Wednesday, January 31, 2007

In the beginning…

…there was Guinness

Shortly afterwards there was Cuba.

Back tracking the steps and decisions involved in arriving at the place you’re currently sitting is an interesting exercise. Give it a shot. What got you to this moment in time where you are currently sitting here and reading this? Here’s one: how do we know each other? What course did your life follow for us to know one another? Weird one.

Having arrived in Ireland with no further plans, the bus trip from the airport (talking to the Polish midget about her after dinner habits), I felt a little empty and lost. The three different plans pulling me to Dublin (one made in a Munich beer hall, another over email with distant relatives and the last with a girl in a galaxy far, far away), had fought it out and left no survivors. Frankenbike had been given away, the New Year had arrived and life felt like an interrupted conversation. In times like these, I tend to make rash, impulsive and sometime irrational decisions. This is the sort of thing I sometime hope I’ll never lose but other times hope will mellow with age.

I got off the bus from the airport, hunted down the pub where I was meeting Clair (a person that if you didn’t get on with her, it would be your fault), sat down and was promptly presented with a Guinness. As I was drinking it, I felt pretty chuffed with myself having only arrived in Ireland an hour earlier and already I was drinking a pint of the black stuff. We laughed with one her work mates how our chance meeting on a train from Salzburg to Munich 5 months earlier had turned into me staying with Clair and her flat mate in central Dublin. On the second pint, Clair’s other work mate Annick turned up. Having just given her notice to the company, her plans (and energy), to see parts of the world I’d yet to see before re-birthing as a lawyer rekindled my wanderlust. After a couple of drinks, her ability to talk the leg off an amputee and a sense of humour to enter them in an arse kicking competition afterwards, Annick and I got on pretty well from the get go. Then she popped the question:

“Why don’t you meet me in Cuba?”

“Yeah alright”

Having said this in a half joking manner, in the following days, I began to consider my options. My finances were ok. My diary was clear. Ireland was cold and wet. The idea was growing on me. I looked at the cost of flights and researched the country. The humour was melting away. Before I knew it my flights were booked and my visa was sorted.

We are serious now.

I’m going to Cuba.


From a beer hall night to a long haul flight.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

¿new cuban?

I´m in Cuba.

Came as a surprise to me too.

the internet (and the state sanctioned computers it runs on), is dead slow, expensive and prevents reliable and consistent means of contact with the outside world. But hey, who said anything about thought police?

Hey... Outside world... What´s going on with Fidel?

I´ve seen Havana, Vinales, Remidios and now I´m in Santa Clara. In a couple of days I´ll head down to Trinidad and then keep heading east until I hit Guantanamo (no, not the naval base).

Photos and video are looking great. Will upload when I get the chance.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Check 1..2.. 2..2..1...2

is this thing on?

Sorry for the lack of blogging. The internet here is not so good. So rather than my usual rants and raves, I present to you photos from Cuba.

Full wrap up in about three weeks.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

dirty old town

I now have a bike. Frank, the kind, all seeing, all knowing mechanic up the street from where I'm staying has loaned me a 50 year old bike, which has been sitting in a shed unused for about 15 years. It is fairly similar to the Swiss Army bikes banging about Europe around World War II and weighs a tonne. Frank said he thought it wasn't as cool as most modern bikes (I hear functional breaks are in this season), but I said it was perfect. This means I get to see a whole lot more Dublin in a smaller time frame. Now, if i can avoid getting the tyres stuck in the wet tram tracks again (like I did today), which almost resulted in total sterility and loss of teeth.

A port city, Dublin's docklands remind me a bit of what Port Adelaide has so desperately wanted to be for the last 15 years, but never got around to being. There's a lot of gentrification going on, with new buildings engulfing the grotty dirty areas, replacing the boons with glass walled apartment buildings and deserted frappuccino cafes. There is a part that reminded me a bit of Helsinki, but other than the red bricks and a copper green roof, the building and surrounding area is completely different. Little pockets of filth, old brick warehouses and caravan toting warfies still loiter here and there to remind visitors that it probably wasn't a good place to walk around 5 years ago. It's as if a bunch of people decided to have a big money fight, throwing cash around rather than glassing one another, sprucing up the joint and takling Dublin's housing shortage in the process.

In a back area of the docks, I rode by a caravan to take this photo. As I passed it, a gust of wind flung its door open. I didn't think much of it, but when I pulled up about 5 metres from the van, its pikey inhabitant came out and started saying something, which I initially took as a serving about the door. However, after a series of hand gestures and a couple of discernible words, I worked out he was only giving me directions and not the serving I had assumed i was getting. It such a weird feeling to see the contradiction at play with this guy. Here he was, in a dirty old caravan with missing teeth and limited life prospects, parked next to U2's dockland development. All power to Bongo for poncing around the world getting honorary knighthoods and meeting Peter Costello, drawing attention to whatever worthy cause he's adopted this week. But fuck mate, try throwing some of those tax free Euros at the issues that are quite literally at your own doorstep for a change.

