Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Weather report

The weather is glorious. Yesterday the weather was glorious. The weather is glorious every day. I am in weather heaven. It is hot and dry.

We have just finished a delicious lunch. After a little nap we will have a dip in the pool to cool off, and then it will probably be time for a little something.

This morning I booked my Paris hotel, and later will pop into town to buy the train ticket from here to there.

Tomorrow... Paris!

(Or is it the next day? I'm not sure what day it is.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

France, cont.

Retract that

My second train journey in France shattered all the expectations I'd built up based on the first one. Not only were the trains clean, there were smoking cars. For the last part of my journey I travelled first class, which was even nicer. The seats were wider, there was coffee available, and the toilets were more sophisticated, by which I mean they didn't run out of toilet paper and had a mirror with alarmingly bright lights around it, presumably so that first class passengers could be reminded to put on their makeup and pluck their eyebrows.

I am now in, er, somewhere near Angouleme, staying with another friend, and today attended a birthday party which has left me feeling ready for a nap. French birthday parties involve a lot of food, laughter, and alcohol.

Where are they?

I am still hunting for the rude French people I was warned about. The other day, the first time I crossed a road in France, I got to the crossing and prepared to wait, as you have to in Japan. A car whizzed towards me and screeched to a halt. I hestitated, then crossed, half expecting the car to then rev up and run me over. It didn't. This has happened every time I cross the road here, as it did in Germany, and indeed everywhere else in Europe I've visited so far.

Yesterday when I got on the bus that was taking me to the train station, I found I couldn't put my large bag in the luggage compartment because the luggage compartment was full of bicycles. I lugged the bag onto the bus instead, and as I got on a man jumped up from his seat and started shouting at me. Is this a rude Frenchman? I thought, and stared at him. Some women in the front seats started laughing. Are thse rude Frenchwomen?

The man continued to shout and gesticulate. (Frenchmen are into gesticulating in a big way.)

"Er..." I said, backing off slightly, and the man said, in English,

"Your bag. Let me 'elp you."

He took the bag and lugged it to the middle of the bus, next to the exit door.

"Blah blah blah blah," he said, in French, pointing at the door, and I gathered he had told me that it would be easier for me to get it off the bus from there. I felt ashamed for doubting him, and thanked him.

"Danke!" I said. "Er, I mean merci! Arigato! Dekuji! Thank you!"

The women folded up with laughter, and the man smiled confusedly.

"Don't mention it," he said, but it was too late.

Driving in France

Earlier my friend drove me to various places in a hired car, as her car had broken down shortly before I arrived. This is the same friend I originally met in London and travelled with afterwards. She has a house in France, and that is where I was staying until yesterday morning.

She was not used to the hired car, and nor had she quite adjusted to driving on the wrong (i.e. right) side of the road. As we set off to see a big hole in the ground, she said to me, "Tell me if I drift to the wrong side of the road, won't you?"

"Which is the wrong side, again?" I asked. "I don't think this is going to work."

About half an hour later I said,

"I think you can probably change out of second gear, now."

The big hole in the ground was spectacular. I will post pictures when I am back in Japan and on my own computer. (I will post LOTS of pictures.)


On my first day at my friend's place we walked to the local village. As we were walking along the country lane a jogger passed us. Was he really French? I wondered. French people aren't supposed to jog! They're supposed to sit around in cafes all day, chain smoking and talking about philosophical matters in a funny accent. They should SCOFF at jogging.

Maybe the rude, philosophical French people all live in the cities. I haven't met any yet, but perhaps I will when I get to Paris. I have not given up.


The weather is perfect. Hot and dry in the daytime, cool at night. I am in weather heaven.

Friday, August 26, 2005

France: Part I


I know you have all been holding your breaths waiting to hear about France. You may now breathe out. I am going to tell you EVERYTHING.

I travelled from Karlsruhe to Nimes by train. By trains, actually. I think there were four. The first one went from Karlsruhe to Strasbourg, at which point I had an hour in which to change platforms. Finding this more than adequate, I left my luggage at the left luggage office and set out to find someone to be rude to me, in order to convince myself that I was indeed in a different country. I took notes. Here are my notes, slightly coffee-stained.

