Friday, 28 September 2007

Top 60 Trip Photos

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The Lands of Mongolia

As I write this I'm sitting in student flat in Wales looking out the window at the rain clouds, the wind, and the multitude of people milling about. A stark contrast if ever there was one to the vast expanse of the Mongolian countryside. It's strange to think back to the endless stretches of grass, and sand reaching to the horizon on all sides, dotted with the sporadic home tents of nomadic locals (called Yurts we learned!). And then to consider the British countryside when one is never more than a stumble away from the nearest settlement, or at least the nearest Pub!

Without much to offer to the casual tourist, the capital city of UlaanBator is a friendly place with a population of merely 800,000. The locals seem to take great pride in the capital as the centre of civilisation and development in a nation traditionally considered to be full of a bunch of wandering country folk. UB (as it is referred to, thankfully, as UlaanBator is both hard to say and spell, I saw 3 different spellings in Mongolia itself!) served for us as a night stopover to get a shower, eat some quality fodder, and join a tour to the rural lands. The shower was required due to being on a train for 2 nights without facilities previously and then heading to live in tents for 5 days without washing facilities either. So in the interest of all mankind we dragged our carcases to the bathroom and spruced up before we headed out for a slap-up meal at one of UB's most highly regarded restaurants (worst travellers ever! Avoided the ever present temptation of McDonalds throughout though... proud of that!).

It's within the fields of Outer Mongolia that the true beauty of this country lies, with it's sprawling landscape forever providing breath-taking views and mind-blowing panoramic visions. Over the 5 days we spent out in the sticks we travelled around by converted military jeep with dubious suspension, lived in Yurts with singing and dancing nomadic families, and ate local food which provided the largest bout of the "squirts" any of us have ever experienced... Mongolia didn't know what had hit it... to say we left our little bit of England in Mongolia would be an understatement! (My apologises to my mother for talking about such subjects publicly, but I felt people should know the truth, and it'd help paint a picture, of which thankfully there are none on this particular subject!) The food was indeed nice however, but we all agreed the Mutton failed to successfully disguise itself as a Lamb, credit was given for effort though.

For the scenery (and the enormous birds!) Mongolia was truly a spectacle only going there yourself could describe, one of those places on the map we all say we'd go back to in a shot if the opportunity arrived. Unfortunately, as in the wise words of Nelly Furtado, "All good things come to an end", and thus we had to pack up our little model Yurts, miniture flags, and warm salty milk before boarding the last and final leg of the trip in the direction of the 2008 Olympic Games, China's capital city, Beijing!

**(This was written as we left UlaanBator in the middle of September, but unfortunately i've not had chance to update the internet until now, sorry!)**

Lake Baikal (Far Eastern Russia)

They said the world was flat, they said beating the sound barrier was impossible, they even said eating bread crusts would make your hair go curly. So it’s understandable that we borderlined on sceptical when this infamous they informed us that Lake Baikal was in fact the worlds largest fresh water lake, volumous enough to consume the contents of all America’s Great Lakes, and vast enough in area to cover the entire of England. However, when we stood on the edge of this gigantic aquatic spectacle it became apparent that the omniscient they may have finally potted the black with this one.

We stayed on an island within Baikal called Olkhon Island, an island highly regarded within the Shamanic religion as a place of great positive energy. There even resided the odd holy stone or pillar which would grant the gift of good energy to any person whom threw monies at it. With promises uncannily similar to those of Powergen we couldn’t resist casting a couple of Roubles into this mystical power meter and waited with baited breath for our Ipods and Mobiles to recharge… once again following Powergen’s business traits the goods never arrived, and the helpdesk failed to help. We were left dejected and without battery life.

Our residence for the 4 days we spent on Olkhon was with Nikita’s Guesthouse. Nikita himself is an ex-Russian table tennis champion, and currently coaches the national team (or so they told us anyway!) And his guesthouse is a Mecca for everyone who travels the area, and it appeared to be frequented throughout the day and night by persons from all over the island for drinks, chat, and tours. It was with a ramshackle collection of nationalities (from within the former USSR, and as far a field as New Zealand) that we enjoyed numerous days fishing, trekking, and generally chilling around on beaches.