Apart from the Messiah status bestowed upon U2 ( I do like them, but sweet jezis they're a pop band), I'm really enjoying Dublin. I've had the umbilical of Australian familiarity found in London cut and I'm back to travelling. Sort of. I'm staying with Al and Clair, two Irish girls who work for a fancy media company here in Dublin. Their place is pretty much around the corner from the central bit of town and they have been cool people to hang out and stay with. Through them I've met a variety of great people, some of which have encouraged the more impulsive side of my character. I've also had the ability to mix it up with the locals a bit more. Speaking the language has certainly made this place, with the ability of striking up a conversation with anyone a big plus. A constant source of amusement has been the "so when did Shane MacGowan pass out at the gig you saw" conversation, with most people having a story. And if you were wondering, it was about 25 minutes from the end and the band kept playing as if nothing had happened.

I'm currently hunting for a book which I have bought twice, giving it to other people. Now that I stand on the edge of actually doing what the book talks about myself, it's out of print and I can't get it anywhere. Arse. Today, I walked into a bookshop and quickly drew a blank on the book search. However, through the magic of a common language, I talked books, travel and life in Ireland with the Oshima-esq Sydney-sider sales assistant, who, between smoking, serving customers and wearing black recommended a good pub (I was there with Gabriel Byrne the other night and they still don't serve Guinness) and an even better bookshop (And you thought this joint was the land ISBN forgot).

At the other bookshop (still no book), I chatted to the guy about bikes and travel for about 20 minutes. He told me about his Irish riding adventures during the 70s and about a mate of his who had been skittled by a semi-trailer in London recently. She had been messed up pretty badly and died at the scene, nasty stuff and he was still upset about it. When I asked him if she enjoyed riding her bike, he said she loved it and she had always riden a bike for as long as they knew each other. I reassured him that she died doing what she loved and thet he shouldn't feel too down about it. As I was saying this, I realised that if I was ever killed while riding a bike, I would want people to think of me in that way.

Listening to a lot of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. A band listed as "post-rock" on the genre chart, they feature epic 20 mintue long songs perfect for chilling out at home on a cold night. Tomorrow I head down to Kilkenny to meet Marie, a distant relative on my mum's side. I haven't quite worked out the link yet.. Maybe mum (or even Marie) can leave a comment spelling out the connection.

I forgot to mention in the last post about how the Polish midget I met on the airport bus mixed up her words a few times, saying how she enjoyed having an "Irish whiskey and cock" after dinner on a cold night. I tried to tell her that any stiff drink after a meal was good for digestion, but couldn't becasue I was too busy giggling like a school girl.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Vikings, the gay bar and the flying nun.

On the flight over from London, I sat next to a Polish midget and an Irish nun. When I said hello, the midget grunted at me and the nun saw this as an invite to keep talking to me throughout the flight. She was a lovely old duck who explained to me that this was only her second flight in her life and she didn’t like flying at all. As the engines roared just before taking off, she crossed her self and gripped the arm rests. What was weird was when the refreshment trolley came past, the nun pulled a mafia sized wad of cash out of a ratty old envelope and bought some salt and vinegar Pringles (which she shared with me). After we landed she crossed herself again, thanked me for talking to her during the flight and after saying our goodbyes she said “God Bless you Daniel”. Not being religious, I knew what this meant to her and took it as a compliment.

In the non-EU line up for immigration I got chatting to an Icelandic lass. According to her, Iceland was founded by Vikings and Irish monks about 800 years ago and that she was in Ireland researching her family's ancient history. Is this Viking/monk thing true? How is this possible?

When I got onto the bus to go into town, the grunty Polish midget was on there sitting next to the only vacant seat, so I sat next to her and started chatting. Not being that much of a conversationalist she didn’t say much, opting rather to make noises which sounded halfway between a giggle and a cackle. What an all-round odd person. The fogged up windows, unfamiliar territory and a grunty giggly cackly midget made for a rather disorientating bus ride into the town centre. I found myself to a phone and called my Irish mate Clair’s mobile number. I tried four times with no luck. A little unsure of what to do, I decided to ask at a nearby police station. They dialled the same number on their phone and it worked fine. I met Clair at The Ginger Man, a little pub just around the corner from her work. She was with Rob, a mate of hers from work. I was told to unload the pack, sit down and have a pint of Guinness. 47 minutes from arriving in Ireland to having my first pint of Guinness in a Dublin pub. Not bad.

Since then I’ve been spending the days wandering around sections of central Dublin. The weather while shitty at night, has been clear and crisp during the day. I’ve seen plenty of the centre part of Dublin, but without a bike my speed, flexibility and distance is limited. The parks are beautiful and the rows of houses look completely different to those in London did. And I have no idea what Bono was on about. All the streets here are clearly marked and easy to find.

