Saturday, 29 September 2007
Thursday, 27 September 2007
Just noticed that Blogger allows one to post video clips these days. So how about this little show from our resident actor filmed at Formanka ;) Shite quality I admit (the video, not Rotten), but it's all I've got. The baldy chap I believe is Franta (no, sorry, that should be Ferda). Click first on the black screen and then on the play button.
But the real reason for my post today is to finish off that story I began a while back about catching the midnight express from Turkey. Okay, it was more like the CSA flight via Bucharest at 5.55am, but it felt like an escape. Getting out of Mecidikoy, I had to wait for a minibus at 4am, which was so late I was keking myself that I’d blown my last American dolleros on a flight that I wouldn’t catch and have no job to go back to. It was a miserable deathly-ashen wet day as well, so one’s spirits were sandpapering the pavement, especially as I was still recovering from my gastroenteritis and was hence weighing in at around 60kg. I had about 35kg of luggage with me, so I must have cut a rather sorry and forlorn sight trying to drag all my shit across the concourse when I had hardly any energy to lift one foot after the other. I was a bit nervous handing over my residency permit along with my passport, but it managed to pass muster and I was perking up by the time I stepped out onto the tarmac.
The CSA flight was an old Antonov-54 and a bit shakey as the G-forces pushed us out of Istanbul and rattled every nut and bolt on the way. But as the plane thundered through the cloud cover, the woes of the past few weeks began to drop away. The sun was blasting through the porthole, nicely lighting the religious epiphany I was about to undergo. It was still only 6am, but my attention was drawn to a long-haired blonde nubile with flawless skin and legs up to her throat (skin complexion is the one that does it for me, folks). Better still, this breathless vision of pertness stretched out before me a silver platter bearing an elixir of life shining with condensation – a can of Budejovicky Budvar and nothing else – and inquired in a sexy husky voice with an accent that I can now detect at a thousand paces: “Would you like a refreshment, sir?” This was the defining moment of my life. If this was my flight to heaven, I was staying aboard.
A brief stopover on the weed-strewn tarmac at Bucharest airport did nothing to interrupt the reverie, and touch-down at Ruzyne delivered me to one of those magnificent hot Central European summer days. And there was Hlidek waiting to greet me a big slap on the back. “My dear Andy! You did not expect me, no? Let’s go for beer!”
Saturday, 22 September 2007
Thursday, 28 November 1991
The beginning of a fresh chapter in my life. Who knows what fate has in store for me. Sixteen-and-a-half months in Alexandra, Central Otago, has left me feeling deeply ambivalent about a possible future re-entry into the world of journalism, and it has certainly done nothing to endear me to small towns. Of course, I never really gave it my best shot since I didn't want to be there in the first place [well, some things never change]. But at least it's given me some work experience and earned me enough money to finally fulfill my appetite for travel, and for that I am grateful.
With only three weeks to go before I depart for Germany I should be starting to feel the effects of adrenal glands working overtime. However, have left the dispiriting atmophere of Alexandra, the first taste of freedom has already greeted me with more cause for anxiety - the escalating problem of obtaining this damned Grandparent Entry Certificate for the UK. Time is rapidly running out in which to have my application processed, so I must somehow engineer a letter originating from a UK job agency within the next week if I'm to avoid the alternative of a simple two-year work permit. I only hope Nikki's English friend comes through for me. Will attempt to fax some urgent messages to England tomorrow as a last resort.
Friday, 29 November 1991
Another uninspiring day considering just how much I had been looking forward to leaving Alexandra. Managed to fax a miserable one letter to a secretarial job agency in London [!] although I think I'm beginning to clutch at straws. If I don't receive any replies by Monday, I'll have to ring the British Consulate-General in Auckland, explain my predicament and practically beg them to give me this confounded certificate. Hopefully, tomorrow will be less enervating - shall compile a list of suitable job agencies from the London telephone and yellow pages directory, maybe do some Christmas shopping, and then organise what and how many tapes to take with me [music cassettes for those of you who didn't come of age until the 1990s]. Still haven't made any serious attempt to begin reading yet and this is bound to cause my consternation at a later date.
