Thursday, February 21, 2008

Feel The Burn

Around this time last year I seem to remember writing a blog entry about how, after a typically British approach to sunbathing, I'd turned a particularly agonising and bloody shade of magenta.

And, if your recall, I had simultaneously been bombarded by a squadron of mosquitoes, who had treated the crack of my arse like an X-Wing fighter treated the trench on the Death Star. And we all know what happened there.

Fast-forward one year and a few days into my stay, once again, I've already frazzled my shoulder and forehead into streaky bacon and, similarly, and true to form, the mozzies have turned my legs into crimson bubble wrap. Needless to say, word of the day is "ouch".

The place is still quiet. Highlights so far include last night's worst-ever pub quiz performance, enlivened only by a moment where, when teams were invited to tell a joke, Chris took to the mic to tell one of the single most inappropriate jokes I think I've ever heard, eliciting a stunned silence from the assembled throng. Brave man.

Then it was back to the Pink House with our tail between our legs for beers in the back courtyard, just time to hear Richie theorise that Raj's penis must look like "a Twix".

It is time to move on I think. I will remember the Pink House fondly, but onwards and upwards. Or given that it's Melbourne next, onwards and downwards.

Return To Oz

The World's Favourite Scareline

Sorry for the radio silence this soon into the adventure. Truth be told: right now it's quiet. I'd describe myself as dormant and frequently horizontal. I'm just taking it easy. I'm a Cadbury's Caramel.

I am now back in Australia. And for a while I wondered whether I would make it. Chiefly due to my flight over here which was the worst in living memory. For the first four hours I was shunted, buffeted, dropped and rammed from every angle. No, not an impromptu liaison with Scott, the festive Qantas air steward, but rather due to cutting the corner of Tropical Cyclone Nicholas.

I was on the pot when it really kicked in. I had been holding it in for about 20 minutes as the continuous seatbelt sign had been confining people to their seat. And when, in a brief respite, the light had gone off I had bolted for the toilet door, and then bolted the toilet door. However, halfway through seeing that man about that dog, it kicked in.

I thought sitting down might solve the problem, but when 2 minutes later I had been dislodged from the pot and was scrabbling around on the floor, trying to cast a flailing arm into the sink for leverage, I knew we were in for some rough stuff.

But, as weather systems such as this take their energy from the sea, once over land it went from carrier bag in a wind tunnel to ski-ing down silk. We even flew straight over Ayres Rock. Got a great view but, alas, not a great photo.

Pink House Revisited

Arrived back the Pink House at about 9.00 and knocked on the window as I didn't know the security code. First thing I saw was dear Richie, whose "O"-shaped expression of surprise looked like a slightly baffled chimp thinking about a new kind of question mark. Clearly, he forgot I was coming.

Anyway, within a second the door had opened and there was a queue of hugs. First from Richie, then from Etienne and Brian, and I found Chris and Miranda in the back courtyard.

It's like I've never been away, but the atmos is different - a post-Xmas lull. Nearly everyone has got jobs in an attempt to counter their festive spend, meaning people are in bed by 11.30. And new draconian rules on noise enforced by a new and regular council visits mean the Pink House is...well....a bit quiet at the moment.

Nevertheless, good to be back.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choi

After wandering round Little India, and with it being Chinese New Year, I thought I'd head down to Singapore's Chinatown to see what the crack was.

I'd missed the celebrations by a few days but there was still a buzz about the place. Teams of brightly dressed Chinamen in full dragon get-up were tootling around in flatbed trucks as if they were ready to be deployed at a moment's notice, like crack commandos.

Throughout the day they would appear from nowhere and do a merry dance in front of the many restaurants to bring them luck throughout the year. Not so lucky for some people sat out front trying to eat their won-tons in peace. Bloody hell those drums are loud.

Speaking of restaurants, I thought whilst I was there I should probably sample some local cuisine. In my head, I was thinking beef in black bean or maybe some chow mein. Closer inspection of the menus revealed I was wide of the mark. It's interesting to note differing Eastern and Western notions of what is considered appetising.

Thus scanning the many restaurants' offerings, I had a choice of dishes like pig's intestines with cucumber, cow's spleen and fishhead curry and my favourite, sweet and sour frog. I am not joking.

Don't think the Capital Chinese Restaurant in Uttoxeter has this on the menu.

Time Waits For No Man. Unless You Live In Singapore

My God the people here are fearsome dawdlers. I thought the industrious Oriental work ethic may have imbued them with a sense of urgency, but more likely the Indian trait of lazing about in the sun has surged to the fore.

