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Glass Collecting: 8 Tools to Help You Survive Happy Hour.

The Exchange Hotel, Brisbane, Australia.

The Exchange Hotel, Brisbane, Australia.

Traveling the East Coast of Australia? Looking for work to fund onward travel? Enjoy cleaning up after drunk, drugged and dumb hipsters?

If you answered yes to all three of these questions, I have just the job for you!

Whilst living in Brisbane I worked at a night club, mostly as a waiter during sociable hours. To bump up my wage, I asked to do extra hours at the weekends, picking up glasses after my shift until the very small hours. As you can imagine, this kind of work is monotonous, soul-destroying and incredibly aggravating at times. But hey, it pays and if you need the cash, this can be a good little earner. Based purely on my experience, here are some tips to get you through happy hour. From sick to semen, I have it covered (figuratively of course.)

The Mop

Your induction will consist of a brief introduction of the tools you will need before going into battle. The first of which is the mop –  a 153classic time waster. Some girl has spewed all over the walls in the toilet? Take a break and go for a cigarette, as you’re going to need the fresh air before entering the stench pit. You know what awaits you and the only thing that will change between now and then, is the colour of her shoes and her level of dignity – yours diminished as soon as you signed up for the job. When you finally do arrive, usher drunks out of the cubicle like it’s a crime scene. Do not by any means interact with the culprit. She will have no remorse for her actions and tell you to leave  – which will anger you to no end – and she may be full of disease. Best form of action? Remind yourself at that moment why you need the money and get the cleaning over with as quickly as humanly possible.

Beside practical use, the mop can be used as a deterrent when cornered by jocks and hipsters. You will need to master two skills: The jab and the swing. When asked “Which part of Ireland are you from?” for the 10th time that evening, swing for his thick rimmed shades – he’s inside, it’s dark outside and they look fucking stupid anyway. Then follow-up with a straight jab to the voice box. That will protect your ears from his horribly bad accent.

The Sweeper

The sweeper consists of two items: a long-handled brush and a long-handled pan, both of which are designed to collect everything from cigarette butts to used condoms. At peak times, the sweeper may also be accompanied by a radio. This is to inform you of any breakages on the dance floor, (glass that is not noses) however at times you may feel somewhat patronized by the radio. The sign of a good ‘glassy’, (yes, this is what you will be called) is the ability to hear the sound of glass smashing from anywhere in the club, even over the load obnoxious reggaeton and electro. With practice, you will make it there in time to see some 18-year-old with skinny jeans and a vest, get tackled to the ground by the door staff for not doing much of anything. The entertainment value here is high, so it pays to be alert. Once you have followed the ruckus out the door, go for another cigarette before sweeping up the glass. By this point, nobody cares what you are doing, and neither do you.

Later, try heading out side to sweep. This will give you the opportunity to chat to the attractive door girl, tell the security about how much you hate your job and waste a good twenty minutes.

Top tip when actually sweeping: try using the side of the brush to knock in some butts. It creates more of a challenge and at times the odd butt will jump into the pan satisfyingly.

The Damp Cloth

138Similar to the mop, however the risk of coming in contact with bodily fluids is greater. If for any reason your cloth becomes dry during the evening, you may go behind the bar to damp it. This will give you the chance to engage in two second conversations to whomever is working, but be warned – there is a high chance no one will know your name. You could also use this time to grab a glass of water, marvel at the talent standing at the bar and act like you should  be serving. Be as nonchalant as possible. You’re not serving, but they don’t have to know that. Soon enough money will be shoved in your face and you’ll get screamed at. Walk out and carry on with your shift.

Damp cloth top tip: try wiping tables clockwise. Then anti clockwise. Mix it up and get creative!

The Tray

A classic tool used to stack glasses and the only part of your job that requires any sort of skill level. There is only one practical way to carry the tray and that is above your head, using one hand. There are two reasons for this.

  • In a packed club, absolutely no one will get out-of-the-way for you. Trying to maneuver around with a heavy tray by your side is near impossible. Plus you will end up slamming into people (which can be justified at times.)
  • People will try to add glasses to your tray. Keeping it balanced over your head will prevent this. Your tray is like a game of Jenga: perfectly poised, balanced and only fun if  drink is involved.

Add to your collection and go wild. Stack them; Place them side to side. The fun to be had is endless!

The will to live

Not a physical tool but just as important. You are going to need this. The shifts are long and boring and everyone around you is unbearable, but try to look at the bigger picture. Remember, you too are an obnoxious idiot when you are out. Remember, you won’t be doing this for long. Remember, that you probably will have to wait in McDonald’s for an hour with the same people after your shift as the first bus home hasn’t started yet. Remember, even with the extra shifts, you still can’t afford a taxi to the suburbs.

Becoming a  struggle? Try these games during your next shift to kill some time.

  • The 60 second game: When doing a lap around the club keep an eye on the clock. Feel the momentary satisfaction when you start a lap on the minute and get back to the same spot exactly a minute later. Challenging and there are many factors that could hold you up. Example: Guy comes up and asks you where the nearest cash machine is. You have ten seconds to spare. What do you do? Personally, I would ignore him. I have better things to do such as  beating my personal best. Girl asks the same question? Take as long as you need.
  • Guess the next song game: A stab in the dark but since the club only plays the same four songs, your chances for success is reasonably high.
  • The cock block game: Occasionally, girls will talk to you to escape the clutches of the rapey guy on the dance floor. You’re sober and he’s an asshole. Make her laugh, and watch him stress. Leave before he beats you up. Challenging but dangerous.

If you are heading over to Australia on a working visa my advice to you is to not be too picky. Take what comes your way and have fun with it. An experience – good or bad – is an experience none the less, to which you’ll learn from regard less. If you are willing to work all night and looking for a short term cash fix, glass collecting is at least an option, that – given the right club – could pay a decent wage.

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For All The Cows – My Experience With Reading (Or lack of it…)

You know, apart from the back of the cereal box, girly products in the shower and the world wide web of shite that haunts me on a daily basis, I really don’t read enough: Yeah, the occasional flick through The Guardian and the (very occasional) hardback but this, of course, does not qualify me as a ‘reader’. For those of you that don’t know, I’m back to studying (Higher English, Higher German and yes…before you ask… I do have a JLS pencil case and no…you did NOT…get yours before I did.) So in the not so distant future, this will all be changing. You know, the more I think about it he more I look forward to it. I damn well should be a reader. I write enough. Well, not as much as I should, but I damn well try when I do. So it got me thinking: If I put so much effort into writing, then why can’t I apply that effort into reading?