Took in a visually sumptuous film with Lisa and Peter tonight entitled 'The Comfort of Strangers'. A very interesting film, but as usual my superficial knowledge of film, art and literature meant I was not really able to comprehend much until it was pointed out to me by a friend at the pub later on. My lack of perspicacity is becoming somewhat troublesome in light of my immenent arrival in a German university town [Tubingen] and flat where the general level of understanding over these things is sure to be several light years head of my own. Even my understanding of the New Zealand political scene, especially health issues, is shamefully inadequate, despite the fact I've been a journalist for the past two years. My hitch-hiking ride from Dr Wade of the blood transfusion unit revealed just how insufficient my general knowledge is. [This Dr Wade refers to a ride I got out of Alexandra from a medical practitioner who lectured me on AIDS and youth sex culture, and how human sexual relations would be changed for ever after by the epidemic...].
[Och; the naivety and folly of youth.]
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
A huge set of red goalposts adorns a traffic island outside Edinburgh Airport. But the local Scots are probably still wondering why they are H-shaped and why they're not being guarded by a tall, reed-thin lad with rubber gloves on his hands.
Welcome to bonnie Scotland, host of the Clayton's World Cup – the World Cup you're having when the main action is elsewhere.
Mention "sport" in the Scottish capital yesterday and most folk's thoughts turned to late, great rally driver Colin McRae, who perished with his five-year-old son in a helicopter accident at the weekend.
McRae, for whom the term "affable Scot" was invented, judging by the outpouring of grief and tributes from throughout the motor sport world, was one of Scotland's few world sporting champions. Thus his tragic death at 38 dominates the front pages and broadcasting bulletins.
Edinburgh is a city accustomed to tourists. Most people know the Rugby Thingamajig is on – or at least they know someone who read about it in the small print in the Edinburgh Evening News.
But the Tartan Army aren't exactly bracing themselves for an All Blacks invasion. Black-and-white-clad visitors with painted faces barely raise a ripple of interest in a town where men wear ginger wigs and dresses to Murrayfield.
Talk "footy" to a Scot, and they'll automatically assume you're referring to their local Edinburgh teams, Heart of Midlothian (Hearts) or Hibernian (Hibs). Hearts fans are still hailing their team's 4-2 win over Glasgow Rangers - its biggest victory in 70-plus years over the blue half of Scotland's Old Firm.
Ask someone if they watched the big match in France, they'll go "aye – what a braw goal by James McFadden".
The Scottish football team's 1-0 win over former World Cup and European champion France is still being dissected while Scotland's 56-10 Rugby World Cup romp over Portugal was being forgotten as soon as it had ended.
Murrayfield – capacity 67,000 – should be close to full for the All Blacks match, due in no small measure to the number of New Zealand rugby fans making their quadrennial World Cup pilgrimage, and the sizeable expatriate Kiwi community resident in Britain.
Rugby insiders here will be sweating over crowd sizes. Murrayfield had plenty of empty seats when the 1999 World Cup was pepper-potted around the British Isles. Respected rugby writer David Ferguson, confidently predicted in his blog on The Scotsman's website that things would be different this time. He believed the visit of Romania would attract 30,000 and the All Blacks would play before a capacity crowd.
Now we have no intention of perpetuating the cruel and unfair stereotype of Scots being reluctant to dip into their own sporrans lest they disturb any winged insects dwelling there.
But, if you were a Scots supporter, knowing your team had never beaten the All Blacks, would you be so keen to cough up between £38 ($NZ107) and £164 ($NZ463) for a ticket to Monday's match?
That's a lot of loot – especially if Scotland fields a B team to save key players for the must-win match against Italy which will determine the second quarter-final qualifier.
Far better to be at the Scotland-Romania match this morning for two glaring reasons: One: Scotland should win, and Two: seats range from £13 ($NZ36) to £43 ($NZ121).
The fact Scotland is hosting two World Cup matches at all is an anachronism based on the Scottish Rugby Union's support six years ago for France as host of the 2007 tournament.
Cardiff was also allocated three pool matches and a quarter-final, which some might say "fair dos" because the Welsh are rugby-daft and the central city Millennium Stadium is one of rugby's great venues.
However, there is an important principal at stake here. Co-hosting should never be allowed to happen again. Keep the World Cup contained in one country. It makes for a much more successful tournament.
