rumours were already abound when she was living in room 17 about her habit of turning on the big light in the night and playing her iPod through her portable speakers at 3am in the morning.

Then a rumour uglier than her hideous beaked nose emerged - that she was to move to my room, Room 2.

A Chat With Claire

Spoke to Claire, her previous room mate, or rather room enemy. She'd had several slanging matches and sleepless nights with the German. "You'll get no sleep" said Claire, shaking her head in a resigned fashion.

Went to see Aidan at reception. "Mate, I don't want that woman in my room" I said. "Don't worry" he said in his broad Belfaaaahst accent, before winking conspiratorially "I'll sort something out"

Except the problem was that he wasn't on in the morning. Sonya was. And Sonya knew nothing knew of mine and Aidan's arrangement. So imagine my surprise when I awoke to see a bleach blonde tattooed troll with Double-F knockers dragging her suitcase through my doorway.

And true enough. By 3am that morning she had already turned the big light on and started to play her iPod through her speakers.

"Turn that off" I said
"It's OK" she said

What's that supposed to mean? No, it's not OK.

"Turn it off" I said "Matty's got to be up in the morning for college"

Chuntering, she gave in.

And, so next morning, when the news that everyone had to leave Room 2 reached us, it was full on Blitzkrieg. She was one Sour Kraut.

"I haff just moved down here" she railed "Zey have sent me back to Room 17. I not like Room 17. Zere iz zis woman who is always tellink me to turn ze light off and turn my music off". She was, of course, referring to Claire.

I had the pleasure of telling Claire.

Me: Guess who's moving back into your room
Claire: No!
Me: Yes
Claire (more serious):!
Me: Yes
Claire: Aidan....tell me that's not true
Aidan: Erm.....
Claire: Aidan! No!
Aidan (looks at the ground and sheepishly nods)

Meanwhile, The German was giving Miranda, the manager of The Pink House, a full on Teutonic Tantrum. But I was glad she'd moved out. And I glad she was pissed off.

I don't know much German, but I do know one word. Schadenfrauder - the act of taking pleasure in another's misfortune.

Bug Off

20 minutes later the German was down at reception claiming she had been bitten by bed bugs. At first, reception suspected her of concocting the story in order to get moved again. But, would you believe it, she was actually telling the truth.

There followed a fractured conversation about which rooms she had stayed in, which hostels she had visited and where in Australia she had been.

As a rule, you should not take sleeping bags to hostels as they transport bed bugs easily. Usually, you should use the hostel linen as it is cleaned industrially.

Of course The German had had bed bugs at her last hostel. Of course, she had a sleeping bag. Of course the German had not washed her sleeping bag. Of course the German had stayed in my room.

10 minutes later I found myself absentmindedly scratching my back when I realised I had found a reddened lump. Could be a mozzie bite, I thought. I asked Claire to look at it. "No thanks" she said when she realised it was so low on my lower back that technically constituted my arse.

"Go on" I said. Reluctantly, she had a prod. Within seconds, Miranda, the manager had steamed in. She was on bed bug watch and wasted no time in diving to her knees to firk about. At one point Claire pulled my shorts down so far I was perilously close to exposing my arsecrack.

A verdict was reached. They were bed bugs. "Everything in the tumble drier. Now!" was the instruction from Miranda. Everyone in the new room was very sympathetic. They expressed this via a barrage of questions:

Have I touched you at any stage?
Is it like Alien, where it bursts out of your chest?
Can they get into your brain?

I am now in recovery and am hopefully parasite free.

Try not to worry. I still have a decent quality of life

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

United Nations

Now, I usually have a dislike for the pretentious uber-traveller. You know the kind:

"Well I lived rough in the jungle for six months, living on nothing but bark and jaguar's tears "

"Oh really, because I was made Chief of an Incan tribe after I introduced them to fire. Amazing what you kind find in the back of Lonely Planet"

"That's nothing. I was in the Arctic Tundra for two years in just flip-flops and a tie-dye T-shirt and nursed a family of sub-Arctic Grouse back to health"

Tossers. Sometimes it can all be a bit of competition.

However, I'm a bit of a hypocrite because the other day I found myself pondering over everything I had seen and the all people I had met, and what I'd learnt. And it was eye-opening.

Here is a quick list of some things I found out, or conversations I've had as a result of being in The Pink House. They may seem inconsequential, but I think they're quite interesting. Think of them of as "International Titbits". Actually, I think I have a DVD from Amsterdam with the same title.

* Swedish jokes centre around the Norwegians being thick. Norwegian jokes centre around the Swedish being thick

* In Chinese and Japanese, because there are 12,000 characters in their language, crosswords are impossible. They tend to stick to Sudoku

* In Thailand you can get all your clothes washed, dried, ironed and bagged up all for 50p. Even my Mum charges more than that. Mum, you're sacked!

