Monday, September 24, 2007

Vomit Comet

Interesting night last Saturday.

I was invited to a barbecue over at my old mate Rob Beard's house. Hadn't seen Rob in a while and used to spend time with him in his Brighton flat in '98 and '99, so a mini-reunion was in order. He had now taken up permanent residency in the leafy suburb of Turramurra with his (expectant) wife and so together myself and Chris, Rob's old Brighton mate, made out way out of the city centre, across the harbour bridge and into the wooded avenues of the North Shores.

It wasn't long before Rob was demonstrating his new-found barbecuing prowess, including his piece-de-resistance - sticking a beer can up a chicken's arse to prop it up, and then, whilst rearing and rampant, closing the barbecue lid for a good 45-minute sizzle. The food was fantastic and a few drinks later we decided to go on a late-night bush walk involving beer, a big torch, bats, a chorus of croaking frogs and lots of tripping over tree-roots.

However, it was when I came to leave Turrmurra for Sydney Central that I realised that Chris, who also lived in the city centre, was extremely drunk. Half way through the return train journey he stopped talking, turned green, dropped his head between his knees and started to gurn his way through a series of barely-suppressed gags ; the unmistakeable signs of someome trying very hard not to be sick.

Meanwhile, I was so desperate for a piss I thought my bladder might burst and the ensuing tsunami may take out half the carriage. I looked up from concentrating on not exploding to see Chris had spewed lightly on the floor. Luckily we were approaching Wynyard, his stop, and we alighted there only to witness him hurl violently on to the platform. At this point I couldn't walk and waddled off like a crab to find a toilet and had the longest and best tinkle of my entire life. When I returned about 8 minutes later he'd gone, but he lived only a minute from the station and so I figured he was probably home by now.

"Phew" I thought "Glad that's over". But the worst was yet to come. When I arrived back at the Pink House, I found the hostel in chaos. Marco, a previously unassuming Beckham-alike from Milan, had spray-vomited our room from the convenient vantage point of the top bunk. I couldn't believe it. I was like some Chunder Magnet. As Bruce Willis said upon encountering terrorists for a second time in Die Hard 2: "How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?". Indeed, Mr Willis, indeed.

Miranda and Fran had borne the brunt and, marigolding up, broke out the industrial-strength Domestos and proceeded to scrub harder than anyone had ever scrubbed. But the stench remained. So, with room 1 out of action, some room juggling was the order of the day. Or night, as by this point it was 12.15. And so people were shifted and shunted, bumped up and pushed across, swipped and swapped and some people even offered to bunk-up with their recent "acquisitions" in order to free up extra beds.

My sleeping companion was away for the week, or else I would have offered to do the same, and so I was to have Raj's bed. Not, I hasten to add, whilst Raj was in it. No, he came back at 2.30 a bit worse-for-wear and came steaming into his/my room only to wrench back the curtain to find me in his bed. "What. The. Fu[k. Are you doing in my bed?" he demanded wild-eyed. "Shhhhhhhh" I responded. "What do you mean shush. This is MY bed" he retorted before adding, with glee, "Bodyslam!" and with a fully-extended, "der-der-der-derrrrrrr!" Superman-style airdive, threw himself on to me. Luckily, I sausage-rolled to the side before we grappled with each other's wrists trying to get the other into an armlock.

A quiet night then. And all problems caused by the demon drink.

Je Ne Regrette Rien

This job is feast and famine. One minute it's update a spreadsheet this and cone-bind a document that. And then the next minute, there's nothing. A glorious, incalcuable black hole of absolute nothing. More often than not I'm given less work than an Iraqi Santa but it pains me to admit - because I know your incredulous reaction - that doing nothing can actually be rather difficult.

Seriously, it's harder than you think. Here are my constraints: Internet quota of 30 minutes per day (except selected sites such as and wikipedia). No reading of magazines. No wandering off for a walk. No talking to the person next to you (because they are over 3 yards away). Your task, should you choose not to accept it, is to find the most productive way to do sweet FA.

If no one gives you any work to do, here are some of the things you might like to try:

* Puff out your cheeks and make a noise like this "Pwwwwwfffffffffffffffffffff" whilst placing your hands behind your head in a rather nonchalant manner. This can be repeated up to 10 times a day, but they must be spaced out lest anyone thinks you are having an asthma attack.

