The Spectre

So – faced between buying a cheap boring ubiquitous Japanese bike, or a twice as expensive much more exciting European bike – I opted for a cheap odd 30-year old Japanese bike.  Behold The Spectre – the shaft-driven Kawasaki KZ750 which nobody in this country has ever heard of (although I believe they are widespread in North America)…

According to the nice man, and the odometer – nearly 30 years old, yet under 15,000 miles under the belt.  And – I nearly believe it… it’s either been sitting unused in a shed for 30 years, or somebody really has done an amazing job in making it look like new.

Anyway – within a week, I’d added 1,500 miles onto it, having visited Hastings, Scotland, and Wales.  I have also figured out how to check the oil – realised I have a serious leak (although only overnight – perhaps leaking from the oil tray when cold?), and that it is very likely I rode all the way up to Scotland with zero oil.

Also – gigs…

Afghan Whigs – I can’t remember going to this… I must have skipped it for some reason?

Of Monsters And Men, again… and again – good.  They’re starting to play to the crowd a bit more, which I’m not sure is a good thing (the whole getting guys to sing one lyric, girls the next… it’s just divisive, you know?  And anyway – I paid to listen to them sing, not the tuneless jerks around me).  But yeah, good – had bought multiple tickets, meaning to insist that some people come with me – as it’s music which is impossible to not enjoy… but forgot until the actual evening… managed to get Jess along, who claimed to enjoy it – so all good.

Tiki Taane – claiming to be an acoustic/solo gig.  Which it was, sort of.  And then he used the loop-hole of claiming the gig was over.  BUT – he would stay on stage and sing over some phat beats for a while.  So – rather than being a solely acoustic gig, it was really more of a game of two halves Bob-Dylan-at-Royal-Albert-Hall type deal.  I left once the use of dub-step was becoming the overwhelming factor.

And Leonard Cohen – went to see him.  Was ultra tired, and fell asleep a couple of time.  Not happy with myself.  Excellent gig – amazing voice on the old fella.  And next time he tours, I’ll definitely take the time to head into Europe to see him playing in some awesome old castle or roman ampitheatre, rather than at bloody Wembley Arena.

And that’s about it – much more happened, but I’m still ultra-tired, and just trying to put my life, and house, back together after an extended visit by australians.  Luckily, champagne didn’t raise its ugly head until about 1.5 hours before Ben’s flight left.  And yet we somehow managed to get through 2 bottles.  I believe we actually started the second bottle after he was supposed to start boarding.

End of a decade – Hogmanay

Well, that’s over.

First, I’ll attempt to quickly do my normal blow-by-blow of my trite little life since last update.  But all I can promise is attempt.  Firstly – check out my own little gift to self.  I saw it, I knew I had to have it, and now I have it.  And I must say, I am not at all disappointed.  It really does work remarkably well.  My first power tool.

So – I headed up to Edinburgh to spend the few days up there before New Years.  Not a particularly pleasant trip – I need to remember to reserve train seats when travelling around holiday periods in the future.  Spent the entire trip standing in between carriages.  But, I had some books and beer – so was sorted.  Spent the 24th walking around the central part of town.  And yes, I guess it is quite a pretty town.  Quite pretty indeed.  Well done Edinburgh.  Most of the Princes Street Gardens were closed off, as they were putting up marquees and what-not for Hogmanay.  But – still managed to get the gist of the whole thing.  There was snow everywhere, but clear blue skies – really quite the perfect day for some touristy oohing and ahhing, and taking photos of it all.  So – took some photos, and wandered up the hill.  Checked out the gateway to the castle, but rather than going in and having a look, I opted for the “Whisky Experience” instead.  Which turned out to be really rather cheesey, but possibly worth it.  A little Disneyland style ride, and then checking out the largest collection of scotch in the world – nearly 3,500 bottles, I believe – and then some tastings.  Touristy, but also a little informative.  And not having had lunch, I did end up a little light-headed.  Bought a bottle of whisky that our young hostess had recommended to me – and then off to stumble around town a bit more.  Met up with Katie and some of her bicyclist buddies – and proceeded to taste quite a few more whiskies, beers, and the like.

On the 25th – I cooked lunch for Katie and her ex-flatmate Esther, while they gossipped and giggled and etc.  We were intending on heading out for a drink in the evening, but ended up staying in, Esther’s new flatmate came around – and we finished off the wine, some port, and some whisky.  All in all, a fairly good day.  Snow on the ground, but no fresh snowfall – so once again, I guess not technically a ‘White Christmas’.  That evening I finally managed to get through to family – so made all the traditional phone calls.  Unfortunately, with quite a few more drinks down than the previous night when I’d initally wanted/attempted to have the calls.  But – did all those phone calls, and was reminded that I had family in St Andrews – and it just happened to be their golden wedding anniversary the next day.  So – the next day I gave them a call – confusing them terribly – and arranged to visit the following day.  The rest of Boxing Day consisted of being rather lazy, and then I think Katie & I went out for dinner.  So – the next day, Katie went a-bicycling, and I headed up to St Andrews to visit Fenella & John.  Unfortunately it was extremely foggy/misty up there – but John still gave me a little drive around the township – and I saw enough to know I definitely need to go back and have another look.  Spent the afternoon with them, and caught them up on all the family goings-on, etc.