Growing up, my mum and my sister were both excessive readers. There was always a great and varied selection of books in our house albeit on the feminine side… One of my earliest memories was of my mum nagging my old man to build a bookcase (which was always put off). When he finally got around it, I remember taking great pleasure in filling the shelves even though the majority of the books weren’t mine.

My bookcase in the flat. A literary wet dream. Jealous much?

My bookcase in the flat. A literary wet dream. Jealous much?

My sisters shelf was overlapping: Stacked to the brim with ‘The babysitters club’ series and old favourites in new editions, (The Railway Children, Treasure Island etc.) sourced from a weekly magazine that was delivered to our house (I hate junk mail…) I could never make sense of my mums collection: Mostly daunting fiction novels, way above my reading level. Regardless, I was too young to understand anyway. I couldn’t even figure out why she had her head in a book so often when the tele was on…

I took pride in filling my own shelf: Roald Dahl; Enid Blyton; An array of colourful wildlife magazines; And all sorts of dinosaur related books. I obsessed over nature and could get lost in those books for hours on end. I still have that passion today (nature that is not books) and I tend to find some comfort and calmness when reading about/watching wildlife. Anyway…

My dad Isn’t much of a reader: I would buy him a book most years for Christmas but they were rarely read. I got the hint in my early teens and gave up buying them. Eventually, I moved my alliance to DVDs but they were neglected also. But I guess he needed more time to prepare the awesome Christmas dinners we used to get. With that, he thrived. Delicious.

Overall, there was a healthy selection of books in my house growing up and I had my fair share. When I read/flicked my way through enchanting and mysterious kids books, I would wrap myself up in my own imagination dreaming of exotic creatures and lost worlds. Books (perhaps not so much the reading aspect but certainly the visuals) had an effect on my childhood for sure and has carried on through to my adult life. I have a vivid and wild imagination that can be my best friend when it’s at its best and my worst enemy when it decides to play tricks on me.

Well. at least I have some tact when it comes to writing. Found this ad in Singapore. Would you live with this guy?

I am fortunate enough to have travelled the world.

In my opinion, reading books and seeing pictures as a child fueled my future adventures.

As I became a teen, I developed a healthy obsession with girls, football and video games (but strangely, cars, did and still do bore me…)

It started out with football magazines (Shoot and Match were the two I have memories of) as I enjoyed reading about my boyhood heroes. I think I revelled in knowing more facts and stats about the game than my friends. It was always something to talk about wasn’t it? You know, whilst you waited around for your pubic hair to grow in…

I still love the beautiful game, but computers? Not so much.

I think I only bought those magazines for the free playable demo (or stole them if they would have happened to have become loose from their protective polythene, but shhhh… don’t tell anyone…) Not much has changed. I would rather have been outside then and I’d rather be outside now.

The lad magazines? Well, perhaps that was an unhealthy obsession. To the displeasure of my mum, I actually obtained a bulk load of previous editions of FHM (for him magazine) from a friend that couldn’t believe his luck when some moron volunteered to take them off him. This in fact managed to take up a healthy amount of space in my wardrobe. So. Many. Magazines. What a headache… However, these magazines helped me learn about the ever-changing world around me and I eagerly awaited next months copy. FHM was like a bible for many teenage boys and I was no exception. And hey, it didn’t hurt that it came with a free poster…

Bringing us back to 2012, we’ve established I don’t read as much as I should but I like to write. I actually feel terrible about it as I would love to have the patience to work my way (and emotionally invest myself) through a good piece of fiction. The genre? Not that fussy, but I have to be genuinely interested. I find it hard to invest in a book that can’t grab my attention within the first three chapters. Patience has never been my strong point and that goes for other elements of my life. In terms of online reading, a lot of my time (but nowhere near enough) is devoted to travel sites and message boards as this is where my interest lies. Out with travel, the majority of the rest of my time goes to a meagre five or six different sites. No need to list them. I’d put money on you guessing them all… I have good intention to write (voluntary) for gapyear.com as they always welcome my input whether that be helping out with some words of advice for fellow backpackers (you know, don’t get arrested, lay off the lady boys etc. ) or an article here and there. Just because I’ve travelled, doesn’t necessarily make me qualified to give advice, but I do so anyway. People, kindly, gave their knowledge to me when I needed it so I try to give it back in any way I can.

When reading this book, I actually found a red paper clip on the floor of the train. What's the chances? (No don't be silly. Of course I'm not going to talk about the actual book...)

When reading this book, I actually found a red paper clip on the floor of the train. What’s the chances? (No don’t be silly. Of course I’m not going to talk about the actual book…)

Of course I try to maintain this little blog space on word press when I have the time but even if I had it, finding the motivation is another thing all together. But hey, if you have kept up with my writing over the years, you will be sick to death of hearing about that particular topic.

Here is a statement for you:

Writing/creative writing is a hobby of mine and something in which I’m passionate about.

Reading that sentence back to myself brings a smile to my face. Why? Well I have my reasons. I’ve always had the passion in my life I’ve just (at times) lacked the direction. Hopefully I can bring the two together. For the first time in a long time, I’m in with a fighting chance.

I am genuinely excited to be doing Higher English. I’m enjoying it and in my life, that’s half the battle.

Take it easy folks and happy reading (even if it is just your test results from the gum clinic…)

Mick Foley? Have a nice day mate. Come back to Scotland when you’re funnier.


The First: English Teaching Job

I needed a plan for the future after coming home from traveling, otherwise I’d be returning to a similar life I left behind. I had originally planned on teaching English in China as I had fallen in love with the country, and at the time it felt like the right step to take; Not only was it a route out of Scotland again, but teaching would be something new and fresh for me and the job didn’t involve smelling like a deep fat fryer. Of course, not everything you plan comes to fruition and it only takes a roll of the dice to change your path around the board.