Our exploits with the fishing rod failed to reap the kinds of rewards our campfire and rumbling stomachs craved, but it was still an enjoyable 4 hours spent sitting at leisure on rocks and outcrops with the sun on our backs and the cool calm waters tickling our toes. After a couple of false starts and the usual novice errors handing reels and hooks I got underway and set about putting John Wilson to shame. Unfortunately other members of our work detail ran into a couple of hiccups, and spent the majority of their time untangling irreversibly tangled line, cutting the offending line, tying a knot in the line, and then promptly retangling the line again… and so the cycle continued until the American contingent of our team lost his hook and weights somewhere in the deep, dark abyss (reaches a Mile deep in parts!).

All in all though, we agreed that Lake Baikal lived up to expectations and ticked all the right boxes. So with boxes ticked and expectations fulfilled we made our way back to Irkutsk to catch our 6AM train to Mongolia… which we managed to miss in spectacular fashion, so we caught a later 8:30PM train that same day.

So its good bye Russia, and hello Mongolia, it’s been emotional.

**(This was written as we left Baikal at the beginning of September, but unfortunately i've not had chance to update the internet until now, sorry!)**

Friday, 31 August 2007

Altai Adventure (Southern Siberia)

Vodka, Vodka, Vodka.... and more Vodka!
That's the best way to describe the last couple of weeks. We left Moscow on the 13th of August and since then we've entertained shots of Russia's largest export in the following somewhat bizarre situations... to name but a few:
  • For Breakfast: Vodka Shreddies, Kellogs missing a market there, i tell you!
  • For lunch and dinner aswell: In fact any time food was around really.
  • With crazy Russian's on trains: We were approached by drunken locals regularly, one even claiming to be a Red Army Machine Gunner, but his pot-belly begged to differ.
  • While out in Barnaul - The usual night out with a bottles of Vodka close in tow.
  • With Immigration Officials - A portly fellow was trying to fine us 40 pounds each for Visa irregularities but while we sat with our translator in his stuffy little office, he couldn't resist cracking out a couple of shots in the middle of our 2 and a half hour "interview"!
  • While White Water Rafting - In between tackling the challenges mother nature was throwing our way, the local tourists on board would line up a few swift ones each to wet our, already decidedly damp, whistles.

One of the most remarkable things about this whole experience was the fact we were rafting with a local Police Captain, two Doctors, and the areas most respected Surgeon (which came in handy when Brownie dislocated his shoulder mid-rafting!) and none of them batted an eye-lid at the numerous intoxicating liquids being knocked back as we fought our way down the wild River Katun. We came to the conclusion that the health and safety blame culture which has griped Britain has yet to claw it's grubby mitts to Southern Siberia, and it sure was a breath of fresh air I tell you.

We'd met our motley crew of local big wigs and weathered pros in the Siberian city of Barnaul. From there we'd immediately headed off to the Altai mountain range and the the Katun River where we commenced the 5 days of rafting. It was on day 5 that we were all enjoying an easy stretch of water, Vodka shot number 4, and some lovely weather that disaster struck. All three mad Englishman had catapulted ourselves into the icy cold waters but one of our number managed to come out a little worse off for his heroics.

Brownie has a history with dislocating his shoulder, especially while on summer holidays it seems, and enjoys the prestige of having his own specialist back in the UK. Out in the forested wilderness of Siberia, however, isn't the ideal place to go popping ones bones out of their sockets, regardless of previous experience. It was while swimming that Brownie had his accident but luckily, the Surgeon with us was able to rectify the problem after nearly 2 hours of agonising (for Brownie, and for Jimmy who bore the brunt of Brownie's pain through his tightly grasped hand!) pulling and pushing on a random beach. On the plus side we all agreed that we couldn't quite imagine a more picturesque place to have gone through the ordeal.

After a few more hours finishing off the last bits of rafting, one man down, Brownie departed with the locals to head to the nearest hospital for a check-up and Jimmy and I continued as planned with the second part of our Altai adventure, horse-riding.

I still to this day can't understand how Cowboys can ride horses all their lives and still walk normally or even just sit down properly. Equally hard to comprehend is how the Cowboy family lines continue to reproduce with certain vital parts taking such a bashing on a regular basis! Other than this most uncomfortable side effect (I'm taking a box next time!) the horse riding experience was excellent, and the locations were unparalleled in their beauty and serenity.

Back in Barnaul (with an obvious limp) and re-united with our one-armed companion we enjoyed a night out with a handful of locals we befriended, and a couple of days adjusting back to life in a world with toilets, showers, and the occasion bar of soap.

