Monthly Archives: May 2012

Georgia (The Republic of,) travel writing.

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I was in a neighbouring country to Georgia when I decided to journey to Georgia. Railway tickets were only on sale a fortnight in advance. This is due to a regulation by Boratistan’s most important government agency – the Minister of Pointless Rules, Officiousness and High Handed Arrogance. Of course I had to bring my passport in order to be allowed to purchase my ticket. I was to be traveling with my Slovak chum named Angelica. There was a special booth for us to purchase our tickets from. The sign said, ”tickets can be bought by English foreigners.” Neither of us were English but we chanced our arm that the railway authorities intended to say, ”English-speaking foreigners.” In typical Borati style the old woman at the Anglophone ticket booth did not speak English so we had to conduct the transaction in my neonate’s Russian.

The day came for taking the train to Georgia and off we went to Independence Station. Angelica and I had purchased provisions for the 15 hour train journey. It was a blazing May evening. We found the platform without difficulty. Despite this being the main station in the land it has only half a dozen platforms. I have been there a few times and seen not a single train. I do not mean none arrived or departed – there were none to be seen even parked. A Canadian friend explained to me that the choo choos tend to arrive and leave either early in the morn or in the evening. In office hours the station is strangely quiet. We boarded the train. Its green and blue livery was alluring but could have done with being touched up. The povodnitsas stood sentinel beside the train. A povodnitsa is a woman (masculine: povodnik) who is the equivalent of a guard cum ticket inspector in the Anglophone world. These burly women gruffly inspected our tickets and directed us to our places. I had worried that we would not be able to get tickets when we bought them a week in advance. I needn’t have been so anxious. The train was half empty. I looked out the window across the railway platforms. A few others iron horses were in the stables waiting to race off to other parts of the republic. The station was groomed – possibly the cleanest place in Bigton but that is not saying much. Then I made eye contact with a female of menopausal grade toddling down the platform. It was Danuta. My Polish colleague was there. This affable woman and I chatted through the window. She and her husband were headed off to some small town in the hills. Danuta left Poland in her youth and married a Britisher. As well as impeccable English she speaks Russian. Her beau also speaks Russian. As their son is 30 and their daughter is thereabouts in age I estimate that this couple have hit the three score years. There was a mangy white tea coloured carpet on the floor of the aisle. Over it there was a grey cloth – I cannot bring myself to call it a carpet. I saw an Oriental board train and sit in a compartment further along the corridor. I heard him speaking English to two young men who looked like locals. The povodnitsas were all well over 50 in age – and centimetres girth. These burly old women are there to serve the passengers and maintain order. They wear uniforms. There is one or two to each wagon. The train began with a jolt. It was bang on time. Slowly the train gathered speed and we slid out of the station. We passed many shanty towns. There was a chicken coop right beside the railway line. Some poor people have their doors opening directly onto the railway line. There is no attempt to keep people off the track. The trains are powered by overhead wires and as there is no third rail it is not dangerous to step on the track. Of course being hit by a train can be injurious to one’s health but one will not be electrocuted – that is my point. A pleasing breeze wafted through the otherwise stifling wagon. The windows of the compartment itself did not open. The windows on the corridor do open. These Soviet trains in winter are overheated. I remember when I first boarded such a train in the Ukraine several years back I was astonished to see that there was a wood stove by the door. It was so old-fashioned. I found it vaguely exciting and quaint. I am also minded to say that it must be a tad dangerous what with the risk of a fire starting. There was also a samovar. For the uninitiated, a samovar is a Russian giant kettle. One heats up water and all day long one has water for tea, coffee and scalding political dissenters.

The train passed under a red foot bridge. I have walked onto this footbridge because it affords a decent view over the arse end of the city centre. The country lavishes hundreds of millions of pounds on prestige projects yet neglects things that would raise the quality of life of ordinary people. This foot bridge is a case in point. The said bridge has some steps missing and some gaps in it. It stands at good 6 m above the ground. Someone could fall off it possibly to their death. The country has strict legislation mandating Ill-Health and Unsafety at Work.

We passed beside the President’s Avenue. I got a thrill when the train rumbled over the main road and past this country’s answer to spaghetti junction. We passed by the huge shell-shaped shining white museum that is being built to honour the founder president. This conch is the last thing the country needs. It has images of the man all over the shop. Ere long we passed by some of the scruffiest parts of town. From planks of wood, corrugated iron, plyboard boxes and so on these rude dwellings were jerry built. Sometimes their doors were only a couple of metres from the railroad. This is the real country. The side of life that the government does not emblazon across its glossy magazines. The land was dry. Yellowing tufts of grass and parched bushes liberally coated in dust were here and there. The occasional tree broke the monotony. The landscape was even. The crenelated fields were scattered with rocks. One sometimes saw a herd of goats being tended by a morose looking boy.

I saw the Oriental dude in the corridor. I greeted him merrily, ”Nihonji Desaka?” ”I am not Japanese. I am from Korea”, he replied, smiling. He could have been mortally offended so he has taken my faux pas well. Many Koreans have told me how they hate Japan’s guts. This bloke was inclining to 40. He was slight and had short tidy hair – you will never guess which colour! His small moon glasses sat tidily on his modest-sized nose. I soon met his companions. Both were Azeris named Javad. The smaller Javad was especially swarthy and was a Canadian citizen. His English was superb North American.