* Spin round in your chair. Maybe anti-clockwise first, then clockwise after. If you're a real mentalist you could try clockwise first, but that way madness lies.

* Go to the toilet. Let's face it a pee takes, what, 2 minutes? A poo could take, I don't know, potentially 10 minutes. Always go for the poo. I have sat on the toilet a couple of times, lid down, trousers up, sending abusive/amorous/random texts. No one knows you're not opening your bomb bay doors. Relax and enjoy your toilet-based hiatus.

* Go for a walk. Except don't look like you're going for a walk. George Costanza from Seinfeld has a golden rule when at work: never walk down a corridor without a folder in your hand. Then, even if you're going nowhere, it looks like you're going somewhere

* Peruse the internet sites that are not blocked. eg Wikipedia. Their "random article" function is useful. So far I have managed to read up on the Suez Crisis, Benigno Aquino's assassination, The Counter Reformation (featuring the Jesuits and The Index Of Prohibited Books), Mebeverine (an antispasmodic hydrochroride-based pharmaceutical), an earth leakage circuit breaker, Romanian despot Nikolai Caucescu, Neasden Town Hall and "Gong Farmers" (Medieval Toilet Attendants who mucked out latrines and privies during the Plague)

I am fountain of knowledge. Well not so much a fountain as a squirt under pressure (a fitting description for me, I think).

Even with these five potential escape routes, inactivity can be draining. The point is you're always a little bit on edge in case someone actually does give you something to do. It's difficult to reconcile, as whilst doing nothing and getting paid for it is ultimately everyone's ideal job, you still find yourself secretly wishing you'd been charged with some menial task.

Yet, conversely, when the boss man starts approaching, you do feel like "oh, he's going to ask me to do something....Damn....and I'd just started a daydream about me playing an epic guitar solo onstage at the New Wembley Stadium...bummer"

Nevertheless, though it's like sitting in a doctor's waiting room for EIGHT FRICKING HOURS, I can think of worse ways to earn my money. Being a Gong Farmer for one.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gabby Bogan

Bogan is the term Australians give their less fortunate, lumberjack-shirted, soap-dodging, educationally sub-normal, mullet-sporting, Jerry Springer-watching, dentally challenged trailer trash. They can usually be found polishing a rifle on a porch whilst drinking tins of beer and then, after, shooting at the tins of beer with the polished rifle. And today I met one called Carl.

I was tasked with taking an EFTPOS machine, which is a hi-tech cash register with a touchscreen and a barcode scanner, to a rail depot in the middle of nowhere. The machine weighed an absolute ton and after two of us had manhandled it into the back of a taxi, I set off for middle-of-nowhere suburb Sydenham, so close to Sydney Airport's Final Approach that if you flipped a coin too high it would probably ricochet off a QANTAS jumbo.

When I arrived I was greeted by two "security guards" one of whom was sat lolling on the gate. I explained who I was and what I had to deliver waving my Railcorp pass about like it could earn me a free lunch or something. "Carl?" called the guard over the walkie-talkie "There's a guy here called Phil who has an EFTPOS machine for you"

"What?!" came the strong Aussie accent through the handset "I don't bladdy know anything about it".
"OK" said the guard "Well, can you come round?"
"What?!" came the answer again, and then "..... but I don't bladdy know anything about it".
"But can you just come round?" repeated the guard
"But I don't bladdy know anything about it!" said Carl again.

This was going to be hard work. The taxi meter was still running at this point, luckily on expenses and I waited for what seemed about 10 minutes when all of a sudden a figure appeared about 30 feet and away, and like Omar Sharif appearing out the desert in Laurence of Arabia, loped towards me. Carl was in his mid 50s with a baseball cap, luminous safety tabard and straggly grey hair flowing out behind him like some pissed wizard. He greeted me with a "What?!", which was a good start, before I attempted to explain to him I had been asked to deliver the ETPOS machine so it could be installed into the buffet car ready for tomorrow's journey.

"What?!" he said again, and then "But I don't bladdy know anything about it!" "I work in the stores. I'm Carl".
"Yes I know" I said "and I was given your name, and told to ask for you".
"I work in the stores. I'm Carl. I don't bladdy know anything about it".