* Station huge. Left luggage office people claim not to understand English, but do.

* No noticeable smells.

* Construction work happening all around station. Inconvenient and noisy. Mustn't go far.

* Sit on park bench. Large elderly woman with small dog sits beside me, and sighs. Does not respond to my polite, "Bonjour." Is this a rude Frenchwoman, or are the nearby jackhammers rendering her deaf?

* A young man walks past shouting to himself and gesticulating wildly. Is this a rude Frenchman? Then I notice the headset. He is talking on the phone, which frees up his hands for the necessary gesticulating. As he passes I notice that the label on his t-shirt is sticking out. Is this French chic? I've heard all about French chic, and it worries me. Perhaps I can stop worrying.

*I start to worry about missing my train, and wander back around the construction work and find the entrance to the station again. I retrieve my luggage. The guys in the office are suspiciously polite to me, and I wonder if they are really French.

*The train arrives, and I get on. The smell is AWFUL. It is a French train! It's amazing. I have now travelled on trains in England, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany, and this is the first dirty train I have been on. It is also non-smoking, unlike the others (except England). Is there a connection, I wonder? Do they think that since they're non-smoking they don't need to be cleaned?

I am disappointed, because I cannot take photos out the windows. I can barely SEE through the windows.

The next three trains are just as bad. I notice that people smoke between the carriages, ignoring the no-smoking signs. This is a relief. I could not bear it if they all followed the rules. It would shatter too many of my stereotypes of French people.

*The train conductors are fantastically friendly. Is it a trick?


Nimes is beautiful, aside from the area directly around the train station. Walk five minutes and you are right next to an arena built 2000 years ago, which is STILL USED. For bullfighting, I notice.

Hold on, which country am I in again?


I am staying now in the wilds of the Languedoc in a lovely old stone cottage, and using a dialup connection. We are in the stone age! My hosts are fantastically friendly. (This could be because they are English.) Today we visited a mind-bogglingly big hole in the ground, negotiated a large number of hairpin bends (one of which required a three-point turn), paddled in an icy river, took a million photos, and got briefly but excitingly lost. People have been friendly to me for four days now, and I remain suspicious.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sundays in Germany

On Sundays in Germany, if it's raining, absolutely nothing happens. Everything is closed and there is nothing to do. I wanted to hunt socks, but couldn't.

I went to the Media Arts Museum instead. Perhaps it has a slightly different name, but I've forgotten what it is. I saw three, or was it four? exhibitions, and was supposed to be greatly impressed because this is the largest and most famous Media Arts museum in the world. I was impressed, but didn't enjoy it as much as I should have because I discovered that being around great numbers of monitors all switched on gives me back the headache I thought I'd got rid of. After the head injury I couldn't watch TV for a few years, because it brought on dizziness and pain. Now I can watch TV, but apparently several hundred monitors in one building are a bit too much for me.

I hunted socks yesterday, but not as successfully as I would have liked. I wanted to get socks for The Man, who has freakishly large feet. Men in Germany ALL have freakishly large feet. However, I could not find very much to choose from, at first, until I realized that they are found in department stores next to the luggage section. Who would have thought it? I had been looking in the underwear section. Once I found they were not in the underwear section I felt a little silly to have spent so much time wandering around the underwear section of department stores, feeling puzzled and annoyed.

This made me think about the various ways department stores in different countries are laid out. They are often different in subtle ways that might seem perfectly logical to the people who live there but are weirdly wrong to visitors. Usually there is nothing wrong with the different way of doing things. It is just different.

(I will never understand, however, the way pet food is sold in electrical stores in Japan. That's not just illogical, it's silly. Who in their right mind would think of going to an electrical store to buy pet food?)

I did get some socks, but not as many as I'd wanted to. The Man has exacting requirements, and the ones I found were mostly just not good enough for him.