I settled down to a good book. I had my nose in ”Status Anxiety.” I had that phrase in my vocabulary for a few years. I did not know how it entered the public consciousness. Then I came to learn my it had entered the lexicon – because of that book so entitled by Alain de Boton. I remember reading piece about de Boton. The writer said of de Boton, ”I cannot take seriously someone who lectures us on the stupidity of hankering after wealth while he sits on a pot of some three hundreds of millions.” Status anxiety – fuck that! The trouble is that I suffer from it. Am I successful enough? People do not respect the line of work that I am in. Should I care? Probably not but the trouble is that it does affect me. I should be unconcerned with realising other peoples dream and living up to the expectations of others. I should do what I want to do – no compromise. Am I rich enough? It is like Gore Vidal said – when a friend succeeds a little piece of me dies. It is still worse when someone I think is a total cunt succeeds. Now that kills me! The one thing about being posh is that I am not socially awkward. I do not worry about not being posh enough. I used to be uneasy about this when rubbing shoulders with the exceedingly posh. I am content with having very plebeian tastes in food and wine. To an extent I like slumming it. I still feel a drive to achieve and up to a point that is a good thing. Tapping out this inane blog is something that gives me a sense of accomplishment. I reckon that status anxiety is worst for adolescent – especially girls. Am I good-looking enough? AM I smart enough/ Am I grown up enough? Am I well dressed enough? Am I promiscuous enough? Am I too promiscuous? Am I popular enough? I am I daring enough? Will I pass my exams? What job will I get? Is my family posh enough? Am I good enough at sport? This crisis of confidence is very hard to take. I experimented with different attitudes. Unsurprisingly I was influenced by those around me. I became rather snobby. When I reached university I sloughed off some of these condescending attitudes towards the working class. I could not afford to be choosy about who I seduced. I just wanted as much of it as possible and I was not going to pass up the opportunity to ”debrief” a girl of below stairs class. My snobbery has largely gone – largely. I agree with the main point of de Boton on materialism immateriality. I would happily reside in one room. I think of having a life uncluttered. Just concentrate on the things that make me happy. I sometimes reflect that I was a naif in thinking that I could be happy without much money. I could have gone into a well-paid career a dozen years ago when there were jobs aplenty. What a damn fool I was to turn down the chance. I am envious of de Boton quite apart from his riches. He has had so many acclaimed books published and the first one came out when he was very young. This balding Londoner has done very well for himself. His prose is very easy to read without being trite or insubstantial. So many public intellectual affect an opaque style. His choice of words assists the understanding. Other writers try to obstruct understanding presumably on the grounds that this makes them come across as brainier. He does use quite a few quotations in foreign languages and then renders them into English. Why would he do this? Is he wearing his erudition on his sleeve. Is he trying to show off? If he thinks his readers will recognise the quotation even in another language – why translate it? On the other hand if he assumes that it needs translating why then have it in the original language first? Okay I do that too. _________________________________________________________________

The shades of night fell down. Occasionally the lights would go out. I discovered that the povodnitsas has a switch that could throw the whole car into darkness. This overrode the small switches in each compartment. The compartments by the way were generous for space. The bed come sofa on each was comfortable and long but not too wide. The bed-clothes were very clean. We were happy there. The whole thing was very decently priced at only 40 pounds for the journey of a few hundred miles. To go to the loo at the beginning one had to ask for a key. In the stations it is locked. The system is not very sophisticated – step on pedal and open the hole to the track whizzing by beneath. It was not foul as I feared twould be. The uncanny thing about this train is that it did not rock side to ride – it wobbled up and down. The suspension must have been wonky. I preferred it this way. I had no trouble balancing. I lay down. There was not quite enough space for my broad shoulders. I resorted to putting on back behind my head. This grew uncomfortable and I had to swap position frequently.

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I was awoken by the sunshine through the flimsy white curtains. I turned on my face and dozed on a bit. I got up quite early for a weekend – about 8 bells. I emptied by bladder, you were dying to hear that. We had enough bread, fruit and what not to stave off hunger. The khaki countryside had greened. There were uneven fields of purple corn flower. There were meadows, hills and woods. The verdure was welcome. We stopped in the middle of nowhere unaccountable. About Ok – cut to the chase why don’t you? Over 2000 words on the journey alone.

We stopped at the last station inside Boratistan. Some soldiers and police filed aboard. One has a long pole with a mirror so he could see into the crevices of the compartment. No sniffer dogs were present though. Out of the window I could see quotations from the Maximum leader on the wall. His all-seeing countenance gazed down on us. The police wore this aqua marine uniform. None of them were policewomen. Normally the border police include a few females. One border policeman leafed through the passports. He looked at Angelica’s. He noticed as discrepancy =. Hers was to run from 3 April to 3 July but then said 30 days. Angelica strenuously argued that the consular officer had patently intended to say 90 days. This mere slip of the pen should not redound to ill-effect for her. Justice and logic are alien concepts in these parts. The passports were taken away – the walkie talkie crackled excitedly with officious talk. Soon the polcist returned. My passport was stamped and it was official – Angelica could go no further. She was an illegal alien. She must go. She would not be allowed out of the country until this was sorted out. Angelica cursed that man in the embassy who had screwed up – ”fuckwit” being a word I taught her. Not the sort of English one learns at school. She fantasised about going back to the embassy and punching that midget who had issued her the wrong visa. I say he is a midget not because any opprobrium attaches thereto but the fact is that he is small. Javad the Canadian tried to interceded for us – to no avail. He told us tales of woe. The police in Russia tried to take his passport and extort money from him. He stood up to the bullies. I was surprised. I thought that this was the wrong course of action. Maybe it was the right one. On the other hand he may have been talking tough – he was a very small man. They worked out a way for her to get back to Bigtown without waiting 12 hours till the next steel steed passed through this station. A taxi to Midtown and then a bus to Bigton. 35 nicker all in. The police would escort her. She was not under arrest but she was an illegal immigrant and they wanted to keep an eye on her. Angelica went off the train and to her taxi. _______________________________________________

It came to pass that we finally crossed the border into Georgia after sitting just shy of the frontier for a good hour – well a bad hour. The grey uniformed Georgian police were much more reasonable and efficient. They wore baseball caps as a signal of the Occidental orientation. The loo was locked so I got out at the first station in Georgia to tell Johnnie a riddle. The lavatory announced itself from a distance by its noisome stench. It was a dark gray cube. It being summer the smell carried all the further. I braved the pungent odours and in I went. I tried to avert my eyes from the actual lavatory. I noticed that it was generously caked in shit. It was a scene unworthy of a Zimbabwean prison. Quite a welcome to Georgia! I preferred my welcome to Austria. We passed unremarkable small towns. Every ratty building seemed to be a bungalow. Undersized brown cows wandered the fields. There were hills at least. The countryside was pretty which cannot be said for much of Boratland. ____________________________________________________________________

