Sunday, June 24, 2007

Game On

Games play a big part in Pink House life. Thank goodness that everyone takes being childish so seriously.

Aside from cheapo Jenga clone "Tumbl-O-Block" and ersatz Connect 4 knock-off "Connect-O-Line", the main game in the courtyard is cards.

"Shithead" is of course most popular, although due to arguments over the rules we now enforce strict "Pink House Shithead Rules" to stop arguments like this happening:

2 goes on anything, doesn't it?

No, 3 goes on anything. 10 clears the pack

Unless someone laid a 7 first. Because 7 means next person goes lower.

No. You can put a 10 on a 7, because 10 is a magic card.

No it's not

etc etc etc

The whole thing resembles the "Go Johnny Go Go Go Go" sketch from the League Of Gentlemen: "Name your pairs. Well you can't look at 'em! This is Go Johnny Go Go Go Go, not Bamalama-Fizz-Vadge.

See here for the rules to the League Of Gentlemen Game:

My favourite game, however, is Spoons. Exceedingly pointless and utterly, utterly childish it's a like a pre-school cross between Snap and Musical Chairs.

The aim is thus: everyone had four cards and must discard one of their choice (to their left) whilst picking up someone else's discarded card (from the right). The moment a player has four identical cards he makes a grab for one of the spoons on the table, prompting the other players to a mad scramble for the remaining spoons.

Of course, like musical chairs, there's one less spoon than there is players. So someone ends up getting nothing. Apart from the hump.

Some very, very short clips:

Here Fletcher from Massachusetts isn't quick enough on the draw. Danny from Buxton celebrates his victory like a true Derbyshire lad: "Yes!"

Here Siah beats everyone to the spoon, leaving some bloke called Alistair in a mood.

Although it may not look like it, it's actually bloody good fun.......

Friday, June 22, 2007

Jobs: A Good 'Un

So I now need a job.

The several leads I had when I arrived didn't pan out. It's just a pity I had wait two months for it not to pan out, but you can't have everything. Where would you put it?

But I need an income. So last week I went about the task of signing up to a slew of recruitment agencies. I've never been particularly impressed with the recruitment agencies I've encountered in London; they promise much but deliver little.

First up, Geoffrey Nathan. Technically not a recruitment consultant rather a payroll agency. This means they specialise in helping foreign visitors claim employment benefits - tax relief, living away from home allowance etc. In turn they then pass your CV and details on to a host of affiliated recruitment consultancies.

"Keep your mobiles on" said the bloke after the induction "You'll get calls this afternoon". A week later I had received nothing.

Next up, Hudson Recruitment which a friend of the lovely Charmaine's passed on to me. Called them and fired off an email. Had a response within the hour aksing me to come in for an interview at 10am the next morning. Fast work, I thought.

Hudson had a department devoted to advertising/marketing and PR. The woman said they "...were crying out for people..." and also said " me in a week if you've heard nothing..."

A week later I'd heard nothing. I called. It went to answer phone every time. I left a message asking her to call me back. So far, zero.

Finally, Chris and I discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance in Sophie who worked at EMAP in London. What's more, she was now in Australia. Chris emailed her asking for recruitment leads on my behalf. Duly she responded with three: KPMR, People Connect and ICUR.

Immediately, I rattled off emails/phone calls to them all. KPMR responded immediately saying their person was in London for 2 weeks. Ironic. No, wait, not ironic. Inconvenient. People Connect said to call back on Monday. ICUR didn't even bother to respond.


Soon, I will get to the point where this trip may have cost me too much. And so far I've only seen Sydney. So I need a job. Or I need to take what money I have and go and see the rest of the country. I am not travelling 10,553 miles across the planet only to pass Ayres Rock on the flight home.

It's not that I'm skint, but I've seen Sydney and hanging around in the Pink House is now a waste of money.

Need a plan, man.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

All Glass and Waiters

So Monday 18th June is my 30th birthday.
That's a bit depressing. By the time my Mum and Dad were my age they had been married nearly 9 years and had had a baby (eg me).

However, all is not lost because I made the decision to see the world. So, as it happened, my 30th birthday drinks were held in the swankiest of bars on Bondi Beach. Could be worse.
I have Charmaine and Rebecca to thank for this, and by proxy, Giacomo. I described what I was looking for - somewhere posher than a pub but not too expensive - and they filled in the blanks.

They chose Icebergs.