Tomorrow: FRANCE

(And yes, Cheryl, I know I'm doing all this the wrong way around. I'll explain why sometime, if I can remember myself. There was a good reason, that went beyond geographic incompetence.) (At least I think there was.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Germany, still


Yesterday I took a bus from Baden-Baden station to the city centre. A woman got onto the bus with nine (NINE!) children. All were perfecty behaved. Three little girls went to the back of the bus, where they sat and teased each other. One boy, about eight or nine, carried his little brother to the seat beside me and heaved him up. The wee boy relaxed into the seat and sighed, then became perfectly still and contemplative. His older brother took a seat opposite.

After a while I remembered my manners and offered to swap seats so they could sit together. The older boy thanked me politely, and as we were changing places I noticed that he had a cigarette tucked behind his ear. It went with his image, really. He was a very mature little boy.

The mother stood by the door with a pram with two babies in it and two more children. I'm SURE they couldn't have all been hers, could they? I mean, the oldest was only about twelve. But the girls at the back all called her 'Mama'...

When they got off, I noticed that the little girls also had cigarettes. One of them had hers sticking out of her mouth. That was when I realized that the cigarettes were sweets, not the real thing. I haven't seen those for a VERY long time. I thought those sweets had disappeared when all the anti-smoking hysteria took off.

Germany is very relaxed about smoking. It's no big deal. I hadn't expected that, and it is very comfortable. It goes with the friendly, tolerant feeling I have noticed, at least here in this relatively small city.


In Baden-Baden I got off the bus and wandered around trying to get my bearings. It didn't seem like a very big town, and I found a sign pointing to the tourist information office. Following the signs through a rather beautiful park, I came across a very large chess game in process, and got distracted for... oh, an hour, I suppose. I didn't mean to spend so much time, but I haven't played chess for a very long time and it took me a while to catch up. The game was between a old man and a young man, and the old man was winning, and was being rather smug about it. Watching the spectators was almost as fun as watching the game.

The only reason I didn't stay to the end of the game was that I needed to pee. (Peeing in foreign countries is often problematic, I've found, but so far I am happy to report that peeing in Germany has been congenial.)

Tourist Information

They were helpful at Tourist Information, and provided me with a map. The map wasn't a good one, but it was good enough and had a lot of information in it. It just didn't have all the streets, being one of those maps that have pictures and look pretty. It did help me to orient myself, though.

There was a toilet in the building. That was a relief.


By now I was hungry, but decided to see the sights a little before stopping to eat. At a bookstore I found a little tourist book about Baden-Baden to supplement the map, and walking in the cobbled old streets my resolve to sightsee was quickly shattered by a cafe selling crepes. I sat down to eat. (Mushroom & cream crepes.) While I was eating I spread out the map and studied it. I asked the waiter to tell me where I was.


I was about 20 meters from a famous bathing establishment where, my guidebook informed me, swimsuits were not permitted. That sounded ideal to me since I hadn't brought a swimsuit with me. Also, The Man had told me in an email that if I was in Baden-Baden I should have a bath. That is what it is famous for.

After I finished eating I walked up the road to the bathing establishment and picked up a pamphlet. I could, the pamphlet informed me, have just the bath, or I could go the whole hog and have a brush and soap massage as well. Why not? I thought, and bought a ticket. Then I noticed that it would take three and a half hours. Whoops! There goes my sight-seeing, I thought, and went for it anyway. After all, what better way to see Baden-Baden than from the inside of one of the bathing establishments for which it is famous?

It was lovely. It was a 16-step bathing course, starting with a shower, moving on to dry saunas, hot baths, wet saunas, variously heated pools, and the massage (not as good as The Man's) and ending with a cold plunge (eek!) and then being wrapped in warm towels to sit and relax as you dried. At most of the stages men and women were separated, but then you got to the big middle pool and there it was mixed. I got there, and it was, in fact, empty. (I still haven't decided whether that was a relief or a disappointment.) At the end you got to smother yourself in lotion and were taken to a quiet room to rest.

This half hour rest period at the end was wonderful. A beautiful young woman led me into the room, which was large and circular with big arched windows and a bed under each window pointing in towards the middle. The curtains were drawn. The young woman spread a huge sheet over a bed, patted it, and I lay down. She folded the sheet around me, then folded a blanket over me as well. I lay in the stillness and drifted off, thinking that the seven or so women lying wrapped up in the room looked like presents waiting to be opened.