Tblisi’s buildings – even at the outskirts – were not so down at heel and low-rise as those of the nameless country towns we passed through. Gradually the edifices became sturdier. Still, the place was in need of a whole lot of repairs. We pulled into the station at 11 in the morning. It was very bright. I alighted on the platform and saw several platforms on either side. There were some rusting old trains not far away. There was an uncovered staircase up to the building. Birds tweeted as I swagged my grey knapsack. Javad and Javad soon disappeared from view with the Korean in tow. The station building was a pleasant surpsrise – inside. The white floor shone and the wells-stocked shops were even clean. A television monitor gave the details of arrivals and departures – more than one sees in Bigtown. The concourse was spacious and cool. It was not bad for such a flea-bitten region. I wended my way down many steps and out onto the street. I had a guidebook in hand and tried to navigate my way around this sizable city. There were many taxis outside. The cabbies were oddly lethargic. They did not badger me to take a spin in their car which was refreshing. Normally exiting a station or airport as an obvious tourist one runs the gauntlet of these touts. I bore right towards a large car park with dozens of matroshka. A matroshka is like a maxi taxi. It is a minibus that heads off to a pre-arranged destination when the minibus is full. There is no scheduled departure time. I bypassed the minibuses and turned left down the hill. The buildings were raffish and a few storeys high. The city was liberal – in litter. The gutters were choked with junk but the pavements were not as cratered as in Bigtown. There were large trees springing up beside the road. There was writing in Georgian and Russian. I was a little surprised by the Russian writing bearing in mind their border dispute with Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I thought they would reject the Russian language.

I followed the slope of the hill down to a main street and then turned left. Soon enough I found myself on the main shopping street. There were many upmarket boutiques and smart restaurants. I consulted my map frequently. This street was less showy than the downtown of Bigtown but it was more evenly cared for.

I tried to find my way using the map – to no avail. I saw some Indians speaking in their language on the street. I knew that these sons of the Commonwealth would be conversant in the British tongue. I asked them for directions and they helped me.

I got to a main square. It was not that big. The place looked good and had a high stage on it with a sound system ready for a concert. There was a McDonald’s to my right. I avoid the golden arches of Ronald McDonald like the plague.

To my left I saw two clean-cut boys in shirts of purest white and dark trousers. They were wearing ties on a Saturday. I saw dark badges on their breasts. They had to be Mormon Missionaries. I approached this duo of youths. I spoke to them in English and my presupposition was instantly confirmed. As they gave me directions I read the badges ”elder so and so”. They pulled out their map and I was guided. They also told me that this was independence day. I had no idea – I had happened to arrive on the anniversary of Georgia declaring independence in 1918.

I headed on through the square and on to the adjoining street. The buildings suddenly became rackety. There was a dilapadated hospital to my right and a church to my left.

I found the street I was looking for. I climbed the slight hill. I asked some wizened old men if I was going the right way. I spoke to them in Russian. I would bet my bottom farthing that they did not speak English. They replied in Russian and asked if I was Latvian. I answered them nay, Irish.

The buildings were mostly three storeys high. The odd graymalkin tread across the street or mewed lazily in the doorway of a derelict house. The street bore to the right and was bisected by a couple of others. I was bursting for a piss.

I tried one guesthouse on Ninoshvili Street. Booked up – shite and onions! That is why dear old pater used to say. I had no notion of the provenance of that memorable phrase till as an adolescent I cast an eye over the oeuvre of James Joyce and came across that expression.

On to the next building. It looked in a sorry state. A mudbath stood outside the front door. There were two little lion statues by the steps up to the door. These statues had largely been knocked away. They were not recognisable as lions. I only realised they were supposed to be leo panterae because my guidebook said so. Surely this dive could not be open to guests else they would not have allowed the place to look so singularly uninviting what with the mud there and all that. But as I say my bladder was fit to explode so I gave it a chance. Up the stair stepped eye.

Once inside the place was not quite so muddy. I got to the second floor and there was reception. The room was only half -lit. Some lethargic backpackers lay about on sofas and the telly was on a Georgian channel.

A corpulent oldish woman sat behind the desk sucking gladly on a cigarette.

A dream of Eurovision.

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I dreamt I was going to perform in Eurovision. I was representing Ireland. There were 3 others in my troupe. I think one was male and two were female. They were not young or good looking. I waited nervosuly behind a curtain with the others. We were due to go out on stage. It was anot alrge or impressive hall and few people were there. There was a video camera.

Later I spoke to my mother in person. I was about to tell her that I would be in Eurovision. Someone else told her. My mom was pleased at the news but upset that I had not told her. She gave me a tight hug – unlike her.

There were others parts to the dream that I do not remember.

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Origins of the dream. I was speaking to Yuliya, Olga and Reyna about Eurovisoon last night. We discussed Jedward. I was in a show on Fridday with some colleagues – none of whom are that young. One of them is hot – Nadya. Another, Emina, is doable.

Myu mome called me on Tuesday and I sdpoke to her.

A dream of disappointing nightlife.

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I bedreamt me that I was out on the town. It must have been some place in the Britannic Isles. I was in a pub with wooden floorboards. In fact floorboards can only be wooden so that is a tautology – ho-hum. The place was not that busy. It was evening and possibly on a weekend.

There was a svelte barmaid serving there. She has longish dark hair – tied back. She wore a white blouse and a tight black pencil skirt. She had pale skin. I somehow felt she was from Northern Ireland but maybe that was her accent. I cannot remember her eye colour. She was several eyarts younger than myself. I chatted to her and she liked me.

I then stupidly wandered off and sat at a table ignoring her. I then had a big plate of flour in front of me. I ate lots of it and felt I was getting fat.

I think this represents a fear of over eating. I am angry about missed opportunities. I resent not having a girlfriend. i need to do more – to join a dating website.

