About a girl…

Monday 29 December

Florence.  Two days before New Years Eve, which is without a doubt the most overrated shit-show of a spectacle the world will ever know.  Or rather, not know.  You apply so much effort and pressure upon yourself to have the greatest night you’ve ever had, and you question why you’re walking home alone at 4 am crying into a goon bag of repugnant wine, shouting obscenities to the heavens and cursing the zit on your face; which is obviously the reason you’re still single.  Or maybe that’s just me.  Either way things were going from bad to worse, and with just under 48 hours to get drunk in order to countdown ten seconds to a new year and kiss a stranger, I was once again panicking at the incomprehensible thought that it would be another let down.  Why?  Because I was stuck in Italy.  And it’s New Year.

So I’d met a girl.  In Rome.  And no, before you ask, I wasn’t old enough to be her dad.  She was 29.  Italian American.  Red head.  God I love reds.  An unusual mix of heartbreakingly unique beauty, and that psychotic drama ice queen I do so adore to attract.  The first night we hung out, she kissed the waiter in our restaurant.  The second, I stormed off because she wouldn’t come home with me – so she hooked up with the guy I was confiding in.  Actually confiding in the guy, about her, and then the second my back is turned they’re at it.  As you do.  It stands to reason then, that such a passionate, chaotic beginning, deserves the chance of an equally passionate, chaotic end, and an (anti) romantic trip to Florence was arranged.

The depths to which our brief encounter descended have left me with an incredulity that only Christ knows how to define.  There’s a big question mark over my head, but one that slowly began to dissipate, once she had stormed off for her train, white-girl-wasted, at 5 am on our last night.  I have come to some conclusions.  I have also come to some realisations.  And for all the twin-peaks-bunny-boiling horror show, I have finally understood something I’ve failed to grasp for two decades of my life:  I scare girls off.

We’re both damaged goods. Both carrying the weight of loss on our shoulders.  Both heavy smokers and drinkers (for a short time we made a very effective team, like a hostel bar power-couple.  Tequila Brangelina).  Both running from something, but ultimately both with the heart to turn around the hurt.  I could see the potential.  So as usual, I go all in.  I say the nice things.  I make the grand gestures.  Then I wonder why after four shooters and telling her I could fall in love with her, she bounds away like a ginger Gazelle.  I thought I could save us both.  Or maybe we could save each other.  How wrong I was.

In spite of this, she tags along on our experiment to Florence, but it’s clear there’s no interest.  Now I’m no guy for the PDA either, but this was ridiculous.  Walking ten feet behind me, hardly saying a word for hours on end, and spending more time with her nose pushed into her fucking iphone.  Blood from a stone and hens teeth don’t even cut it.  The only time there was even the slightest connection, is when we have a few moments in a hotel room; and even then after she’s slapped my arse and rolled over to go to sleep…I felt like…well…I felt like I was having sex with a guy.

Then it went spectacularly tits up.

We’ve visited Pisa for the day, and by and large it was a reasonably pleasurable experience.  Following a wonderful meal back in Florence, she decides it’s time to get on it.  And by that, I don’t mean me, I mean copious amounts of booze.  And he’s the rub; I’m the one who goes back to the hotel room, barely a drop in me, while she sits alone in a bar getting trashed.  Fast forward to bringing her home, and she begins to aggressively demand sex, like a pissed up, demented, nymphomaniacal wailing banshee.  Now ordinarily, as I’m sure you’re aware dear readers, I wouldn’t be adverse to this.  However, considering her actions during the day, with not one iota of affection given, I decided to say no.  It was the principle of the thing.  After physically wrestling her off me, I eventually had to scream “NO” in her face, before she stormed off in a haze of alcohol fueled rejection.  “How dare could someone refuse me sex..?!”

I wasn’t having a running battle in the street and this was becoming a car crash.  Sober as a judge, I’m standing dumbstruck with flashbacks to a time I nearly got arrested by plain clothed Police, for chasing down one of my ex girlfriend’s tantrums.  That was over eight years ago, and it sure as hell isn’t happening when I’m five years off forty.  (Jesus!)  People were watching.  My companion was refusing to listen to reason, flouncing down the middle of the road, screaming abuse, and bawling about how she doesn’t need anyone.  She’s a strong, independent woman and I can go fuck myself.  The dawning realisation that I won’t put up with this anymore was like being born again.  I turned and walked away.