* Italians think Southeners are lazy bastards. Southerners think Northeners are stuck up twats. Kind of like England, except vice versa

* Listened to a Quebecois and a Belgian discuss differences in their accent. Apparently, Quebecois sound like they are from Revolutionary France and speak as if they have been released from the Bastille straight into the 21st Century. Sacre Bleu!

* Mein Kampf is banned in Germany. It is exists elsewhere in the world but only in English. Christian, from Ulm, says he suspects the meaning will be lost in translation. He is not a Nazi, but he is keen to get hold of a copy in Oz

* Finnish learn Swedish, but the Swedish usually can't be bothered to learn Finnish.

* Compulsory national service is still in force in many countries. Met an Israeli Tank Commander (aged 23) and a Iranian Tank Driver (24). Matin, from Tehran, described National Service as "bullshit" and the went on to detail how he totalled two tanks when the brakes on the one he was driving failed. Well, if we go to war, that's two less tanks we have to worry about.

* Handwriting in Hebrew is entirely different from official typescript that appears on for example TV, road signs or 2-for-1 vouchers at KFC. Hebrew handwriting is curly, Hebrew typescript is blocky and square. I told him I only see the square stuff on TV because it is on ambulances, army vehicles and police baracades. He said it was a shame that I only ever see that side of Israel.

OK. So it's not a particularly serious list but there is a serious point here. That you really do learn from travelling, and you really do expose yourself to things you ordinarily wouldn't.

And that can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's All So Manly

Took a boat across to Manly from Circular Quay. It's a 40 minute trip across Sydney Harbour, past the ubiquitous Opera House and into the coves and inlets that typify Sydney.

Manly itself is one street; a wide but short boulevard lined with Aboriginal art shops and kebab houses together with a central reservation of al fresco cafe tables and palm trees.
At one end the marina. At the other Manley beach. The beach is great. Even though thousands of people visit here every year, it still feels untouched ; a well-kept secret. Had a wander along from one end to the other.

The sea in Australia is deceptive and unpredictable. You can wade in to the sea to what initially seems like shin height, thinking you're safe. Then you realise every fifth wave comes in at waist height and every 14th at elbow height.

Furthermore each ebbing wave dissolves the shelf beneath you, and before you know where you are you're stuck into the floor like a telegraph pole.

Was watching Bondi Rescue on TV a few weeks back. At the height of Summer, lifeguards on Bondi effect a rescue every 40 seconds. People usually totally underestimate Australian tides and routinely get washed out in the direction of New Zealand.

Anyway, Manly is a great day trip and a must for people who want to work on their tan.
Click Below for Video Blog #3

Sydney Tower

First tourist day in a while due to what can only be described as "British Weather"tm.

I'm talking white and grey clouds of nothing. Maybe a breeze, maybe not. Will it rain? Might do. Neither nowt ner summat. Half expected to see a pensioner sat in a deckchair with a knotted hanky and a melting Mr Whippy.

To be honest, under these conditions, Sydney can seem a very mundane city.

However, when, one day I pulled back the curtains to see blue sky I dived out of bed. Well actually I slid out of bed. At 10.30.

Set off along the walk I did last week. Down to Woolloomooloo over to Circular Quay, but this time had a proper wander round the Botanical Gardens.
A good walk. The highlight was peering up at what appeared to be about 100 black rugby balls hanging from the trees, only to realise, when they started moving that they were in fact bats. They were very black and very flappy.
Over to the Sydney Tower. The cheapest ticket was A$24 which was for both the Tower and "Oz Trek".

Tower was very good. It's only when you see Sydney from above you realise what a fractured and splintered city it is ; a collection on beach, coves and inlets lashed together by bridges, tunnels and ferry rides. Could see Coogee, King's Cross and, I think, the Blue Mountains.

Then on to "Oz Trek" which was meant to be a ride through Australian History via virtual reality. In reality, it was virtually pointless. It was a hydraulic seat plonked in front of three tv screens that synched the action with an appropriate movement.

Flying sequences worked very well, but they also seemed to think that any other experience could be recreated with a few jarring jolts to the spine. You're walking through the jungle. BANG BANG BANG goes the seat. CRACK CRACK CRACK goes your coccyx. You're sailing in a ship. THWACK THWACK THWACK goes the seat. BOSH BOSH BOSH goes your head into the head rest.

Not my idea of virtual reality.

Still, the tower was really good and when I got home I realised that The Pink House did a 20% discount voucher. Too late. Arse.
Click below for Video Blog #2