Oh Christ! At this point with a waiting taxi, a mad-eyed Bogan and a impossibly-hefty, $6000 computer I began weighing up my options. At that point Carl announced "I'm going to speak to my supervisor. I'm Carl. I work in the stores" and stomped off in a huff. Luckily I had a phone number, and so rang it. I explained the situation to the chief electrician who chuckled to himself as if he was expecting it, and phoned another person whilst I was on the line to tell him Carl was "not having any of it". Again, his tone suggested this wasn't the first time Carl had got a bit riled.

Carl returned a few minutes later with another bloke who was clearly more switched on. He took a look at ETFPOS machine and said "It's like a till Carl. It's so passengers can buy their food". His tone was as if he was speaking to a child. Carl looked at the machine as if he was looking at an annotated diagram showing how black holes are formed, before saying "I don't bladdy know anything about it". He grabbed a trolley, loaded it up and trundled away, chuntering to himself.

I think I can guess what he was saying.

There Were Two In The Bed and The Little One Said

I am reluctant to go into detail here, but I am currently re-acquainting myself with difficulties of fitting two people into a single bed.

Single beds are made for one person - that's why they are called single beds. Spooning is all very well, but I've never found it a particularly useful analogy considering spoons have no arms or legs, and if they did they certainly wouldn't find them such an obstacle to a decent's night sleep.

For example, what are you meant to do with the arm crushed underneath you nearest the mattress? If you place it under your partner you're asking for a serious, industrial-sized case of pins and needles, and if you trail it behind you, you feel like you're in some kind of wrestling hold. Similarly utching up the bed is problematical if you're perilously close to the edge and she's fast asleep. And what about bed sheets? I don't want the duvet up to my chin, I want it up to my armpit. God I'm hot. God, I'm cold now. And then there's the snoring. I mean right in your ear:
"Snnnnnkkkkkkkkhkhkhkhkkhk......breath........... Snnnnnkkkkkkkkhkhkhkhkkhk........breath"

But what am I complaining for? All these things pale into insignificance when you wake up to find the sun streaming through your window and a person fast asleep at your side, their arm slung across you and their warmth beside you. How glorious.

Christ, that's all a bit girly isn't it? I should probably start talking about cars and guns and fighting to balance it up or something.

Robbery, Assault and Battery. And Memory Card and Camera

So my camera has been stolen. Annoying for two reasons. 1. the expense, especially on a restricted budget 2. there were still photos/films in it which I hadn't had chance to download. And if I'm honest, I think I'm more pissed about reason 2 than reason 1.

I can't do without a camera. It provides me with an opportunity to record "the event" and document my own personal history. Though they can never take away your memories, and though photographs don't record the smell, and the feel, and the mood of a place, they do act as a trigger and can capture the little details: your hire car's registration plate, those outrageous shorts you were wearing, the pattern on that bar's carpet. So I bought another, and my parents graciously agreed to help me out. Luckily, I got a great deal and my new camera is under lock and key.

The trip to the police station, however, was as futile as I'd anticipated. The officer behind the counter was clearly about 14 and also the most dim-witted policeman I'd ever spoken to (not that I've spoken to many, admittedly). He appeared to be on Work Experience or something, asked me the same questions repeatedly, and gave a slightly confunded "oh yeah" when I told him he'd already written that bit down.

Towards the end of his snail-paced transcribing of the events (which was punctuated by him furrowing his brow and chewing his pencil as if faced with a complicated P11 Tax Form) I looked down and noticed he had a handgun holstered at his side. Good lord. Could I really trust this man to make the right decision as to whether to draw his firearm when I can't trust him to record my details correctly?

Direct Line weren't much help either. I looked into the policy small print and found that it might as well have said "This policy does not cover you for anything that might happen that we might have to pay out for".

Luckily, with regard to my photos from the road trip the previous weekend, Louise had taken some belters which I grabbed copies of. Here are a few examples.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Grown-Up Road Trip

The Great Escape

My new frugal and pie-less lifestyle seems to be working out - tentatively at least . Last Thursday some mug deposited $636 in my account (I think it was RailCorp), thus giving me my first paypacket since November 2006. And seeing as I had already enough food for the week stashed under my bed - mainly consisting of instant noodles and tinned Korma - I was happy in the knowledge that financial consolidation was only a few more rotations of a microwave turntable away.