I drifted off.

When I finally emerged from the bathing establishment I could not believe that three and a half hours had passed, but they had. I was weak with relaxation, and the rest of my wanderings were severely curtailed by the lack of will to do anything. I walked for a while, very, very slowly, feeling limp, and finally decided that perhaps it was time to sit down again. Let everybody else do the walking, I thought. I'll just sit down and watch.

I thought I might be able to overcome my lethargy if I had an espresso, so sat down at a sidewalk cafe, which I then discovered sold icecream. The espresso never did happen.


On the bus back to the station, three highly scented Frenchmen sat near me and looked me up and down rather more frankly than I am used to. Are they all like that? I wondered.

I will find out, soon. France is next. I'm not sure exactly when. Maybe Sunday.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



People say the Japanese are polite. Compared to Germans, however, they are barbarians. On trains, buses and trams here, people automatically stand up for older people. This is ROUTINE. Nobody thinks anything of it.

It almost never happens in Japan, and if it does it's a big deal, with the old person feeling obliged to refuse, then thank extravagantly.

Dilemma (Or is it conundrum?)

Yesterday on a bus I watched a mother with her two small boys. One boy was standing (and behaving perfectly - he stood up for an old woman without his mother telling him to) and the other was in a pushchair. The one in the pushchair had a pacifier in his mouth.

The older boy asked for something to eat, and his mother gave him a piece of a bagel. She gave a piece to the baby as well, who took it appreciatively. But he had a pacifier in his mouth, which presented him with a wee problem. He tried putting the bagel in his nose, but found that unsatisfactory. He gazed at the bagel with a frown on his face for a moment, and then his face lit up as he figured it out. He spat out the pacifier and inserted the bagel.

Problem solved. German babies are clever.

How to make a person feel at home

I just had breakfast at a cafe, where, when I asked the waitress to help me with the menu, she spoke to me in PERFECT ENGLISH. I asked her if she had been to New Zealand and Australia, and she said,

"Yup. I spint some time in New Zild and Ostrailya when I was travelling."


When I want to find out if someone speaks English, I say, "Hello," when I greet them, as well as the local greeting, whatever it is. This does not work in Germany. When I say, "Hello," people smile and say "Hello," back, and then speak to me in German. EVERYONE says "Hello." This is not convenient. I have to think of another way of signalling my linguistic incompetence.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Prague station toilet

At Prague train station I left my friend watching my bag as I went off to find a toilet. After some extensive wandering I found one, and entered cautiously.

Inside, there was a table and chair where it seemed clear that I was supposed to pay. I looked around for somebody to pay, but the only person I could see was a fat woman banging on a toilet cubicle door and shouting angrily. I waited. Whoever was in there shouted back. Eventually the fat lady moved to another cubicle and opened it, peering in. Apparently satisfied, she closed the door again, turned, and saw me. She barked something and held out her hand.

I handed over some coins. She gestured me to wait, and I thought (but wasn't sure) that she also gestured at the gigantic roll of toilet paper hanging on the wall. Or... was it toilet paper? Maybe that was paper for drying your hands? I wasn't sure, and since she wasn't watching me anymore I quickly grabbed some and crumpled it up in my hand.

She went back to banging on the first cubicle door. While she was doing this a girl of about nine or ten sauntered casually out of the cubicle she had opened earlier. Then the door the fat lady was banging on opened, and a very thin, scruffy-looking teenager came out, yelling indignantly. She had multiple piercings, dirty hair, and bad skin.

The fat lady and the teenager hurled insults at each other for a while, waving their arms furiously. I shrunk back against the wall. The teenager left, and the fat lady opened the cubicle the nine-year-old had come out of, inspected it carefully, and waved me in.

I entered, somewhat tentatively. There was no lock on the door. Nor was there any toilet paper, so I uncrumpled the tightly wadded up paper in my hand.