Later I was in a not very trendy nightclub in London. It was meant to be south of the Thames. The music was not loud. It was tatty in the decor and the lights were on. There were many middle aged men around not so trendily dressed in leather jackets and jeans. I do not recall seeing a female but I got no sense that it was a gay place.

I was lonely and frustrated. I wandered out onto a balcony. It had a cage beside it containing a lift. The balcony looked out onto the street a few storeys below. The balcony had a black floor and was raffish.

Denmark: travel writing.

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You may associate Denmark with lego and bestiality. I know which one I prefer! Yes, anyhow – lego and animalistic porn. But not everything in Denmark is fun. No, no seriously – Denmark has so much more to offer than Danish bacon – either sort of bacon if you know what I mean. Now that is not fair. Denmark produces Carlsberg too – probably the best…. Yes, Carlsberg- official brewers to the Danish Royal Court. So how could one enjoy the best of Denmark all at once? Sipping beer while watching ‘Animal Farm’? I am no aficionado of Danish pastry, mesel’. One of the many odd things about this exceptional little country is that its most exalted decoration is the Order of the Elephant. Why choose that animal? There cannot be that many elephants in Denmark.

It was some years ago that I jetted off on a QueasyJet flight from London to Copenhagen. I have a feeling it was Easyjet because the cabin crew were wearing a garish colour. It was not the scarlet of Wizzair. It must have been the honkingly loud Dayglo orange of Easyjet. It was an evening in April. I know these El Cheapero outfits tend to fly you to Japan and pretend that it is America. NO, no seriously these people fly passengers to Bratislava and say that is ALMOST Vienna. It is not even the right country. One such airline flies people to Malmo in Sweden and tells them it is Copenhagen in Denmark. In fact they have the cheek to say Copenhagen and then put in parentheses (Malmo). You might think that is the name of the airport. So I asked the trolley dolly if they were flying us to Denmark. This sexy Slav smiled and in her seductive Slavonic tones asked which country I wanted to fly to. I told her Denmark. She was amused that I suspected they would pull a fast one. The svelte Slav’s scraped back dark hair and fake tan only added to her cheap allure. Hurrah for Sleazyjet!

A huge bearded Dane asked if this was my first time in Denmark. He was a gentle giant and wobbled his head just slightly as he took in the answer. This chubby Dane was about thirty years old had thick beard was a dark blond. He looked like the type that roamed the seas in days of your looking for maidens to ravish and skulls to drink from. Except he was a cuddly type, like I said.

Cheapoflot touched down in Copenhagen. It was not a bad night for early April. In a jiffy we had been whisked into the spotless airport terminal. The terminal building looked spanking new but wasn’t. How is it the Scandinavians are so effortlessly perfect? They do not have a frenetic pace of work or stressy attitude but somehow it all gets down. The place worked to a tee.

I remember at the passport control desk. There was some non-white chap trying to get through. What does it say about me that I cannot remember whether he was black, Arab, Oriental or what? Maybe I am colour blind. ANyhow the oldish immigration officer queried the guy’s passport or visa in excellent but charmingly accented English. The bloke with the dodgy visa or whatever was very self-assured and quietly said that he must be allowed through. ThERE was a queue building and the immigration officer seemed to decided it was more trouble than it was worth to hold the guy back. There was this plastic barrier thing – grey in colour. The border policeman had to press a button to let each person through. So the skinny old immigration/police dude let him through. Is that typical Danish behaviour – super relaxed?

These Danes think of everything. At the baggage reclaim there was a table with these toys on it on rails. Little children could move stuff around but not walk off with it. It would keep them entertained while their parents waited for the bags. I remember an entertainer when I was a tot named the Okey Dokey Man. He said why can’t things be different? At the check out why can’t there be something under the desk at baby level for the children to look at – a set of moving toys or something? The Danes seems to have taken this on board.

I got the bus into town. Lonely Plant was my Bible. I hopped off in the middle of Copenhagen or Kobnhaven if you are Danish. It was about 10 pm. I had my rucksack on my back and I plodded the not so mean streets in search of a billet. Being by the sea at least this town is very flat.

I took great trouble using the map in my book to locate some place that rented out rooms. I got there only to find that it was shut. It was student accommodation and only let out rooms in the summer hols. It pays to read the text carefully! I had earlier bypassed a tower block youth hostel and turned my nose up at it. Being so late at night it seemed about the only option. I was quite a distance from it and jaded. I got a cab.

The driver was sanguine Ghanean. I asked him about the many strip joints I had passed. He said they were A – Ok. I recounted an unpleasant experience I had in London some years earlier of being conned in a clip joint. He said there was nothing like that here. He had been in the country for a few years and not learnt the language – there was no need as most people spoke fluent English.

I checked in at the gleaming reception area. It was by far the most chi chi such hostel I have ever seen. It belonged to the International Hostel Association. Like everything in Denmark it was all done to a high standard and was not even that costly for what it was. These Danes have it made. How do they do it?

Up the lift. Into the dorm – after a good deal of foostering with that plastic card in the magnetic swipe lock.

The place was pristine.I found my bunk – the lights were still on. I conversed with a bearded young American. This bespectacled youth was not physically imposing. He was soft spoken and told me he spoke ‘Tesk’ as well. He was using the Danish word for ‘German.’ He was on a year abroad in Germany and this was some time away.

I do not remember who else was in this place.

I went off again – into the night. Despite being a port Copenhagen was not foggy. Kobhnhavn (Merchant Harbour it means) is of course a sailors’ town. Pleasingly this means that not far from the docks the low rise streets have plenty of fleshpots. I went into one bar which had saloon doors into an adjoining room. From the music and the wolf whistles I could tell that a strip tease was in progress.

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The second day.

I went down to my sumptuous breakfast the next day. In the lift I chatted to a lady who looked too old and far too well-dressed to be staying in a place like that. She was about 40 and wore a sheer biege dress. She was already madeup and coiffed. I asked her if she was American – judging from her accent you see. No, she was a Dane who had spent some years in the United States.

