Tag Archives: twitter

Blackridge Wrestling: In aid of Cancer Research

br

Nestled quietly in West Lothian, the small town of Blackridge sits snugly in between noisier neighbours in Glasgow and Edinburgh; both of which have seen a huge resurgence in local independent wrestling in recent years. Blackridge however, had never seen a wrestling event in their town. Local resident and wrestling fan, Martin McGreskin looked to change this by promoting an evening of quality local wrestling, with the promise of crowning the first ever King Of Blackridge, in an eight man elimination tournament.

Also advertised: a title defence by SSW Champion Kid Fite against PBW’s Dylan Angel.

With the Craig Inn Centre bathed in glorious sunshine and much of the proceeds going towards a worthy cause close to Martin’s heart, it didn’t take much persuasion for the town to turn up in force.

Their good faith was to be rewarded; This was one hell of a night. 

1st Quarter-Final Match in the inaugural King Of Blackridge Tournament:

Donnie T vs Lucha DS

The high-flying masked luchadore DS, may have expected to ride the momentum of energy around Craig Inn during the opening bout, but any attempted drive became stalled by an unimpressed looking Donnie T. The overly brash and confident DT seemed in no rush get the match started. When the two eventually did lock up, DS found himself grounded once more, overpowered by a much larger and stronger opponent. However, grounding LuchaDS is one thing; keeping him down is another. As the pace quickened, a suicide dive to the floor and a high Cross Body had Donnie T reeling. An impressive Springboard into an RKO resulted in a (very) near fall. DT hit back with a powerful spear, which almost sent him into the Semi-Final. But it was LuchaDS with a 619 and a top rope Swanton that sealed it in the end, progressing him to the next round.

2nd Quarter-Final Match

David The Beloved vs Wee Jay Smalls w Chantelle

If pace was missing during the early goings of the opening bout, there was plenty of it here. The tenacious Wee Jay Smalls quickly and expertly spilled the arrogant and vocal David The Beloved to the outside with a smart hurricanrana, after taking exception to DTB laying his hands on valet, Chantelle. There was no let up from Wee Jay until a wicked looking clothesline by DTB seemed to change the complexion of the match. Wee Jay (who showcased a tonne of heart) continued to trouble his larger opponent with speed and ring awareness. But, ultimately, David The Beloved proved that he is every bit as good as he said he was, spiking Wee Jay with a second rope DDT and an expertly applied German Suplex into a bridge for the three count. David The Beloved progressed to the second Semi-Final.

 

3rd Quarter-Final Match

Saqib Ali vs Brandon Adams

A familiar face to many, Brandon Adams was a dark horse going into this tournament: one half of the SSW Tag Team Champions looking to make a mark as a singles competitor. Saqib Ali on the other hand, didn’t come to Blackridge to make friends. A win for the canny ‘Sultan of Swing’ here though would go along way in making a mark of his own.

Despite initially avoiding the sharp kicks of Adams, Ali struggled gain a foothold on this match until a stiff Clothesline and a Standing Suplex gave Saqib the upper hand. In truth, these two athletes were evenly matched, as they jostled on the top rope in attempt to gain any advantage. A missed Super-kick by Adams into an Inside Cradle by Ali, almost snatched a three count. In the end, Adams was caught coming into the ring by a stiff kick to the middle rope by Ali. This brief window allowed for Ali to hit a brutal looking Curb Stomp for the 1,2,3, sending him through to the second semi-final.

