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Toulouse, Haute-Garonne, France
Living alone is the key to inner happiness...Isn't it?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Interrail Experiences and Travel Guide for the Unprepared

In the last three weeks, my research for this blog has taken me to four countries and nine cities in Central and Northern Europe. I traveled with an old friend and PIC, who shall remain nameless for the sake of any court cases that come up against us in the future, given the un-PC way this blog is written. Therefore, he is AKA'd as Tiger. Also, this whole thing was actually a holiday, not research. However it can now appear as such as I provide you with a totally fair, accurate and unbiased account of said cities, so you can go and explore them for yourselves (not Frankfurt though, it's rubbish).


Food / Drink : 7
Prettiness : 7
Atmosphere : 9
Accommodation : 6
Transport : 4

Not bad. But not good. Like purgatory. Lots of nice canals, but waaay too many bikes. Bikes everywhere. All up in your grill. The reason why transport is so poor in fact. There are trams, but they can't move - because of the bikes. So you go on foot, but you can't move - because of the bikes. The buildings were ok, although mostly brown brick, which is the same colour as the really ugly Tescos in Newport Retail Park. The food was pretty standard, although they put watermelon in the salad. WHY?! So after you've arrived late, been run over, nearly got killed by terrorists and poisoned by mal-positioned fruits, you get diseased in the red light district, merely by walking through it. This is not a comment against the (actually sanitary) girls who work there, but rather against the hygene and social lifestyles of the punters who frequent it. Most of whom are from Essex. Burned.

Most of the bikes aren't even locked up. Trustworthy, these Amsterdam folk...


Food / Drink : 7
Prettiness : 9
Atmosphere : 9
Accommodation : 7
Transport : 4

"Where is Antwerp?" I hear you ask. Don't worry, you're not geographically retarded - it's in Belgium. I don't know why everyone mocks Belgium. Actually, it's probably because of their funny cars and dated agicultural practices. However Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, is lovely. Often thought of as a smelly little brother to France, Belgium is clean, ordered, respectable and fun. We stayed in a hostel that was so early on in its renovation that there was sand on the floor. We were told by Mike, the effervescent Irish drunk who owned it, that this was partly to do with trying to 'make it look like summer', but mostly because there were 'stains all over the real floor'. The bar downstairs was a riot though, and there was a cracking massive cathedral in the main square. And not a bike in sight. The metro is unusable however. After three days we were still not sure how many lines there were, or if indeed they were any lines. The map looked like it had been envisaged by Stevie Wonder directing to a freehand Stephen Hawking and there were never any ticket offices at which to ask. It didn't matter though, after Amsterdam we were just glad to be able to use our feet again. Also, in a bakery, we found a cinnamon whirl that was bigger than my face. Om nom nom.

It's probably the first ever pastry I've not finished.


Food / Drink : 8
Prettiness : 6
Atmosphere : 10
Accommodation : 10
Transport : 8

What a success! Hamburg was immense. Party town, friendly people. No Belgians selling you chips and chocolate, which never go well together. The Reeperbahn, a.k.a die sündige Meile (the sinful mile) was especially vivante, given its position as the 'unofficial' red light district of the city. Lots of cool bars, relatively cheap, and decent food. Since we were in Germany, it was basically bratwurst. Nice though. It rained most of the time we were there, but that just added to the North German Port feel to it. Architecturally speaking it was decent, with some more impressive religious buildings. It was at this point that Tiger and I considered getting t-shirts made with the slogan 'Cathedrals and Prostitutes tour 2010'. We didn't though, because, well, we don't think it'd be accurate. We only went in two cathedrals...

Right where we wanted our holiday to go.


Food / Drink : 8
Prettiness : 6
Atmosphere : 10
Accommodation : 8
Transport : 10

Of course its 10 for transport. Berlin is the home of so-called German Efficiency. Not so-called actually, it's true. And a good thing it is too! I'd go there again just to ride the S-bahn. Britain could learn a thing or to from our germanic cousins in this field. They may have ravaged Europe on two occasions in the last century but at least their busses run on time. And their metros and trams. Great atmosphere here too, lots going on. Arts and Banter. The most important A-to-B in modern life. The history of the city is fascinating (stop yawning, it is), mostly because it's still very much a history of living memory. You can still see the massive divide the Wall caused between the old East and West sides of the city, and its effects both on the image and the feelings to the two areas. And you can get a pint for 2 euros. Cracking.

Bratwurst am byth even. Why the hell not it's in every other language!


