Jesus owes me 80 Euros: a voyage to Italy

Friday 28 April 2006

While I was offline I got bored hanging out at the laundrette and so went to Italy instead. Here’s a few highlights apart from the bits everybody knows about the great food/climate/art/pickpockets etc.
My girlfriend can arrive in any country and in less than 12 hours get involved in a loud conversation on the pavement with a local who’s spent enough time in Australia to discuss, in exhaustive detail, the acceptable usage of the word “cunt“.
If you’re too tight or broke to stay in Venice, you can stay over in Padua, which is a 30 minute train ride away. It’s much cheaper, unless you go on Easter Sunday and no-one tells you that’s the night they cancel the last train out of Venice and you have to catch a taxi back to Padua.
If you like Italy but aren’t so keen on Italians then go visit some ruins, which are all full of French; or else visit Florence, which is full of Americans who are unnervingly familiar with the place. The Germans will be waiting for you at the bar afterwards.
The only truly archetypal dopey American tourists I’ve seen were all in Rome: if you overhear some of them wondering aloud if there are any good restaurants around the Trevi Fountain, recommend to them a little place nearby called I Cazzi Gabinetti – they can ask a local for directions. Hilarity guaranteed.
You can also amuse yourself at dinner by watching your waiter attempt to translate “osso bucco” into English, before telling her the correct term is “osso bucco.”
Over dinner in Rome we sat next to two Italians chatting away about places they’d travelled to, from Vegas to Nepal. They were very enthusiastic about Melbourne’s Federation Square.
Having foiled a pickpocket in Riga, my girlfriend also managed to thwart another kid in Rome, just as he was about to make off with someone else’s bag. Later that night she celebrated by shortchanging a bartender over the price of a cognac. Note to self: never, ever attempt to double-cross the girlfriend.

Italians either really like coconut, or think that tourists really like coconut.

We went to the Vatican to look at the pope, but when we visited he was curled up asleep at the back of his enclosure. The Holy See was disappointingly light on duty-free shopping, and although they do a nice line in stamps their range of postcards only extends back to the last pope, so you can’t send your Star Wars nerd friends back home a card of Pope Lando.
Also disappointing was the Vatican bookshop’s lack of publications in Latin; however, they do stock an Italian translation of Derrida’s Of Grammatology. Unlike at Montserrat, there were no crazy menopausal women at St Peter’s who wanted to punch on with us.
Italian TV is less batshit insane then I remember it, but they still hire just that one shouty baritone guy to overdub everybody from Mr T to Woody Allen. Woody pops up in phone ads with someone else speaking his lines so I must conclude that Italians consider him eye candy, a thought which is alternately distressing and inspiring.
From the way you’ve heard everyone talk about it, you’d think that Naples was a filthy shitheap of a city swarming with petty crooks.
I might put some photos up on Flickr, but I didn’t take that many while I was there. It seemed kind of pointless. Everyone knows what the Colloseum looks like, but on the other hand you feel like a total wanker if you stand outside it facing the other way, trying to photograph a packet of Fonzies in the snack stall parked out front.
Besides, if you really want to experience what a visit to the Colloseum is like, just watch Double Team.

Working backwards. I did stuff.

Thursday 27 April 2006

Thanks to travel, and to my internet provider screwing up my service without explanation for the better part of a fortnight, I have a large number* of half-finished posts lying around. Because all the news is stale, stale, stale, I’m going to put them up in reverse order so the latest stuff isn’t too old and the oldest stuff looks like a series of appropriately nostalgic flashbacks.
Right now, the new! improved! name and subject indices have been updated to the end of March.
A special thankyou to the extra person who subscribed to this site through Bloglines during my forced absence from updating the site regularly, only to unsubscribe again once I added a fresh post last night. I hope you enjoyed my blog while it was stagnant, and I’m sorry I spoiled everything for you by adding fresh content.

* Four.

Life is good

Wednesday 26 April 2006

Today is an auspicious day. My long Babylonian captivity in the laundrette down the road has come to an end and I have resumed occupation of my bunker. The internet connection is once again fully functional.
Moreover, today marks a year since I left Australia and relocated to London. This anniversary has given me cause to reflect on the many changes in my life over the past twelve months away from my native country, but one happy thought in particular stands out: I have now gone an entire year without hearing The Cat Empire. Life is good.

Just because I can write this shit doesn’t mean I can read it.

Wednesday 12 April 2006

Lousy Bandwidth Week Fortnight continues – my soon to be ex service provider thinks 5 days’ wait for them to reply to your problem with their server is acceptable. I’m getting a feeling this could take a while. In the meantime please enjoy a couple of hasty posts below, typed up at the laundrette. From time to time I can post text, but can’t actually access my own website to see if it’s com>>>>>>%20%& nbsp;^H^H^H^He<>& nbsp;< /font>operly< /div>

Two things I forgot to mention about Riga

Wednesday 12 April 2006

I’m not good at list-based stuff, so here’s two things that got left off the “Signs that Latvia isn’t quite fully touristified yet” list.
You can get a cheap double room at a hotel for 17 Lats a night. “Double” as in two planky single beds, with a bathroom down the hall. And next to the bathroom, a toilet with a sign above it asking you not to put toilet paper in the toilet; instead, please use the little plastic rubbish bin sitting on the floor. Eww. When booking a hotel room, ask for a non-smoking room, and ask about their toilets.
Riga has the world’s slowest, clumsiest pickpockets. My travelling companion was walking past the train station when she lazily reached back and grabbed the wrist of an indeterminately-sexed teenager, whose hand was halfway into her bag and was awkwardly fumbling with the catch to get his/her pudgy mitt further inside. She/he stood gawping like a bunny in the headlights while my dear, sweet confidante pinned him/her/it to the wall and went through its pockets until satisfied that nothing had been taken. A friend/sibling/parent/guardian/other of the teen-thing stood by and watched without objection.

Advanced East London infiltration techniques, part 2: the Hard Sell

Wednesday 12 April 2006

This one only works if you’re a healthy-looking, unaccompanied male. Wait until nightfall, then stand in the middle of a street about 25 metres away from a busy shopping precinct. Whenever a female walking alone comes nearby, shout at them, “Please, I need help!” Try to sound really desperate. Don’t do this too often, or soon you’ll have more women than you can handle!

Whoops!

Sunday 2 April 2006

I got back from Paris OK, only to return home to find that someone* had changed the locks to The Bunker. Luckily, the laundrette down the road is open 24 hours. Posting will resume sometime, once I’m safely indoors again and my ISP finally admits I’m not online like they say I am.

* “That would be the landlord.” Thanks. Stop reading over my shoulder.