Before flying back to Scotland, I had said a teary goodbye to a girl, who in turn flew back to Germany. My plans were very much in the air and I wasn’t sure if I would be moving to Germany or putting some serious thought into China. During this time of contemplation, I thought It would be wise to cover all possibilities and I decided to crack on and take a TEFL course (Teaching English as a foreign language)After a fun and interesting two day classroom course, I now had 80 hours of online work to do in order to gain my certificate. Fast forward three months, and I had weighed up my options and made the decision on my future. I was going to move to Germany. China could wait for now.

The Summer in Scotland came and went and after I had saved enough money, I packed up and left for Germany. The difference and the the irony being I now needed to learn a language as opposed to teaching the one I already knew. I had found work in an Italian restaurant – which I went onto despise – washing my soul away in the sink night by night and losing the will to live little by little. During the days – apart from moping around feeling sorry for myself – I began working through my online course whilst keeping an eye out for any teaching opportunities, but there was little on offer for a rookie teacher without a degree and a certificate that in Germany, wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

However, my fortune was to change and one day I received an e-mail from a company called ‘The little English house’. The job was to teach English to kids from 4 to 7 years of age, and I was asked to meet at a local coffee house for an interview – I liked the thought of going for a job interview at a coffee house – Informal and less sterile.

“Hey, Vivian?” I asked as I approached a woman at an outside table who matched the description.

“Hello Darren, yes I’m Vivian” She replied.

We sat down and became acquainted before she went inside and ordered a couple of coffees. I sat in amazement staring at a dog lying at my feet, that was literally the size of a small horse. As we began chatting, I soon clocked on that this was more of a feeling out process as opposed to an interview. I had zero teaching experience but it didn’t matter. In short, she wanted to know if I would be a good, fun and reliable teacher for the kids; I wasn’t sure if I was any of those things… We spoke for around half an hour as I consciously tried to act as animated as possible and not say things such as “Well Vivian, ideally I would like the kids to know English so they can be adaptable in many roles within my new child army.” I based my purely fabricated performance on the cast of Blue Peter, and used generic sentences such as ‘I don’t take myself too seriously’ as often as possible. I had no idea how to act in this kind of interview so I threw myself into it to see where it would take me. Rather surprisingly, I had pulled it off and we began to discuss class plans.

I was given a bundle of kids books, word cards and props and was told to go home and come up with a class plan for teaching breakfast. I did as instructed and went home to drink coffee all afternoon and come up with a practical but entertaining lesson. As there was no real set instructions apart from ‘stay within the time limit’, I had a lot of room for creativity for my lesson plan. A few days later I sent in my lesson plan and it was approved by the office. I was good to teach and although it wasn’t going to be how I imagined my first lesson to be, – I was expecting a whiteboard and a bunch of exchange students playing on their smart phones – I was quite excited for it.

The day had come and I felt fairly self-conscious and anxious as I hunted down the building where the class would take place; about twenty minutes on the bus from my flat. I arrived pretty early and had problems getting in, until I was eventually let inside by a cleaner. After climbing the stairs I was greeted by an empty corridor lined with neatly organized colourful wellies and raincoats along the far wall, and a long wooden bench presumably for the parents to sit on when dropping off/picking up their kids. There was a square window at the top of the door, looking into the classroom. I decided to have a peek in to see for myself what awaited me. Vivian was inside, sitting on the carpet teaching a lesson. She spotted me and I was given an acknowledging head nod. The kids noticed this and they all turned round curiously to see who was at the door. When they seen it was not a parent, they quickly lost interest and turned back around; It was then I got nervous. The class I was about to teach was all about breakfast and I was ready to throw up mine. I had already disappointed the children but they didn’t have to wait long to see their parents as mums and dads started to trickle through the corridor.

“Hey! How are you?” I said directed at any parent that would listen.

I didn’t get much in return bar accusing stares and noticeable pre-judgement. One dad looked like he wanted to punch me. I can only imagine why. I could tell he wasn’t a fan of Blue Peter. I felt like saying “Don’t worry mate. I don’t want to teach your daughter either”.

It was soon time for the old kids to stream out and for the new batch to stream in; the kids I was about to teach. They were tentatively followed by myself sporting the fakest ear to ear grin I could muster. The kids – who were all girls – ran around the room, reaching for toys and books as I stood in the middle of the whirlwind waiting for the storm to die down.

“Who wants a sticker?” I asked.

They all did and they were loving the smiley faces I was drawing on them – that of course bar the one little girl who told me she was sad so I gave her a frowning smiley that didn’t go down to well with her – Still,  I thought it would be a good idea to give them all name tags and kids love stickers right? Or is it iPhones now?

Vivian was on hand to keep an eye on the lesson and give some friendly advice when needed but for the next hour I was on my own, teaching my very first English lesson.

So, how did I kick things off? With an all time classic of course: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. With one deep breath and to overcome my nerves and self consciousness, I threw myself into it. As predicted, the kids all knew the song and it garnered their focus straight away – apart from one that was still sulking because I spelled her name wrong on her name tag – and It went down well with Vivian and the class.

Warm up over, it was time to sit down on the carpet and get into the lesson, armed with a stuffed toy type creature that I named ‘Breakfast Boris’, flash cards and other various colourful props and text.

Breakfast Boris

‘Breakfast Boris’

As we (as a class) got into it, the first twenty minutes flew by and it seemed to be going well. The class were involved – contributing well to the lesson and not giving me too much of a hard time – and generally on good behaviour to the delight of Vivian who had warned me prior that they can be a handful sometimes.

But as I rushed through some of the tasks (flash cards with various breakfast items, bingo etc.) I started to feel I was losing their attention and I was running out of things to say. The clock seemed to grind to a stand still and I was soon losing focus and control. I also found myself doing the cardinal sin of talking to them in German, to the dismay of Vivian. At times I found it tough to juggle basic English so strangely reverted to a language I barely knew myself just to find common ground and be understood. The students were at all different levels so it just felt natural, however not a word of German can be muttered which is harder than it sounds. In relation, I started to realise how hard it was to do a lesson entirely consisting of basic, proper and straight-forward English. Stripping the language down to the bare bones is a challenge in itself, never mind the accent I carry with it.

Have you ever been to a family party where one of the kids takes a shining to you because you kicked a balloon around for 5 minutes? Well you know that awkward moment when the balloon has burst, you want to go to grab a beer but you are stuck talking to this kid with no idea what to say and how to say it in a kid friendly way? That’s what it’s like accept you can’t say “go see what your sisters up to.”