Food / Drink : 5
Prettiness : 6
Atmosphere : 8
Accommmodation : 7
Transport : 6

The best thing about this stage of the trip was the Segway tour. A city tour, on Segways. Drool. However, I have given Prauge a 5 for its food and drink, because its bars and restaurants are full of THIEVES. It is now such a tourist trap that you cannot go out anywhere to eat without getting fleeced for everything you order. And some things you don't. We got charged extras for;
  • The giant pretzels that were already on every table
  • The 'complimentary' bread
  • The garlic sauce that came with the bread
  • The kitchen service (food wasn't that good)
  • The bar service (there's a bar?!)
  • 20% v.a.t. 
After a prolonged argument with the badly attired - and frankly rude - waiter, we ended up having to pay somewhere in the region of 400 czech crowns (16 euros) over what we owed. Each. Here is my advice: Don't go to Prague. It's not cheap, not overly pretty, and on the whole, the people are all c*nts. Good Segways though.

Catch me now, Mr rip-off restauranteur!


Food / Drink : 10
Prettiness : 9
Atmosphere : 9
Accommodation : 9
Transport :10

Basically, beer and Nazis. Classic combination. After the horror of Prague, it was great to be back in friendly, safe Germany. Although the Bavarian people have a somewhat unique way of showing it, they are extremely amicable, especially towards tourists, and we had loads of fun. It's a really interesting city (its history is fascinating, yet tainted by the birth of National Socialism), and grrreeaaaatt beers. They rivaled the Belgian ones. In the Hofbräuhaus you can buy litre glasses of the stuff, and swing them merrily in time to the Oompa band blasting its way through every bavarian marching/drinking song they know*. For 3 hours. Also, our tour guide alerted us to the local Bavarian tradition of stealing May Poles. Back in the day, if one town managed to nick the May Pole from a local rival, that town has to throw them a party to get it back! It still happens today, and that, for us, was the definition of banter. Rock on Munich!

*Amongst which are classic hits such as We March Whilst We Drink, and We Drink Whilst We March.

Anyone got a hacksaw then?


Food / Drink : 7
Prettiness : 4
Atmosphere : 6
Accommodation : 3
Transport : 7

What we didn't realise before booking a hostel in Frankfurt, was that there is nothing there. Actually, this isn't strictly true. It would be more accurate to say there's nothing there except banks. Our hostel was awful (two showers between 40 people), and the city grey and drab. But we were only there for one night, so we went for a look around. It was actually more of a butchers, because we had bratwurst (Aha). Luckily for us thrill-seekers, we found a cracking festival down on the river. Not sure what it was all about really, but there was food, drink and music and we had a royal time. Excellent German beers notwithstanding, these guys don't half make some weird drinks. One of these was a particularly piquante (to put it politely) wine made from apples. 'That's cider!' I hear you say. No no, this is wine. And it is d-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g. Otherwise though, we stayed one night, sampled the interesting frankfurter atmosphere, and moved on the next day, feeling slightly ill.

Mmm apple wine.


Food / Drink : 8
Prettiness : 6
Atmosphere : 10
Accommodation : 5
Transport : 8

Cologne was great. Apart from looking like the only bit of Birmingham that hasn't been lavished with money (that's a joke, by the way), it was a really cool town. There is another MASSIVE cathedral (the difficulty named Koln Dom), but after that the prettiness is used up. It's as if they were given the same amount of nice brick as every other city in Germany, but decided to use it all on the church. The rest of the town might as well be made out of Swansea's spare parts, for all it looks like. But the night we had was a cracker. Friendly people, those West Germans. Lots of Stag and Hen nights, but these were for the most part German, and therefore much more considerate than our horrible ones. No nakedness and no annoying other people! Tiger and I found two delightful girls in a bar and tried to chat them up for about a minute, until we realised the only thing we can say in German besides the staple 3 phrases is a saying that translates as an ironic 'that's about as clear as dumpling soup!' - and there's not much use for that when you're trying to impress the fraulines. I don't even think it makes sense.

For some reason, we never managed to get any of the balls in...


Food / Drink : 9
Prettiness : 8
Atmosphere : 3
Accommodation : 6
Transport : 4

In a word, overrated. Bruges is (apparently) the Venice of the North. In what way?! It has a few canals, and old buildings. Big deal, so does Cwmbran. If I had a better half it may have been better. I can see the romantic attraction, but, to quote Colin Farrell in the smash black comedy In Bruges, "If I had grown up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn't, so it doesn't". Fair point really. Talking about films, Tiger and I like this one, so we decided to do the (un)official In Bruges walking tour of the city. Great, except for the only way the tour was remotely connected to the film was due to the fact that it was actually in Bruges. And judging by the tell tale signs in the bloodshot eyes of our idiot American tour guide, this may have been by chance. "I work completely on tips!" Looks like you're going hungry then sonny. And take your trilby off. 