The other night I joined Rob and Clair on a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. After a “do you think we’ll make it by five” cab ride, we got there just as they were shutting admissions. This did mean we got the place pretty much to ourselves and while a bit hokey and tourist like, it was cool to find out about how the beer was made in ye olde days and that the head brewer had signed a 9000(!) year lease with Dublin authorities. The advertising through history display was cool and the “we all have choices/how do I avoid hangovers” responsible drinking exhibit was a cack. Rob was convinced the complimentary pint of Guinness tasted better at the brewery than it did at the pub afterwards, but I thought otherwise. The one at the bar had a stronger malty taste, something I look for in a beer.

Last night Clair and I met up with her mate Kevin. We went for kebabs, had a couple of drinks at a fancy pants bar, then headed to The George, one of Dublin’s gay joints. I think some guy was having a go at chatting me up, Kevin corrected Clair’s assumption that there were more girls in the bar on the night (“are you sure you not confusing that group of twinks over there for ladies?”), and when I said that I felt a little out of place to one of the girls in the group she said: “Why? Because you’re straight?” I replied “Nah.. Because I’m Australian”.

Lexicon additions:

Drunk. The severity of drunkenness is implied by the accentuation of each segment of the word (ex: – I was so Arse….HOLE…A.. FIIIEDD last night when I got home and threw up on the carpet)

Gob Shite
Either the crap someone talks and/or the person who talks it.

A good time. Also, a generic identifier (ex: With all that craic and the like)

News in short:
My video camera is broken. I can film things, but can’t get stuff on OR off of the camera. Arse. ANZ are a bag of dicks who require several late night phone calls to help them clean up their mess. Long story which involves sending my replacement card to the wrong address, cancelling it and then closing my account becasue my automatic payments began bouncing after they changed the account number. For someone I randomly met on a train in Austria, Clair is turning out to be one of those instant yet fantastic friends you only meet a few times in your life.

There’s an interesting adventure on the horizon. More deets as they come to hand.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

where the bloody hell are you?

I had mixed feelings about London, but overall it was a brill (ha.. local speak), experience. The city is so huge, yet through place names and architecture, so familiar. Bike riding around helped see more of the layout than I would have in a Tube (though that was fun). Props to Matt and Melissa for lending me a bike and letting me crash xmas while I was in town

Meeting up with an ex-girlfriend went better than expected. This is super ancient history, but every time we interacted after we stopped seeing each other in 2002 involved tears, awkward 3am SMS and uncomfortable silences. Our last gauche meeting 18 months ago (a few months before she left for her first big world trip), I suggested travel would make these emotions seem insignificant and trivial. I had many reservations about meeting up with her, but as she is quite a kind person, I decided to give it a shot. Once we met up and I stayed a few nights with her and her flat mates, my theory proved true and things seem to have settled without the weirdness. I think by the next time we meet, we'll be on the way to a normal friendship.

Staying with Simon and Alex was fab. Although I spent more time with Simon, these guys were the only Brits I interacted at length with. Great guys to meet and hang out with - talking music, travel and life over a few beers. It also gave me a chance to see south London, spend plenty of time around Battersea and catch up on last year’s Doctor Who. Browsing their extensive music collection didn’t hurt either. Bill Drummond is a genius.

Oh.. and now I’m in Dublin

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Cripes.. I have butterflies about this year. I have had such a good couple of weeks, the dark chasm of unknown which is 2007 excites me rather than phases me - for the time being at least.

At first, I didn't think much of it, but now I'm starting to get London. It has taken a little while to warm to it, but I think after a few more visits it'll be somewhere where I really like.

Today I rode about 15 miles from Camden to Balham and visited a whole bunch of places in between, listening to the Beatles love album, INXS kicks and the Bladerunner soundtrack. I saw Harrods (the outside), the British Museum (which holds the loot from several centuries of ransacking other countries), and the Australian War memorial (a very nice tribute to England killing off our grandads). As I crossed the Thames in the dark, I saw off in the distance the Battersea Power Station, probably my favourite building in the world and will be checking it out over the coming days.

The coolest part about being is England is that I can pull up on a street somewhere or go into a shop and strike up an interesting conversation with anyone, without the need to use crazy hand gestures or convoluted charades to establish basic principles.

I think I've solved the issues I was having with my computer, but everyone keep their voodoo dolls at the ready in case it has a relapse.

I'm now staying down South for a couple of days so I can get an idea of southern London. I wonder if I'll meet a Womble?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


NYE was nice and quite. When the fireworks around Big Ben went off on the telly, I did get the feeling that it would have been nice to be there. But playing pictionary with family was still pretty good.

Here's the video we took while Henge Hunting - which doesn't appear to be working properly..