It wasn't long though before we jumped ship once again and boarded yet another train headed towards Irkutsk and the worlds largest fresh water lake, Lake Baikal. Being as it's so big however, it'll have to wait till next time for a write up!

Only 2 weeks till we fly home now, so i look forward to seeing everyone, and would like to say a big good bye to my parents, as they should be just about boarding a one way plane to New Zealand as i write this... see you in sunny NZ at Christmas Mops an Pops!

Ta ta

Sunday, 26 August 2007

St. Petersburg and Moscow update!

Currently we head in the direction of Barnaul, our previous location being Moscow and the journey duration set to a cool 55 hours. Plenty of time to sit and think about the world, life, and everything in between. Nearly 20 hours into the leisurely jaunt across Russia's Siberian backbone however and conversation has dipped to the depths of discussing the ins and outs of the Moscow Sanitation System, and debating the continuing battle against illegal music piracy and it's role in funding global terrorism. So at this point I nod an acknowledgment to my peers, ascend to the top bunk of the carriage and set about penning a few lines to describe the last week or so spent exploring the infamous sprawling metropolis' that are Russia's 2nd city of St. Petersburg, and it's illustrious capital, Moscow!

St. Petersburg was as expected, and much more. The city exercises grandeur like none other. The faces of the buildings creating postcard perfect pictures on every turn and the glorious palaces standing majestic with all the pride and passion of a nation steeped in patriotic history.

In between visiting the usual tourist hotspots such as the cheerfully named Church of Spilled Blood, the vast Winter Palace, and the magnificent Kazan Cathedral, we attempted to get into the Russian mindset, as the saying goes: "When in Rome, do as the Roman's do". We decided to do as the Russians do and go for an authentic Russian Banya. There had been many stories floating around the hostel as to what we should expect from this experience, from being thrown around a room by a big Russian bear, to the usual connotations that come with foreign massages. Unwavered however by these mire rumors and determined to seek the truth we arranged ourselves an appointment with a reputable local Banya. Bags packed with Kendal Mint Cake, Ginger Beer, a towel, and a pair of swimming trunks (which we hoped to high heaven would be required!) we set about on a voyage of discovery and enlightenment.

Upon arriving at our destination it immediately became clear this was no David Lloyds, so with DL membership cards safely nestled back with the moths in our wallets we made our way down a dark passage off the main road, passed an elderly "woman" with child, towards a central parking area totally encompassed by towering concrete monstrosities. Somewhere in the distance a cat screeched and a siren wailed as three of the worlds most touristy looking tourists stood in a courtyard searching for a sign that this wasn't just a muggers dream scenario and that there was indeed a reason for our blatant disregard of all the warnings people had given us before we left home about dark alleys. Nearing desperation point, with clammy palms and sweaty brows we turned to face our exit point only to find it blocked. After a moment taken directly out of a John Wayne film we refocused on the looming silhouette and it became apparent that the old "woman" with child had infact hobbled down behind us and now extended a scrawny index digit in the direction of a red door. Without much hesitation we made a move towards this pillar of hope, and I'm left wondering if that was infact a young child in her arms or merely a turnip in a towel, both possibilities seem unlikely but we'll never never i suppose.

The Banya itself was a series of oven hot saunas followed by being plunged into an icy cold pool over and over again. Much to our relief trunks were welcome and bodily contact was kept to a minimum, both suited us down to a tee.

After having finished Banyaing and happy in the knowledge that we were now revitalised, we returned to our hostel for a good nights sleep before attempting to tackle to enormous Hermitage the next morning.

While St. Petersburg was of tremendous beauty and had an ability to captivate the soul, Moscow lacked this raw magnetism, but still remained of great tourist interest with such assets as Red Square, St. Basils Cathedral, the seat of Russian presidential power within the Kremlin, and the eerily wax-like embalmed body of the Communist revolutions pioneer Vladimir Lenin.

Lenin died in 1924, but his preserved body remains on display for mourners and tourists to file by as if he had passed away only yesterday. We half expected him to sit up and enquire what was for breakfast, or how his beloved Soviet Union is coming along.

Unfortunately we were unable to find a bar in Moscow which had Sky Sports for the footy updates so we promptly packed our bags and left the most civilised place we'll see until Beijing and jumped on board the Tran-Siberian railway heading towards to the rising place of the sun, the far East.

Moscow behind us and Barnaul and the Altai Mountains to come...

(Due to lack of interenet access this is being uploaded later than anticipated, they didn't even have proper toilets in the mountains so a a good Broadband line was unlikely! IR)

Monday, 6 August 2007

Lithuania - Tallinn by Bus....