I had 2 weeks and so many countries to visit. I had searched painstakingly on the internet for rock bottom price flights I selected an entry point to that region of Europe I had not visitied – Scandinavia. In fact I had been to NORway once. I planned to do a tour through much of Europe and hit some spots that I had not so far seen on my planet-wide jaunt. I had not yet selected an exit point. I had grown too bored of searching for flights. I would travel around a bit and eventually find one.

I did not have time to dilly dally in Denmark. Besides, it is not a cheap place to spend time. Onwards! Next stop was Sweden. I resolved to pack as much as I could into a day and then move on.

I checked out the railway station – not far from the tower I had slumbered in. Being a sad train spotter I have a weakness for going into train stations even if I have no intention of mounting the iron horse. The choo choo station was not that large considering this was the main one for the whole country but then Denmark consists of only five millions of souls. This station was not as new-fashioned as one would have thought. The building was a biege brown affair. The modest trains sat lazily – how else can a train rest? I do not remember a single on arriving or leaving during my time there. There was no bustle to the place or indeed anywhere else in that town but somehow it did not seem dull or deserted.

I wandered around the seedy part of town. There were some porno shops. One could choose from hundreds of videos. These adult films were divided into many categories of iniquity. One of these was called ‘rapers’. I had heard that the Danes had an extremely broad-minded attitude when it came to such material. However, a film that purports to show simulated rape is beyond the pale for most people. The question is does this stimulate such appetites or satiate them? A person may be inspired by the violation that they have seen and go to act it out for real. There is a philosophical point to make that even if some people do go and realise their fantasies this does not mean that others should be prohibited from enjoying this fantasy with a visual aid. Needless to say I did not indulge in this – I did not watch a film showing pretend rape. Call me a hopeless romantic but I want the girl to actually desire it.

After my morning constitutional bout of self abuse twas time to wander the hard (core porn) streets of Copenhagen.

I perambulated into the centre of the city. There were well laid out squares with some notable public buildings. They were not quite august though. This is a self-effacing country. The Danes are self-assured enough to eschew swank.

I came to a large, modern square where Chinese were protesting against the kleptocrat communists who oppress their country. They had banners up bearing slogans in English and Mandarin. I spoke to a balding Chinaman with uncommonly crooked teeth. I said something like, ”I do not like the Communists.” His faced turned puce. ”But it’s evil!” he exclaimed. I was perplexed. Then I repeated myself. He said, ”ah” his face relaxing, ”I thought you said you like Communists.” We discussed the many atrocities visited on the Chinese people by the communist clique. He told me about how Mao Zedong had brought famine to China. He told me that he was worried that his anti-communist organisation in Denmark had been infiltrated by Chinese expatriates who were in fact pro-government informers.

Denmark and China are very different. Denmark is tiny and China is gigantic. Denmark allows a very wide degree of free expression. China allows very little.

Beside that square was a greyish partly glass building. A large road ran beside this plain square – no statues of anything or that nature adorned it. It was superclean and functional – very Scandinavian. I was trying to make a phone call to my bank back in the British Isles. It was exceedingly frustrating trying to get the right code. The girl from the shop came and helped me. Of course, like most young Danes, she spoke impeccable English.

Denmark has got it right. Denmark is the most contented country on Earth. Look at life expectancy, infant mortality, suicide, income, unemployment, crime, the environment and such indicators of quality of life. The aggregate of these has Denmark at the top. I have the doff the cap to that. No fair-minded person can fail to recognise that Denmark has achieved a lot. It has very little in the way of natural resources besides wind power – and it uses a lot of that. It has almost no oil, coal or iron ore never mind precious metals. Denmark’s astonishing success is down to good government and hard work. Sound policies have led to good education and sustainable economic growth.

I walked around the area called Slotsholmen which is an island but does not seem like one. It is separated from the mainland only by a very narrow channel and there are plenty of bridges. Some of the city centre streets were old and distinguished. The front of the buildings showed the sort of handicraft that does not go into modern buildings. The buildings were not too high and the fact that many streets were pedestrian only made the atmosphere calmer. I found the erotic museum and trailed around. The museum told a lot about the time when the mariners who set sail from this port would sail back in awash with cash and testosterone. The goodly whores of the town were in for a whale of a time. It showed a map with red dots to represent the knocking shops in days of yore. There was information about the ladies of the night who catered to the needs of horny sailors at the beginning of the nineteenth century. One of them was Jewess named Rebecca and there was a dummy in a mock up of the room where she would have plied her trade. The doll had a short red dress on with some rash on one thigh. This was said to be a sign of syphilis. Syphilis was the AIDS of its day. There were no latex prophylactics then. The only condoms they had were made of pig’s gut and were very unpopular. People just took their chances. Syphilis was incurable. I believe that only a minority of people who caught the disease died of it. It took up to 20 years to die of it. Quacks recommended mercury as a cure and mercury made people insane. Yes, hatters used it to treat felt for hats and the mercury turned them mentally ill hence the expression mad as a hatter. In a time when life expectancy was about 50 due to a poor diet, no central heating, dirty water, lack of hygiene, lack of medicines etc… syphilis did not make much difference. People could easily by of another cause before the syphilis claimed them for the grave. Sailors taking great risk on the high seas of accidents on the ship, disease, shipwreck and piracy might not have been too concerned by a malady that would take so long to kill them.

Later I had a snack in a cafe. As I went to the loo an old man shambled out of the cubicle. This aged chap had the sort of hair that is so white that it yellows at the end. He wore a hat and was stooped over and swathed in a mackintosh. He spoke to me in Danish. I told him in Danish that I spoke only English because I am Irish. I cannot remember how to say that in Danish. He then said something else to me in his language. I remember this well because he was the only person I met in Denmark who did not speak English.

I toured on through this copacetic city. I came to a magnificent but small royal palace. It had a wedding cake design all right with white facings. It stood looking onto a moderately sized square and not far from the sea.

I walked past Tivoli Gardens. There was a largish fun fair in there but that did not appeal to me.