To cut an already long story short I found her again some hours later sitting at the same bar.  The ostentatious melodrama given the slow-clap ripple of applause it deserved, and sobriety was kicking in.  I was genuinely concerned for her well-being.  We met some cool people, had a nice night and ate freshly baked bread in the early hours.  And then we returned to the hotel room…

Once again the relentless arrogation for sex ensued.  All I’d said and explained had fallen on deaf ears.  By this time I was physically incapable even if I’d wanted to, but she battered on regardless, yanking at my underwear with surprising strength.  After half an hour of this carnage, I turned, grabbed her throat, screamed for her to stop, and then let her go.  Calling me every name under the sun, she left the room full of hatred and loathing.  The first time I had reasoned with her to stay, that it wasn’t safe to go wandering around when you’re that out of your gourd and alone.  This time I let her go.

By morning I felt pretty horrible.  In spite of such a late (early) finish to the lascivious carousel, I woke with the kind of dread that only plagues you when you know something bad happened the night before.  Seriously, it’s better than any alarm clock in the world.  You will bounce out of that bed as if your life depended on it.  I’d had to physically restrain a woman.  I’ve never done that before.  Violence against women is something I abhor.  And yet there I was, with my hand around a girls neck.  What else could I have done?  There was no reasoning.  Nothing I could say.  Maybe I should have left?  Waited until she passed out?  I don’t know what the answer was.  But I felt more alone than I’d been in a long time.  And then, things started to fall into place.  For the first time, I felt as close to what it feels like for a girl when I guy becomes that aggressive.  When a guy demands and pressures for sex.  The only difference is, men generally have the strength to fight it off.

Now I’ve had my moments, but don’t get me wrong; I’ve never been that guy.  It’s consenting adults or nothing; to the point of I’ve stepped in many times in the past to tell a guy to back off because the lady isn’t interested.  I want you to want me.  But then I looked back on the short time we spent together, and the penny dropped.  I was having sex with myself.

Not actually myself you understand of course, but the female version of me.  Our similarity was striking.  The loss of loved ones, the alcohol abuse, the stumbling direction, unemployed, chasing cheap thrills, searching for a validation from strangers…But above all, the meaningless sex with someone who you don’t really care about.  I felt like those girls who have invested more time in who I was, only for me to shrug it off.  To not give a shit.  To go straight back to the dating pool and hook another fish.  To “charm the pants off a girl, and charm them right back on.”  This time  I was looking for more.  She just wanted sex.  And then she’d held a mirror up to the way I have behaved, and continue to treat women.  The ghost of Christmas present.

And so I was left alone to contemplate the events of a deservedly failed romance,  while my net-book hard drive was getting repaired.  Three days late and returned with Windows 7 in Italian, and I was still stranded.  Ride shares fell through, and my trip to the Juliet balcony in Verona was looking increasingly unlikely.  Probably for the best anyway right?  I opted for a lengthy bus journey back to Zagreb.

Running for the bus, I stacked something proper into traffic.  My guitar and backpack have gone over my head, and I’ve slammed into the rear wheel of a moving car.  Shaking off, I don’t stop to see who’s laughing, and collapse onto my ride to get the fuck out of Dodge.  I’ve got a long way to go, but sitting there, staring out the window with my recent epiphany; and I think it’s done wonders.  Perhaps it’s all been worth it?  Maybe it takes an experience like this to reach your watershed?  To learn lessons.  Will I learn them?  Maybe.  Will I try?  Definitely.  But the two infallible certainties that I am taking from my experience here; is that I’m never again dating anyone remotely from this country, and I’m gay for Michelangelo’s David.  Thank goodness he’s not Italian.

 

 

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Joy to the world…

Wednesday 24 December

You’re lucky.  I was going to use ‘Bah Humbug’ as a title.  My sister in her infinite wisdom has persuaded me not to be a Scrooge.  But indulge me in a short vent if you will.

After the recent melodramatic female related events of the last few days (which I assure you I will regale all in good time), I now sit alone, paying for the privilege to use a hostel computer.  Sometime early this morning, my net book hard drive decided to die on Christmas Eve.  The machine is less than a year old, and yours truly has a habit of throwing things out that he doesn’t think he’ll need.  In this case – the warranty.  Far more valuable to me however are the literally thousands of photographs, videos and files I have now lost, or it’s going to cost me an arm and a leg to recover.  Festive I am not.

In attempting to leave Florence I have failed miserably, dragged down by another futile attempt at something better, and now stuck for places to go as it’s this time of year.  Travel becomes super expensive, hostels ramp up prices and beds are overloaded.  I desperately wanted out, but couldn’t make it work with regard to timing, destination and safety.  At one point I flirted with the idea of doing a mammoth hitch back to Croatia, but sleeping under a bridge on Christmas day isn’t my idea of fun.  I opted for a place where I thought I could make new friends, and not spend Christmas paying for the privilege of speaking to friends and family over the internet.  Instead I ended up in purgatory.  A soulless place where the lost and the damned go to stare vacantly through you.  Where a thousand faces are transfixed in the ground.  The Dead Marshes.  The Deadly Desert.  The Swamp of Sadness.  Plus Hostel Florence.