From the streets of Poland's depressingly unfriendly capital we trudged via tedious night bus through the plains that lie to the east in the land of the Pole, to the unknown entity that is Vilnius.
The first thing we noticed about Vilnius was that our Pole funds were obsolete, thus noting how we had now entered a new realm of law and order. The once Grand Duchy of Lithuania (now just the plain Republic of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy moved to Stevenage to open up a pub in his own name if I'm not much mistaken) welcomed us with arms wide open, but these wide and open arms carried treasures our disheveled and tired bodies greatly required. So after partaking in a swift couple of Lithuania's finest Svytury Ekstras (local alcoholic beverage, 1 pound a pint!) we were forced to hit the hay after 10 hours sitting on a coach. A coach that felt the need to stop every 2 hours for a break and thus go about waking all the journiers up from their blissful slumber. This cycle got tiresome (literally) and was the main cause for our only getting a poultry 2 hours of nap time in. Other causes of this travesty being the big smelly Polish person with a beer belly the size of Andorra being very noisy next to me, or even "her" annoying son and his insessant chair bouncing.
Vilnius itself has a lovely quaint "old town" which maintains an authentic medieval feel with a touch of modern capital city class. Then across a river is the developing "new town" with a couple of token sky scrappers and an umbiquous shopping mall. We decided to venture from our accommodation in old Vilnius over to new Vilnius just once but got side-tracked by a strategically located pub which sits half way between each shore of the dysecting waterway on a foot bridge, perfect for catching unwitting wanderers at the point of no return. So a few drinks and a pizza later and three decidedly more wobbly explorers decided to sack off the prospect of the modern world and return to the traditional establishments of yesteryear.
So while in Vilnius we kept busy doing a number of activities ranging from 360' spins on the magic tile, too wandering up hills to gander at castles and spectacular panoramic views. In the mean time we befriended a couple of Aussies, a Scot, and a Kiwi, I broke my flip-flops, had my trainers stolen and we dined Al Fresco in the middle of a cobbled street. All in all Vilnius was grand, plus it was lovely and sunny the entire time, with bright clear blue skies. (However I hear the weathers picked up with you folk now anyway so I needn't have come half way round the world to chase it, can't complain though!)
Estonia, the original stamping ground of Ram's legend Mart Poom, came next. With it's enormous church tower looming on the horizon we endured a couple of further bus rides, visiting the Latvian capital of Riga briefly, to get to our intended destination of Tallinn.
During our 3 days in the heart of this Baltic state one member of our team enjoyed his coming of age 20 years. For the fine fellow's celebrations we traipsed across town in search of the most splendid culinary experience we could muster. Unfortunately for the now aged traveller, the only place willing to accept us when we came knocking at nearly 11pm was the local town hall gift shop, so we indulged on a piece of quiche and a chicken wrap each and set about discussing the pros and cons of the governments proposed Identity Card scheme. Agh, the joys of being young, free and single!
Tallinn offered everything that Vilnius offered plus some more, bigger churches, more exquisitely preserved old town charm and heritage, but it charged marginally more for this pleasure, a jaw dropping 2 pound 50 pence for a half litre of beer (fast becoming the common standard for price comparison the world over... no arguments here!) But the people were friendly, the atmosphere agreeable, and the weather again excellent indeed (who would of thought we were further north than Newcastle at this point!) Bravo Tallinn and Vilnius, bad news for them though is at some point we intend to go back!!!
And so on we go, many a time we had wished to stay a little longer in a place, but we have a timetable and if schooling taught me anything, it's that you keep to your timetable. Any deviations for personal gain are received with letters being sent home to your parents! So onward to Russia, St. Petersburg and Moscow if they let us it!
Until next time, Dasvidanya comrades!

Friday, 3 August 2007

My voyage in pursuit of illumination has been long and arduous of late.Since I was last writing i've experienced 4 countries, 4 trains, and 6 different beers. So, the journey thus far, the route already trodden is as such:

London - Brussels - Koln - Warsaw

And I sit here now penning this at 5.26AM on a packed coach as we cruise steadily through the sun-kissed plains of the Lithuanian sountryside/ Our destination, the capital city of Vilnius.

Before Vilnius though i feel a need to inform people of the trials and tribulations of three wary adventurers cutting a path though the Eastern states to the orient.