That's the hotel in the film. Always disappoint in real life don't they, film locations?

 Conclusion / Disclaimer

So there it is. 9 cities in as many minutes. I feel it necessary to say that (as usual) I may have raised some eyebrows during this post. Just to clear everything up therefore, I'm not into prostitutes, not all people from Essex have STIs, Belgium isn't weird and not everyone in Prague is a - well, you know what I said. They're ok, I expect we just were unlucky in who we met. 

Frankfurt's still rubbish though.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Quarter Pounders, Katie Price and Shoes vs Food

This week I was in London. As I recline in my Ikea Jerrik Swivel Chair and consider the events of the last few days, several in particular jump out at me and present themselves as Blog-worthy. None of them really are, I just don't have much else to say; it's been a lean week. Haha. You'll laugh later.

Katie Price to Quit Music

That's right folks - you heard it here first. Except you didn't, because we all knew it was definately going to happen when she announced her intentions about going into music in the first place. And what does that even mean anyway? At which point did her ever being 'in' allow her to qualify to 'quit' the music business? She was never 'in' music. Idiot. According to our friends at Marieclaire.co.uk, the star (again, negligible use of the word 'star') has decided to arrest her efforts at making music, after her single, Free to Love Again, flopped, reaching just #60 in the charts. Basically it was terribly and amazingly awful. Quelle surprise. No but really, I had thought, going on past occurences of similar nature, that a washed-up topless model (who are often renowned for their wide range of talents by the way) would be really good at singing! Whoever said that is a moron. Her agent probably. Having just listened to the song again, I'm frankly surprised it got as high as #60. The poor thing's probably got vertigo, given the lowly place it truly deserves. She attemps a kind of Madona/Gaga dance trip, but instead achieves a rather unimaginative computer-generated drone. The backing instrumentals aren't great either.

Also, 'Free to love again?' Not with that picture love. Looks like she's been taken for a joyride by Hector from the Illiad. If you didn't get that joke, then I apologise for all of the above. Because you're probably a Katie Price fan.

McDonald's, I'm NOT loving it

This week I have uncovered a fact about the world's best-known fast food chain that is more groundbreaking than Watchdog, You Are What You Eat and Supersize Me combined. Upon entering the aforementioned establishment on the 23rd of July last, I fixed my gaze on their oh-so-colourful electronic wall-mounted menus. Oh the modernity. My eyes came to rest upon one item in particular; the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Now, I didn't have enough cash for a 'meal'*, so I thought I'd go for the staple QPwC. No problems you say, wap your quid on the counter and be done. No no, it costs £2.99. That's ALMOST THREE POUNDS! That, my friends, is a disgrace. Firstly, they never used to be so expensive. And secondly, the name suggests that the thing should cost a sixth of what I paid for it. In case McDonald's haven't noticed (and I'm so sure they haven't), a quarter of a pound is 25p. Maybe an extra 2p for the plastic masquerading as cheese, but essentially, a Quarter Pounder with Cheese should cost 25p. Plus cheese costs.

*Their use of the word 'meal' is so far from the truth here, it almost becomes 'meat'. Oh the irony.

Food vs Shoes

Forget bullfighting in Catalonia, the battle worth recapping this week is the one I had with the National Express bus driver, on my coach home from London. Contrary to what they said about doing their best to 'assure my comfort and safety', it turned out you can't have food on the coach. And I was Marvin, as they say down there.

 "You can't take food on mate. Food smells, see? Drinks are alright though, they don't smell".

Now, I took issue with several things in the Driver's immaculately gramatically structured parlance. Firstly, food does not always smell. MY food smelled, but that was because it was a bit of dodgy cheese and a positively biohazardous megabag of roast beef flavoured Monster Munch (incidentally, have the people at Monster Munch ever even tasted roast beef?). However, you know what they say; same rules apply for all. So if little Jimmy No Mates in seat 47 is allowed a Taz bar, I should be allowed my pungent sarnies. Secondly, drink sometimes does smell. What if someone brought some milk on? It was 28 degrees in London that day...

So we cannot eat food on the coach, yet people are permitted to remove their shoes. Let me tell you, I'd rather choke down a load of ageing cheesey sandwhiches than have to sit in front of the bare-footed Miss Hot Dog Jamaica 1995 for 2 and a half hours. Trust me, I did both.