So, in a black, howling gale I made my way over to Bondi. Icebergs was located on a craggy outcrop of rock at one end of the beach. It was a modern three-tiered mini-palace. All glass and waiters. Low, moody amber light. Posh leather sofas and two nifty hanging birdy-basket seats overlooking the ocean.

In the height of Summer, this place must be awesome. Trust me to have a birthday in the heart of the Australian winter. All we could see were the flickering lights of the bars on Bondi, and the Iceberg swimming pool which was situated right by the sea where, due to the storm waves, it had been totally inundated by the black, foaming Pacific Ocean. The only indication that it was a swimming pool was a silver half-ladder poking up out of the salty depths.

Anyway by 8.30 most people had arrived and we sat around chatting and drinking and swinging in the bird cage seats until we realised that at $8 a beer the money wouldn't go very far. And so we moved on to somewhere vaguely more pub-like.
Another two bars later and it was 1am. Time to go home. But not before a drunken trip to a shonky kebab house on The Cross for a slice of heat-lamped pizza.

A good night, but today, I think my colon might fall off.

L to R: Matty, Simon, Me, Charmaine (in front of me) Chris, Siah, Elmer and Rebecca

Lama Lama Ding Dong

So the Dalai Lama decided to swing by and I thought it might be nice to pop in and see him. Find out how he is, ask him if he's read any good books recently, seen any good films.

In all seriousness, the Dalai Lama was visiting Sydney and I didn't want to pass up the opportunity of seeing him in the flesh. So Chris and I set off in search of His Pyjamad Holiness after hearing his free concert was being held in The Botanical Gardens.
Actually, concert is not the right word is it? We weren't expecting him to do a few numbers from Evita, or balance a unicycle on his bonce. No, talk. He was giving a talk.
As it happens it wasn't a talk. Rather a fractured, echoing, rambling monologue.

OK. So I am sure he is a lovely man; kind to trees, mends kitten's paws and hands out free Twixes to orphans. And I am sure he is as wise and sagacious and his words are loaded with import, meaning and insight.

But in all these cases, the message is only as good as the medium, and if the delivery and/or method of communication is lacking then even the most potent of oratories will be lost in the noise.
I couldn't hear the Dalai Lama. And when I could hear him I couldn't tell what he said. It felt like that scene in Life Of Brian when Jesus' sermon is interrupted by Terry Jones's shrill cry of "Speak up!"

He mumbled and rambled and rambled and mumbled. His English was poor, he had no script at all and occasionally turned to a similarly jim-jammed fellah to his left when searching for the correct word.

The cumulative effect was something like this:

"...mumble.....ramble...... too much hatred in world.....mumble.....ramble...... erm.....for example Iraq.....mumble.....ramble.....need for you say? materialism?.....mumble.....ramble.....happiness can be achieved....something about Buddah. ...mumble.....ramble.....What's that word? (turns to the man to his left)...Aaaah yes, illusion of contentment....mumble.....ramble.....something about science not having all the answers otherwise a scientist wouldn't have an argument with his wife........erm......erm......erm.....erm.....(huge silence)......erm......(turns to the man to his on his left offers no help)......mumble.....ramble.....Sankyou veddy mach (polite applause).

I could have improved the whole thing with two easy changes:

1. I know he's speaking from the heart/off the cuff - but get that man a script. He sounded like a wino slurring his way through the Little Book of Calm.

2. If he followed a script, you could put subtitles on the big video walls that flanked him. And turn his bloody mike up as well. And hand out some leaflets for Buddha's sake.

If the message is so important then make sure that every one is given the opportunity to hear it. In theory his words could have potentially been life changing. And because I only heard every fifth word, I would never have known.
Poor show, Mr Lama, poor show.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I've got a cold. Sore throat. Coughing. Sneezing. My head feels like someone has been inflating it with a bicycle pump.

This morning, with a bunged up nose, I sneezed. I was wearing my ear plugs. I could feel the pressure building up inside my brain. I thought if I opened my mouth that might relieve it. But no, it didn't.

So I took the earplugs out and I swear I heard the hiss of escaping air.

Please email your sympathy.

Try not to worry. I'll pull through.

Bill Giles

As I write we are in the midst of a purple-skied storm.

Curtains of water batter the window shutters. People arrive in the hallway breathing hard, wiping the steam from their specs, damping down their matted hair, huffily brushing at darkened, soaked patches on the tops of their thighs.

Sydney is no fun in the rain. Kings Cross is like Coventry. The Pink House is a prison. Stir crazy.

People loll on their beds exhaling loudly and puffing out their cheeks. Some lay with their hands behind their head staring at the bunk above them.