And then it hit me.  Like a proverbial ton of bricks.  People do have to sleep under bridges at Christmas time.  I’m lucky to have the means to put a roof over my head.  Then I thought of the recent tragic events back home in Glasgow.  Then I thought of the countless number of people who have recently lost loved ones.  And the millions more going through hardship, poverty, heartbreak and loneliness at this, or any other time of year.  I felt ashamed.

I have, on more than one occasion, developed a penchant for the overly dramatic.  When the shit hits the fan, I tend to sniff it right up, rather than getting a J-cloth and a bottle of Cif.  The dummy gets spat and the toys get hurled from the pram.  So I’m still single and wandering the globe alone?  So I’ve lost a decade worth of topless photographs?!  Who cares?!  I am still (relatively) healthy and (hopefully) alive.  And it’s Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year.  A time to consider others, rather than ones self.

With the best will in the world, I have handed out some small charity to the homeless, and have forced myself to be decidedly more of good cheer.  I’m walking around with a perma-grin and the happy glow of a drunk Elf.  And yet, for a number of years now, and for reasons well documented, Christmas has stopped being Christmas.  I live it now vicariously through others and their wonderful photographs and stories on social media.  When bar staff wear Santa hats.  When your kids visit the man himself at the local shopping centre.  When you pass out after the turkey.  When my sister decides to share endlessly embarrassing yule-tide memories from days long gone.  With the constant, steadfast resolve, that one day I will again leave milk and cookies by the chimney, and a carrot for Rudolf.

Take care of one another.  Remember those not as fortunate.  Remember absent friends and family.  And above all, dearest readers and loved ones; have a very Merry Christmas.  Xxx

 

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When in Rome…

Wednesday 10 December

Make exactly the same joke that has been cracked for centuries.  Honestly I’ve sickened myself with it, because here I reside, getting up to more mischief, and utilising the saying as an excuse.  Do the bar staff have a sweep stake on you for when you’re going to die?  Oh well – when in Rome.  24 Bloody Mary’s in a day?  When in Rome!  Hardly lift a finger to actually see Rome?  WHEN IN FUCKING ROME!  They’re going to drag my carcass out of this city on a cart to a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.

You all know the history.  A couple of babes sucked on a wolf’s tits and together they shat out the cradle of civilisation.   Thousands of years later, Rome still has some kind of thurmaturgy.  It is a magical city to walk around in, especially if you’re blessed with that particularly special brand of late afternoon Roman sunshine, which they should bottle and market.  It’s a glorious wander into the past, conjuring memories of early GCSE history, because that was the only time you actually listened.  Rome has always fascinated me as a result, and I think it the primary reason as to why I am in Italy in the first place.  I’ve been on the road for a long time, how can I not visit the place where all roads go?

The city has a number of attractions that I’ve wanted to see since I was knee high.  Or around that time anyway.  Not least the Colosseum, which stands proudly midst the Forum, surrounded by vendors hawking Gladiator paraphernalia.  So familiar with modern stadia, it isn’t as large as you might think, but certainly no less impressive.  It’s no Anfield anyway.  There’s something about the trees here that make you feel like you’re in Rome, and the ancient, stacked architecture echos the grandeur of its past.  It is mesmerising.

A visit to the Vatican City is essential, particularly as I could achieve a new flag sticker for my guitar, and marvel at the priceless art, gold and architectural hoardings of the Catholic church.  I’m not so much a fan of thousands of pictures of Jesus on a cross, but I do readily admire the skill of the craftsmen.  I had a fold-out Sistine Chapel poster as a boy (for some reason), and I’ve wanted to see it for my own eyes since.  It did not disappoint.  And while I was slapped on the wrist by a Vatican guard for trying to take a clandestine photo, I instead opted to spend a lengthy time just gazing up in wonder at Michelangelo’s masterpiece.  Glancing around, there was almost this palatable sense of panic spreading through the Asian tourists as they clapped eyes on the no photography sign, and it would take all their willpower to resist subtly raising that selfie stick.  I asked my assailant why no pictures were allowed, and he informed me that it was a holy place.  No more so than all the other Basilica’s you’re allowed to take a snap in no?  I mused it was more for the profit on the gift shop postcard.  Still, a stunning piece of work nonetheless.

But alas, as much as this city captivates, I’ve fallen into a black hole.  A Yellow hole I should say.  I’ve barely made it beyond the end of the bar at Rome’s number one party hostel.  After the tranquility of Venice, I deemed it necessary to allow myself a little life porn, and I’ve been getting up to my old tricks once again.  And why not say I?  The company has been sublime, the breakfast hearty, and the welcome warm.  I’ve managed to kid on to a considerable number of people I’m actually a decent human being, and the drinks have flowed free.  Bacchus himself would have been proud.