In summary then, this week I discovered, and have since proved, the following three things. Or facts, as they are now known:

1. Katie Price is, has been, and always will be, rubbish. In every sense of the word imaginable.

2. McDonald's are conniving little cheats, who employ false advertising as a building block upon which to murder the whole planet through cholesterol overdose and other heath-related complications.

3. National Express Group PLC employ fascist, illogical drivers with no common sense or rationale regarding odour prevention.

So, another positive week then. Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Animal Rights and Beauty Parlours

So this week, given that I have no job (thanks, Government) or hobbies (thanks, HDTV), I have to thank my lucky charm (if I had one, which I don’t. Do Dream Catchers count?) that my house was invaded.Invaded, admittedly, is a strong word. But I’m told one needs to open the dialogue of one’s Blogs with an attention grabber. 


It worked in 1939, so why not now? Although, it would have been najechany in the original Polish.* So, this week, my house as been hosting more than its usual quota of inhabitants. Around 50,000 more, if truth be told. They’re small, brown and live behind the boiler. And some of them have wings. As many of you have doubtless already guessed, it’s ants. But not the nice ants like in A Bug’s Life and Antz. These are real ants, with ‘survival of the colony’ in mind. If only the Polish had been as successful as I in countering their invaders, the early 1940s would have been a lot less eventful. Although, I doubt sweeping up the Nazi threat with a Morphy Richards PremiAIR 1700 would have been as effective as it proved in this instance. Honestly, believe me when I say; Ant vs Hoover - no contest.

*Incidentally, the polish word for 'peak' is szczytowy, which when vocalised causes vomiting. Don't worry too much though, if you pronounce the word 'polish' wrong, you can use it to re-shine the furniture afterwards.

As well as our Formicidae (ant family) friends, there has also been frequent visits from a member of the Sciruidae (squirrel family, ie. a squirrel) this week. I'm no animal expert, but I'm pretty sure it's the same little fellow who comes back again and again. First it was the strawberries (the protective anti-invader mesh is laughed aside with tragic ease), and then he moved on to his other staple food source; nuts. At least, that's going off the common layman's understanding of the phrase 'nuts and berries'. Either way, those bird feeders have been ravaged. Of said bird feeders (one of which is a bird hotel, don't you know), four are hanging up in the garden. Well, were. As of monday, two remain in the garden, and two are in the garden shed, having been savaged by something, like the goat in Jurassic Park. As of this morning, one of these broken ones has moved to the garden path, with its lid off, and is now empty. Time to apply for that gun license...

Not only, however, have our Formicidae (Ant family) friends caused me a problem this week. There also happens to be a rather inquisitive Sciurida (Squirrel family, ie. a squirrel) who has been doing his best to upset me. And my strawberries. Not content with stealing the majority of the juicy red fruit through its protective mesh, he has now moved onto his other main staple food source, (and I’m going off the common household phrase, ‘nuts and berries’ here); which is, well, nuts.  There are 4 bird feeders in my garden. Or rather, there were last week. Yesterday, there were two bird feeders in my garden, and two broken bird feeders in my garden shed. As of this morning, and due to the shed door being left open, there were two bird feeders in my garden, one broken bird feeder in the garden shed, and one broken, open and empty bird feeder on the garden path. Time to get my gun licence…
*Incidentally, the polish word for ‘peak’ is ‘szczyt’, which, upon vocalising, causes vomiting. But don’t worry too much, if you pronounce ‘polish’ wrong, you can use it to re-shine the furniture.  
Does my hair look as good as my wallet feels light?   
Does my hair look as good as my wallet feels light? The other provider of excitement this week was my haircut. Only after having typed this sentence has its true depressive nature struck me. Honestly, even though Newport has tried its best to copy Liverpool’s Super Lamp Banana idea by depositing model dragons everywhere, Capital of Culture it is not.
Basically, boring personal anecdotes aside, I got my haircut. The subject of this week’s rant is really just that I cannot believe that some of these places charge so much. I had the second-cheapest option on the menu, a ‘gentleman’s dry cut’. I didn’t think the tight-faced woman would give me a discount had I pointed out that I wasn’t really a Gentleman, so I didn’t ask. I paid £11.50. I can hear the Ooo’s and Ahh’s. After that, had I so wished, I could have gone into the (dubiously named) Back Room, for a waxing. HELLO, hot wax! I have never been waxed, but I’m told that it can be painful. A chest wax costs £15. A chest-to-waist wax costs £25. This means that, for some unknown (and probably unsavoury) reason, there is ten pound’s worth of waxable hair in the space between the chest and waist. You don’t have to be a genius to realise that this would only be true if you were waxing a Gorilla. And I don’t think he’d qualify for the ‘gentleman’s dry cut’ either. After that you can get your nails done, for £30. Please. I cut mine this morning after a shower. For free.  
                                           "Do I look in a waxing mood?"     
Essentially, what I’m getting at is that this is all massively overpriced. Did the little pot of wax cost so much it warrants a price tag of £30 for a tenth of its usage? Now I’m no maths genius, but that’s £300 a pot. What.Ever.  
I am aware that a significant part of my unfortunate readership are involved, in one way or another, in cosmetics. And to you, I apologise. Not because I’ve just slagged off your livelihoods, interests and hobbies for the last few paragraphs; but rather because you feed a rip-off industry with no morals, social fairness or economic credibility.   
Having said all this, I’m male (I think), and thus my purse strings are never tightened by this unforgiving industry. And, in fairness, makeup does make women look really good. So (and for the first time ever), I'm going to go contrary to all I've said before when I ask the question; Is L'Oréal really 'worth it'? Hell yeah it is.  