However, this weekend was APEC. And if, at any stage, Sydneysiders forgot this, they were reminded by the 30ft high wall and the tsunami of police inundating every public nook and cranny (incidentally, police here really don't look like police. They wear blue boiler suits, baseball caps and what looks like Batman's utility belt. It looked like they were there to install a Sky dish. Or else marshall a paintballing weekend).

APEC meant that, first, lots of shops and roads were very, very closed indeed. And second, that if you went within 1 mile of the city centre you were likely to be obliterated by an orbiting laser, or something. Kindly, to compensate New South Wales for the upheaval, the Australian government decided to give everyone Friday off. Long weekend! Super.

Time to leave the city, I think. So with $636 to my name, I began umming and aaahing as to whether to join Louise and Lisa on their "grown-up road trip" up North. After costing it out, I decided that $125 or 50 quid for a weekend int bad, especially considering that included petrol and accommodation. So I said yes.

Thelma and Louise

Louise and Lisa agreed to share the driving between them, and planned out the route accordingly. My contribution was to take up position in the backseat, eat from a jumbo bag of crisps and say "are we there yet?" a lot. If Thelma and Louise, instead of driving off that cliff, had picked up Terry Christian and taken him on a road trip, this would have been the result. And the fact that Louise's name sounds a bit, only sought to reinforce the analogy. I was hoping we weren't going to bump into that Bradley Pitt.

We blasted up the motorway for a good four hours, and by the time the torrential rain started, we still had a bit to go. The distances involved here are difficult to get to grips with. Case in point: scale on maps. Our map had the same amount of pages as your average AA Road Atlas, but because England is so much smaller, the distance between two points on the page is also smaller. On an Australian map, however, a couple of inches on a page could mean miles and miles and miles. If the Australian map was the same scale as the British map, the atlas would have to be the size of The Daily Telegraph and as thick as the Encyclopaedia Britannica. All this just meant that I started asking "are we there yet?" and "how many more corners?" with greater frequency.

We called in at Bathurst, and pushed on to Cowra, the location of a famous Japanese POW breakout in the war. 400kms or so outside of Sydney now, we were really beginning to get a taste of small town Australia. And in many ways it's similar to smalltown America: wide, gridded streets; diners; low rise shopping arcades; run down bars - and the space between those towns full of creakily-turning metal windmills, railway crossings and wooden-porched houses with trucks rusting in the garden.

Yee-ha indeed.

Star Wars

Our plan was to move on to the Observatory at Cowra - apparently the darkest place in Australia and therefore the best location for viewing the stars. But the clouds had socked in and a phone call to the man at the observatory revealed they weren't going to even bother opening it up that night. A change of plan later and we were heading for Forbes and to our digs for the night.

About half an hour out, however, we realised that the clouds had rolled back and the some stars were out. Then we realised that, actually, ALL the stars were out. We pulled the car into a laybay and turned the engine off. It was black. Pitch black. And steadily, we ventured out into the layby and turned our heads skyward.

You have never seen stars until you see them in Australia. The sky was awash with a billion pinpoints of light - cascading and falling, pooling and swirling, convening into patterns that I'd never seen before. It was like someone had emptied a bag of sugar on to a black bedsheet. The Milky Way was clearly visible too. I don't ever recall seeing it before, but here it was: a billowing, yet feint blue cloud arcing icily over the sky.

After we had stood staring for a while, making appropriate noises of "awe", Louise suggested lying on the bonnet of the car, Wayne's World Style. It was a sturdy motor and she's only a dot, so we clambered up.

"Do you reckon you could get a photo of this?" I asked, knowing Louise is a photographer by trade. Stupid question, clearly. "Sure..." she said, and then added good naturedly, "...I just need to go and fetch my tripod out the boot in the pitch black, and then leave the shutter open for about 40 minutes on maximum exposure while we freeze to death....."

So no photo of the sky then, but thanks to Wikipedia, this is what it looked like.......

The Shining

We got to our lodgings about 10pm. The Albion Hotel in Forbes is a pub, hotel and underground museum. The building has a real history, former home to the disreputable bandit and robber Ben Hall, a kind of cross between Butch Cassidy and Ned Kelly. The catacombs, where he and his gang masterminded raids on gold prospectors, has now been turned into a museum complete with yellowed newpapers and muskets behind glass cases, whilst the vast upper floors contained the accommodation.