Some stretch and yawn. Some stand up suddenly as if the action will somehow trigger inspiration. It doesn't.

Some are strewn randomly across the TV room, under blankets, gazing half-heartedly at a flickering screen.

We try to think of things to do. We fail.

Can't wait till the weather changes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Haircut 100

Here is the evidence....

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Philly and Chile

May I present Marcos from bloke

...and with added Aberdonian (Jamie)

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. There is a period approximately 4 weeks after it's been cut where it's optimal: the right length, it behaves itself and actually, looks OK. Outside of that period it's just so unwieldy, messy and unmanageable daaahling.

Recently it had become particularly annoying. Each morning, when I got up and looked in the mirror I groaned: two morning wood style flaps/appendages would stick out at the sides, making my head into a huge Concorde-style delta wing. If Terry Christian was fused with a tawny owl this would have been the result.

Yesterday, I'd had enough. So I asked around to see if anyone had any clippers. Dan had some, but he could only do a number 2 or number 1. Insert your own toilet joke here.

I wanted a number 4, but I knew I wasn't going to get it. So reluctantly, I agreed to a number 2. Step in Polly, Dan's younger sister, to perform the surgery.

By 8 o' clock I was shirtless in the back courtyard and a small crowd was gathering as if to watch a public execution. Polly started at the neck and that all seemed fine, but then as she moved on to the bulk the clippers started to pull and I started to wince like a big girl.

"Sorry" she said "the blades need sharpening".

Then the thing conked out.

"Dan....." said Polly "It's stopped again....."

By that point I had cyberpunky undercut thing going on. Probably the most daring haircut I'd had, but certainly not good for interviews/meeting the Queen. I really hoped that I wasn't going to be stuck looking like Limahl from Kajagoogoo.

Luckily after a bit of blowing it started up again. The whole thing took about 30 minutes as Polly hacked away with the clippers. At one point she gave me a magazine to read and asked me where I'd been on my holidays. But unlike a hairdressers, there was no mirror and I had to follow the progress by reading the expressions on spectators' faces. That's difficult to do. At least once or twice someone started laughing and that made me worried.

Finally, it was over. And by the looks on everyone's face the operation appeared to have been a success. I went up stairs to have a shave and a shower and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Christ, it's short. I mean US Marine Short. I mean Bruce Willis short. I mean Kevin Spacey in Se7en short. I look like a little version of Dara O Brien.

Anyway, people tell me it suits me. I think I look very hard. So don't mess, OK?

Are you looking at me?

I do have some photos of the whole incident, but they are on someone else's camera. When I can grab them I will post.

Blind Dates

The other night I spent the evening with three women I'd never met before.

Wait. How did this happen? Re-e-e-wind.

Flashback. A few weeks back Giacomo phoned me to tell me that his friend Charmaine was back in Sydney after her English work visa had run out and was pining for English company. He asked if I would take her out for a drink, and I said yes.

After some prevaracation and procrastination I finally got round to organising it and arranged to meet Charmaine via text message.

To be honest, I'm not always the most social of animals, so I began to wonder what I'd let myself in for (sorry Giacomo).

I arrived at the pub early, armed myself with a pint and stationed myself by the stairs. About 10 minutes later an attractive Indian girl made her way up the stairs, eyeing people up conspicuously. When her gaze fell on me, I nodded as if to say "'s me!"

Charmaine laughed and immediately we fell into conversation. All I can say is "Thankyou Giacomo" because Charmaine had more energy than a van full of Red Bull and her lovely friends Rebecca and Carolyn were super. We hit it off right away swapping stories about London, Giacomo and later when, the drink was flowing, naughtier stuff.

"What did you expect?" Charmaine asked halfway through the night

"Don't know" I responded "You so could have been a minger or a nutter. Or both"

"Oh, you arsehole!" she retorted in mock-anger "I can't believe that Giacomo would introduce me to someone like you"

When In Rome....

The next day I had a call from Charmaine and Rebecca. They were at an Italian festival in Kings Cross. I joined them straight away.

The festival was just one street closed off and packed with stalls selling gelato, pizza and chocolate, a band playing what sounded like a rocked up version of "Just One Cornetto" and some models hired to look very Italian (big Jackie-O glasses, swirly haute-couture frocks and twirly umbrellas).

In the midst of the kerfuffle we heard a man shouting very loudly into the phone: "Yeah, I'm a photographer and I was just wondering whether Sophia Loren is coming today"
Turns out she was in town for an Italian film festival, and they were trying to rope in to turning up to this as well. Don't think she could be arsed.