We used Brussles and Koln as mire change over port, in one end, quick bite to eat, couple of pints, out the other side. Am they worked a treat for these intended means. The purpose of our trip is further East so we refrained from making a longer stop, which is not to say we wouldn't return in the future, I for one was very contented with my Croque Madame in Brussels. As for the continuing seach for improved weather I'm with-holding jedgemtn, there was a cool breeze in Koln to note, it was much cooler than most of the other breezes who wouldn't of been out of place in the chess club.

Between Germany's Koln and Poland's Warsaw (not to be confused with Birmingham's Walsall, i got a few quizzical looks when I asked for chips and gravy I tell you) we travelled by overnight sleeper train, and to say this was an experience would be an understatement. I've done sleepers before in Asia but never before have we had big armed soldiers storm our little cabin at 4AM shouting something about a fish he'd landed earlier that day. "Bass Caught" he would shout, "excellantly done" we all thought, "now bugger off so we can sleep." I personaly feel sorry for the poor aquatic dweller that recieves Das Boot from this behemoth. It turned out after 5 mins of discussing the best ways to steam cook a nice bass that "Bass Caught" was in fact "Passport" and I had come dangerously close to being extradited at the first hurdle for acting fishy.

We made it to Warsaw. Warsaw being "the city of the thousand smiles"... that is if you happen to walk around upside down. It was 6 hours until we saw our first display of dentures when a kind receptionist at out hostel greeted us. This could be down to a poor show on the weather front (nippy in thwe wind and overcast, not dissimilar to Cornwall), or down to the very prominent Communist hangover this country appears to carry, some 15 years since independance. The buildings in the capital are a mis-mash of traditional Soviet style blocks or new swanky capitalist built sky-scrappers. By far the nicest, most impressively ornate building is the Palace of Culture, as an outsider this enormous Palace dominate downs town Warsaw in a grand and majestic fashion. Locals, however despise this structure as it is a very real reminder of the countries Soviet past. The Palace was built in 1955 as a present to the Polish people from Moscow and the USSR. We dispured the local claims and visited the top for spectacular panoramic views of the city.From there we could quite clearly make out the "eye-sore" of Warsaw (wanted to get that in in ages) The abandoned national football stadium stands as a giant empty concrete bowl devoid of anything except overgrowth and an eery post-apocoliptic atmosphere. We ventured to the staium as we were told there was a flea-market near by, we'd been lied to... Unperturbed by this disappointment (I need a new flea, i keep sitting on mine!) we trudgd around the city, old and new, soaking up atmosphere, history, and the odd alcoholic beverage!

It was from there we joined this coach, bound for the city which lies in the city of Europe, so I'll save my report on that for another day, in the mean time, hope everyones well back in Blighty,I hope to bring news of the missing Sun soon.

Ta Ta

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Searching for Sun in Spain

Success! I can report the potential Sun sighting mentioned before to be valid and correct. I would like to confirm that over the last 10 days I have been privileged enough to have basked in the glorious presence of the divine, omniscient god of yester-year, The Sun.

That is correct. There is a part of the world in which there still remains the daily rise and fall of the giant orangey yellow ball of warmth and light which we in the UK have been so unfortunately lacking for the last few months.

The mystical place I talk of is of course the distant and wondrous land of Southern Spain.

Spain is a country in which the discerning Englishman can become easily confused and disorientated. On numerous occasions I was left bemused after attempting to converse with members of the local population. After a 20 min. conversation with a local, I was happily able to describe every inch of the leathery skinned Spaniard’s face in minute detail, from his cavernous wrinkles to his obviously cigarette smoke tinted yellow nose. But unfortunately I came away no closer to knowing the location of the nearest ATM. A kindly Shop keeper did help me however, when I entered her establishment and requested directions to the beach, to be told “¡menuda gilipollez!” which I can only take to mean…

“left down this street, right over the traffic lights, past the post office, turn ‘round back the other way past the post office again ‘cos you’ve gone the wrong way, take the next left past the Meridian Hotel, hurdle a small wall, run/hide from Policia, and your there!”

…in Spanish, because these instructions worked a charm and before I could say -The Spanish Armada 1588- I was on the beach sipping San Miguel and discussing the pros and cons of English crickets Off Spinners with some bewildered Germans.