This place was spooky. The moment we arrived on the top floor we were greeted with an impossibly long corridor that disappeared off into a dimly lit vanishing point, and a thin strip of paisley carpet which lay along the floor and, also, disappeared into the middle distance. This was The Shining. This was the Overlook Hotel. "Heeeeeeere's Johnny!" and all that jazz.

My room was no less unnerving. A sparse russet coloured room with a single 1970s bed, a single 1970s wardrobe and a sink with a rusted brown stain underneath where the cold tap had been dripping. In true The Shining style it appeared as if my doorframe had received a bit of a pounding at some stage and the eerie silence helped to heighten the "axe-murderer" atmosphere.

I thought this photo summed it up, really. That's my arm of course. But wait.... this photo was taken in 1922 it couldn't have been my arm.......aaaaaaarghhh!

The Dish

The next day we were over to The Parkes Radio Telescope, instrumental in the Moon landings and also the location for the film The Dish, starring Sam Neill, a light-hearted comedy based on those events in 1969.

The stargazing the night before only sought to make this a more involving visit and halfway through the afternoon, after staring at the dish for a while (it is good to stare at), we were all treated to a clanking and rumbling as it moved a few degrees to the left, presumably to have a gander at Betelgeuse, or something. I was tempted to buy up all the rocket-shaped pencil sharpeners and meteor-shaped erasers in the giftshop, but I'm an adult and don't do that sort of thing now.

Close Encounters

From Parkes we were on to Mount Canobolas, just outside Orange. It's an ex-volcano with a peak that commands stunning views of NSW. When we arrived the sun was beginning to set and we were soon joined by some very nosy kangaroos. They're wild up here, but let us get quite close nonetheless. The sun and the wildlife provided us with some great photo opportunities. Pity, then, that by point my memory card was full and my battery was flat. So as the lithium died I went snap-happy trying to capture the moment while I still could.

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Fat Controller

So it turns out that it int that bad here after all. Yep, it isn't exactly an episode of TISWAS in here, but there's a kind of stately predictability to the proceedings which mean that, whilst it's unexciting, it is, at least, consistently unexciting.

So far the work has been fairly straightforward: cone binding 40 documents, taking minutes from meetings populated exclusively by men with mortgages and moustaches, and arranging travel for people testing trains in hick towns 5 hours out of Sydney.

The environment is still unswervingly corporate, however. We work in veal fattening pens, latticed across the open-plan floor like some ultra-tedious Su-Do-Ku. The white plastered walls are adorned with A4 printouts of dislocated managementspeak. Isolated paper islands, attached to nothing, a propos of nothing, with stark phrases blasted across the front in Times New Roman, font size 45. "Feasibility" says one. "High Complexity" says another. "Eh?" says me.

And there are layers and layers of management here and I don't really know what any of them do. All appear to be indistiguishable and interchangeable; there's a manager and a general manager and a group general manager. There's an executive officer, a project officer and an enhancement officer. There's a business intelligence specialist, a solutions architect and portfolio analyst. Readily, I'll admit I've never worked in an environment so corporate, but I can't help feeling that this company is like some kind of administrative souffle; pop it and it'll sag; let the air out and watch it deflate. It doesn't really consist of anything.

Everything is incredibly process driven, too. Last week I was tasked with creating A5 booklets that had to be stapled in the middle. The problem was, however, there was no stapler in the entire football-pitched sized office long enough to reach half-way across to the centre of the page.

"Shall I just go out and buy a longer one and put it on expenses?" I asked. That's what I would have done at Drum. Eavesie once sent me out to Hamleys on Regent St to buy a giant Scalectrix for a prize on the Guardian Sports Show without so much as a whiff of a purchase order or prior approval form. But my request to simply purchase one was met with a reaction of disbelief. I might as well have asked if I could borrow the company card to go on a bender involving limo hire, 8 Magnums of Dom Perignon and a high-class hooker.

No, instead, I spent my afternoon scouring the 56456 acre office floor looking for a long stapler. And when I finally found one its owner said, pointedly "Make sure you bring it back".

But, you know what, it's not all that bad. I've got an awful lot of time on my hands, hence my prolific blog authorship of late. And, hey, you keep reading it, then I'll keep writing it.