On the 28th – I think – I headed up to Aviemore.  Let myself into the apartment I’d booked, and checked out the village.  Rather a small place – but pleasant enough.  I took stock of every restaurant/bar – and chose The Winking Owl to be my first meal.  It passed, barely.  Mussels were fine, wine was disgusting.  Chook arrived the next day – and I showed him around town, did some shopping, before we spent a pleasant evening with a cheeseboard, music, and books.  All very pleasant.  Civil.  And all that.  And then the girls arrived – a campervan full of chattering babbling madness.  Katie, Genevieve, Esther, and Genevieve’s flatmate Susie/Suzie(sp?).  After failing to get them to “hush” – we gave up on our pleasant evening.  Chook & I escaped the next day, driving around the countryside to find the source(s) of all this scotch whisky I’d heard about.  We eventually found a single distillery open, and did the tour.  But, we also found a very very well-stocked and friendily staffed whisky shop – and we eventually headed back to the apartment with approximately £450 worth of whisky between us.  Bibby had arrived in our absence, and Genevieve had found one of her old bicyclist buddies, and when we returned – we discovered that this bearded hippie bicyclist was going to cook us dinner.  And that our apartment had pretty much been usurped by the ladies.  Backpacks, skis, snowboards, bras, panties, strange pieces of clothing with no discernable use – everywhere.  But we had dinner, and then started whisky-tasting.  Chook, beardie and myself stayed up until the wee hours tasting the various whiskies – and rating them.  On taste, packaging, and even the sound of the ‘glug-glug’ as it came out of the bottle.  Altogether, some successful whisky drinkin’.

But, the next day was New Year’s Eve.  Bibby and the ladies all headed up to ‘the slopes’ – while Chook & I assigned ourselves the task of actually getting ready for Hogmanay.  So – we went and bought a couple of the biggest steak pies we could find (apparently some kind of scottish tradition) – and a whole heap of booze.  Eventually everybody else returned; Fraser arrived; we had some fish-n-chips, deep-fried pizza, deep-fried haggis; and we got our drink on.  After quite a few bottles of wine, and then a couple bottles of champagne – we headed to the Ol’ Bridge Inn.  Where I immediately decided to buy some champagne.  In a panic at how many bottles were left in the fridge – I bought them all.  Only 2 I think – but still.  Without realising they actually had a huge stock out back somewhere.  So – next time – I ordered 4.  And some barman overhearing me, said “Four – is that all”.  So – I yelled out to my barman who was heading out back – “make it five”.  That’ll show ‘em.  I also showed the barman the correct method of opening a bottle of champagne, with my stop-bouchon I’d happened to bring along.  (Somebody please let me know if that link is inappropriate – the picture for the video looks fine, but the video is blocked at work citing that it is pornography)  That did gain a fair bit of kudos – “He’s even brought his own equipment for opening champagne!”.  Standing outside with a huge ice bucket filled with 4 or 5 bottles of champagne – yeah, we had a pretty good night.  But I have been avoiding checking my bank statement.  Stupid champagne – I think I need a New Year’s Resolution to crack down on it.  But Hogmanay arrived – with pipers and kisses and what-not.  It’s all a little blurry.  At one stage, I fell over, into a girl, knocking her over so that she hit her head, quite badly.  Then her brother wanted to sue me, and there was all sorts of nastiness, but it all ended fairly peacefully.  I think I gave my bowtie to the girl as a memento, which I thought quite amusing – but nobody else seemed to appreciate it.  Oh well.  I eventually returned to the apartment, to which everybody else had already retired – and a few of us stayed up chatting until the first sunrise of the new decade, before cooking breakfast for everybody.