World Cup fever is approaching epidemic status in France. It is merely a mild, isolated contagion here.
Tuesday, 18 September 2007
I’m sure you’ve been making regular use of the World Cup links on the right-hand side of the page, but I’ll give you a recap of the week’s sporting events in any case. The All Blacks predictably notched up a cricket score against the Portugeezers on Saturday night by crossing the tryline 16 times to chalk up the highest number of points at this tournament – 108-13; we did let ourselves down a bit though by conceding a try, but that was almost to be expected from letting our guard down against amateurs. We were actually on a bit of a hiding to none ourselves because we were damned if we scored 150 points and we were damned if we didn’t, i.e. “big scores make a farce of the World Cup” versus “the All Blacks can’t attain their own giddy heights”. It was mostly our B-side, however, and we had a prop and a no.8 filling in as locks by the end of the match. Los Lobos got their revenge afterwards with a 2-1 win in an impromptu game of football. Anyway, that game is out of the way now, and hopefully the Scots can put up some stiffer competition this coming weekend. I recommend you head on down to Zlata Hvezda to catch the action.
Rotten and tvc (and BA if he’s monitoring) will be happy to know that the American Eagles put up a creditable display against the English last week, going down by only 20 points. England then went on to be exquisitely humiliated at the weekend by the rampaging Boks. This was only to be expected, however, since the English had fielded an old has-been former league captain as their kicker and a 36-year-old centre whose career should have ended when Jonah Lomu ran over him in 1995. For some unfathomable reason pundits seem to think that the Boks now pose a real obstacle to the All Blacks lifting the Cup this time around. They seem to forget that world champions England are now in the second or even third division of world rugby, and that after they were thrashed earlier in the season by South Africa, New Zealand still went on to win the Tri-Nations by beating the Boks twice in a row. It’s actually the Aussies who remain our greatest nemesis, even without Stephen Larkham, and they should stop the Boks in the semi-finals before facing the All Blacks in the final. All clear?
Monday, 17 September 2007
Bylo to hodně nepříjemné
15. září 2007
PRAHA Vedle ragbistů předvádějí tanec haka i novozélandští softbalisté, mnohonásobní světoví šampioni. Před sedmi lety se na mistrovství světa potkala s jejich představením i česká reprezentace. „Radili nám, ať se jim nedíváme do očí,“ říká kapitán národního týmu Jan Přibyl (30).
* LN Neměli jste chuť utéct, když Novozélanďané tančili haka?
Jsou nepříjemní a hrozní. Když Maor vyplázne jazyk a vykulí bělmo, tak je pořádně drsnej. Ze začátku je to hezké, člověka to baví, pak převažuje divný pocit a po třicáté už to nudí. Na mistrovství světa to dělají při nástupu, ale při přátelském zápase stáli metr od nás - a to bylo hodně nepříjemné.
* LN Co jste dělali?
Je to jejich tradice, člověk jim na to nechce sahat. Hlavně jsme si říkali, abychom se nesmáli. Ale před třemi lety v zahajovacím zápase mistrovství světa proti nim předvedla Samoa „antihaka“. Novozélanďani byli dost překvapení.
* LN Nemá po takovém zážitku hráč potíže s koncentrací na utkání?
Ani ne. Na to je pak dost času. Jiná věc je, že ze zápasu proti Novému Zélandu má člověk respekt tak jako tak. Ale týmy se tím nenechají zastrašit. Hráči se naučí být vůči tomu imunní.
Friday, 14 September 2007
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Přijde chlap do baru, kde obsluhuje barman - robot. Natočí mu perfektní pivo a zeptá se ho, jaké má IQ. Chlápek odpoví, že někde kolem 150. Barman se s ním plynně začne bavit o kvantové fyzice, globálním oteplování, makroekonomice a tak podobně.
Chlap je z toho celý vedle, tak si říká, že ho vyzkouší. Jde domů, převlékne se a vrátí se do baru. Barman mu opět natočí perfektní pivo a ptá se na IQ. Chlápek řekne, že má kolem stovky. Robot s ním začne kecat o ženských, o fotbale, o autech...