As the class became more dis-interested, I decided to get them on their feet again to do something more active: A game of British Bulldogs which I was told they like to play; basically a dart from one end of the class to then next without getting tagged. Nothing like the brutal game I played as a kid which resulted in clothes lines to the face, rugby tackles to the gravel and phone calls to concerned parents.

After killing another few minutes it was time to get back into the lesson; finding out what the class ate for breakfast with help from Breakfast Boris, whose name changed constantly as the lesson went on. The contribution by the kids was still good but I had yet to reel them down from the previous activity and I was starting to lose control a little again; The whole lesson was a juggling act. If the class had ended there it would have been a success, albeit, nothing spectacular but as it stood I had a chunk of lesson to go and wasn’t quite sure what to do. I had revised my lesson plan but timings/structure seemed to go out the window and I was running short of inspiration; not through lack of ideas but through lack of practise.

Berty Breakfast or whatever he’s called had failed me and was in the arms of a kid that wasn’t sharing him with anyone else, despite my efforts to pry him back. He had betrayed me in my hour of need. I knew my lesson wasn’t a disaster but I also knew that there would be better candidates on the way with experience ready to walk into the job. As a last gasp effort to impress, I grabbed my iPod from my jacket pocket and turned to the only thing that I knew could win back the class.

It was time for my wild card; SpongBob SquarePants; Yes, that’s right…

The idea was to show them a clip from an episode to set me up for a song based on the intro with the lyrics changed; And yes, a song. Cue embarrassing moment in front of the class, waiting parents and Vivian:

Who speaks English to people we see?

We speak English!

Who teaches English? Well that is me!

I teach English!

I teach English, you speak English, we love English!

Total fail. I sang it alone. Where is Arnie’s whistle and ferret when you need them? Even at four I would of thought my teacher was a dick head for doing that. It just left the kids confused and wanting to see what else I had on my pod. I was going to make an idiot myself regardless of the outcome, but If I was going out, I was going out in style, riding out in a blaze of glory on board a pineapple under the sea.

The lesson was over.

As the kids waved goodbye I even got a hug from a couple of the girls which was a nice touch. It felt like my efforts didn’t go to waste and to be appreciated as a teacher by a 4 year old was touching and a nice moment. The girls gave me minimum hassle and were all charming in their own little ways, but I was pleased the class was over.

“You did really well” Vivian said in a way that sounded sympathetic as opposed to encouraging.

“I liked some of your ideas and for your first lesson that wasn’t bad at all”

I appreciated the compliment but I already knew I wasn’t getting the job by judging her tone and body language.

“That was hard going! That hour feels like forever!” I replied.

We talked for a couple of minutes before the next class entered and it was more of a mutual goodbye as opposed to a ‘see ya soon’.

I walked home high as a kite with Breakfast Boris in hand, thinking about one of the most surreal experiences of my life. On the way I bought a packet of cigarettes and smoked around half a dozen, stopping on a park bench down by the lake, taking in the beautiful views of Constance.

It was my first and last English lesson and I didn’t hear back from Vivian which I found a bit unprofessional. I saw her in the pub I worked in weeks later but she blanked me but it wasn’t as if I was looking to strike a conversation up either. Never the less, experience is experience and at least I have another story to tell.

Maybe one day I will teach English again. Or maybe I’ll just stick to speaking English to people I see.


Hostel Review: Caledonian Backpackers, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city that has its fair share of tourists from all over the world and a good chunk of them are backpackers. The backpacker crowd tend to come in and out of the city en-route else where, skipping past the likes of Dundee, Glasgow and my home town Aberdeen – the road to the highlands via the West Coast is well trodden. Due to the steady number of tourists all year round and the crazy demand for any mattress over the summer, the city is dusted with great, affordable hostels that could rival any capital city around the world.

I was looking for a base in the city centre of Edinburgh to live out of until I found work and a place to stay. I had no problems booking for three nights at short notice  and even less extending my stay for a total of two weeks. I stayed in an 8 person mixed dorm but there are privates available and if you are really stuck a thirty eight person dorm!  – the price will go up over the weekend.

Upon arriving I was greeted by a friendly dread-locked girl that gave me the run down. Checking in was quick and painless despite me arriving a month ahead of time (Whoops). However a quick play with the computer and I was found a bed with no hassle at all, although mistakes like that may leave you without one in the Summer.

The interior of the building is smeared with different colourful and playful murals, that make the place look like students broke in over night. But it works: it was nice to see a six foot Totoro outside my door every morning and with the building itself being vintage and converted in places it doesn’t feel out of place.

The 1st floor is the heart beat of this busy hostel: The stunning, bright, quiet and clean ‘Caterpillar Room’ is the perfect retreat after a day flat hunting; wooden decks scattered in bean bags where you can stretch out and waste the night on your laptop. There is also a well stocked and reasonably priced bar next door with pool tables, Nintendo Wii, storage lockers, books and board games, comfy sofas and anything else you may need. The bean bag cinema room is also a welcome addition with a huge widescreen, great sound and a built in movie system. Awesome. A spacious kitchen and computer access is also available on this floor.

The Caterpillar Room

The rooms are nothing special but provide lockers (you can buy a lock at reception), spacious and the hostel provides you with two pillows! That may not sound like a big deal but for someone that has stayed in a lot of hostels it’s a welcome bonus and backpackers appreciate things like that. The two rooms I stayed in during my two week stay had only two power outlets. This is a problem when you have various people needing to charge up but it can be forgiven for the plentiful outlets on the 1st floor. Still – extension chords would come in handy…

The showers and toilets were kept clean and tidy. I didn’t have to cue once for either but I understand there is a shortage on the higher floors.

The Bar/common room

Breakfast is free and superb for the price of the hostel. Served until midday if you were out late the night before, you can have Muesli, white and brown toast, juice, coffee and plenty of spreads. Generous as some of the cheaper hostels can cut back drastically on what they offer in the mornings.

The reception is 24 hours and requires a flash of your room card to get in. You can also sign in guests if you want to drink at the bar.

My only real complaint about this hostel was the staff. Apart from the odd exception they all seemed miserable and looked like they hated being there. Perhaps they only work for accommodation? I can only speculate. Atmosphere and energy are a big part of any hostel stay and Caledonians lacked both. Nothing really brought the guests together like some of the other bigger hostels try to do, and it was far too easy to disappear between your headphones. At times it was hard to get the staffs attention and at others they just gave the impression they couldn’t be bothered. Poor and a disappointing for such a great hostel.