I did my business as fast as possible, praying that the fat lady was not going to burst in on me. She didn't, but as I left the cubicle, she pushed past me into the cubicle, brandishing a mop.

I briefly considered being insulted, but instead decided to be grateful she had waited until I had finished.

I left, chastened.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Prague... Germany...

I'm a little behind. There are some notes in my notebook that don't make sense any more, but others do. Here are some of the ones that do.

Sparkling water

My travelling companion likes sparkling water, and I like plain. The sparkling water is much more exciting, I must admit. Every time she opens one there is a great explosion and she sprays everybody around her with water.

(Well, maybe not every time, but often.)

On the train from ... er ... somewhere to somewhere else, an Italian man popped his desperate face into our compartment.

"Where is this train going?" he asked breathlessly. "When is the next stop?"

I looked at the timetable.

"Next stop is at ... ten past nine," I said. "I mean ..."

He flung his arms into the air. "OH GOD! STOP THE TRAIN!" he cried.

"I mean ... nine past ten. NO!" I said. "NINE PAST FIVE!"

I don't think I'd had enough sleep that night.


If two of you are sharing a six seat compartment on a train, and you don't want anybody else to join you, make sure you are laughing when people pass your compartment looking for somewhere to sit. It puts them off, and if there is somewhere else, they will take it.

My friend made this easy for me. When the train stopped and people got on, I said to her,

"I think it's time to start laughing again."

She did, and noone joined us. It is very convenient to have a travelling companion who laughs on cue.

Train stations

In eastern Europe, do not judge a country by its train stations. The train stations in Budapest, Bratislava, and Prague were awful, mostly because of their staff, who are rude and unhelpful (possibly because they are overworked). The stations themselves are confusing.

I will blog about the toilet in Prague train station soon, but not tonight. I am too tired. The short version, however, is this: If you need to pee while you are at Prague train station, do your best to hold on until you get to wherever you are going. Wetting your pants might be a viable option.

The train stations are no indication of what you will encounter once you leave them, however. Do not be discouraged.



Our first German waiter was a hunk.

The two we've had since have been middle aged women. Further research is required.

Old friends

It is lovely to meet up with old friends.

More soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005



We arrived in Bratislava on a hovercraft, from Budapest. Only five or six people of the hundred or so on board got off at Bratislava. The rest were going on to Vienna. WE MADE A GOOD CHOICE. Bratislava is not full of tourists. There are quite a few, but not like Budapest, and certainly not as many as there must be in Vienna.


There is a lock on the river Danube. I did not know that. Is there a mountain I somehow missed? A dam? Anyone care to explain?


People in Bratislava are not as automatically helpful as they are in Budapest. Also, there is a weirdly layered feeling to the city, which is lacking in Budapest. Bratislava feels recently freed, and the older people don't quite believe it. The younger ones are running around trying to catch up with their European counterparts, and the older ones are deeply mistrustful, or at least stoic. They have seen too much, or something.

I am FASCINATED by faces in Bratislava, in a way I was not in Budapest. I have been taking photos like mad - of buildings in the old town, of course, but mostly of people. The people here are compelling. From some of them you get the impression they have been underground for a long time, and have just emerged, blinking and suspicious. Others are blooming in the sun.

My friend observed that many of the men looked like as soon as work ended they would be heading off to secret radical meetings.


There are colourful cows all over Bratislava. I took pictures of them.


When we took the tram we passed a restaurant that had a board outside reading, "Gordon Blue."


The first place we went to (after the bank, where there was a beautiful young man to help us change our money) was the train station. There we were treated like rubbish. The contrast (once I got over being given the runaround) was delightful.

Bratislava is not easy in the way most western cities are. You need patience. It is extremely rewarding, though. When you see the photos (whenever that is) you will understand why.


I am taking ZILLIONS of photos. I MUST BACK UP ONTO CD.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Sushi in Budapest


Budapest in August is full. At the airport informatzion desk we started bz asking about the place we had originallz wanted, then moved down the price list until we found one that had rooms available. This means that we are now stazing at the cheapest place in Budapest, a zouth hostel. It is prettz rough, but clean. It is also incrediblz noisz as the zouth stazing there are apparentlz into partzing all night.