Chlapovi se to hrozně líbí, tak jde zase domů, převlékne se a vrátí se do baru. Obdrží opět perfektní pivo a obvyklý dotaz. Tentokrát řekne robotovi, že má IQ 50. Na to se barman nakloní až k němu a pomalu, ale skutečně pomalu říká: "Poslyš, příteli, ale ten Paroubek je fakt dobrej, že jo?"
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
I perked up slightly when I received a missive from the missus explaining that she was on the verge of resigning her job. That was a cue for me to suggest that we do it in tandem and fuck off immediately to another country. Her exasperation wasn't as acute as I'd hoped however. Besides, the final assignment on agricultural sustainability is due in just a few weeks, so I may as well get it over and done with. I handed in my 'performance agreement' the other day, whose review coincidentally falls due on March 13, which is likely to be my last day. I know you guys think I'm barking mad for wanting to return to CZ, but believe me, you'd understand if you lived here. It's not that I'm completely enamoured with Cechy - I got over the romantic illusions a long time ago - it's just that it's not NZ, and given that I don't speak any other languages, the missus is Czech, I know people there and it's wonderfully centrally located, then it makes absolute perfect sense to be there. I could travel as much I wanted, within financial reason, without combusting kerosene in the troposphere, and I reckon I could live as close to 'off-grid' as I possibly could without forgoing all luxuries.
This is my latest little fantasy: ditch the flat in Zlicin and use the proceeds to purchase some 18th century forester's hut in Moravia and unleash my myriad DIY skills upon it. Preferably it would be on fertile soil where I could cultivate a vegetable patch, and have a few plum trees and/or grape vines for some mandatory homemade slivovice/vino. There would be a wonderful bucolic pub close by and a burcak festival held in the locality each year. I reckon if you could purchase the deed to such a house outright, then you'd need bugger all cash to survive thereafter. I could even do a Peter Mayle on the place, as nauseous as his stuff is, but someone's gonna do it sooner rather than later...Michael Palin's latest TV series apparently sings the praises of Moravia...As I say, just another fantasy.
Hey Rotten, I enjoyed your Rotten Log, but I reckon I can up you in the embarrassing vacuity stakes for youthful diary entries. I kept something myself from my first days in Czechoslovakia and it's exquisitely cringe-worthy. Will see what I can dredge up...
Monday, 10 September 2007
Russian classes in the morning, homework on the beach in the afternoon accompanied by beers or martinis a few of us would mix in plastic bottles on the beach and pass around. Sounds a little alky, but there really was no other way there. The Russian women (Odessa is a largely Russian-speaking city and region ) entertained endlessly with their taste for skimpy, blingy fashions. Here's a picture from the beach:
If you look really closely at the green bikini, you'll see the words say "Fruity & Juicy". Indeed.
Found some good restaurants too. For some funny English check out Steakhouse, http://www.steak.od.ua/ There are also pictures (more) of a tradition they have there of bikini-clad girls "washing" the plastic cow standing outside the restaurant on the city's main drag, Deribasovskaya ul. Sit on the verandah and you won't miss the show. Fridays we'd go to any number of pretentious clubs down by the beaches and just people watch and drink till dawn. Then hit the beach for a swim with the sun rising.
Kivak, you're jealous already, right? Personally it took me back a little to the Liberec years, I felt about 25 again.
Anyway, that's over (though I might go again next year) and now it's back to the fall grind.
I leave you with a sunrise over the Black Sea, taken after too many vodka tonics at the Itaka beach disco:
Thursday, 6 September 2007
As BA may recall, I was quite the little diarist during my time in Liberec. I took great joy in filling page after page of exercise books with my Deep Thoughts and Incise Observations. I was sure that one day I would turn to these journals and relish the wit and brio with which I had recorded the events of those momentous days.
Recently I went back and read them.
Oh. My. God.
After waiting the several hours it took for my armpits to stop smoking from embarrassment, I cowboyed up and undertook the distasteful work of picking through these callow, adolescent and generally fucked-up observations in order to cull at least a few scraps that might be of passing interest to my fellow Liberec veterans.
With your indulgence, I would like to post some excerpts. On or around the first of every month I intend to put up a few bits of vintage “Liberazzia” recorded in that month during those years. But this will not be an embarrassing “tell all”. I was far too chickenshit to record any of the really damaging stuff so no one needs to worry. Those seeking anything more than mild titillation will be disappointed.
