Archived entries for Weekend

Towards my thousand-yard-stare

Apologies for the lack of entries of late, I’ve been doing a bit of travelling, most of the visits for the first time. Some photos, if you’re interested, can be seen in the picture gallery.
Of course, in an ideal world I’d be sitting here with a full-length beard, several battle scars from my daring encounters with the darker side of human nature and a glass of strong whisky to take the edge off the flashbacks. Alas, we can’t all be Indy, which I suppose is why my “scars” comes from a Gillette razor and I’m sipping a cup of mint tea. I can see it now: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Ginger Nuts.

I went to Slovenia, to an awards ceremony (European inventor of the year) in Ljubljana, the capital, where I interviewed a man who invented what he called “telepresence” surgery. The is essentially a robotic machine guided by a surgeon, with the robot arms capable of performing incredibly precise operations and even, to my amazement, able to cancel out tremors in the surgeons hands. I also spent a good 15 minutes trying to explain what a flapjack was to a poor shopkeeper who clearly didn’t have any, had probably never heard of them in his life.
“OK, so you get oats, and…oats, you know, like the farmer grows in his field. Farmer…the one who has the fields and the sheep and drives a combine harveste…do you know what? A Mars bar will be fine.”

I went to Ireland, for a wedding, which was held in this gorgeous castle near Warrenpoint. I’d never been to Ireland or Northern Ireland, so it was an extra treat to spend a day in Dublin and then take a bus over the border. Gorgeous country. We had to sleep in Dublin airport, though, which wasn’t too much fun, but hey, we saw the sun come up. Well, Zoe just sort of watched it sleepily but of course I had to take some photos. OK, in hindsight perhaps I didn’t to take quite so many arty shots of, er, the luggage trolleys bathed in golden orange or, um, the nicely lit airport stairs. Yes, OK, we were a tiny bit late (“Look, there it is! Check in…check in for Brussels, yep…is now closed.”) but it’s part of the adventure really, running for the plane. I could even hear the Indy theme tune as we sprinted past gate 5, looking for gate 42.

Then to Bath, to visit my brother, a BBQ (someone had a BBQ, I mean; I didn’t go and visit one) a chat with his friends, and a chance to relive students days. Long summer nights lazily cooking sausages and talking about the girls on the psychology course. Piles and piles of notes, textbooks with carefully constructed but essentially pointless bookmarks, look at all the colour highlighters I’ve got! That night last week, what were we drinking, was it two for one on lighter fluid? D’you remember, we all go so wasted we all ended up sharing a bin outside the police station, waiting for Spar to open.

Also to Oxford, more student days, a visit to my sister who’s finished her first year. Watching the posh students celebrate graduation or, in some cases, trying to absorb the shock of that truth (universally known) that it’s possible to have too much of a good time:
“I mean, yars, OK, vomiting onto old Perkins during class wasn’t the most frightfully clever thing, but I mean, come orn, they’ve gorn and shown a jolly good sense of humour failure with this “you are forthwith suspended” nonsense. Tell them they can’t, Father!”

Last night I was in Germany, a quick trip over the border to watch the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain. It was great fun (despite Germany losing to Spain) trying to order things in rusty Anglo-German (“Now vee vould like der bill, bitte”) and struggling to lift, let alone drink, huge tankards of Kolsch beer. For my first visit to the country it was certainly a memorable experience, watching a football final accompanied by the surround sound of loud Germanic chanting and the constant presence of those red, yellow and black flags.

Four new countries, three months, catching up with two siblings and recalling it all in one blog entry. Less Indy, more “Mint Tea”, but it’s still been a fast-paced few months.

Frites and Ferocity

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Maybe someone just got out of bed the wrong side that morning. On reflection, though, it was worth the verbal abuse for the unforgettable taste of those chips. I’d stood in the queue, in the freezing cold, for the best part of 25 minutes, this had to be something special. The woman being served in front of me was clearly at pains to stress the point that it was a paper cornet of chips she wanted, Monsieur, a cornet of chips, yes? Cor. Net. Of. Chips.
Well this was all too much for Monsieur Frites. He looked tired and emotional, in that I’ve-been-working-all-day-inside-this-tiny-Fritemobile way. He’d spent hours serving the hundreds of people out and about on this sunny weekend.

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Along comes this fussy customer with her demands, asking for a cornet as if it is she, not I, who knows more about chips. His pride was hurt. In short, he had every right to snap.”Yes, madam, I fully understood, the first time, that it was a cornet of chips you wanted! Alright?! Now who’s next? Who is next? Come on!” he yelled, sternly, from the Fritemobile.
It felt as if we were back in school uniforms and had just been caught by Monsieur (“Old Fritesy”) kicking a ball through his window. A silence fell upon the crowd. Everyone stared at the floor, terrified to move. Shoes were scuffed, appetites vanished. I was next in line. One word out of place and that bottle of mustard wouldn’t stay on the counter for much longer.
“I…just..if it’s no bother…a p-p-portion of chips, please, your Friteness. Nothing extra, honestly, that’s all, sir. Thanks.”
Damn, they were good chips. No, really, I’m not just saying that. If you’re in Brussels, go to Place Flagey and try them yourself. Just remember your manners.



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