I have found the y. Why did they move it?


I cannot find the triangle bracket thingies, therefore I cannot make bold, italic, or anzthing else exciting. (Bugger. That Y again.)


To make up for staying in an incredibly noisy hostel with a frightening lift, we are eating very well. The first night we ate goulash. It was very late and we went for a walk, and discovered we are staying in the seedy end of town. Just past a szex shop we spotted a cafe that appeared to be closed. We were examining the window and trying to decide whether it was in fact a cafe or a fitness club when a waiter dashed out, grabbed us, and ushered us into a tatty-but-splendid restaurant. With a door in it leading to the fitness club.

We ate VERY WELL there. Our waiter, we noticed, was rather beautiful. He was also ever so slightly sarcastic about our menu choices. Well, how were we to know what they meant by 'garnish'? Blame the menu translator.


As we were leaving a man and a woman passed us on the sidewalk, laughing. My friend turned to me and said,

"Did you see what I just saw?"

And I said,

"Was that a tit?"

It was, indeed, a tit, taking the evening air.


Waiters and men who work in shops and restaurants are gorgeous. Some of them even have dimples. I wonder if it is a requirement for these kinds of jobs? Men on the street, generally, are not so fabulously sexy, but perhaps that's because the ones on the street are all German tourists.

(That last sentence was inserted especially to annoy The Man.)


The escalators in Budapest move terrifically fast. I am more used to sedate Japanese escalators, and was rather nervous at first. I am not nervous now, though. I LOVE zooming up and down the fast escalators, and if there was a fast-forward button I would make them move even faster.


Budapest is covered in graffiti. Did I mention that already? It is worth mentioning again.


There is a fair number of gargoyles, too.


Budapestians cannot count. When we were loooking for our hostel room, number 725, we counted along the corridor: 740, 739, 738, 737, 725. We skidded to a halt.


We missed the baths because they closed earlier than we realised. WE MISSED THE BATHS. My friend is very disappointed about this, and suggested that we get up at 5am tomorrow in order to walk WITH OUR LUGGAGE to the whatsit hotel where some baths are, and have a bath before rushing down to the river to check in for the boat at 7am.

She also wanted us to go to a jazz club tonight. She suggested this at nine, after we had walked all around town and up to the Citadel and down again, and were relaxing with a drink in the hotel at the bottom of the hill. (The hotel was the one with the closed baths.)

I think it was our first disagreement of the trip.

"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?" I shouted, my legs still vibrating from the climb down the hill. "IF YOU WANT TO DO THAT, YOU CAN DO IT ALONE."

Then I felt old and boring.


Sushi and coffee do not go together. No wonder the guy at this internet cafe didn't like the sushi someone gave him. He gave it to us. My friend told him arigato, and asked if he had any green tea. He stared at us as if we were mad.

We're having it with coffee, and it is not the best combination.


Bratislava. By boat.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

London, part III

More Obligatory Weather

Sitting outside a cafe drinking coffee, the sun came out. I found my sunglasses, paid, and left. Passed a small bookshop. Went in. Looked at two books, realized this could be a big mistake, forced myself to put them down and leave. Outside it was pissing down. Stopped in doorway to put away sunglasses and fish out umbrella. Opened umbrella, walked ten paces, sun came out.

Shouted at sky.

Covent Gardens

Sitting in a cafe at Covent Gardens the man at the next table was talking on his phone. He was swearing colourfully about a bad writeup of a theatre production. He was using very, very bad language, but in a fantastically posh accent. This made me want to laugh, but I didn't, because he was quite scary.

Not lost

I took a train to Egham yesterday afternoon after a speedwalk along the Thames (which I will write about some other time). Met some friends, only one of whom I'd met before. She is from my home town in NZ. We had a lovely time. I came back to Waterloo, took the tube - for the first time - and walked from Euston Station back to the flat where we're staying WITHOUT GETTING LOST. Well, I got a little bit lost when I'd just come out of the station, because I walked in the opposite direction I was supposed to be going in, but once that minor problem was sorted I got back to the flat WITHOUT GETTING LOST.

