Circus of horrors

Saturday 09 November

I didn’t miss halloween after all!  The annual hostel conference in Vienna has gone with a circus of horrors theme.   Traveling with little or no access to decent costume making facilities means my choices are limited, so I opt to re-use the invisible man from last year.  Joining me as a Wild Fig hostel team are other classic horror characters; the girl from The Ring, Carrie, and The Corpse Bride.  It’s taken me about 5 days back at The Fig to perfect the fake blood for Carrie, but let me tell you, this stuff turns the bathroom into a crime scene.  The colour and consistency are perfect.  My boss Vanessa is to be covered in the goop, and if she walks down the street, she’s going to get arrested.  Nena is scaring the shit out of me as the ring girl, and Satvinders attention to detail with the corpse bride costume is excellent.  With my head wrapped in bandages and struggling to breathe, we nevertheless look a force to be reckoned with.  The Fig is kicking arse this year.

So as you would expect it gets messy.  Very messy.  Hostel owners are an interesting species, and throw them all into the melting pot and you’ve got a recipe for scallywags.  I’m enjoying the anonymity of a bandaged head, which somehow has attracted the attentions of a very attractive Russian girl.  She quotes Shakespeare.  She knows who Withnail and I are.  I think I was temporarily in love.

Making up for last nights debacle and I’m one of the last men standing at around 7am.  Walking around the hostel, I actually cannot believe the scene of devastation.  We’re all meant to be hostel workers – surely we know better than most how nightmarish cleaning up after guests is?  It seems in keeping with the theme.  I’m certainly a circus of horror by the time I reach my bed; and perhaps I was too scared to be alone.





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Friday 12 April

My Romanian friends have been very naughty.  Thank goodness it doesn’t involve me, but I’m woken to hear the angry tones of the hostel manager demanding a 200 euro fine for smoking in the room.  Needless to say they don’t pay it, so they are asked to leave.  All this has resulted in a nice room all to myself so I can wander around naked and fart at will.  I shall look forward to this freedom after a day in Graz.

The sun is shining as I toddle around the city centre, camera in tow.  It’s a pleasant sort of a place with lazy streets and red roofed buildings.  There’s something called “the friendly alien” which is a strange modern blue thing that pokes out from behind older buildings.  It’s got a load of tube type openings that let the light in.  I kinda like it.  Apparently it’s becoming the new symbol of Graz, joining the famous clock tower that keeps a look out on the city below.  I take a wander round the worlds largest armory collection, and stand by the river to make sure this unhappy looking guy doesn’t jump in.  All in all it was an enjoyable day, but I’m looking forward to a new country tomorrow.

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Back in business and Romanian roomies

Wednesday 10 April

It seems to me it’s been an age since I was on the road.  That’s because it is.  It is with some intimidation that I leave the hostel this morning, unsure if I’ll remember to have the balls to do this.  It isn’t easy having thousands of vehicles pass by you on a windy corner, with what always appears to be a never-ending stream of wankers waving at you.  Seriously.  How are these pricks being bred?  Who is bringing them up?  How is that funny?  I silently whisper wishes that their crap car is wrapped round a tree further up the road.

I’m standing by the side of a busy intersection and the wind is blowing a gale.  The service station to my left has pointless promotional flags along the grass verge just asking to be blown over.  Of course this they do, and I dutifully keep putting them back up.  I’m hoping the multitude of vehicles revving their engines at the lights will notice such blatant desperation and pull in.  “Oh what a nice boy helping out in all this wind, let’s give him a lift.”  It’s nearly whacked my head several times and I’ve had sod all.

As ever with places like this, it could go either way.  There is literally so much traffic that a ride might not be as forthcoming as you might think.  You’ve no chance of anyone in the middle or outside lanes either, which technically is where your typical lift clientele will be sitting.  Guys in wrap around shades with a canoe on their roof.  The inside lane is reserved for locals, little old ladies, and truckers.  Lucky then that a Hungarian long distance driver pulls in on the hour.

Not a bad return to form.  Graz is only a couple of hours away, but I’m given the option of being dropped with a view to pushing on to Maribor and leaving the country.  It’s approaching rush hours, but as the rain begins to drizzle in I make the executive decision to call it a day.  At least I’m away from the Vienna hypocritic debauchery.  I stumble into a crap hostel to discover six massive Romanians lurking in my room.  On one I’ve never seen a gut so large, like an alcoholic, naked, pregnant Jabba The Hut.  Some are smoking out the window.  It’s a scene from Taken.  There’s a moment of silence as I humbly slip into my cell and deposit my things apologetically.  I make a mental note not to look at any of their faces.  It’s going to be a long night.

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Game of jobs

Tuesday 09 April

Where does the time go?  More to the point where has my zest for this trip gone?  I’ve spent the last few weeks desperately trying to stay away from drinking, getting a clean bill of health from the liver people, and then subsequently launching right back into the old ways.  I dressed as a vampire at the weekend, and a comment was passed that my skin was better for being off the booze.  I was wearing a light dusting of max-factor porcelain foundation.  I wish I could wear it all the time.  Women have it easy.