Spain is a fantastic place, the locals lack the friendliness to be called… well... "friendly”, but the place itself is grand, 10 days of beaches, pools, lots of San Miguel, and of course the reason for my pilgrimage, the quest to discover if there remains a place in which the Sun still shines, and the answer is resoundly, Yes! As Sun Champion of Her Majesties Empires however, I feel it is my duty to travel further a field and to find out if this truly is the only remaining sunny haven. So before you all flock South let me investigate the state of play to our East and gather a fuller picture of the extent of the Suns demise.

I shall report back shortly with news of my pending departure East due for the 30th June, until then, keep smiling, there is still hope out there… I’ve seen it!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

The Search for Summer

It has come to my ever perceptive attention that while I’ve been slaving away behind my desk 9 – 5, the United Kingdom has been in a state of chronic depression for it has been without one of the main ingredients of good spirit… the Sun! Not the entire UK mind, I hear bits of western Scotland are actually quite lovely at the moment. But unless all 60 million of us intend on packing up our bum bags and migrating to MacDougal Land then there is definitely a need to bring back summer to the British Isles.
Due to the nation being in crisis I have decided to undertake a series of adventures around gods green and wonderful world in search of the kind of warm, illuminating, cancer inducing light we all crave!

To make this possible and to be able to fulfil my destiny as Sun Champion of Her Majesties Empires I have been forced to resign my post with the local financial institution for whom I was previously employed. This was not an easy decision to make and not one I took lightly, but in the end I think the entrenched, dishevelled, and generally down trodden population of our ever wet country will agree that my new mission is worthy.

First on my list of places to explore in search of heat, light and lovely UV is a land where the Paella has reigned strong for centuries, cheap package holidays are a form of currency, and historically the people like to build big groups of boats and send them our way, but most importantly this place has had a recent, unconfirmed sighting of my illusive target. I must move to confirm this immediately.

After visiting Spain, my travels take me to places such as Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Mongolia, China, and ultimately Wales (but I don’t hold out much hope of Sun Spotting there!) So I pledge to keep all informed of my progress and lets hope that my undertaking is a success and we get a bit of Sun to enjoy instead of sitting here looking out the window at the unrelenting barrage of water heaven is intent on sending earthwards.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

The Art of Queuing

It has become apparent over the past few months of entertaining the public in a service based medium that the art of queuing is fast becoming one of those lost skills that the British claim to be great and mighty at but are in fact borderline rubbish at. Like football, making cars, and drinking.

It was once considered the world’s capital of queuing finesse and revered the globe over for its ability to self-organise an efficient order of standing when patiently waiting. But the UK is quickly becoming yet another country of cajolers, pushers, whingers, and generally bad sports in the queuing environment.

Examples of this travesty over traditional values can be seen in the workplace, committed by stubborn members of the public standing at the wrong end of the queue direction pointers so as to “not have to walk all the way down, just to come back again” when they’re called over. This is an impressive bout of laziness from a nation that once marched the length of Africa simply in the name of the ruling Monarch. If asked to move to the correct end of the queuing lane, it is common practise for the offending patron to “tut” and “twitter” to a volume high enough that they believe the entire room is aware of the plight we are inflicting upon them, yet low enough that no audible verses are coherent, thus maintaining the guise of kindly aged citizens.

Further evidence of “miss-queuing” can be found when waiting for the ever controversial auto-bus carriage to transport the lingering masses back to their intended homesteads. Why is it imperative that as the vehicle approaches the gathering group simultaneously takes three steps forward? Is this the notice the driver requires to realise that the bus must stop at this, his LAST stop of the line? Or do the expectant passengers live in hope this aggressive move will help to propel them to the forefront of the collective and advance their chances of getting home before Neighbours starts?

Who knows, all I know is that this is a sorry state of affairs and between poor waiting manners and bus stop bombarding I feel less comfortable in partaking in this once grand British pastime and the art of queuing.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Bus Etiquette

Some say that I’m from the old school, and thus have a skewed view point on traditional values. However I’m yet to meet an individual who disagrees with me on these most pressing of issues.

I’m talking of cause about the decline of bus etiquette. There was a time, the Peak if you will, in which an unspoken oath was upheld by all who travelled upon gods big red carriages. This was a glorious time, full of happy commuters, cheery old people, and the token smelly (yet always smiling) drunk!

Nower days however, not only do these stagecoaches no longer support the stunning red paint of the glamorous years, but the once sacred creed of the bus patron is no where to be seen.

The number of times I’ve seen a bunch of the chronologically challenged board the bus and have to stand, or worse, because some little miscreant can’t tear themselves away from their blatantly hugely important text messaging session, and allow the aged persons to relieve their weary bones of the burden that comes with standing up in a moving vehicle for 20 minutes.