After two weeks, my clothes were beginning to smell, and they could have got up and walked on their own.  Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.  I’m a bum pressed into service as a bum.  Having no change of garments, I wasn’t prepared to pull an 1980’s jean advert and strip off in the laundrymat, so I hastily purchased pants and a tourist T-shirt daubed with a Latin slogan.  By the time I’d crammed in a visit to the Spanish steps and wandered map-less in search of the Pantheon to no avail; with the help of a companion (more on her later) I managed to drag myself kicking and screaming out of the city.  The lazy photographs are displayed below, but I’m not the least bit sorry I watered myself well in a city of such decadence.  I’ll get there dear readers.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.

 

 

 

 

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Selfie in Venice

Friday 05 December

About 4 hours up the road from Zagreb sits Venice, Italy.  I have never been to Italy.  How hard can it be to hitch a ride to this popular destination, leaving most of my stuff behind?  I packed my guitar, three-T-shirts, an undisclosed amount of underwear, a pair of jeans, a camera and some hair straighteners.  Just the essentials then.  My  plan?  Italy for a week.  Literally two days in Venice, Florence, Rome and then out.  Tick the box.  What could possibly go wrong?

So I soon found myself in Venice.  With so many places begin called “the Venice of the (delete as appropriate) North/South/East/West”, it was nice to be in the actual Venice.  Apparently the best time to visit, the city seemed no less overrun with your obligatory Asian/American/Cockney wanker.  This in turn has prompted a phenomenon known as the “selfie stick.”  And they’re everywhere.  Almost as bad as people taking photographs using tablets and iPads, suddenly the world is populated by brain-dead tourists shuffling along with a smart phone attached to an extending metal pole.  Skynet is online.  It’s a matter of time before we’ve all become a six million dollar man/woman.  The rise of the machines.  New and improved selfie legs which are like your legs only telescopic with built-in GPS.  And trust has clearly gone from humanity when we no longer request a passer-by to aid with a photo of you and your loved one, because they’ve robbed you blind while you’re making a coochy-coo face.  Selfie sticks are the result.  You’ve only yourselves to blame.

“SELFIE! SELFIE! SELFIE!” is the battle cry of the purveyors of such abominations, as they swarm you in their hundreds plying their wares.  You can shove it up your arse mate.  They’d try to sell you one if you had no arms.

I rose at 5 am to get some of the shots you see below, because I have a loathing for people in my pictures, unless I’m trying to take pictures of people.  Walking around the city with not a soul in sight and you’re in another world, until around dawn when 20 folk littered the waterfront with tripods to capture that Venetian dawn postcard picture.  What really gets my goat though, is that nobody actually spends any time taking in what they’re looking at:

1.  Raise picture making device.

2.  Take picture.

3.  Walk away.

Got that one in the bag, stick it up on Flickr and show everyone back home what you saw.  But you didn’t see it.  You collected a photograph of it.  I wonder if half the time people can actually remember where they’ve been.

Vying for position along with annoying tourists and peddlers of tat, are the lovers.  And they’re everywhere too.  Of course Venice has something of a reputation for being one of the most romantic cities in the world, and believe me when you wander its beautiful streets and maze of waterways, you can understand why.  The architecture is jaw dropping, food is sensational and the art sumptuous.  But doesn’t anyone have an original idea?  Bringing my future ex-girlfriend here would be about as romantic as curling a shit into my own hand.  How is it personal?  You’re sharing it with another gazillion, love-struck mutton-heads kissing on the same bridge.  Restaurants are a-wash with candle-lit dinners and doe-eyed disillusioned optimists.  Gondolas glide through the canals, lovers in transit, in spite of it denting you eighty, (yes 80) euros for one hour, then a further twenty euros per twenty minutes.  Money can’t buy you love said the most overrated band in the world, but Venice is trying it’s best.  Dish out that cash while you can, she’s going to cheat on you in three weeks with Mike from accounts.  Maybe if you’d done something unique you wouldn’t be throwing yourself to a watery grave with a gram of smack in your blood stream.  How about dinner at the top of the Eiffel tower?

All joking aside, being single and alone can be pretty rough, especially at this time of year.  I guess it all depends what you’re looking for and when.  But being single and alone in Venice at Christmas?  Well that just takes the biscuit.  But hand on heart dear readers – it’s just jealousy talking.  Sometimes I look at friends and family with the 2.4 kids, car, picket fence and Fido the family camel, with social media awash with baby pictures, and I think “I want that.”  And then maybe they look at me and my lifestyle and they think “I want that.”  The water’s always less smelly on the other side of the canal.

Please enjoy the photographs; they really can’t do this city justice.  I’m away to buy a selfie stick.

 

 

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