The train to Stockholm cost the equivalent of 120 pounds and the bus cost half that. A train is far more comfortable and is twice as fast as the bus – a 6 hour journey as against a 12 hour journey. Being at the start of a trip around the Continent I was not about the blow a considerable sum of money when a cheaper alternative was available. The place the bus left from was shut.

Late that afternoon I was looking for the bus stand. I went to ask directions in a police station. A walkway through the building (like a tunnel effect but above ground) led to the entrance. There I met an exceedingly tall policewoman. She was one of the tallest women I have ever seen. She was not mannish but not good looking either. The Danes are known to be a lofty race. Like a true Dane she spoke impeccable English. I found the spot on the street by a canal where the bus to Stockholm was due to depart from.

Saefflen Bus pulled up. I was to discover that this is one of the principal bus companies in Scandinavia. The white liveried bus was largely empty and the driver of course spoke English confidently. I sat beside two Pakistanis and we chin wagged happily. These two boys were in their late 20s and were studying in Sweden. Sweden if stupidly generous. If you get into one of their universities – whatever country in the world you come from – you may study free of charge. In Sweden, as in Denmark, many course are in English.

The bus glided off through streets that were almost empty. Casting my mind back I wonder if it were on a Sunday. We drove past the offices of the Jyllands Post. This newspaper became famous (or infamous) for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) just shortly before my trip to the fair land of Denmark. I thought it wise not to apprise my new found Pakistani chums of this fact. There were loquacious and we got along merrily so there would be little sense in jinxing it. As the offices were not smouldering this seemed a good sign.

It was a bright evening especially for the time of year. Even the roads in Denmark are scrubbed. Soon we were on the motorway. A white suspension bridge structure loomed in front of us. It was so space age – neat and it had a calming effect. The sea was at peace and a perfect mid blue. This is the bridge across the Kategat – the narrow stretch of water that divides Denmark from Sweden. The bridge is high enough for ships to sail underneath it. It was an almost glorious sight. It made me film a bit.

In a few minutes the bus stopped in the Swedish side of the bridge. I had been in Denmark for under 24 hours.

Is office life a living death?

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What could be more deathly than office life? I once worked in an office. After four months I gave in my notice. Working in an office is to be chained to the desk and nowadays, even worse, staring at a screen. One goes home with back pain and a violent headache from the surfeit of light thrown onto one’s evermore etiolated visage. The sheer tedium of working in an office is perhaps the cruelest part. Stuck in one room. The decor had better be good to make it bearable. If your desk is not facing a window then you are doubly damned. There can be no more humdrum existence. Was I the first one to try and invent interminable excuses to get out of my chair? Micurating a dozen times a day may seem plausible if one pleads a urinary tract infection. Endless coffee breaks are frowned on. Volunteering to deliver things when others are supposed to do it is fishy. I thought the boss would mistake it for enthusiasm but he was nobody’s fool. He knew an idler when he saw one.

If there no temptations then the humdrum existence might be less than intolerable. To render it even more agonising there ARE temptations. Facebook is internet crack. Some offices have blocked it. Others are thoughtful enough to allow access so one can post something indiscrete and get the sack. Then there is internet porn. It is hard to resist the urge to flick through a few thumbnails on dogfart. One can always claim it was market research! 

 

Then there is flirting with the SEXretaries. Sorry, I mean secretaries. These tempestuous temptresses are kept busy painting their nails and reapplying lip gloss after sucking off the boss. Tight pencil skirts, acres of decolletage, the black wonderbras beneath translucent blouses and makeup that would disgrace a street strumpet are enough to have any boy dashing to the loo for some Onanistic relief. Hands up, who has done it? Let’s be honest. We have all gone to the loo at work for a quick handy shandy.

 

So you make a pass at the hot receptionist whom you swear has been giving you the glad eye for the month. The erotic banter hots up. Finally something to get you out of bed in the morning. The mind numbing vapidity of office life is perhaps a little abating. A hint of innuendo in a phrase, a word enunciated too cheekily, a raised eyebrow – something to restore the will to live. All is not lost! This fine chested young filly has poisoned you with hope. Then you work up the courage to ask her out to the wine bar and she accuses you of sexual harassment. Why must I be a 20 something hetero in lust? 

The kissable office chicks are one thing. Once they hit 30 and get embittered by the sheer futility of office existence they have to do something to spice up their lives. Dye their hair an inane colour or wear rank clothes. Get a tattoo with their child’s name on it. Have you noticed that? Then they think they are really fun? No dear you are mundane Jane.

>My ex-girlfriend dropped me off at the office a few years ago – a few months before she dropped me off permanently. ANyhow – she had our baby in her arms at the time. A scaffolder was there and remarked of the infant. ‘Tell him to do well at school so he can do something better than scaffolding.’ Now I could not be a scaffolder but this badly spoken horny handed son of toil was out in the open air doing something with a little variety. His work was constructive (in both senses). He did not have to wear a suit. There was no bullshit office politics. Wolf whistling at any pre menopausal female was part of his job description. I got brilliant A levels and a 2.1 from a top university. But who was the fool? This semi-literate knuckle dragger was probably bringing home more bacon than me. I deserve hazardous duty pay for doing something as dull as ditchwater.

 

Your scrotum is nailed to the stool. It is all so fucking meaningless. For a crap salar too. We are all middle class now – coz we work in offices. Yeah right pull the other one. It is all so inhuman. Who cares if we succeed in this or that. Do you care about your job? iF SO YOu need your head examined. Does your job care about you? Oh to do something a tiny bit interesting or creative! An office job is its own punishment. Spread sheets, accounts and pointless form filling. We were not created to be the faulty part of a computer. There are only two and a half words for office life – bag o’shite. 

