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We’re all going to die

Or so the government would like us to think, if the swine flu leaflets are to be believed. I have been looking forward to getting my advice slip in the post, purely out of sick fascination.  Foolishly, I expected them to be down-playing the virus, surely that would have been wise; England is a nation of natural hypochondriacs, after all.  So imagine my surprise when this landed on my doorstep:

Swine Flu for you...and you and ba ba ba

Seriously?!?  The cover alone makes even me panic.  Infected spittle flies everywhere while this virile, healthy-looking man dies in front of our very eyes!  Hell, if he’s at risk, I’d better take me some drugs!  What do I need to know? Tell me, oh government officials!

Firstly they say that no one will have immunity to it and that everyone is at risk.  OK, what else?  Everyday items like TV remotes are probably infected.  But it’s alright, they have been planning for a flu epidemic for a number of years (bastards) and apparently some drugs can reduce your illness by – wait for it – one whole day.  Whoop de doo.

I could rant for a while about this, but I will leave you with this final piece of advice: don’t forget to get a network of ‘Flu Friends’; handy paranoid acquaintances, who will help form a deathly Neighbourhood Watch group to buy you supplies so you don’t have to leave the house and infect others – because don’t forget that even face masks don’t protect people from becoming infected.

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It’s good to talk

Today I got chatting to some marathon runners whilst on the tube on my way home.  Now, I do appreciate that it is not common practice to strike up casual chit-chat with people on the underground – heavens, some might even think it one of the most serious of social taboos – but they were from Ireland, so I thought it would be OK.  They first came on the carriage a couple of stops after me and I realised, by their kit-bags and ‘Dublin Marathon 2009’ T-shirts, that they must have run the London Marathon today.  For some reason this fascinated me.  Here was a group of middle aged men who had all just done the most incredible athletic feat, yet were now just chatting amongst themselves and casually leafing though the Sunday papers – it made me think about all the people I see every day on the tube, who just pass by, but may well have the most fantastic and unusual stories to relate, if only I was able to talk to them.

With this in mind, I unplugged my ears from the sounds of Stevie Wonder and decided to ask them if they really had just run the race (they loved it, but everyone else on the tube obviously thought I should have been certified then and there).  Anyway, it turns out that the man next to me had done it in a weelchair and had been racing since the age of 21 (a long time in his case). Then they all chipped in for a bit of the action and started offering me excersise tips and advice, as well as filling me in on the history of their nicknames etc (to be honest, they had such strong accents and were on such a high, a lot of my contribution was mere guess-work and nodding).  I left them a few stops later, bidding them farewell and good luck, as they were all of to race the Dublin Marathon tomorrow.  Madmen.  But I do wish it was more acceptable to talk to strangers.

On an aside note, I saw ‘State of Play’ today and, although it was a very long film, it really was excellent – I even thought Ben Affleck was good, and that’s saying summat.

More toilet talk

There is some serious sh*t going down in my street.  Literally.  Following on from my rant about the dog that deposits the hairiest poos ever, today I saw them yet again…but they were white.  Now, from TV programmes and student ranger experience, I know that white plops are caused by the calcium in the bones of an animal’s diet.  This scares me.  Have I inadvertently uncovered a covert murder operation – a la Sweeny Tod but in dog-food style?  I’m actually wondering whether or not I should even post this, for fear that I will get found out and assiasinated in the night…

Fatima

Not only has this Easter weekend been fabulous; various wonderful visitors, parties, wine and a truly excellent Easter egg hunt, I have also finally found a soulmate for my goldfish, Santiago.  Her name is Fatima and today I saw them courting in the pond.  You may or may not remember the story of Santiago, a goldfish rescued from a fair, presumed dead, who then proved his mettle by surviving the cold Winter and frozen waters of 2007/8 emerging as a massive, sheening, golden beauty.  Anyway, we decided that it was now time for this goldfish to become a man.  Metaphorically.

So, Saturday saw us head to Notcutts garden centre to pick out his betrothed, rather like an arranged marriage, if you will.  This is not actually her, but it looks just like her (apart from the freckle above her right fin):

Fatima

My work here is done and there’s now a lorra, lorra love going on in our pond.  Just call me Cilla.

Mark Alder and the Baudelaires

I’ve been a bit lame recently when it’s come to writing on this wee blog.  The truth is that I haven’t felt the bolt of inspiration strike, like it has so often before.  Looking back on my last month though, I have actually done some pretty cool things – I’ve been to The Harrow at Little Bedwyn (a Michelin starred restaurant), I’ve sipped at Weissbier in a pub in Borough Market next to Oz Clarke and I’ve drunk 1949 Sauternes (not to mention having my first experience of Sing-Star) – all very blog-worthy activities, but they just couldn’t quite get me to where I am now; sat in front of the old laptop, tip-tapping away at the shiny white keys.  