When fellow Liberazzi are written about, I use their blogger nicknames to identify them. Other expats will go by the first letter of their first names. Czechs are identified by first name and maybe a second initial. I believe that the preponderance of Honzas, Martinas, Jiris, etc. in the general population will be protection enough for the privacy of the unwitting natives who were drawn into the events of this degenerate chronicle…
For the maiden month of September the notebooks (the “Rotten Logs”) are rather thin on entries. They paint September as a deadish time when the old hands were drifting back into town and the new folks were attempting to adjust to The Life. The only (just barely) excerpt-worthy entries I could find amid the pages ‘o crap were written in 1997, exactly ten years ago, my last September in Liberec. It’s fairly tame stuff, with the young Rotten apparently attempting to develop a completely original literary genre: Hangover Writing.
I would also like to thank Kivak for creating the motivation for me to go back through and copy elsewhere the few items that are of value in the Rotten Logs. It will allow me to finally burn them.
The Rotten Log for September:
“Yesterday was a fucking horror show. A fucking low point like I haven’t seen in a long time. I spent maybe forty-five minutes in the office, sitting in the Napmaster [the infamous sleep-inducing armchair that passed from generation to generation of Pedagogy Faculty teachers], staring at the wall, completely fucking out of it. A finally rousted me out so he could fuck around with my email account. He tried a bunch of shit with it but couldn’t find what he wanted, so I got on and tried to write email. What a fucking mess. A lot of three word sentences…all I can do is transmit indecipherable horseshit over the internet...Jet-lag, one no-sleep night, booze and a hangover have caught me by the balls…
“After I fouled the internet I wandered around town like some kind of handicap…I drank two espressos at the Hotel Praha in a feeble attempt to smooth out my brain…I ran into Dirt and then Bedrich and they didn’t have a hard time talking me into going for a few jars down at the Drug Garden. I was supposed to have a few with Jiri N. but after I got home and had dinner I just fucking crashed out. It was about seven o’clock…”
“Brutal fucker this morning. Grumpy and down for no reason. Quiet time alone with too many thoughts is not good. I didn’t feel back up to the battle until I listened to ‘Gimme Back My Bullets’ [Classic Lynyrd Skynyrd song] on the way to work. Last night Bedrich, Jiri N. and I busted down a few at the Menza pub. It’s hard to have a conversation about anything without bitching about something. T.U.L. is at the top of the list. Bedrich thinks one more year after this one is a possibility, but only under the most bastard circumstances. He’s super pessimistic about getting private [non-teaching] work. Jiri N. seems to think it wouldn’t be that big a deal, as long as it’s in Prague…
“The FNGs [Fucking New Guys] are just making me antsier to beat feet out of this motherfucker…B from across the hall informed me today that a ‘cleaning party’ is afoot for ‘one of these Saturdays while we’re all around anyway’. Hey pal, you got a problem with the condition of the third floor common room, clean the fucker…fucking gooney bird wants to wash the windows and all that shit. I don’t do windows. This isn’t helping my ‘Decrease the Mean-Ons and Malice’ program…”
“BA’s due back late tonight…Bedrich had the good (?) idea to waylay him at the bus station and force him into an immediate elbow-bending session…”
“Yesterday I rolled in at noon and got busted down a day’s wage for being so late. Fuckin fuck all that shit. Made me uptight. Deserved? Sure. But a symptom of the disease. I wouldn’t roll in here three hours late if I felt there was enough of importance to do to get me in at 9 bright ‘n early…”
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
...The day eventually came when the Turkish residency permit was ever so gratefully received and the tatty old backpack was finally stuffed of all the totally useless crap I used to cart around the world in those days. William and Fyodor has to be abandoned unfortunately, although I found replacements for them a few years down the track. I left a large bill at the school canteen, but I skipped the country without my last pay packet, so that should just about have covered it. I surely wasn't flavour of the month once my escape had been uncovered, but I haven't stepped back inside the country at any stage in the intervening 15 years. I'm sure the guards at the Iranian border crossing in Sero won't be overly concerned looking for repayment for a few kebabs from 1992 in any case.
To be continued...