I’ve finally left Budapest, after what is always going to be a difficult month.  Mums birthday and dads day of passing just 48 hours apart, and now approaching the two-year anniversary of mum leaving us.  It doesn’t feel right for spring somehow.  Not that we’ve seen a spring anywhere mind, although as I look out of the window in weak Vienna sunshine, salvation could be at hand.  Summer is finally coming.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been actively looking for work during said summer.  In an ideal world, I see myself a top a muscular horse on a ranch retreat, pretending I’ve been cast in Game of Thrones.  The fields will be golden, the sky blue, and I’ll meet some lovely milk-maid in the land that time forgot.  She’s the village beauty, courted by all, and I’ll breeze into town and whisk her into the hills, and we’ll make love by campfire on fake bear-fur rugs.    In reality nobody has written back.  The only concrete offer is for two weeks teaching kids English in Vienna at the end of July.  With every passing day, teaching a language I still don’t fully understand becomes more and more unsavory, to the point of I’m beginning to wish I didn’t do the course in the first place.  Sigh.  I remember “winning” the “What Career” award in high school.  It looks like old habits die hard.  I wonder if India has an vacancies for an actorjournalistchefhomesupportchildcareenglishteacherelderlyworkerfarmhand?  Maybe it’s about time I just became a drug mule.  I reckon I’d do well as somebody’s bitch.

It’s time to turn South.  I strike for Slovenia on the morrow.




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Merry Christmas

Tuesday 25 December

So I’ve been updating my face book status with ridiculously cynical and bitter comments.  I realise I’ve turned into Scrooge.  I’m lying on my bed, alone in a hostel room opening presents vicariously through other people around the world.  I’m pleased to see a humourous T-shirt.  Someone else had been given tickets to New York.  A further has a remote control speed boat.  I’m currently online to a friend in the states who is telling me what she’s received as she unwraps each gift.     I’ve not opened a present for two years, so this goes someway to sharing the joy of Christmas.   Now don’t get me wrong dear readers, this isn’t a whine for sympathy. I’ve just decided to set the record straight and wax lyrical about this time of year.  Perhaps I am not short of redemption and I can save my soul.

I always felt that Christmas Eve is the best night in the calendar.  Apart from Halloween, my birthday and the opening fixtures in the Barclay’s Premier League.  You can feel something special in the air.  It really is magical.  I have a tradition every 24th December, in that I walk the streets of wheresoever I am singing The Pogues’ Fairy Tale In New York.  It makes me feel alive, loved, romantic, lost, lonely, hopeful, emotional and happy.  The list is not exhaustive.  Wandering foggy Vienna last night alone, but not alone, was pretty special.  You are all in my thoughts, and my parents were with me.

So the fun begins in earnest today and the wait is over.  Personally I prefer giving to receiving.  Take that how you will.  Buying the perfect gift months in advance and the anxious, excruciating wait to that point the recipient opens it, with the most wonderful expression on their face…well…life doesn’t get much better than that.

Enjoy the Turkey dinner.  Enjoy the burnt carrots.  Enjoy raiding the booze cabinet for the last of the sherry, and enjoy the afternoon sleep.  Most of all enjoy each others company, and I wish everyone who is still reading my ravings a very merry Christmas, and all the best for the New Year.  As far as they go, 2012 wasn’t a bad one was it?  Let’s see what’s around the corner.

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It just isn’t the same anymore

Sunday 23 December

Don’t read this post if you’re of a sourly, depressed disposition, or if you’re so hard-core Christmas you’ve been covered your house with fairy lights and made them flash in-sync with Band Aid.  It’s the 23rd of December and I’m lying in a hostel room on my own.  I haven’t been Christmas shopping, and I’ve not wrapped one gift, placed one sparkly bauble on a tree branch, or eaten a mince-pie.  The latter due to the fact that mince pies are rotten.  I’ve not sent one card, heard one carol, or watched one festive movie.  In short, dear readers, Christmas just isn’t the same anymore.

Of course this is partially to do with traveling, but more so the fact that for 30 odd years we’ve had a tradition with the family.  My dad is meant to over-cook the carrots.  Mum is meant to fall asleep after the Queens speech.  My sister is meant to rattle her gifts under the tree every day for three weeks in advance.  I’m meant to pretend like I’m not bothered about it all, but inside I’m bouncing like an excited child snorting sugar.  The brass band under the street lamp.  The glow of the window fairy lights.  Putting stupid antlers on the dog and seeing how long before he shook them off.  Pulling a cracker.  It’s all gone.  Apart from the pulling a cracker bit; I did that the other day, but alas the joke was on me.

It makes me think about what we take for granted, and those who are truly lonely this Christmas.  Growing up we think we have it all, and perhaps some of us do, but spare some thought to consider how the other half are living.  A couple of years ago I invited a homeless man into my home around Christmas time.  Granted I’d had a skin-full, but I was never not in control of the situation.  After talking for a few hours, I was on the sauce, he was drinking tea, we  played some guitar, and talked about why and how he was where he was in life.  He told me about his gambling problems and that once he’d had everything; a family, a girlfriend, a good job, a stable income and a roof over his head.  Then he lost it all.  There by the grace of god go you and I.  He commented that he could use a guitar like mine to busk for food, so as he left in the morning I gave it to him.  He needed it more than I did.

I feel that sometimes karma falls on deaf ears, and perhaps it maybe doesn’t exist at all.  Nonetheless, and undeterred, I’m going to see what I can do on the streets of Vienna these coming days.  I’ve decided to leave just after the festivities, as I’m not sure how successful a Christmas Eve hitch would be, and I’ll aim to be in Budapest to see in the New Year.  I don’t have a family here to sit down to a meal with, but perhaps I can find someone who doesn’t either, and they just might be very grateful for a turkey and stuffing sandwich.

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