Predictably the day ended in the bar drinking cheap wine from a plastic carafe. I'm no good at day drinking and so by the time I arrived at Circular Quay for a shepherd's pie, I was falling asleep.

Had some coffee which didn't seem to help. Got a taxi home. Slept for half an hour then, as the caffeine kicked in, spent the rest of the night staring at the inside of my eyelids.

Still, a good day.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Was Never Confused

Poor old Matty. I think his life in Tehran has been somewhat sheltered.

Let me explain. A few nights ago a visit to The World Bar resulted in a drunken gay man making a pass at me and my Buxton friend Danny.

We had to let him down gently.

"We're not gay. Neither of us" we professed.

"Oh, you are so boring" said the Only Gay In The Village (he was from Wales actually), "You are both such poofs" he slurred.

Later on that evening, the Welsh bloke ended up in our room, sharing a bed with a girl friend (not, obviously a girlfriend) as he was too drunk to get home to his own hostel. Nothing wrong with that; I've shared a bed with a woman before on a strictly platonic basis.

But this confused Matty greatly.

"I don't understand this" he said "Why would a gay man sleep with a woman?"
"Because they know nothing could happen" I explained
"But if nothing could happen, then why would they sleep together?" he asked

The following night the same girl brought home another man. This time the result was completely different. There was no doubt this man was not gay.

Poor old Chris on the top bunk was rocked awake, and I was woken up by the noises. I won't go into detail suffice to say that I really needed the toilet and had to wait until it was all finished before I dare move.

I was tempted to reach for the guitar and knock out a few wah-wah licks to accompany the action, but couldn't see how big the bloke was and didn't want to get lamped.

The next morning Matty was even more confused.

Matty: Did you hear the gay man and the woman? They were having sex. I told you!

Me: It was a different man

Matty A different man? Oh. Now I understand. So this different man is gay too?

Me: No!

Matty: How do you know?

Me: Because they were having sex

Matty: But the gay man and the woman had sex two nights ago

Me: No, they didn't Matty. They are just friends

Matty: Then why are they sleeping together?

Me: Because he was drunk

Matty: But the man last night was drunk...

And off it went round and round.....

The girl in question was mortified when she found out we had all heard. "But I was soooo quiet" she said. And that's true. She was quiet. But she was also 4 feet from everyone. And when someone turns over, farts, snores, sneezes or coughs, you hear it.

So when, in the throes of passion, someone whispers "Go easy. You're going to wake everybody up..." usually wake people up.

I'll post the video in a few days. The Sun just need to clear it with legal.

Sine Riters

I hav nevver scene such pore spelling as I hav in Ostralia.

Particularly their signs. If I see one more incorrect spelling of "accommodation", I am going to do someone a mischief.

Same goes for "vegatarin kebabs", "DVD's & CD's" and my favourite " is absolutly this bar's policey...."

So my question is this: if you are a professional signmaker, is it not a key requirement for you to be able to spell? And second if you are the proprietor of a hostel/hotel/motel, have you not come across the word "accommodation" before?

"Here's the 20ft sign you ordered"

"Let me just check it. OK. Acomodation. One "c", one "m". Yep, that all appears to be in order. Hoist that up on to the front of the building where everyone can see it, would you, mate?"

Still, we are all fallible. Whilst I rarely make spelling errors, I am prone to the odd typo.

The best one I've ever made: I wanted to type "discount" and instead I typed "discocunt".

Saturday, June 02, 2007


What do you call a zoo with nothing but one small dog on display? A Shit-Zoo

Zoos. They can be a bit disappointing, can't they?

I know from bitter experience (well from a school trip to Twycross actually) that the reptile house is usually just a collection of plants and twigs behind a pane of glass, and the monkey enclosure usually consists of some trees, some tyres and some seemingly invisible monkeys.

A few years back I visited London Zoo and that wasn't much better ; there's nothing particularly edifying about peering through a wire cage at a camel doing a shit on some 1970's concrete.

Taronga Zoo in Sydney, however, is effing great. $40 gets you a boat ride and a cable car up to the zoo plus entry. But the point about Taronga is that first, it's big. Second, it's well laid out. Third, and crucially, it has a decent selection of animals.Highlights were the kangaroos, the tiger and my favourite the Red Panda.

Red Panda

Koalas - couldn't even be arsed to look at the lens

Kangaroos - Rolf Harris not in shot

Tony The Tiger relaxes between scenes in the new Frosties commercial

Siah baits a python.