The Good

Location – Situated at the corner of Queens ferry at the castle end of Princes Street; you can even get a sneaky view of said castle at some windows of the hostel. Bus lines, bars and restaurants are steps away and it is next door to the awesome Wannaburger; the name says it all. I wanna’d and had too many of them.

Price – Absolute bargain. I’m sure it will rise over the Summer but at a tenner at off peak times it’s a steal.

Facilities – Free and decent wi-fi, nice little bar and all the mod cons you would expect from a good hostel.

Free Breakfast – Good variety and no dishes to clean up.

The size – Plenty of space to roam and decent sized rooms.

The Bad

The staff – I feel horrible writing this as the only fault as nobody was offensive at all. Just a bit of enthusiasm, effort and a smile would have pushed my opinion of Caledonian Backpackers from a great hostel to an excellent one. That’s all it takes.

 The Verdict

Caledonian Backpackers: Practical and central hostel in the heart of Edinburgh with great facilities.

8/10


For All The Cows – An Update To The Update…

In case you’re still remotely interested in the revolving door that is my life, I’m back on the scene with blog number 100. Okay, so it’s not going to be the special entry I had planned but I’ve been away a long time! So folks this is simply a blog to say hello and a little catch up. I did say in my last entry that there is more writing to come from me and there will be; mostly spanning from my recent travels. But for now I’ll just fill you in on the news, trying not to make this too painful of a read.

Onwards…

For those of you that have lost track of exactly what I’m doing:

Firstly – I’m not in the slightest surprised.

And secondly – I have no fucking idea either.

Things haven’t changed that much since my last entry. I may not be in Germany any more but I knew then what I know now and everything is still going as planned. But Without wanting to add another week onto the months, I’ll crack on.

Much like opening the door to a cupboard that’s been used as storage for far too long; I have no fucking idea what’s going to come pouring out.

So where the hell am I now and how long am I here for?

Jesus Christ; Even I can’t conjure up interest any more…

Well I’m in Scotland! Edinburgh to be more specific. Literally with nowhere to live and no job. But I do smell relatively good and judging by the bounce of my beer gut when I stride down the stairs I still eat well.

I’ve been back in Scotland for two weeks and down at the capital for one of those looking for a place to live and shortly a job as I am very near to being out of money. Looking at flats has been a mixed bag of frustration, disappointment and time wasting. I’m living at a hostel at the moment, abusing the free morning coffee and killing time by feeling sorry for myself and willing for the phone to ring. My ‘refresh page’ finger is getting a good work out though and who says you can’t eat chips twice in a day?

Basically this is what my life has come down to; Talking to strange men in 8 bedroom dorms and listening to couples fucking in the shower. But it’s only temporary and it’s nothing I’m not used to. I have no doubt my life will come together but It could take weeks rather than days. I’m in dire need of some structure in my life and I’m not talking waiting in line for the shower.

Is this going the way of a ramble? Better get it out the way then…

These past three years have been the best of my life; Seeing the world and having experiences that I couldn’t of imagined before leaving Scotland. It’s hard to really put into words how much travel has done for me as a person. To put it simply: I’m a different person now then when I was before I left.

When I was on the road I was tested in so many different ways I hadn’t experienced back home that I soon developed a mental toughness in which I could call upon when needed. I began to realize that nothing is too hard to achieve with a bit of persistence, patience and drive. However I was also aware that all three of these things didn’t stick around with me for long. I secretly developed anxieties and fears about how I would adapt upon returning.I knew that the lifestyle I was living had to end somewhere and at sometime. But you know, I wouldn’t change that much of what I’ve done over the last three years and I’m happy with the majority of choices I made. But in a sense I’ve only been killing time and delaying the inevitable. I was happy with that for a long time but lately I have started to think of the future; something to which I’ve been so dismissive with in the past.

I’m putting some serious thought into career goals and earning real money. Money has never been that big of an issue for me. I have seen the world on minimum wage and had the most amazing of experiences. Experiences that people with double the income, of all ages and from all walks of life shared with me.

Fit's ah this shite for? JUST DEE IT!

Leaving was about getting the best out of myself and seeing where my strengths lied. And although It was a pretty unorthodox way of learning life lessons, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I have met some of my favourite people whilst being away and learned things I wouldn’t have If I had stayed in Aberdeen.

But it all boils down to this: I’m home and it’s now time to move forward in a completely different way to which I am used to.

I can still fuck up and I still have plenty of time, but I now have to make some important decisions.

For the third time in three years I am back to the very beginning. I may not have anything to show for it in the traditional sense. No career, no money, no further education, not even possessions apart from this laptop I’m typing on but I’ve still achieved.

I’ve worked hard at something you can’t touch, feel or see but Inside I have a lot to show for it. I feel personal achievement in that I know where my strengths lie. It’s just about using them.

You know, before I left I didn’t believe in myself or push myself hard enough. I was jealous of my friends for studying and hated students based purely on not being one.

I’m back to square one in another city but have I ever really been further? At this moment in time, this could quite possibly be the best place to be. Square one isn’t that scary. I can go in any direction.


How was your trip?

Great and went surprisingly well. As I said I’ll be writing all about over the coming months so I’ll just touch on it briefly. One of the reasons I’ve not been updating is because I didn’t have my laptop on the road. These thing’s tend to fall off of boats, go missing from trains and end up as 21st century coffee tables in a flat in Bangkok.

On the grand scale of things the trip was a success with only minor hiccups (not counting the Qantas strike fiasco we got stuck in the middle of) and even on the tight budget we had, we had a great and balanced experience.

I had always wondered how couples managed to get through spending 24 hours attached to each other whilst traveling and I still don’t have the answer. A lot of couples have fallen a part on the road but others have been brought closer together. I prepared for both scenarios by learning how to share my toys and studying how to cover up a murder. Fortunately I didn’t need the latter and we both came out of it unscaved.  The whole experience  can be quite intense and at times can really put a strain on your relationship. But to be honest I was fairly confident Petra and I would get on well otherwise I wouldn’t have even suggested the trip. I was concerned about us driving each other mental though. I can’t stand my own company most of the time so how was I going to deal with hers 24/7 and how the fuck could anyone put up with me for that long? But I needed not worry as it was perfectly fine and we got on great. Couple of minor tiffs due to the stresses of travel and what not but we are stronger now than we were before. Just to make you sick in your mouth a little here’s a picture of the annoying happy couple looking like a couple dildos from Ann Summers:

Proper Condom Use

Future Plans?