We'll Meet Again

It's been a week of goodbyes at The Pink House. A handful of long termers have done the off and headed their separate ways. During the day, Aidan and Hannah made their way to the airport, and by the time I arrived in the evening Richie and Dave were all packed up ready for the 12 hour Greyhound bus journey to Byron Bay.

Richie and Dave, two thirds of Team Rave, had been with us for 4 weeks and so were part of the family (God knows what that makes me at 5 months). One immediate upshot was that because of Raj's decision not to go on the road with the other two members, the "Raj-less" Dave and Rich had to be be renamed Team Ditch - something which the new duo accepted immediately.

As we all gathered to give manly pats on the back to men overloaded with backpacks the size of Hotpoint Dishwashers, leaning foward to stop themselves falling backward, we realised how much camaraderie there is in The Pink House, as the air was filled with the usual exchanges: ", take care, yeah?"; "keep in touch, you've got my email, right?", and Franc's typically ascerbic, but not serious "....I never liked you, anyway...".

Usually goodbyes don't really have an immediate effect if the person leaving is still stood in front of you. It's only later you feel it - when the courtyard is one voice missing, or the conversation is one joke short. The silence that falls is not an absence of noise, but an absence of atmosphere, and of feel. The Pink House is essentially an empty recepticle coloured by the characters who grace its creaking bunk beds, and now we are five of our most vivid people down, there's no telling what hue The Pink House will adopt. It probably won't be Pink.

A La Recherche Des Lunettes Perdu

God, I'm a clever bastard, aren't I? Starting off with a reference to Proust. In French. I should be on QI or something.

For those of you who don't speak French, this means Searching For Lost Sunglasses - which is what I seem to spend most of my time doing these days. I am now convinced The Pink House is riddled with pan-dimensional anti-matter holes through which any object smaller than, say, a packet of Findus Crispy Pancakes, will always fall.

Where does this stuff go? I mean really - where could it possibly be? I'd like to think there's a TARDIS-like room somewhere containing everything ever lost - like Shergar, my Lando Calrissian figure or Chris Langham's external hard-drive.

The problem, you see, is not theft. It's because due to the sheer volume of objects in the room of a backpacker.......rucksacks, guidebooks, towels, iPod chargers, pants, shorts, trainers, cutlery, deoderant, instant noodles, international adapters...... the chances of you losing one of these objects in the melee of bric-brac increases exponentially. Socks go missing most often. Followed by phone chargers. Then toothbrushes. Then sunglasses. Occasionally stuff turns up, looking like it's a had a hell of a week jammed down the side of the bed, or stuffed down the arm of the wrong coat, but more often than not, you're left scratching your head.

I haven't done too bad so far. Whilst other people have lost passports and wallets and phones among the debris, the most precious thing I have misplaced is my sexy Samsung USB Drive containing around 200 photos. Luckily, some sets had already been burned to CD, some were still on Chris's computer, and the world beating, David Bailey-baiting photos of the SH Bridge I took can always be taken again.

Let's hope I don't lose my dignity. Actually, it's probably too late.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Rough and Tumble

When people get to know each other well generally they begin to open up, perhaps become more animated, broach subjects previously off limits, share more personal details.

When people get to know each other really well they start arm wrestling, play naughty Twister, have piggback races and bodyslam one another.

The Pink House currently home to a number of long-term residents who have known each other long enough to allow indulgence in the odd intimate caper. Thus, last night was Body Twister night where coloured blobs on the floor were replaced with body parts. Each contestant, then, labels up parts of their body with sticky numbers and hopes to be touched, or not to be touched there.

Some were braver than others, and whilst I stuck my number 1 to my belt buckle, Richie went the whole way and stuck it on his crotch. Meanwhile Goonie had stuck a number 5 on her tit, and so it wasn't long before I had someone's hand on my arse and my hand on someone's tit.

The evening ended with a piggy back race round the Potts Point fountain in full view of the Police Station.

There's also a rise in bodyslamming and pile-ons over the past few weeks. This usually involves waiting until someone is asleep before doing a Shirley Crabtree and belly flopping on their sleeping form. If you've organised it properly, there should be a queue of people behind you waiting to pile on and, as person after person dives on the next, the effect is a kind of human lasagne.

Occasionally it can go wrong. Last week, a decision to bodyslam Raj whilst he was asleep in the TV room resulted in Aidan taking a blow to the cheekbone. After scrambling out from amongst the pancaked, collapsed scrum, we saw his eye was cut - very much like a boxer. Within minutes a frozen bag of peas was strapped to his face to get the swelling down.