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

You'd never find tweed in an electro club

This week I drove down to the South East (sarff eeast) to London (landin) to visit some friends. For security reasons, I can't state their names, mainly because it is possible that some amongst the literally thousands (millions possibly, the page counter's stopped working so WHO KNOWS) of you may harbour stalkerish thoughts, but more truthfully because the people reading this probably know them anyway.

Yah, no like, Totally

The timing of my London trip was excellent, as it falls in with one of our new Youtube sensations, VM Productions' Gap Yah. We all know the video, so I won't introduce it. On the second day of my stay in our High Wycome base camp (steady, stalkers), we went to the much maligned (and hereafter infamous, I hope) Henley Royal Regatta. For those who do not know, this is a 5-day outdoor event encompassed around many individually classed amateur rowing races. The Regatta's website, http://www.hrr.co.uk/, informs us of this fact. It also boas - states that the Regatta costs "over £2 million a year", has bought Temple Island, and 'acquired' (taken) land on the Buckinghamshire bank of the river. How commendable. At this point you may be detecting a portion of sarcasm (what? Really?) in these words. There is no mistake.
I've no problem with the rowing, the Lamborghinis or any other anchors of the continuing 'class war' ever-present in modern society. It's just, well, what are those straw hats and coloured blazers all about? Actually, the clothes are alright as well. I suppose. I would argue then that this is the common outcome of any modern-day rant towards the upper class - what is it that makes them so unbearably annoying? Is it one reason? Is it many? Is there a way to chronologise them? Of course there is. I know what you're thinking, and yes, it's another countdown list. Sorry in advance for any offense this may (probably will) cause. As you will see not least from the title, this time I've tried to make it as uncontroversial as possible.

Eight Things Everyone Hates About the Upper Class
8. They cannot behave in public. Their social skills are usually poor, especially when communicating with people of 'lesser' stature, eg. hairdressers

7. They tend to be pretty arrogant, in terms of their perceived place amongst the other people they have to unfortuneately share the world with (namely, us).

6. They breed horses. For fun.

5. Too. Much. Money! Stop buying mozaic floor patterns for your swimming pools and extensions to put on your 'land'. Actually, stop with land stuff altogether. NOBODY BUYS LAND ANYMORE!

4. Their lives, that's to say money, is hereditory. Which is a massive kick in the teeth for the hard-working House and Garden Staff, I can tell you. Also, little Cecil and Pandora don't have to get proper 'jobs' when they grow up (oh perish the thought, mother!), because daddy's legacy (not daddy's actually, because he got it from his dad, who may have been murdered by the way, although that might not be true...) will pay their way their whole lives.

3. They're so cliquey! There's only one thing worse than a posh person, and that's two posh people. Worse than two is three, and worse than three is four and so on. I see a trend developing...

2. Contrary to what was said earlier, their dress sense does often twang. Those boating hats are frankly ridiculous and the multicoloured jackets look like the whole lot of them got their clothes tailored at Hansel and Gretels' house, using 'natural' materials.

1. Accent. Seriously, what is that all about? Stop pronouncing words wierdly. And stop scoffing! And putting overly-exaggerated breaks and downward inflections in sentences. I actually heard one guy going "yah, and then I was like 'oops, Guilty. As. Charged!'" What a noob.