Well after some real thought and consideration, I have my heart set on studying. I just can’t do hospitality for much longer. My heart isn’t in it anymore. The reality is this: If you want to make real money you will have to become a qualified chef or own your own business and I want to do neither. You can get great tips though if you’re in the right place. I’ve made plenty over the years. But I can’t work like that forever. Hopping from place to place is incredibly tedious for me now but I will probably have to do it until I start studying. At the moment, I can’t afford to be picky. Based on my experiences, there is little reward in this business for a job you work very hard at. The bottom line is I can’t see my future involving hospitality even though I know I’d be damn good at it. It’s looked after me well but it’s time to move on.

I have to try my hand at something else.

I still want to be a writer in some shape or form but this is where I really need the help. I can’t be any more specific than the sentence I’ve just typed. Also I’m pretty naïve to the business and where I can fit in. I need all the advice I can get.

Hence why this morning I took a visit to the Careers advisor to assess my situation. And realistically, I’m going to end up doing either open university, an access course via the University Of Edinburgh or higher education at college with the option of Uni on completion. The woman was friendly and helpful enough for someone that must of seen all sorts of creatures sat in front of her desk. She tried to get me to partake in online personality tests and career assessments. I declined. I already know my strengths and weaknesses; For me it comes down to motivation and desire and not lack of ability. I just need to pin point what I want to learn.

Do you know what you’ll be doing ten years from now? Do any of us? I might even be back in Germany in a year or two so that blurs the lines even more.

You know what? Fuck it. I’ll just dig up dinosaurs like I said I’d do when Jurassic Park came out…

Dig up baby dinosaurs. That's my ten year plan.

Anyway folks I’m sorry for the ramblings but that’s all I can muster at the moment? As I said there will be some creative writing pieces coming up in the next few months as well as a travel blog. Keep an eye out.

A Sincere Thank You.

 Since I’m back in the country for the foreseeable future I’d like to thank a few people for their continued support over the past three years. It’s nice to know that I’m appreciated as a friend and a family member and I want to show my appreciation back.

Thank you to my parents for always thinking of me and being proud of whatever decision I’ve made.

My grandparents and especially my grandmother for her constant kind words and encouragement.

Petra for the way you are and continue to be. I love you.

My sister and the rest of my family for being proud of a brother/nephew they never see. We will spend some time together soon!

Holly for giving me a place to live when It was important I lived alone. Thank you for the room.

Paul for never changing, always keeping in touch and making time for me. Best buds min!

Stew for the constant laughs.

Andy and Wilson. You will always be my friends despite not seeing much of one another lately.

Josh for constantly being positive and a pleasure to be around. Thanks for the place to live and for always being a selfless friend.

The rest of the James family (and Merlin!) for your kindness and hospitality.

Rob for letting me crash on your couch when I literally had nowhere to go and no money. Nothing is ever a problem for you.

Scotty for keeping me company on the bench! 😉

Reno and the rest of Annerley football club for making me feel like a star when I can’t play football for shit. One of the greatest times of my life and I’ll never forget the club.

Mitch and Ainsley for helping me settle into Brisbane and being the reason I came there in the first place. Get off crutches mate!

Adam for giving me a job in Germany when I really needed it badly. I wasn’t going to go away otherwise!

And to everyone else I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, traveling and working with over the past three years.

The adventure ends now but another is about to begin.

Thank you all.

Darren.

Serious stuff? Time for the silly face.


The First: Bike Ride In Hanoi.

When you first arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam, your senses are literally blown. Thousands of mopeds pack into the tight streets like sardines, effortlessly zipping in and out of traffic with ease. Street stalls serving some amazing local food – some in which you’ve never seen before. Thriving, bustling markets and friendly faces. In other words – the worst place in the world to have a hangover.

It’s the kind of City that you just want to dump your bags down in the hotel, have a beer and shut yourself off from it until you can think straight. When you do muster up some sense of adventure and head out to explore, the world has moved on without you and you get the impression you’ve missed out on something, even if you did only put your head down for a couple of hours.

Crossing the road can be fun. Even ‘Frogger’ would have trouble getting to the other side. But at least he’s an expert with a fighting chance of making it out alive. It’s a human game of chess. Pick your move wisely. There were times I literally didn’t know if I would make it to the other side, and be left stranded half way across with traffic swarming around you like a school of fish.

It doesn’t take long to forget about your safety and just go with the flow. The skill and accuracy to dodge pedestrians and drive through incredibly small gaps at speed is amazing, so the driving is some what admirable. Little did I know that I would get a chance to experience the ride later, and of my admiration becoming respect.

Those guys were cheating bastards by the way, hence the serious face.

The group and I had spent the early evening drinking local brew, at a popular tourist corner in the old quarter of the City. It’s an awesome spot smack bang in a busy junction. I was literally drinking inches from the road, perched on kids furniture. Traffic whizzes past inches from your head as you knock back some tasty beer, with one eye looking over your shoulder. I hadn’t experienced anything like it and haven’t since.

What? Talking shit with a beer in my hand? Surely not...

The night had run away from us and we soon found ourselves in a bar, shooting pool, smoking Shisha and knocking back shots. It was the early hours before we decided to call it a night and head back to the hotel. I left with two of my group (I can’t remember exactly who) and we were instantly greeted by taxi drivers, bartering with each other over a price to take us home. It didn’t take long. I jumped on the back of one bike, whilst the other two jumped on the bike ahead. As the three of us was all staying in the same hotel, I told the driver to follow the bike ahead for the journey.

If you haven’t guessed already. This is where the fun started.

As we set off, my driver did as requested and tailed the other bike. It was only a 5 minute ride back to the hotel and after a couple of straight roads – we were already most of the way there.

But then out of nowhere, he veered off to the left, losing sight of the other moped. At first I didn’t notice as I was literally focusing on his back to stop me from throwing up. However I soon caught on and by the time I had realised what was going on, we were off in a completely different direction.