4th Quarter-Final Match

Jonathan Richards vs Kaiden King

If Adams was a dark horse in this eight man tournament, Kaiden King was surely the odds on favourite. King was greeted to a hero’s welcome by the young crowd at ringside, and it was very clear that King had intentions of taking the title of ‘King of Blackridge’ home with him. Standing in his way was Jonathan Richards: a man that perhaps was overlooked as a viable contender for the title. Although Richards proclaimed before he match that he “couldn’t find Blackridge on Google Maps” he certainly found a foothold in this match, silencing the rowdy crowd by working tirelessly on the knee of King. Any comeback by King looked unlikely as Richards wrapped the knee not once, not twice, but three times around the steel ring post. A painful looking Half Boston Crab in the middle of the ring, applied on the already damaged knee of King had Kaiden on the verge of tapping out. But the sheer toughness and resolve of King somehow managed to find him to the bottom rope to break the count. The bottom rope would save King again, grabbing on to break the count after a Pedigree by Richards. A frustrated figure in Richards would bring a steel chair into the ring. With imminent danger present, King struggled out of a second Pedigree attempt and caught Richards with a lightening quick RKO, sending Kaiden King into the last semi-final match. But would Kaiden be 100%?

  • At Interval, Hot Dogs, drinks and raffle tickets were all on sale, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Martin is also collecting donations via a Just Giving page. If you would like to donate to Cancer Research UK, you can do so via the link here

IMG_0292

1st Semi-Final Match:

David The Beloved vs LuchaDS

A pairing of contrasting styles awaited the fans in the first of the semi-final match ups. An over zealous David The Beloved looked to gain the upper hand straight from the bell, rushing LuchaDS. However, DS had this scouted, sending the egotistical DTB over the top rope to the floor and nailing him with a majestic Moonsault from the apron. DTB recovered well from the early setback, spiking DS with a hard shoulder tackle which had the Luchadore rocked. Much like Kaiden King earlier, LuchaDS showed great resolve and looked to have one foot in the final. DS climbed high to the top rope, looking to deliver a Swanton Bomb that would surely send DTB packing. But as DS came soaring down, DTB managed to raise his knees up just in time, and followed up with a devastating modified Enziguri for the three count. David The Beloved would go on to the final in a hard fought victory.

2nd Semi-Final Match:

Saqib Ali vs Kaiden King

Although Kaiden King was in the semi-final, he would have an uphill battle against a fresher looking Ali. Kaiden had been through a war with Jonathan Richards earlier in the evening and looked to be carrying a rib injury on top of his already damaged knee. And like a shark to blood, a crafty Saqib Ali would target these injuries after cowardly attacking Kaiden before the bell. It seemed only a matter of time until Ali knocked off the ever popular King. But suddenly, Ali found himself on the receiving end of an RKO putting him down for the three count! Kaiden King moved onto the final, showing great determination against ever stacking odds. Would this be his night?

SSW World Championship Match:

Kid Fite(c) vs Dylan Angel

Sometimes in wrestling, words can not describe the feeling surrounding a match nor do justice to what took place. This was an incredibly special match by two very technical, hard hitting and talented performers. The crafty veteran Kid Fite and his PBW prodigy, Dylan Angel left everything in the ring for the raucous Blackridge crowd. You could forgive the young fans for getting excited; not only was this for the SSW Title, Fite was on fine heinous form, letting the fans know exactly how he felt about them. As the young fans rushed the ring in protest of Fite and in support of Angel, the match itself looked like it may never get under way! When it did, the Blackridge crowd was in for a treat.

Chain wrestling dominated the early stages as both men vied for position. There was very little between the two as both looked for an opening. Angel looked the likelier to gain the advantage, climbing the top rope looking to come down hard on Fite with an Axe Handle. Fite had this covered though and met Angel with a swift kick to the abdomen followed by an agonizing looking kick to Angel’s lower back. Fite, ever the opportunist, proceeded to lay into Angel, landing a stiff looking uppercut and a high back elbow turning him inside out.

What was a vocal and energetic crowd, now fell silent as Fite brutally dissected Angel. The high-flying PBW star, for now was grounded. But perhaps with the SSW title in mind, he dug down deep, mustering an enziguri to the back of Fite’s head. A spirited contender, who looked like he had just enough of Kid Fites brutality, forcefully sent Fite to the outside with as hard a chop as you are ever likely to see or hear. This descended the SSW title match into an all out brawl. The referee could not control the two as they spilled out the fire exit into grounds behind them, followed by a horde of young Blackridge fans.