It’s a scandal, what is also a scandal is the use of so called “personal” music devices… if these devices are as the statement infers and designed to be personal, then why does the entire bus have to be participants in Amy Winehouse’s latest dabble in Rehab. I’m not opposed to people tuning into their brain rechargers to help pass the time between embarkation and disembarkation, if anything it helps to keep them off their sodding mobile phones!

Which neatly brings me to my next point. Do I, as either a sleepy pre-work zombie or a tired post-work grump care the slightest what Donna or Sharon got up to last night? (I think not!) Could the prospect of a party round “Bez’s” at the weekend interest me? (Potentially, if that party includes a round of charades, a nice cheese board, and a collection of slides portraying coastal erosion on the southern most coast of Borneo. Unlikely though, given “Bez’s” apparent affliction with “Doing gear, and hurling up chunks in the corner all night”… so the cheese boards probably out then?!?!)

My point isn’t that any of what these people are doing is actually wrong (except may-be the big intoxicated baldy who sits there picking his nose and flicking it at passers by… that’s got to be wrong!) My point is that this is a fine depiction of the demise that society has seen over recent years. It can all be brought down to a lack of one vital element that makes us who we are as human beings; there is a distinct lack of respect for our fellow man. This my friends, needs addressing with utmost urgency.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Annoying Chain E-Mails

OK, so when it comes to writing a whole bunch of random ramblings about nothing much, I'm no saint. But it fails even myself how these so called "chain e-mailings" can get started... I'm obviously referring to the ones that ask us to say weather certain items are currently residing on your desk, or weather you prefer Red or Blue. After deeply investigating the higher conscience of my inner Ian, these FBI-type emails then make the outrageous claim that if i was to commit the most heinous of crimes and not send this precious document on to 15 other people then i will suffer 5 years of totally unbearable bad look... Seriously? By not sending this email to 15 people i will never get a promotion? Never be happy in love? Never win the lottery? Never find a family of four leaf clovers growing on my compost heap? Are you saying that if i sever the centuries long dynasty this chain stands for, a chain that has survive the test of history and lasted the full length and breadth of time and space itself... if i don't resend this email, then when i finally reach the end of the rainbow there WON'T be a pot of gold!?!?!

I'm personally not a superstitious person, but i can accept other people being faithful to forces we humble humans cannot quite comprehend. However i fail to fathom how anyone can believe that a little chap sitting in a dark room somewhere in Arizona, with a can of Diet Caffeine-Free Coca Cola Zero in one hand, and a copy of the 1973 Playboy Annual in the other, can summon up the immense power to directly interfere with how my life will pan out over the next few years!

Please correct me if there's any scientific evidence to back up this threat to my well being, or if anyone has in fact had a shocking couple of years and can trace it back to the regretable day they foolishly ignored the warnings and failed to forward on one of these intrusive chain e-mails.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

My Letter to a Certain Local Cinema

Ok, so I'm possibly not the most positive person in the world, and yes it has been said that at times i get a little over the top with the negativity towards the seemingly negligible issues i stumble upon. But this current irritation of mine has now become such a major thing about which i whinge that i felt compelled to write a letter to the offending parties. However, before i take the leap from moaning pessimist to complaining areshole i felt i should check with all who care (and the majority that don't) as to whether you believe my quarrel is just and that it deserves the stampage (currently an astronomical 30p, but that's for another day!) required to deliver it to it's intended recipient! So here you go:


Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Ian Robinson, I'm 20 years old and working in a local building society (not a bank... there are subtle differences, even if I'm still looking for them myself!) I like to attend your visual entertainment emporium on an irregular basis whenever i spy a video film which takes my fancy.

The question i pose to your good self on this fine day is thus, under which category in your "Something for Everyone" campaign does a simple 9-5 guy like my good self fit into?

To elaborate, just in case the focus and nature of the campaign has slipped your mind, being so busy and all. You promise to have something for "everyone" and the categories you assume "everyone" could slot into somewhere or other are: Senior, Kids, Newbies, and Director's Chair.
But where, i ask you, does the humble working man fit in?

Unfortunately i pay full bus fair and therefore am not a "Mature Guest" as your website describes the Seniors section. I would however appreciate the free tea and coffee on offer to these most privileged of persons, but as the showings are mid-morning i would be unable to make a caffeine pilgrimage in the middle of a working day!

