Dispatch RiderBritish Dispatches
Tuesday, September 30, 2003
      ( 1:19 PM ) Spengy  


I finally got sick of being a domestic engineer while waiting for a fulltime professional role to come my way (I am stuck in the "you are only a damn colonial" rut - glad to see that English still think that their shit is sublime) and went out and got a bar job.

I did my first shift last night at a rather nice little pub backing onto the town green. Friendly crowd of punters, not too busy and it was fun to be on the other side of the bar for a change. I haven't worked in a pub since I was at university many years ago when Jesus was playing fullback for Nazareth. It was nice to see I could still remember how to pull a good beer and mix those cocktails. Nothing had really changed.

Nothing that is except the tills. Last time I had worked you added the stuff up in your head and rang the total into the old cash register. Now I was confronted by a neat little backlit LCD screen and a bank of 100 multicoloured buttons. Where to start. This thing had everything from pints to spirits, dashes to nips, crisps to matches, tops to toothpicks. It took me the whole shift to learn how to drive it. When I stood in front of it I felt like Captain James T Kirk on the bridge of Starship Enterprise - beam me up Scotty.

Monday, September 29, 2003
      ( 10:47 AM ) Spengy  


One of the things that first hit me when I arrived in this country was how "safety aware" everything was. Slippery Floor signs, barricades around pavement works, rows of witches hats highlighting road repairs and my favourite "Mind the Gap" Underground announcement. I'm sorry but I don't buy into this crap. If you aren't aware of your surroundings and fail to take some responsibility for your own safety then you don't deserve to be let outside your own house.

Mind you it isn't as bad as the USA where there is a complete abrogation of personal responsibility for your own stupidity. This is where you can sue a plastic container manufacturer because you burned yourself by pouring hot oil into one of their pots. This is despite the fact that the container clearly says "Not for boiling water" because you can be successful running the argument that the oil wasn't boiling. We have the Yanks to thanks for the little message on new car wing mirrors saying "Things are closer than they appear". Please.

Despite this general push to protect us from our own actions helmets are not compulsory for pushbike riders in this country. The Minister in charge is quoted as saying that they are compulsory for children but not adults because "they make you look like a wally". A six inch cranial surgery scar also makes you look like a wally.

Where am I going with this post? I was feeling homesick and going to say this fixation with safety isn't as bad in Australia when I come across this article about a north Queensland councils safety measures concerning coconuts.

The world has gone mad.

Friday, September 26, 2003
      ( 10:47 AM ) Spengy  


At last I have finally finished this tome. It took me a long time and there is now a backlog of books in my "to read" pile.

Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize in 1981 and the Booker of Bookers in 1993. Literary critics rave about it, it is on the BBC’s Top 100 List and my copy was kindly given to me by a cousin with the recommendation it was the best book they had ever read.

This is the story of Saleem Sinai (aka Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and Piece-of-the-Moon) who “tumbled forth into the world” at the same instant as India gained it’s independence from England. It is thus that Saleem is “handcuffed to history”. His story is also the story of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is also a story about the mysteries of life with the operative word being mystery.

The writing is meticulously chosen with words tumbling off the page at you as Rushdie engulfs you in a chutnification of India and life. This is not an easy book to read. One must concentrate to glean what the author is saying on many levels and how he is saying it. No sooner have you settled into one style Rushdie is up and off in another direction and style. Very very clever.

There in lies the rub. It is a hard book to read. There are phrases and paragraphs that shine like diamonds that demand rereading but the rest is a mire of an author showing us just how clever he really is. Mystical realism is a fine style but Rushdie is just made to look pretentious when compared against Gabriel Garcia Marquez or even Loius de Bernieres’ Don Emmannuals trilogy.

I so wanted to enjoy this book but became annoyed with the way I was made to wade through page after page of literary gymnastics. In the end the book became a chore rather than an enjoyment. It was like being back at school and having to read for homework whether you felt like it or not. The India-English authors are an interesting group. I have enjoyed Yann Martel and Micheal Ondaatje (Canadian?) but hated Arundhati Roy. Unfortunately Rushdie is to be consigned to the latter group.

Obviously a book critic I am never destined to be.