I suppose it is testiment to my earlier point that I had to write a list of 8, since I couldn't really think of 10 reasons. I suppose this just angers us more, because we know that really these people are probably more deserving of pity rather than hatred. It's probably just jealousy. Definately we were jealous at the Regatta when we didn't have Enclosure (what are you, sheep?) Passes, so had to make do with skulking on the rubbish part of the river, up to our necks in nettles and cholera.
Didn't even see a bloody boat race.

London Town

What a great place London is. Massive, but at the same time seperated and diverse. To tell you the truth, we just went there to party, so there's no point going into it in great detail. Probably the most notable observation was that we somehow managed to drop about 5 classes in 2 hours. It was great, home sweet home, back amongst those who accepted us. The club we went to certainly didn't have an 'enclosure', unless you count the smoking area 'round the back. Not a pipe in sight though. I should really follow this up with a more detailed account of our nuit blanche complete with the 1.5 hour early morning (Night)bus road trip across central London. But that class rant episode has warn me out.

So that pretty much wraps it up for this week. Well, this time. I don't want to trick myself into having to post this weekly now that I've got copious amounts of free time on my unemployed hands...I've decided to start a new feature, which so far doesn't have a name. 'This week, I have enjoyed...' doesn't really have much of a snap to it, but it's 00:54 in the morning and I've been up for ages writing this. The things I do for you. Therefore it is in the temporary absence of a better name, that I give you
This week, I have enjoyed...

  • Quavers
  • Welcome Break Radio
  • The wonders of Sat Nav
  • 5 Alive

Excellent. Feel free to discuss all these in the comments below, or alternatively at home or school with your friends.
Make sure you tell them where you got it from though.


Tuesday, 29 June 2010

World Cup Special

It's here again. The 'greatest of all world sporting events' (not sure about that one) as so many describe it has once again squirmed and forced itself into our lives, as it does every 4 years. I am myself a fan of sport, but fear not, this is not about to be a gung-ho boyish reflection on how great football is, and how the England team was cheated, and how "the referee's a w***ker". No, in this section I wish merely to draw your attention to several enjoyable (non footballing) things I think have come out of the World Cup. And, as is commonplace on the Moose Blog (and to retain the sporting nature of this thread) I've done them in a top 10 list. Cracking.

10. Controversy

What would any world-renowned event be without a bit of controversy? The balls don't work, the referees make huge errors and the head of world football's governing body, FIFA, is humiliated in front of everyone. My favorite thing about the ball palava was that, whilst so many of the players damned it, the Germans never did. People generally attributed this to their apparent 'no bones about it' mentality. Until someone pointed out that most of the starting XI have individual, and presumably very lucrative sponsorship deals with Addidas. Honest, then.

9. Nationalistic anger / hatred

So England are out. Hardly surprising, given their poor form in both the group stages and the warm-up games. Having said this, the country seems devided about whether to blame the elusive Sepp Blatter and his stone-age footballing laws (see above) or the England team and its manager, Fabio Capello. At least they didn't crash out to the worst ever defeat in their World Cup finals history. Oh, no wait, they did.

8. The WAGs.

Now to the real point of the World Cup, the beautiful women. Referred to as WAGs (wives and girlfriends), Skysports.com provided us with a wonderful, albeit slightly perverted, picture gallery featuring the most attractive of these gold digg - excuse me - goddesses.

7. France's Incredible Journey

If you thought England were bad, thank your lucky stars you aren't French. Being an ex-pat myself, I feel their pain. And also, I'm not English, so I was really gunning for les bleus this time around. Read the story here in full, but the up and down is that they were awful. The country hates the players, the players hate each other, and everyone hates the manager. Ex-manager. Gutted.

6. Maradona
What a man. We all know how brilliant Diego Maradona was as a player. But it seems his real potential has always lay in his ability to rely on motivation alone to train a team. He has no experience in team management, yet his handling of this team has been outrageous, funny, and entertaining from the start. For instance, when asked if he had a reaction to Pele and Platinis' statements about his lack of manegerial class, the mercurial Argentine responded "Pele should go back to the museum. As for Platini, he is French. The French are arrogant. What did you expect?" Forever the diplomat then. He also hugs, cajoles with, and even kisses his players when they score or just do anything generally positive. In fact, he's better entertainment than the football, often. Other highlights include running over a cameraman in a Mini, openly encouraging his players to have sex whilst at the world cup, and promising to run round Buenos Aires naked, should his team win. A fully comprehensive list of these excellent nuggets of fun can be found here.