The campervan-o’-girls had to leave the next afternoon, so we bid them adieu.  And so we were left with 4 ever-so-slightly hungover gentlemen in an apartment in Aviemore.  Steak pie was had, and then Trivial Pursuit came out, followed by the two most ridiculous games of Scrabble I’ve ever experienced.  If it wasn’t for that my camera is gone (explained later), and the fact that there were rather large bonuses on offer for levels of offensiveness – I’d post photos.  And then it was the 2nd, and I felt much much worse.  Bibby fled early – followed by Chook & Fraser at a more reasonable time.  I stayed on to try and get the apartment, and myself, into some semblance of order.  The flat was relatively easy.  I walked into town to try and find some curtain hooks (obviously) – but of course everything was closed except Tesco.  I must have spent half an hour walking around Tesco in the off chance there might be curtain hooks on one of those random dangling hooks of products they have spread around the isles – and trying not to throw up, but no luck.  Eventually returned to the apartment, and cannibalised curtain hooks from other rooms to fix the one curtain I needed to rehang.  I then considered the possibility of catching a train back to Edinburgh that evening – but although the apartment was starting to look respectable – I most certainly was not.  So, I spent a quiet evening trying to recover and read – hampered slightly by the fact that there was a small amount of leftover booze.  Luckily not too much – so I managed to force that down, had as much of the leftover food as I could stomach, and tried to get a good night’s sleep.  Next morning, found all the things I’d forgotten about the previous day – tidied up some more, made a last ditch attempt at using some of the food, before throwing everything else away – locking the door, and getting on a train.  Scotland, by this point, seemed to have it in for me.  It was bitterly cold, my system was not in a state to be dealing with such cold – and I had to change trains in Perth.  I’d always been told Perth is very hot – but it’s not.  It’s very cold, and it doesn’t even have anywhere for a man to buy some lunch.  Eventually I got back to Edinburgh, and collapsed in Katie’s door once again.  A little spot of recovery, washing, changing, catching up on internet, etc – and then dinner out.  The next morning, Katie went to work and I went to London.

Immediately back into England I regretted my moment of anger towards Scotland.  It can’t help being snow – and Perth, well Perth has more Arsetralians than Scots.  But York – York decided to really kick me when I thought I was getting back up.  Once again I was standing between carriages – but had sorted myself out a snug little spot.  Unfortunately, some english people got on at some point and ruined it, but anyway… I had my bag-o’-useful-stuff hanging from a door hinge.  Nice arrangement, where I could reach in and get a new book, or whatever.  But – I went to the restaurant car to get a drink.  But then we pulled into York.  And somebody wanted to get on the train, or off the train, or something – and opened the door.  Apparently.  And apparently, my bag of course fell right off the hinge, straight down the gap which we’re always reminded to mind.  I got back just as the train was preparing to leave, and somebody pointed this out to me.  I tried to open the door and jump out to get it – but the station guard was having none of it.  “I’ll send it through on the next train”, he said.  Well – I wasn’t sure how this would work… King’s Cross is a very large train station – and I had no idea where my bag would be arriving.  But, I hoped for the best, and got back to my book.  Which I soon finished, and suddenly realised that my backup book was in my bag which I no longer had.  Dumb.  Also in this bag – the keys to my flat.  Not cool.  My camera – a little annoying – and all photos from the last week – very annoying.  But – I held out hope.  When we arrived at King’s Cross I asked about – and figured out where my bag was most likely to turn up.  But, it never did.  I waited for several hours – going between lost+found, the station management office, information desk.  Eventually I gave up – and went to stay with Caro & Malachy.  Very tired, and not in a good – I was a terrible guest, but that’s what you get when you’re willing to give me aid and assistance with little to no notice.  Anyway – the next morning I made some phone calls.  And was led to believe that my bag was indeed now at lost&found at King’s Cross.  Cheered up no end, I picked up my backpack, and headed to King’s Cross.  Where my bag was not.  Once again, I walked around all the likely spots – but nobody knew anything, and there was no paper trail.  I made some more phone calls – finding a wide range of levels of helpfulness.  Some people told me that the station guard shouldn’t have been allowed to put my bag on the next train – so there you go.  I’m not sure how that was supposed to help – but apparently them’s the rules.  I talked to York station – they didn’t know anything about it.  I filled out a form with a vague description of the bag – and trundled off home.  Organised a locksmith to let me into my own house – and yes, it turned out to be the same one I’d used only 3 weeks previously.  Inside my flat I had a spare key to one of the locks on my door, but not the other.  But – I can indeed ‘snip’ the other one open, and I now have full access to my flat again.  Yay.

And that was my trip to Scotland.  I still have no bag, and therefore no camera, and therefore no photos (except those I took on the 24th of pretty pretty Edinburgh).  Which reminds me – also during the trip, my work laptop turned against me.  Yesterday, after many failed and frustrating attempts – I finally managed to get the data off the hard drive – which includes the aforementioned photos of pretty pretty Edinburgh.  So I’ll have a couple of photos of my first trip “up Norf, innit?”.  And my keys included my “Big Screw” (which it took me 3 orders to finally actually receive one – but I’m bound to order another one very soon), and my Colombian keyring memento.

2011 New Year’s Resolutions (not in concrete yet, still working on them):

  • Only eat red meat on the 10th, 20th, 30th of each month (plus the 28th Feb, probably)
  • Be like a proper dieter type person, looking at calories on foods and stuff
  • Cut down on the booze drastically, including:
    • No beer
    • No stuff that doesn’t taste good – ie: shots, jagerbombs, all that shite
    • Come up with some idea to fix “The Champagne Issue”
  • Try to save some money – Turkmenistan isn’t likely to be cheap

So – pretty much all reasonably reasonable resolutions this year.  I probably need to come up with a novelty resolution also – but can’t think of one just now.  Maybe I’ll just cheat and continue with Monthly Resolutions.