Rio de Janeiro

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t is hard to find anyone who does not like Rio de Janeiro. This party town by the South Atlantic is a synonym for decadence. Warm but never scorching and blessed with abundant soil this fine city sports some of the most astonishing architecture in South America. No wonder so many rhapsodies are composed about this fabulous city. It is famed for its high fashion and celebration of fleshly pleasures. Though some live in dire poverty if you have even a little wealth you can be very comfortable here. The people of Rio de Janeiro are called ‘Cariocas’. They are renowned for their swagger and chic. As all across Latin America appearance is very important. Even those who are dirt poor go to great lengths to look good. Dressing well is very important in order to earn respect. People will often spend more on their clothes than their rent each month. That is as well for Brazilian girls if it forces them to go hungry. A stringent body fascism decries flab. Standards are high. Gravity defying buttocks of steel are called for.

I arrived in this self-styled ”Marvellous City” by coach from its rival to the south – Sao Paolo. There are precious few trains in Brazil so most people get around by coach. The gleaming coach station belied the dreggy reputation that Brazil suffers from. There was a tag on my bag with a matching one on my ticket. The guard on the coach would not let me have my bag back from the coach until I had shown him the corresponding tag on the ticket. The have to be wary for thieves as many people are skint.

I had flicked through Lonely Planet as the overnight big bus was drawing near to Rio and located a reasonably priced hotel that was central. I had a taxi driver take me there. I had arrived in Brazil only a week before. I spoke bad Spanish and I had been trying to Portuguese-ise it. I had picked up a handful of words especially pleasantries. I would use these as openers and then switch to Spanish with a lame attempt at a Portuguese accent. For the uninitiated, Portuguese sounds like a drunk Russian trying to speak Spanish. Written these languages are as much the same as makes no difference. But to my untrained ear the sound of Portuguese was largely imperspicuous.

Ere long we had pulled up at the mid range hosteliery where I was due to lay down my sweet head. The lobby was spacious and airy. The marble floor shone and the languid clerk spoke a little English. It cost about 20 pounds a night. Of course I paid in Brazilian currency – the real. Real is pronounced ”Hal” and the plural – reais- is pronounced ”hice” to rhyme with ”mice.” This is because in Brazilian Portuguese the letter ‘r’ is pronounced as an ‘h’.

A decent sized room and spotless too. Time for a kip. One never sleeps satisfactorily aboard a coach. A few hours later I awoke and stepped forth feeling sprightly.

It was a luminous day when I walked out of my hotel onto a narrowish street. There were some respectable buildings and only a few slatternly ones. I was in the Lapa district. A viaduct was its landmark. Pain peeled off this venerable yellow structure. A rickety old train creaked over rusting rails high above.

The main street, not far from my hotel, had a steady flow of traffic coasting up and down. Rio is free from the ghastly smog that blights many cities in takeoff economy countries. Why is Rio’s air relatively clean for a city of 10 000 000 souls? Brazilian motor vehicles are run on alcohol – rather like Irish writers. In the 1970s Arab countries had had enough of Westerners supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Arab countries discovered their petro-power. They hit the infidel hard where it hurt most – the car. For rich countries this was bad enough. For a banana republic this was a lot worse. Brazil changed from using petrol for its cars to turning sugar cane into alcohol. Vehicles are run on that.

I had a saunter down to the oceanside. There was a wide green fringed by palm trees. No place with palm trees can be all bad. It was blissful and unsoiled. The effulgent glass towers of Rio were behind me. The Atlantic was gently rolling in to the beach, a head of saponaceous foam on the waves. The waters were crystal clear. The grass was trim as were people’s bodies. I came to a white modern architecture style building. It was boxy but somehow not boring. It was a memorial to the Brazilians who served in the Second World War. I knew that Brazil was on the Allied side in that conflict bu I knew little more about it. It turns out that had a division alongside the US Army in Italy. The Brazilian Navy also played an important role in winning the Battle of the Atlantic. I saw a plaque that had been unveiled by Lula – Luiz Inacio da Silva, the then President of Brazil (this is 2003 I am talking about). This bearded socialist had matured from his demagogic denunciations of Uncle Sam.

I trailed along by the coast. I reached the world-famous Copacabana Beach. It is best known from the musical. The sight of the oversize nosed Barry Maniloe cantillating that number might be enough to put anyone off. Why do women go to his shoes? He is a walking advertisement for lesbianism. It was a Tropical idyll. Brazilians of all races gamboled on the beach. There were babies and those whose reverend heads with age were grey.

I had my trunks on and carried enough reais for a few drinks and a taxi home. Being on my Jack Jone I divided my money – half in my trunks and half to be buried in front of a palm where I left my sandals. Copacabana has a craggy eminence rising to its north. Daredevils fling themselves off this into the swell. I was no such risk taker. It felt good to feel the salt waves embrace me. I would swim out into the oncoming tide. Brazilians also floated there and many surfed. I had been at school with a Brazilian named Gabriel. I had not seen him in a baker’s dozen of years. I saw a man who bore a resemblance to him. I asked him in my effort at Portuguese, ”are you Gabriel ____?” He looked at me perplexed as much at my unaccountable accent as the question. No he was not Gabriel.

After a half hour my palate would be dry and encrusted with sea salt. I would paddle ashore and purchase a coke from a vendor whose disposition was as sunny as the climate. I would rehydrate myself a couple of times and back to the brine!

Coming off the beach I crossed a reasonably busy road. There were upmarket hotels. All was so orderly and attractive. I could easily have been on tHE Mediterranean coast of France.

I passed the corner of a snazzy street. A well dressed man in his 20s spoke to me. He told me about his place where I could meet nubile girls. I decided that I did not have any pressing engagements. He took me just a few metres away into a plush building. There on the ground floor was a very smart reception area. It would have been a multinational corporation. The young black receptionist was not racily dressed. She spoke flawless English and addressed me in an urbane and almost weary manner. I was told what was on offer but I replied that I only wanted to see a dance and not to commit the sin of Adam. For the first time she looked wry, ”Everyone says that at the beginning but I am telling you when you see these girls you are going to want more!” I did not doubt her. I decided to give it a miss. It was more than my budget could take.
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A British music teacher told me that the amazing thing about Brazil is if you are in the middle class all is fine and dandy. He even knew teachers with five servants. But fall out of that privileged set and life will not be so rosy.