However, the feeling did strike me in a rather unexpected place on Friday (no jokes please); at my friend’s gig.  Now, I am not one to harp about friends’ talents and, if I’m honest, watching people I know perform in bands usually makes me cringe somewhere deep inside but this was different.  Not that I expected anything else.  Mark has been my friend for a good few years now and I have always enjoyed watching him play solo when he’s been able to make it up to Reading, but on Friday I finally made it to see him with his band ( Mark Alder and The Baudelaires), and it was something else.  I’m not really sure what to write here, unlike talking about a film, or writing about a meal / bottle of wine, writing about bands is not something I really do a lot.  Basically it was ace.  It was so good that I would even go to see these guys play if I didn’t know them from Adam.  I’m not even going to compare them to anyone else music-wise, I’m sure they’d have their own comparisons to make, but I can assure you that if you go to check them out, you will not be disappointed.  Toe-tappingly, hip-bobbingly, ‘let’s-just blinkin-dance-the-night-away’ good.

In fact, a newly-made friend pinned it down precisely when she said “its just so nice to have a friend who’s in a band that I actually want to go and see…one that I don’t have to pretend to like more than I do”…or words to that effect.

Consider this a postcard

I really feel I ought to write about my recent trip to Chile, but how does one possibly begin to sum up a two week trip in one little post? Well, fear ye not, I will not be attempting to do this. Instead, I will give you a nice, bite-sized round-up of my top five things that happened (Vicky, this does not include seeing you for the first time in two years, which was obviously the overall delight!):

1) Dancing with pikeys in a sticky bar, drinking ‘Earthquakes’ (beer, wine, a scoop of pineapple icecream…and possibly also a shot of vodka..it was hard to determine the exact ingredients and no-one really seemed to know). Top moments from the afternoon (yes, I know, it was actually still light when we left) include watching Vicky dance the Chilean national dance to the accordion and being chatted up with the charming phrase: “How do you say ‘I want to gauge out your eyes and get married to them’?”. I also quite enjoyed chatting to the security guard in the supermarket afterwards, who told us that he’d just divorced his wife after she stabbed him, shortly before giving Vicky his email address. Sometimes I wonder if that actually happened, or if was just the result of the beer/wine/vodka combo…

2) Climbing the Villarica Volcano at 4am…not least because our instructor had the most beautiful bottom I have ever seen in real life (as I have not yet actually met Rafael Nadal). My particular favourite point of the event was when Vicky pissed into the wind and ended up with wee on her boots.

3) Various national dishes consumed, thanks to Vicky and Schuyler, who ensured that I pretty much tried all that was possible on a shoe-string budget. I’ll be badgered if I can remember the proper names for all the dishes, but particular favour went to Cazuela (or Consuela for the sake or ease and comedy), empanadas (basically Cornish pasties) and various seafood sampled in fish markets around the towns.

4) Our final night, which ended up with Vicky and I chatting to lovely Chilean barmen in an empty restaurant and then eating some suspicious looking raw meat dish in a German Bierstube, before running over the dual carriageway to check out the commotion at a gig (which turned out to be a closed-off Ramones tribute act) and finally deciding to take the night bus home and being stared at for being giggling foreigners all the way (although one ganster-looking chap was smiling nicely at us). Ace, that’s what good times are made of.

5) Enjoying a walk through the lovely national park at Huereque and relaxing in the thermal spas that evening, watching the sun set over the volcano while we chatted the night away in the pools.

Right, that pretty much sums it up. Other things may or may not have happened, but a blog may not be the ideal forum for such discussions…

Oh, and we also watched Barack Obama being sworn in, in a TV shop in Valparaiso, but I can’t really say it was a highlight because the Spanish dubbing meant that I was just watching his face move and getting tired legs for the best part of 40 minutes.

Ciao for now.

It’snow fun

As I write this I should be preparing to land in Santiago de Chile to visit my best friend who I have not seen for nearly two years, but instead I am sat in bed in Reading in a house with no heating, suffering ever so slightly from gin-based drinking games last night.

The reason for this? Snow. Yes, fair people, in this day and age where it is possible to create see-through suits, have real-time video calls with people the other side of the world and travel to the moon, it would seem that nothing can rival the power of Mother Nature, even at her relatively mildest, for Madrid airport (where I was transiting through) was closed due to a freak snowstorm yesterday. As a result I spent a precious day of my two week holiday (not to mention a day off work) sat on a dusty floor in Heathrow’s Terminal 2, shuffling along and trying not to lose my patience with riled fellow passengers who began acting totally irrationally.

Anyway, today is a new day and I am booked onto a brand new flight tonight – this time via Brazil (I’m hoping that snow won’t be too much of a problem there). I am doing my best to look on the bright side; I am going from Terminal 5 (this actually made me squeal with excitement when I was finally re-booked at 8.30pm last night) and I am going with BA, which I am hoping will mean a better plane than Iberia…only time will tell…