The Newbies and Kids sections aren't overly relevant either unless i was able to commandeer some young person to pass off as my child. The aforementioned Kids promotion doesn't mention any specific ages, so i was wondering if i was to bring along a decidedly slow friend of mine with a dangerously low mental age could we partake in the "frolics and fun at pocket money prices"?

So the last glimpse of something i could take from this campaign of yours is the Director's Chair showings, but unless watching Anchorman and Old School over and over again makes me a "true film fanatic" then I'm not going to be feeling any vibe from your selection of art-house, independent, and foreign language cinematography!

And back to my original question, what does a fine establishment like yours offer to people like me under your outrageous claim to be able to offer "Something for Everyone"?

On behalf of all in my position (and i know of at least 3 others like me!) i excitedly await your response.

Kind Regards,

Ian Robinson Esq.


Saturday, 3 March 2007

Aren't buses rubbish?

I got on today and asked for my regular "Frio" pass (which in itself is depressing as it's an admission to partaking in at least another 13 journeys aboard one of Trent's finest, and that's not a euphemism!) Only to be told by the lovely, friendly and definitely not suicidal autobus pilot that the already extortionate price of 18 shiny English pounds has been raised to a nosebleed inducing 19 somewhat dull English pound coins!

So now I'm paying more for a service that rarely turns up on time (if at all!), is often full up with scary "fragrant" non-locals, and which boasts the smallest amount of leg room per seat physically possible before you would have to start inverting peoples legs into their chests. Sound fair to you? Nope, thought not! Therefore i have started a protest movement, but as i still require this mode of transportation for logistical reasons, I'm going to start my revolution from the inside out. I will continue to get the buses to and from town when required, but i won't enjoy it and to show these most heinous of highwaymen what for, i have decided that as of now i will no longer move back up the bus when requested to! Ha!

This will cause a backlog in the drivers direct "cab" area and he will develop a severe bout of claustrophobia and resign from active duty, this will in turn cause chaos as people complain about the lack of bus services. I will resume my responsibility to "shuffty" down the bus only when the company agree to level the playing field. I understand there will be a period of disruption incurred but as the saying goes, there's no pain without gain!

No but seriously, bus are pretty rubbish at the moment, they rock up when they want to and charge astronomical prices... not impressed!

Monday, 26 February 2007

It's not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning...

And so it begins, i always said i wouldn't start blogging until i either had something to blog about or was so unbelievably awesome and famous that people would read whatever i wrote up anyway, regardless of what the content was!

Since neither of those seem likely to happen anytime soon i figured i should make the courageous leap onto the speeding band wagon and join the millions of other people already keeping pointless online logs of just about anything and everything.

Firstly let me make you aware of my situation, just so you know what you're getting yourself into by engaging in reading this little snippet of my life. I currently work in a building society spending my days taking money out of peoples accounts (usually at their request) and periodically, if it's an exciting day, putting money back into peoples accounts. Now i know what you're thinking, and no it's not as thrilling as it sounds! You may find this hard to believe but we don't find having the same conversation with every ageing customer entertaining, and the generic "comical" responses they come up with are neither clever nor witty.

- After giving the customer the amount of money they requested, a classic comeback from these genius' of stand-up, is "Only Just".... yep, like they expect to get a free tenner for being the 63rd customer that day to ask for £150 in £10 notes.
- Or another gem being when we ask if there's anything else we can do for them after completing their transaction, and they go "not unless you've got any freebies!".... ha de bloody ha.

And you wonder why investment bankers have a high suicide rate, it's nothing to do with the pressure of working with large sums of money (i saw a £50 note the other week and i managed to not get a nose bleed!). Nope, it's the fact that these people have to listen to really wealthy "funny" people making the same one liner jokes day in, day out, every day, all day....

However, other than sitting behind a desk counting the number of paper cuts accumulated on one finger and deciding which crispy note (and that's not a Chinese dish) gives the straightest slice line, i do get out and do other things to keep myself active and in sound of mind. The other day i was totally crazy and adventurous and actually wore odd socks! But not just "odd" socks, but ones with patterns on and everything!

This is a mad world we live in.

Anyway, i best be off, I've some paint to watch dry, and depending on the outcome i might venture into the garden and peruse some grass growing!

Keep in touch and hopefully next time i write I'll have something worth writing about... but if not I've got a lovely stuffed mole i could describe to you all in minute detail.

Ta ta