Throughout this an ageing Belgian couple had looked on aghast at such childish behaviour. But then again, they live in Belgium - I don't think they have much exposure to excitement.

Ava Nice Day

So as predicted our Lord and Saviour, Ava, has been booted out. Actually, not booted out, more gently shooed away like some seagull encroaching on your cod and chips.

Apparently, he went quietly but not before being central to another couple of leftfield incidents. Last week he decided to accompany Matin from Iran shopping. When they got to Woolworths Matin was already getting a bit fed up with him, not really being religious himself. But it all came to a head in the pasta aisle when Ava suggested Matin's indecision over whether to buy penne or rigatoni could be solved by asking God. He closed his eyes for a few moments, and then, as if receiving a flash of divine inspiration, said "God wants you to choose this one". "As I expected...." said Matin, whose improvements in English have revealed a dry sense of humour, " was the cheapest".

Then Franc, who has long been fascinated with The Man In White, but observed him from afar (as you would nuclear testing), became involved in a particularly telling incident. By all accounts, Franc had tried to engage him in conversation, but Ava had become increasingly erratic in his responses until the point where he accused Franc of having a hidden earpiece through which he was receiving his "dialogue". He went on to claim that the instructions were coming from Foxtel (Oz equivalent of Sky TV), and continually motioned towards the windows in a nearby towerblock overlooking the courtyard, saying "Well done, the script is working", presumably at some unseen director.

At this point Franc realised that, joking aside, and in all seriousness, this man might actually be mentally ill and so altered his line of question accordingly. The Man In White clearly needed the men in white coats.

We rapidly came to the conclusion that actually this man's religion is not the reason for his unsettling behaviour. In fact, he probably is ill in some way, and does have social problems, and has turned to religion as a way of masking, justifying and curing his self.

Cruel as it may sound, we were just beginning to feel relief at his leaving, when on Sunday (of all days) we received a "sign". In 50ft high letters in the sky was written "Jesus = Hope".

Joking, we immediately suspected Ava. God, some people will go a long way to prove a point.

Quizteam Aguilera

Sunday was Challenge Night at The Pink House. It's like a cross between Fifteen to One and It's A maybe Knock One Out if you will. Or The Krapton Factor, perhaps.

Rounds 1 and 2 were general knowledge followed by name the country, flag and currency respectively. Round 3 was burst your opponents balloon. Round 4 was a MENSA test featuring question like "If the man in white is left of the man in blue who did your Auntie Mary marry at her second cousin's wedding?". Round 5, though billed as a "physical challenge", was essentially "who can do the longest handstand against a wall?". Richard, on our side, was doing very well until he was distracted by his money dropping out his jeans and falling up his nose.

Our team, Challenge Rajika (Raj's bastardisation of 90s teatime show Challenge Anneka) was, of course, victorious. Our prize was a duffed up 1980s Kenwood Coffee maker that looked suspiciously like the one in the kitchen not two minutes previously, which Raj duly held up and kissed as if it was the Jules Rimet Cup itself

Our team are victorious.....

Ava Almighty prays for a handstand to end all handstands..........

Flight Of Fancy

So here's something you don't hear every day: "Miranda.... erm....someone has just fallen out of an upstairs window and is lying on the floor outside".

This was announced to the throng in the courtyard which, up until that point, had been engrossed in a game of poker. There was a silence for a second whilst everybody looked at each other in slight disbelief before, like true rubberneckers, mobilising en masse. When I arrived at the scene, a man was smashed on to the floor in the mangled shape of a Swastika, breathing, his eyes open but utterly immobilised. Alan, from Aberdeen, was stood at the side of him holding a laptop bag: "Trying to steal my laptop eh? I hope you die" he said. Ouch.

As it transpired, a local junkie had somehow gained access to the hostel, managed to make a grab for a laptop and in the ensuing panic fell out of the window 15ft on to the floor. The situation rapidly developed into a kangaroo court, however, with those people who had had stuff snatched circling agitatedly, wanting to lay the boot in, whilst religious freak Ava lay at the side of him, prayed with him and continually assured him that God loved him.