Thursday, September 25, 2003
      ( 12:36 PM ) Spengy  


I have been getting some very unusual links from people searching Google and MSN;

Why is it always sunny when a large plane flies at cruising altitude during the daytime? - I'm 2nd on the list as being able to afford them an answer. Bleeding obvious if you ask me.

Swim cap goggles fetish - 5th and 6th on the list. I just couldn't bring myself to look at the other results.

Tinnie boobs - 5th

Swimming in Stickle Tarn - 3rd and 4th. I don't think so - too bloody cold. My brass monkey would be running down the road looking for a welder if I even thought about diving into any Tarn

Ladies pee in a takeaway shop - Thank god I'm 8th. I don't recall posting about that

For those of you who came to this site looking for the answers to the above I hope I was of some assistance.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003
      ( 8:58 AM ) Spengy  


Back again. Boy can the Irish drink. My kidneys, liver and brain took a beating. I will post something better when my hands stop shaking. Great time was had by all and of course the bride looked lovely.

Thursday, September 18, 2003
      ( 10:03 AM ) Spengy  


Oh my, we are off again. To another wedding. This time in Ireland. See you all next week.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003
      ( 11:19 AM ) Spengy  


France is renowned for its food and drink. Gers was no exception. It has its own regional wines, armangac, dishes and cheeses. Oh the cheeses. Mrs Spengy and I both sampled them all and often. Our favourite was an aromatic yet delicate tasting soft goats cheese.

Mrs Spengy left two days earlier as I spent a couple of extra days with my parents (over from Oz). Her bag was full so she asked me to bring back several cheeses with me. No problem.

On my day of departure I packed the three rounds in two plastic bags as I knew they’d be a bit whiffy by the time I got them home and into the fridge. I slung the luggage into the boot and my olds drove me to Toulouse airport. Half an hour into the car trip a slight yet distinctive smell of cheese had permeated into the passenger cabin. By the end of the trip there was no denying that I had a large quantity of cheese in my hand luggage. I’m pretty sure Ma & Pa were glad to drop me at the airport as they drove off with all windows open.

I checked in my luggage and went through the security check. I had joked the night before that the cheese might look like blocks of semtex when my shoulder pack went through the x-ray. I needn’t have worried if it did or not. The smell of the cheese alerted the guards to what it was and they didn’t bother opening the bag.

When our plane was ready for boarding I made sure I was one of the first on the plane, stuffed my bag into the overhead locker. slammed the shutter closed, sat down in my seat, turned the air nozzle to full and directed it at my face. The flight was fairly quick and no smell of cheese. That was until we landed and I opened the overhead locker to retrieve my bag. Oh my god. I was hit by a concentrated wave of sweaty socks that would have felled an ox. Every passenger about me took a step back. I looked sheepishly around and apologised saying “cheese” with a shrug of the shoulders.

The tube ride from Heathrow was uneventful and I was lucky enough to get a seat. The seats on either side of me were also empty but the train was packed. You might just be able to imagine the aromatic smells issuing from my shoulder pack to achieve this.

Finally I arrived home and the cheese was sealed into airtight containers and left in the fridge overnight before I could bear eating them. Mind you they still tasted great. My parents rang that night and told me that my aunt and uncle who summer in France had told them of their experience with bringing cheese back to the UK. The story finishes along the lines of it is something you only ever do once.

They were right.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003
      ( 10:28 AM ) Spengy  


Tired of the old over used catchphrases like "Win-Win situation"; "At the coal face"; "At the end of the day"; or "There is no i in team work"? Here are some of the new management consultant catchwords that will be replacing the old favourites;

Sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible.

A manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then leaves.

The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard.

The experience of spending an entire day swimming upstream only to get screwed and die in the end.

An office filled with cubicles.

When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people's heads pop up over the walls to see what's going on. (This also applies to applause from a promotion because there maybe cake, coffee and doughnuts.)

The on-line, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.

Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. What yuppies turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids or start a "home business".

Double Income, Awesome Mortgage, Offspring, No Dough, Sinking

A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiney.

Euphemism for swiping free photocopies from one's workplace.

The fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again.