5. Alan Davies

The affable english comic now hosts a radio show, Armchair World Cup, in which he and two of his mates discuss the more light-hearted aspects of the competition. Highly recommended, espeically if you, like me, want to get involved but don't really like football so much to the extent that you want to watch two countries you've barely heard of battling it out to a 0-0 draw. You can catch the show on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sundays 11-12, and of course on the evergreen BBC iplayer.

4. Commentary Blunders

We all love bloopers, and some of the ones at this year's festival of football have been nothing short of hillarious. My favourite was David Pleat's language mix-up, where during Italy's exit from the World Cup at the hands of the should-have-been-inferior Slovakia, said "and after that goal it looks like it's going to be time for the 2006 champions to say au revoir". Also, there was Abbey Clancy's admission that her favourite cheese was Cathedral City, which cracked me up, and the ludicrous decision by the BBC to include Emmanuel Adebayor on their pundits panel - who is great value every time you switch on. Not only is his english nigh on impossible to comprehend, but he also doesn't even turn his phone off during air time.

3. South Africa (team)

The host nation of this year's FIFA World Cup, South Africa were never going to set the world alight with their footballing ability. Being the first nation in history to fail to reach the knock-out stages of the competition therefore did not come as too much of a surprise - or so my sporting friends tell me. However, it is their wonderfully laid-back approach to their work that merits them the bronze medal in this coveted of lists. Even if you have not clicked on any of the links so far in this blog, you must click on this one, of their changing room pre-game warm-up. It is definately something the england team should consider next time, with a view to chilling out a bit.

2. Music
Music is loved by all, and the visit of the World Cup to the Rainbow Nation has not dissapointed in this respect. The opening ceremony was a blast, featuring one of the Official Songs of the competition, Waka Waka, ably performed by the excellently talented (in both music and beauty) Shakira. Phwoar, her hips still don't lie do they? My favourite however is slightly less well-known. Not an official World Cup song, but brought to fame in Britain by ITV, who chose it as their theme. Vusi Mahlasela's When You Come Back is about the problems of South Africa's past, and the optimism of its future. It encorporates a breath of fresh musical air, and is a fitting African theme to a beautiful country with plenty to celebrate.

1. South Africa (country)
The World Cup is a sporting event, but more importantly it is a world event. The positive effect that such a bringing together of cultures and peoples will undoubtedly have on a country like South Africa is the best part about the whole thing. Such a friendly, humble, welcoming and above all needy nation completely deserves the worldwide unceasing credit it is getting for putting on such a vibrant and enjoyable event. Even for those of us in the world who are not football lovers, we have to admit that the World Cup is indeed a rightful celebration of everything modern South Africa stands for. Peace, friendship and above all equality.

So there it is, my World Cup in a nut shell. Whilst I am aware that many of you are probably by this point finding the whole affair tiresome, the point has to be made that we should not deny it its true effect - which is great news for South Africa, a nation with which we are now so much more pleasantly aquainted with.

Mayibuye iAfrica!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Again, and not for the first time, I begin with apologising for the delay in this post. It's been more than a month this time, so don't say I don't keep my leadership on its toes.
This post is relatively short, and will subject itself (I don't think that's english) on my return from France. It's not that great, if I'm honest.

Dentistry (continued)

I still haven't got my tooth fixed. I found another dentist, waited in a waiting room for about half an hour (they said it'd only be 10 minutes), and then got told it was nothing serious. Given the fact that, thanks to the Welsh Assembly Government, my dentistry is free in Wales, I declined the kind madame's offer to patch it up for 68 euros. Obviously.


So my time in France is over. What an amazing country. So amazing in fact, here is the lowdown on the pros and cons of living there:

  • Culture. Experiencing new things is always good, and linguistically beneficial if you happen to be studying a language. (Good job I do French, which turned out to be a happy coincidence...)
  • Weather. Except for the winter, which was colder than Simon Cowell's heart, the weather was immense. Even when it's chilly it's still blue. And the spring and summer months are nay bad either.
  • Friendship. Going abroad is the best way to meet new people and make new friends. And I would know, I've got loads. Thanks to the language barrier mostly. You know what they say though; if it's on Facebook, it's official.

  • Culture. Bit of a culture shock at first. I know that my friends (you know who you are) who spent their Year Abroad in the Caribbean are scoffing at me right now. But I put it to them that distance bears no factor on cultural change. France is difference to Britain. Fact.
  • Supermarkets. I know we all love the planet, but why can't they give us plastic bags in supermarkets?! Bring you're own bag, it is. At least advertise it. I've lost count of all the times I've had to walk home from the Huit à 8 (who don't even have their own website - that's a Wikipedia entry), grimly trying to hold all my shopping in my arms. Once I smashed all my eggs before actually getting outside.
  • Leaving. When you've lived somewhere so vibrant and generally great as Toulouse, you never want to leave.