So you know how it goes.

Awkward situation.

You might be in trouble.

Hit him in the head? Try and stop the bike or even risk jumping off? Would my broken leg be covered in my travel insurance?

I couldn’t think straight but I was sobering up pretty quickly.

Once I realised I wasn’t John Rambo, I opted to look around for a minute or two, trying to figure out whether he was taking a short cut or just completely lost.

It was wishful thinking and it started to dawn on me that my luck may be running out. We had lost the bike, lost the hotel and I was slowly losing the will to live.

This could end badly.

Eventually I said something (long overdue) along the lines of,

“Mate – you’re going the wrong way. You’ve lost the other bike”

He mumbled something I couldn’t make out, and I wasn’t satisfied with his response. I began to get a grip and started feeling a bit more ballsy. If he wasn’t taking me back the hotel, where was he taking me? Did I really want to find out?

(I’ve always been fairly trusting towards the locals where ever I’ve went and never needed to lose my temper over anything. I’m fairly patient. However I knew this might be bad.)

Then all of a sudden, I had no more time to assess the situation as the bike began to slow down. He had taken me down a dark street in some residential area. I had been on the bike no longer than ten minutes but it felt like an eternity. I looked ahead and saw that we were about to be greeted by a group of young guys, hanging around on the pavement. I quickly searched through my pockets to see if I had any sort of weapon, anything of value or a clue of what to do. Where’s Bear Grylls when you need him?

Ah yes. As I thought.

Just me, my fists and my wits.

And all three are a fucking shambles.

Now this is where everything became a blur. You’d think this particular moment would be as clear as day in my memory but sadly it’s not, so bear with me. I’m trying to stay true to the events without bull shitting, but I was pretty hammered.

I remember telling him to let me off the bike (about ten minutes too late) and being asked for money by the driver. He was cocky and I felt like I fell face first into a tourist trap. I refused to pay him. In fact I couldn’t. Earlier, when I had rifled through my pockets, I realised that I spent the last of my money in the bar, and had agreed to square up with the other two when we got back to the hotel. On top of that:

No phone.

No credit card.

No hotel key.

And no fucking idea where I was.

I began shouting in a ‘I’m shitting myself. If I talk loud enough they will be scared of high frequency noises and scatter off into the shadows way’ and I think I actually showed him and the guys my empty pockets. I must have looked stupid. As I had nothing to give them, I worried that I would be beat down for the fun of it. I didn’t stick around to find out and I legged it up the street. My adrenaline was pumping and they began to follow me in their mopeds. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before they lost interest and backed off.

(Jesus Christ. What is this? A police statement?)

I’m still unsure of their intentions to this day. For all I know they could have just wanted a hand lifting furniture. What I am sure of, is that I was completely vulnerable and doing a runner seemed the only logical thing to do. (Since then I’ve became a huge fan of ‘Curb your enthusiasm’. If it happened now, I’d like to think I might handle it a bit better, drawing inspiration from the show. I often wonder in day by day situations– What would Larry David do?)

I had made it to a main road but there wasn’t a soul around and no passing traffic. I was far from everything that seemed familiar. I looked around, trying to find anything at all that would give me a clue to where I was. I decided to pick a direction and go with it. Hanging around would get me nowhere. I tried to walk with a bit of swagger and confidence but I felt like a dick in the shirt I was wearing. What was I thinking? Flowers never was and still to this day – not my style.

Then, out of the darkness, came a moped.

I flagged him down by literally stepping in front of him, and thankfully he stopped.

He was friendly and spoke a bit of English. He wore a helmet and a black jacket. I told him in part about what had happened, but mostly about how I had no money, but assured him I’d pay when I get back to the hotel. He agreed and I was one relieved man.

“What’s the name of your hotel?” he asked.

The night was far from over yet.

I put my hands on my hips and looked to the sky. I had completely forgotten.

And not only that – I had no way of finding out. I didn’t even have a map.

How the hell was I going to get back to base? I had zero ideas and neither did the driver.

I began to rattle off what I think it may be…

“Sun flower? Sunny house? Sunshine Inn? Flower sun? Do you know it?”

The driver replied.

“My friend – there are very much hotels with the word ‘flower’ and ‘sun’ in it.”.

He was right. There were many. So much so that I remember commenting on it earlier in the day.

So here I was. Probably the most vulnerable I’ve ever been in my life, with my hopes of getting home in the drivers hands. Sounds like I’ve been here before…

I hopped on the back and off we went. Bike ride number two. I was quite up beat to begin with. How hard could it be to find the hotel? I figured I’d recognise it in passing. But after four or five failed attempts at different hotels, I realised one big problem…

When night falls in Hanoi, almost every hotel, shop, bar, and anything else you could think of literally ‘shuts up shop’. They pull down metal shutters after locking up. Every street looked the same during the day, and now with the added bonus of night fall and shutters, it made it even more confusing to navigate around. Not only does everything look similar, but some of the signs get covered too! Jesus Christ! Cut me a fucking break already!

I had been on the back of the bike for an hour or so, and I felt like we were going in circles. In fact we were doing just that. I started to get pretty disheartened and needed a breather.

He kindly stopped the bike and we smoked a cigarette. I liked him. He was very up beat about the whole thing. We got chatting and he was a genuinely nice guy, going above and beyond what he needed to do. Here he had a pissed up, stupid tourist with zero cash or a clue to where he was going, yet he still drove me around. He was only going on my word and I respected that. It was then I promised him a hefty sum for getting me back safe and sound. I also offered to pay his petrol.

After chatting we got back on the bike and he took me to his family home so he could get a map. We had figured that if we got a map of the city centre, I could point out which area I’d been drinking in. If I could at least get back to there, then I was within a fighting chance of getting back to the hotel. I could even trace my steps if I was lucky.

After hitting a couple of areas that didn’t look familiar, we found the bar I had been drinking in earlier. We had also found a couple of tourists on the way home. I hopped off the bike and approached them, telling them what happened. I’m not sure what I wanted to achieve by this as they were as clueless as I was on how to get home. I’m not sure but I think I was suggesting I stayed at their place the night, as I would have a better chance of finding my hotel in the morning. They were having none of it and they weren’t very interested. I used the whole ‘I’d do the same for you line’ but it didn’t work. I was pissed off with them. Damn shirt…

So the search continued and it was getting very early now. Not quite sunrise but not far from it. I was on the bike for over two hours and we had covered the same ground on countless times. We were just driving slowly down streets, hoping that I’d find something familiar.