They teeter and meander along pavements, gawp slack-jawed and generally list left and right until they perfectly block my path. Similarly, though the shop service here is efficient, so many times now I have found myself stuck behind some family at the counter all studying the backlit menu with squinting incomprehension as if it's been written in binary translated into Welsh, before then changing and rechanging their minds about what they want.

Oh for Christ's sake it's KFC. Just choose a family bucket and have done with it. I wasn't in KFC, by the way. Ahem.

As an aside they have an interesting way of cleaning the toilets here. Each cubicle contains a small drain in the floor, and instead of scrubbing away with the Cillit Bang, they boot open the door and scattergun the entire cubicle with a jetwash, like some crazed SWAT team operative. First time I used the cubicle straight afterwards and saw the walls and seat dripping, I assumed someone had been really desperate and not quite made it.

Finally, this is a typical sight in Singapore, Oriental script sitting alongside Hindi.

The Climbdown - Sorry Singapore

Well, as I suspected my erstwhile rant concerning the rather ersatz and empty nature of Singapore has proved to be a little harsh.

Essentially, I am a collosal wimp: deny me a night's sleep and waft me with heat straight from Satan's bumhole and I would easily win The Eurovision Grump Contest.

Anyway, it turns out Singapore is fine. Not somewhere where you'd spend a lengthy stay, but it does have it's charm.

Went for a walk around the surrounding area and discovered the skyline: ubiquitous harbour front skyscrapers - looked great at night.

I also found the Raffles Hotel, which is like something straight out of Passage To India, with its off-white verandas and immaculately presented Sikhs waiting to open the doors on the sedans of dignatories (if you look really closely you can see him)

Also went to Orchard Road, the main shopping district, but it could have been absolutely anywhere - malls jammed with Nike, Armani and Panasonic. Wandered round Borders and immediately thought "Why have I done this? Totally pointless". Orchard Road's principal distinction, then, it is that is the most indistinctive place in the world. A bit like a few other places.

Next day was better. Went over to Sentosa Island via futuristic monorail. Sentosa Island is an outcrop of rock and sand now redeveloped with purpose-built beaches and sail-shaped hotels. I'd gone over for the Carlsberg Sky Tower, an observation deck operating on a rather phallic giant-doughnut-gliding-up-and-down-a-pole system. Once the doughnut is at the top of the pole it....ahem....gently twists round to give you a better view whilst everyone gasps with excitement.


Singa Poor Show

First of all it's worth pointing out that I'm a right grumpy bastard the first few days of travelling. And this sojourn is no exception. Harumph and indeed harumph. Are there two Rs in harrumph?

It may be that the mild rant you are about to read is tempered by jetlag and heat, but even from an objective standpoint, Singapore has yet to really impress. Sorry.

How to describe it. Well imagine this. Go on, imagine it:

Take a Chinatown, any from your average British city and plop it next to any Little India say Brick Lane or Rusholm, ensuring there is a degree of overlap and that, for example, some places sell chicken biryani AND sweet and sour pork.

Now have some Chinese blokes on rickety cycles weave in and out of some Indian blokes sat on the street with one leg tucked under them. Now flank this with some Japanese-style neon highrises and liberally scatter Western iconography (pictures of Beckham and Nokia Mobiles) across the architectural bric-a-brac.

That's Singapore. Sounds interesting admittedly, but it all feels begged, borrowed or stolen. I suspect you can find better examples of everything on show here in it's original indigenous location.

I just thought it would have more of a sense of itself. Never mind.

My judgement is clouded however. My coma-inducing jetlag has pinned me to my bed, and the greenhouse humidity is fostering a walking-through-warm-treacle malaise. This after coming from a Midlands Winter where, the weather girl warned if it got much worse robins would actually freeze to the branch and polar bears would be seen on the streets of Walsall.

Things will get better I hope. Otherwise Singapore can consider itself slinged. No, slung.

Oh forget it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Here We Go Again.......

Hello. Welcome back. It's been a while .

Maybe I haven't been in contact as much I should. And that's my fault - I'm sorry. But I reckon you might forgive me, so I'll carry on bashing away regardless. At the keyboard I mean; I have a girlfriend now, you know.

A lot had happened since my last entry. I've been on a 30,000 mile circuit of earth, had a more cheese-on-toast than I care to mention, and indulged in countless afternoon naps. Under a clean duvet. And in silence.

Now I'm going to try to do it all again. What a berk. This time it's New Zealand, via Australia.

I am out of blogging practice so you'll have to excuse me if my usual devastating eloquence and wordsmithery have temporarily deserted me. I am sure that after a box of goon and an apalling night's sleep, constantly awoken by slamming doors and shagging, no doubt my powers will return.

So here we go again.....