Rio de Janeiro means ‘The River of January’ it is called this because the Portuguese explorers arrived here on 1 January 1502. Rio as it was known was mostly in Portuguese hands for the next 300 odd years. The French briefly took possession of Rio and they renamed the region ‘Antarctic France’. This shows an astonishing illogicality. There are few places more dissimilar to the Antarctic.

Brazil was one of the last Western countries to abolish slavery. Is all now sweetness and light? Some say there is racial democracy. Others hotly dispute this and claim that racialism exists just below the surface.

It is true that the upper class are almost all white. The poor are disproportionately black and indigenous people. The curious thing for Americans in particular here is that the races are not bifurcated here. Brazilians accept that there are no hard and fast rules about who is in what race. The racial categories are not discrete. There are endless gradations of skin tone. They have many words to describe each shade. Inter-racial marriage was accepted centuries ago even in the time of slavery. Brazil is also perhaps unique in producing a fascist movement in the 1930s that was genuinely non-racist. A contradiction in terms you may think.

Rio has a thriving nightclub scene. All sexualities are catered for. Beware lest you are accosted by a very leggy lady. Have a grope in a dark corner before taking her home. You may find that she is, ‘more than a woman’! Yes, for the hetero boy this city is a veritable minefield of transsexualism. For a libertine who is willing to be a little more cautious about whom they commit a mortal sin with this city can be very rewarding indeed. I met two Swiss boys – a few years older than me – we indulged themselves in Brazil, especially Rio. Florent and Thierry went to a bordello in the city. The madame had them squared as soon as she clapped a painted eye on them. She had Thierry sent to the romantica suite and Florent to the torture chamber. A fun town for the frolicsome! The frank sexuality of Brazil is an enduring part of its image and its allure. Florent and Thierry told me they had been to northern Brazilian coastal cities such as Recife, Natal and Belem. That region of Brazil is the heart of Afro-Brazilian culture. On the beach they would be approached by desirable young ladies who would chat to them and befriend them. There is no sharp distinction between casual sex and prostitution in Brazil. These delights were good time girls. In return for all sorts of services they were to be wined a dined. They were students and needed the money.

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I soon fell into a regular pattern in my week in Rio. I would go to the beach in the morn – normally Lapa. I would amble for a good hour. I would call this tit patrol. There I was salivating over the bronzed bodies of these covetable females. They have a special Portuguese word for the string bikinis sported by Cariocas. The word means, ‘dental floss’. I would surf for an hour or two and then get a cab home. I would have a day rest and luncheon. Then off to explore the metropolis on Shank’s Mare. I followed my usual tactic to prevent my pennies being purloined when swimming. Spread the risk – unlike a bank. Half the dosh in my pocket and the half well:I buried that money in front of a tree. The rationale being so either case I was not cleaned out. One day I must have been spotted interring my lucre. I came back later to find that some shitehawk had relieved me of it.

One day when I approached a black Brazilian who was hiring out surfboards on the beach he addressed me in English before I had opened my maw. ”How did you know I am a foreigner?” I asked. ”From your style” he told. Maybe it would be more accurate to have said – lack of style.

I remember a fast-talking Jewish Brazilian taxi driver with superb English who offered me a tour of all the sights. I do somewhat regret that I was a beach bum that week. The statute of Christ the Redeemer is the most mesmeric sight in the city and I did not bother to visit it. The Cable car to the Sugar Loaf mountain commands and awe-striking vista across the island sprinkled bay. I rue that I did not see more.

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One evening I wandered in an ill-lit street off the downtown. A poor black boy of perhaps 15 begged from me. The poor child wore only cotton shorts and carried a blanket. When I told him to get lost he made a grab for my wallet. Fecker. It was such a feeble attempt. I felt sorry for the child. If he had succeeded I could not have begrudged him it. In his situation I would have done the very same.

Brazil has many horrendous shanty towns called favelas. The unprosperous who live there are a world away from the jet setters who dominated the country. The penurious can do drudge jobs for poverty pay. Not many more enticing avenues are open to them. Some sell their bodies; others drift into crime especially drug dealing. Unless a lad is talented with his feet it is hard for him to make good.
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I found that rather few persons in Brazil spake the English tongue. Those who did were mostly the unctuous staff of five star hotels. I did not stay in such hotels because they were quite beyond my means. I would nip in to reception to ask directions.

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Rio has a great deal to offer. There are museums, art galleries and plenty to buy. There are excellent restaurants and none of this is too expensive. Brazil is the place to get to know. It has a growing economy. It is a force to be reckoned with.

Rio is an outstanding party town. I can’t wait to go back there. Highly recommended!

A dream is a mislaid calling card.

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Last night I was wandering through city in Eastern Europe that is right well known to me. It is very flat and has only a mean river flowing through it.

I wandered is grey and dispiriting streets. There were many undistinguished buildings made duller than reality by not even being tall.

I went into a bland building. The walls were plain. It was dimly lit. The floor was a dull colour with that speckled dash effect on white. I went down to the door of a basement flat. I rang the door bell. I was going to a house of ill fame. I knew a certain lady was there – one who served me with her mouth in SEPTember. She has black hair and is 30 years old but fallen breasted. She wore red when I had her. I knew she was behind the door. I had to show a certain business card before I would be allowed in. I rummaged in my wallet and knapsack. i could not put a hand on the item. I would not be allowed in without it.

I went out and wandered the small streets near Victory Street. I could not locate the damn thing I needed.

I later returned to that building where this ho lived. She was a sweet girl but I culd not see her. I knew she was not there. I never got into the flat. I was in the hallway. I wandered up and down the stairs. i was frustrated. Then I noticed a middle aged moustachioed man with glasses. He has grey hair and somehow I knew he was English. He reminds me of Chris S-B. He told me he was a detective investigating the disappearance of said girl. I told her what I knew of her. He seemed non chalant. He did not come across as suspicious of me.

I was deeply frustrated that I did not get a shag. I was annoyed with myself that I had mislaid the business card that I had to show through the spy hole before being let in.

Maybe it refers to my disorganisation and lack of sex.