So there it is. As I know that literally thousands of people wait upon this blog with baited breath, in spite of my departure from France I will continue to update this blog every week or so. Lovely.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sun, Dentists and Communication Problems

I will start this post in the same vain as I usually do by apologising for the lack of activity for the past month or so. I have been soooo busy you know. Good job though, because now I have time to write down all that has happened. (Well, not all, just some, obviously. If I had to write down everything that had happened to me in my action-packed life since 17 March then there wouldn't be enough space. Your scroll buttons would all overheat.)


As you might imagine, it's now hot! Finally, puts an end to that ridiculously cold Winter we all experienced down here. Most days it's around 20 degrees now, moving up to 26 if you're lucky. And no clouds, which really makes a difference in terms of open sunlight area coverage. I could pretend that I am sharing this with you just to open the discours with pleasentries about the weather - but really it's just to rub it in. I know the vast amount of my (expansive) readership is UK based, and therefore knocking about in much less exotic temperatures. I HAVE SUNBURN EVERYWHERE. And I love it.

Just a couple of photos to show you what I mean. [Disclaimer: Other lagers are available]


Where to start? I have just made an appointment at the Dentist's for tomorrow, because I've chipped a tooth. Well, more the plastic cap I have on a tooth that got smashed out when I was skiing about five years ago (don't have a hyper-link for an image here, but I'm sure you don't mind). Either way, it is the fault of a baguette, which I ate and it was mega hard. Chipped me right up. I don't really ever eat baguettes, I always find them too crustacious, but sometimes, when displayed in the right manner, we just can't help ourselves. This particular one was in a shop with a nice presentation and decent lettuce leaves and above all only 2 euros (cheap for Toulouse)! You couldn't have sold it better to me if you'd sat it on the floor next to a really cute dog.
So I'm walking along the river towards the Prairie des Filtres where I planned on going to a PicNic, organised on Facebook, with a load of friends. In standard BYOB style, I decided to eat privately before going, then scrounge some free pasta when I got there. Obviously that day Karma (or God, if you're that way delud - I mean inclined) decided to have her way with me, and it befell me that I chipped my tooth. Kazzam.

Communication Problems

SO I decide to go to a Dentist. Now, those of you that have read my previous posts will know that I am not the biggest fan of French administration. My opinion has not waivered. Here's another immaculately accurate transcript of what happened.

Ring Ring, Ring Ring

Receptionist: Hello?

Me: Hello, I'd like to make an appointment please.

R: Certainly sir, when would you like to make it for?

M: Today, if you've anything going.

R: Umm, I'm sorry sir, but today is full.

M: Oh. Tomorrow?

R: Well my computer is saying it's full tomorrow, but how about Wednesday? It's not an emergency is it?

M: Tomorrow is Wednesday.

R: Oh yes, so it is! Well ok, sorry - you might have guessed I'm new at this job! Tomorrow there's a free slot at 13h30, if that suits.

M: Yes perfectly, thank you. And no, it's not an emergency. Will it be necessary to bring National Insurance details? I'm sorry, I'm foreign.

R: Oh no sir, we don't deal with any Social Security for our clients.

M: Oh..ok. (Whaat? No refund?! Oh well I can always bolt it after they've told me how much it would cost...)

R: I'd just like to take a few details if that's ok sir?

M: Certainly, go ahead

: The problem?

M: Chipped tooth.

R: The cause?

M: Baguette

R: Baguette? Oh, erm, I see.

M: (...)

R: What breed is the animal sir?

M: Pardon me?

R: What type?

M: I'm sorry, did you say animal?

R: Yes sir, your dog. What breed is it?

M: I haven't got a dog. The appointment is for me!

R: Oh, I'm terribly sorry sir, we don't do people here. This is a Vetinary Dogs' Clinic. We only perform medical and dental proceedures on canines.

M: (...)

At which point I hung up. Too embaressed to even reply.

So, it turns out I can now add the Pages Jaunes to my long list of hated French-administation-thingies. Why didn't they give more information?! At least put a picture of a dog or something on there. Or do they charge extra for that? They probably do, in fairness.

I was finally able to contact a real dentist, and get an appointment sorted for tomorrow.

I will post then (or was it Wednesday?..) with the results. I'll probably come back wearing a muzzle.