(Man. If ‘sunrise’ was the name of my hotel and I arrived there at sunrise, now that would be a story. Needless to say – it wasn’t. Moving on…)

The driver had an idea.

He had a friend who worked in a hotel. If we could get in and use his computer, we would be able to search all the hotels with ‘sun’ and ‘flower’ in the name. Plus the manager would know more about hotels in the area. Searching through the computer, I could potentially recognise the street name as well as the hotel name. It was getting desperate now and this was pretty much my last shot.

The group was moving on in the morning and I really needed to catch the morning bus with them, otherwise I’d be left behind.

We arrived at the hotel and chapped on the shutter. The hotel knew of our arrival and we were greeted by a friendly man, who was happy to help.

As soon as I saw him I recognised him. We had met before. I also recognised the hotel lobby, the chairs, the desk and everything else.

Suddenly it had dawned on me.

We had arrived in Hanoi the day before in the small hours, and walked to the hotel from the train station. When we arrived we had found out that the hotel had double booked and didn’t have enough rooms for us. After some hanging around the reception, we waited whilst the manager tried to sort out somewhere for us to stay. After some time, he sent us on our way to hotel number 2, and we picked up our bags and walked there.

I was standing in hotel number 1.

Jackpot! He recognised me too. And more importantly – he knew exactly where I was staying.

I was ecstatic. I hugged the manager, then the driver as we both cheered and jumped around. It was quite a moment and the driver was just as happy as I was.

Five minutes later – I was back. I knocked on the shutter and I was let in by a sleepy receptionist. The sign was covered and I realised I had no hope of finding it in that form. I was lucky and I was very grateful.

I paid the driver and couldn’t have said thank you enough. He was a true legend and did me a massive favour which he had no need to. I offered to take him out for a beer the following day but he politely declined.

(Must have been the shirt.)

Lesson learnt folks. Prepare for the worst! I was caught completely off guard that night and due to my own stupidity – I paid the price. When I look back on it I laugh and smile as it was one of those evenings that really made my trip, and no trip is complete without a good story. Thankfully, that was about as scary as it got for me.

I didn’t get to show my appreciation to the driver which is one of my regrets. And still to this day – I don’t remember the name of my hotel.

When I travel, I always write it down now and keep it with me. Although it was one night I’ll never forget, it is one that I never want repeated.


The Best Of YouTube: eHarmony Debbie.

Despite of two failed marriages, a kidnapping and an abusive ex boyfriend,(Could be true)twenty-three year old Debbie from the internet has decided to give dating one last chance by making a short video blog for eHarmony. She’s pretty and seems nice enough. In fact for the first ten seconds of this video I was charmed by Debbie. Annoying but harmless. But I guess ‘making a good first impression’ counts for shit, if you are going to spend the next two minutes having an emotional breakdown. So don’t be fooled guys. She is in fact mental. No shocker but she isn’t your average bunny boiler. She has an unhealthy obsession with cats. No really. This is all she talks about. All different kinds of cats. Cats with bow ties, cats in baskets and cats on rainbows?

Sure…

It could be worse I guess.

She could love calling your mum, watching you sleep and shagging your friends.

(By the way, this video is fake folks. Quite convincing though don’t you think? She should make it a series.)

How long could you possibly last on an evening with this girl? I guess only the patient, sympathetic and extremely horny need apply. Still, even then you’re going to need some help. There is only so much crying over dead family pets you could take.

Luckily for you I have created some helpful tips for surviving the evening, depending on what you fancy doing.

Take the sensible road and get out of there before you need a rabies jab?

Or be adventurous and go back and meet the kittens?

Now brushing straight past all the possibilities for ‘Pussy’ jokes…

Six ways to save your life

1 –  Keep talking about how much you love dogs. Simple thinking really but a bit risky. She might love them too! But it’s worth ago. Of course she might be full-blown snooker loopy and be disgusted that you even said that. This could lead to a violent outburst, which would be the perfect reason to dart. Still there is plenty of room for manoeuvre here. If she enters into a light-hearted debate about which is better, just keep shutting her down with hard-hitting one liners such as “My dog would tear your cat apart”. You’ll soon break her down judging by the video.

2 – Tell her how Tom and Jerry was your favourite cartoon growing up. Get animated (pun intended) on how much you always rooted for Jerry and laughed every time Tom got smashed in the face with an iron.

3 – A simple, directed jab at her Hello Kitty handbag. “How old are you? Ten?” will do.

4 – Tell her stories. None of them have to be remotely true but just make sure they have the demise of cats in there. For example talk about how you once knew a farmer that drowned litters of kittens in a barrel as he could never sell them all on. Again this is a risky strategy. This could easy result in taking her home and pretty cruel regardless of what you end up doing. Still. She’s mental. Needs must.

5 – When it comes to your round, buy her a glass of milk. This should be awkward and insulting enough to allow the evening to grind to a holt.

6 – Role play like George Galloway. I really can’t think of anything worse you could do. Commiserations if you made it that far.

Six ways to end your life

1 – Volunteer at the animal shelter. Okay so that’s a fair hassle but it will pay off. Steal one of the kittens and take it on the date. This may distract her from you, but at least you have the power and hold all the cards. In fact you might want to leave it at home. She can come and see it later. Better still just buy a kitten. ( God this post is going downhill fast….)

2- Take her to see CATS ( the musical). Fairly obvious one here but if that doesn’t get you somewhere – nothing will.

3- A trip to the  karaoke bar might be a good shout. Dazzle her with a bit of Tom Jones.What’s new pussy cat? A notch in her bedpost that’s what.

4- Show her this picture:

Yeh, how do you like those orgasms?

5 – Brush up on your ancient history. An hour on Wiki or Google before the date should suffice. Bash out some random facts about Egypt and talk about how impressed you were at the Mummified Cat Exhibition at the Museum Of  Natural History. If you feel out of your depth try a different approach. Perhaps comment on the decline of big cats in the wild due to poaching, deforestation and inbreeding. If all else fails just say you’ve seen Cats And Dogs on DVD a thousand times with your little cousin.

6 – Brag about that time you fought a mouse…