The rarefied organizational layers beginning just above the common worker. Decisions that fall from the "adminisphere" are often profoundly inappropriate or irrelevant to the problems they were designed to solve. This is often affiliated with the dreaded "administrivia" needless paperwork and processes.

Someone who's clueless. From the World Wide Web error message "404 Not Found," meaning that the requested document could not be located.

That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you've just made a BIG mistake.

Well Off Older Folks.

Surreptitiously farting while passing thru a cube farm, then enjoying the sounds of dismay and disgust; leads to MEERKAT MADNESS.

      ( 10:14 AM ) Spengy  


Over a week in the French region of Gers (south-west) and we had a great time. Great food, great wine and lovely scenery, it is a great part of the world. There was a lovely family wedding and it was nice to see so many of the Spengy clan gathered in one place when they are normally spread out to the far corners of the world.

We did the really typical touristy stuff like visiting various market towns, bastides and other little fortified villages, the Pyrenees and wineries; eating baguettes, duck and foie gras; dipping your croissant into your coffee (didn't really like the floaty bits in the coffee afterwards); practising bad french on the locals and driving on the wrong side of the road. This was the first time I had ever driven on the right hand side of the road (or more correctly speaking driven a left-hand drive car) and the first day was an unnerving experience for both myself and Mrs Spengy. They go anticlockwise around roundabouts, traffic merges from the right, the rear vision mirror is on the wrong side and pointing at the wrong angle, you have to look over the other shoulder when reversing, the gear stick is on the right, your front seat passenger sits on your left (where you feel you should be really sitting, you overtake on the right, left-hand turns are across lanes of traffic (not right) and the road signs are in french. I did eventually get the hang of it but we never quite got the bit about which way you should look first when crossing the street.

Our trip was far too short and we will be definitely going back there.


Monday, September 15, 2003
      ( 9:45 AM ) Spengy  


I'm back, busy and bushed. Hope you haven't missed me too much. Will post something properly tomorrow. Hopefully.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003
      ( 8:23 AM ) Spengy  


Yeh - We are off to the south of France for 10 days.

I leave you with a classic take on the Mastercard Priceless adverts - Indecent Proposal - it has been around for a while but I get a laugh every time I see it. Note it is 1.2mb so broadband or cable will help but sound is essential.

Until late next week have fun.

Monday, September 01, 2003
      ( 1:50 PM ) Spengy  


Alzheimer’s and dementia are horrible things. In its early stages you can still make jokes about getting to meet new friends every day and they are funny in a sad sort of way. As time progresses and disease develops the mind deteriorates enveloping the victim in a fog of forgetfulness and confusion. The person you once knew is lost to you forever.

Unfortunately my Gran suffers from this devastating illness. I have been lucky enough to see her each time I returned to the UK over the past few years. The last time was in 2001 when Mrs Spengy and I came over to meet her family after we were married. While she was forgetful and vague she did remember who I was. She was even able to kindly insult me as she so often did by saying;

I have two grandsons. One is tall and skinny and the other is short and fat. I see that you aren’t tall

She also managed to tease Mrs Spengy by commenting;

You do have a rather distinctive nose

I saw my Gran last weekend when I went up to Hornsea. We took her out to a local café just down the road from the nursing home. We had coffees all round and strawberries with a chocolate fondue to dip them in. She looked like my Gran. She sounded like my Gran. She even had mannerisms like my Gran. But she wasn’t my Gran anymore. Here was a frail old confused woman who didn’t recognise me or even remember who I was. We couldn’t laugh about things we used to do. We couldn’t talk about art or music. We couldn’t even share affection or love for one another.

The deterioration from two years ago was a shock. It must have been even worse for my Mum (who I had driven up after she stepped off the plane from Oz). Mum hadn’t seen her for over four years. Gran didn’t have a clue who she was which must have really hurt. Luckily Mum and I had been primed for what to expect by my Aunt (Mum’s sister) who also lives in Hornsea. Still, it was a rude awakening as the warnings crystallized into reality. It is strange how you hope deep down in your mind that things can’t be as bad as they are being portrayed. You hope that some glimmer of recognition will brighten Gran’s face. But you hope in vain.

I hope I never end up this way. Not so much for myself but for those loved ones who are forced to watch it happen as you slowly drift away.

Musings of an Aussie living in the UK

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