I am an old London hand. I know my way around. Ha.


As we walked here today we saw a squirrel. I have never seen a squirrel before. I took several pictures. It was mecha kawaii.

Camden Market

This is where I'm off to today. And then to meet another friend.


Tomorrow we are flying to Budapest. Budapest! Why am we going there, I wonder? I don't remember deciding this one, so I guess it must have been my friend's idea. I just go along with things.

Two days after that

Two days after Budapest we are taking a hovercraft down the Danube (or is it up?) and going to a city with a name that sounds like a curse. Bratisomething. Then Prague, and then on to Germany.


Must dash. My hour's up.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

London, part II

I like London. I'm walking all over the place, although I see from my map that quite a lot of my walking has been in circles and I haven't really seen very much. This is not the fault of London, however.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden has some fun free entertainment, and I bought a present for The Man. I cannot even HINT at what it is, because I suspect he is reading this, but I think he will like it. It certainly gave me a bit of a surprise.


This particular Internet cafe has a lot of paintings on the walls, which include, I've just noticed, a lot of nipples. When I stopped to think I stared into the middle distance and discovered that I was looking nipples in the eye. (So to speak.) It was a little disconcerting.

Obligatory weather report

Visitors to England have to comment on the weather. It is a requirement. I am happy to report that while there has been some rain, it was only at night and did not disrupt my extensive walking. It has been fine and sunny, if a little chilly at times. The natives don't seem to notice the chill, and walk around bravely attired in skimpy tops and low cut jeans, showing off their muffins. (Well, the females do. The males keep their muffins under wraps.) I have layers of clothes that come off and go on again depending on whether the sun has gone behind a cloud, and have to admit I am greatly enjoying not having to change sweaty clothes three times a day.


I greatly admire London's extensive collection of chimneys, and have taken some photographs.

Going places

I am going somewhere on Friday, to meet some people, including a woman I haven't seen since she was about seven. I can't remember where we are meeting, however. I will let you know when it comes back to me. I'm pretty sure I wrote it down somewhere. It's about an hour from here, I think, although if I do my circling thing it could turn out to be longer.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005



Moving house
Things have been hectic. I arrived in London two days ago, and so far have moved house twice.

Electric blankets
Apparently the airlines give specially selected passengers electric blankets. Mine was electric, anyway. When I tried to take it out of its plastic wrapping it crackled fiercely at me and then gave me a jolt. I waited until a flight attendant was passing and asked her to take it out for me. She didn't understand, so I explained.

"It gives me a shock," I said.

She looked blank, so I held the blanket out to her, and moved my hand over it. It crackled. She took it and opened it. It didn't crackle. The man sitting beside me laughed.

The problem after that was that every time I moved, the blanket crackled, and when I wanted to get up I had to peel the blanket off me. It was attached to me. It actually SPARKED. I had to ask the guy sitting next to me to remove it, because it made me jump and shriek with the little shocks it gave me. He thought this was hilarious, but I didn't. I warned him that I would self-combust shortly, and would that be funny? Eh? Eh?

He thought it would be very funny indeed.

Where are my trousers?

Yesterday my friend was looking for some trousers she'd bought in Bali. She couldn't find them.

"Did I leave them in Japan?" she wondered. "Or in Bali? No, wait, I'm sure I packed them..."

Later, we wanted to take a bus to her daughter's place, but I didn't have correct change for a bus ticket. You have to have correct change. I needed one pound twenty pence, but between us we could only dredge up 15p. So we went to a pub and had a drink, in order to get some change. The wine was awful, and very expensive.

Sitting in the pub, my friend sat looking glum and thoughtful.

"Can I take a picture of you?" I asked.

"Why?" she snapped.

"Because it's too good a caption to pass up," I replied. "You look like The Thinker in a bad mood, and underneath the picture I can put, SHE WONDERS WHICH COUNTRY SHE LEFT HER TROUSERS IN."

I didn't take the picture. She cheered up. Later, she found her trousers.

All is well in the world.