An ambulance was called immediately and, with a police station only 20 feet away, it wasn't long before they were on the scene. The police recognised him straight away. They started calling his name even before they had got close to him, and spoke to him like he was a drinking buddy. "Don't move" they said " the ambulance is on its way". 20 minutes later he was being carted away on a stretcher complete with surgical strapping and collar - it was like some scene out of Holby City.

The debate continued after the sirens had faded. Some were harsh and hoped he had done himself a proper mischief. Others were more liberal, attributing his behaviour to the drugs. Me - I think he was punished accordingly. When a man steals a laptop, but then moments later falls through a window, bounces off a hefty metal fuse box on the way down and lands mangled on a brick floor, I think, in this case, we should probably leave it at that.

Hard Corps

When Joni Mitchell said "you don't know what you've got till it's gone", she was spot on. But then again she also said "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot" . And as Partridge put it: "that's a measure that would have alleviated congestion on the outskirts of paradise - something which Joni singularly fails to point out".

It's a year since I've graced an office and I was actually quite looking forward to returning to the environment . Banter and witty repartee, maybe, challenges and solutions, a chance to test myself. But actually I have found myself in a corporate environment so antiseptic, so dead, so numbing that it makes me realise how vibrant the Drum office was.

At Drum, the decibles never dropped. Whether it was our attacks on Dave's fuchsia jumper or jeering at my love of Subway sandwiches, verbal sparring matches between myself and Ivan on the subject of The Libertines vs Muse, or attempts to establish whether SJ was posh enough to be in line to the throne, the office was always buzzing with activity; rapid fire phone calls, agitated photocopying and blustery meetings - all against the against a backdrop of a chattering digital radio.

Here is different. The office is not only big enough to swing a cat in, but also big enough to swing a barge round in. This means everyone is sat about 10 feet apart and silence reigns supreme. The funereal hush is punctuated only by the barely audible, ever-present hum of the aircon and odd clatter of the odd keyboard.

It's easy to cross-reference it against pop-culture fallout. It's Gervais's The Office. It's Orwell's 1984. It's Gilliam's Brazil. It's hell with neon lighting.

The office seems populated mostly by middle aged men between the ages of 35-55. 2/3rds of whom have spiffing moustaches and salt & pepper hair. They sit hunched over keyboards, staring intently at the screen, not looking left or right, not speaking to anyone. Occasionally, one breaks protocol and ventures into somebody else's booth to mumble something like: "Have you got the status report for the EKR project?" or "Bob says he needs it to fill in the Progress Matrix spreadsheet, and I shan't be here Tuesday morning because I'm going to the chiropodist" and then, realising he could have sent that on email, mumbles something else and saunters away.

So far I have spent my time here in a state of confusion. Though everyone has been perfectly pleasant and amenable, they speak only in acronyms and abbreviations and seem to keep forgetting that I don't know what a DCMS Recombination Datagasm is, nor an Integrated Berk Spanner Network either.

And do you know what? As I've said before the maths are not stacking up. Roughly, as a general rule you should budget about 1000 pounds a month for travelling. And because I am not an idiot with the booze (as most travellers are) I am coming in at just under that, at around 850-900 pounds.

This job pays $20 an hour which at 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 4 weeks a month MINUS TAX means I will be earning around $2400 or 960 pounds. In other words for a month's work will have made 60 quid profit. Thus in order to neutralise, lets say 2000 pounds of debt, I would have to work for about 30 months. That's nearly 3 years.

In short this job only allows me to subsist, but not to save.

However my new frugal lifestyle has begun. And if I make more of a significant saving than I anticipated, I will continue to temp until I have enough money to move on. If however, by the end of the month I have gained nothing, I am going to damn it all to hell and just bugger off and do the rest of the country and maybe a few others. I hear Singapore is very good at this time of year.

Bloody hell, I love this travelling lark. I've been to a gig in the Opera House, across the Harbour Bridge, met some people who I would dearly love to stay in touch with (except Mr Tumnus, Ava Almighty and Granny Poop), earned the nickname The Oracle, got caught on the hostel's CCTV being mucky with a girl, got drunk in The Hunter Valley whilst sampling peppermint fudge, climbed up through the Blue Mountains at dusk and generally had a blast.

I wish I could do it forever but, alas, it costs something called "money" and you can't earn any "money" updating a Product Interface Fudge Toboggan Development Protocol Spreadsheet.

Donations are welcome.