The battle continued around ringside as the two went blow for blow. When the action eventually made it back into the ring, the referee may have wished he had called for a disqualification: after some amazing near falls and as Angel went to the top rope one more time, the referee was pushed into the very same ropes by Fite causing Angel to lose his balance. This allowed for Kid Fite to hit his devastating Lock-back DDT for the victory in what was a fascinating and unforgettable match.

Winner and still SSW World Champion: Kid Fite.

Final Match in the King of Blackridge Tournament:

Kaiden King vs David The Beloved

And it all came down to this. Two men, fighting it out to be crowned the first ever King of Blackridge. David The Beloved: who powered his way through to the final against two terrific high flyers. Against Kaiden King: who showed real courage, knocking off two dangerous opponents when all seemed lost. As the night had descended into all out anarchy, David The Beloved and Kaiden King were not to be out-shined, taking the action to the outside from the get go. King sent DTB head first into the steel ring post, which seemed to allow for some rest bite for King to assess his previous injuries. But it seemed DTB may have been fishing for a chance to target the walking wounded as shortly after, King found himself laid out after being brutally whipped into the ring steps and beaten down by an enraged DTB.

As the action spilled back into the ring, the crown looked destined to be placed upon the head of The Beloved. A wicked DDT and a high kick to the temple all but sealing the victory. But if there was thing the Blackridge fans learned that evening, was to never count out Kaiden King. And once again, when all seemed lost, King somehow managed to hit an RKO on a stunned DTB picking up the victory.IMG_0302

Your winner, and the first ever King of Blackridge, Kaiden King.

After the match as King was celebrating, Kid Fite made a shocking reappearance, holding the SSW Title Belt high in the air. The message was loud and clear:

The King may have a crown for now, but the throne belongs to Kid Fite.

Martin’s Just Giving Page

Advertisements

SSW Review:“Rowdy” Roddy Piper Memorial Tournament

Just a stone’s throw away from The Regal Theatre in Bathgate, the Broxburn Bowling Club became the interim home for an afternoon of SSW action. In association with FOCC (Friends of Chernobyl’s Children West Lothian), eight men battled it out to be crowned the first ever winner of the “Rowdy” Roddy Piper memorial tournament. Although a victory in memory of the great man himself may have been incentive enough, a trophy fitting of “Hot Rod” himself sat ringside. To claim such an accolade? Not one; not two; but three matches in quick succession in what would prove to be a highly physical and competitive afternoon.

In the first quarter-final, the high flying Lucha DS, squared off with a unimpressed looking Prince Assad. Assad, who was distracted by the crowd at ringside, began the match by pacing the outside, much to the frustration of the masked DS. Eventually, the two would tie up with Assad getting the better of his opponent in the early stages, grounding the high flying luchadore with some painful looking leg locks and submissions. However, Lucha DS somehow found an opening and delivered a blunt looking kick to the head followed by a pinpoint super kick to a stunned Assad. Although Assad would prove his resolve by sticking with an energetic DS, he struggled to recover any momentum of his own and fell to a second rope Swanton, advancing DS to the semi-final.

The second quarter-final saw the intimidating, “The Man They Call ‘Butler'”go up against a much smaller, but game, Dylan Angel. Despite having the size advantage, Butler seized further leverage by jumping both the bell, and Angel from behind. Butler bagan systematically grounding and pounding Angel, until a flurry of venomous looking kicks rocked the big man. However, Butler would prove too strong for Angel delivering a devastating F5, moving him on to the second Semi-final.

In what could only be described as an upset, a cocky Jonathon Richards somehow managed to navigate himself into the semi’s, by side-stepping a familiar face in Dave.S.Jeremi. With the crowd firmly behind Jeremi, Richards found himself humiliated and on the losing end of a series of impromptu trials with young SSW hopefuls sitting at ringside. Although embarrassed in tests of strength; forward rolls; on the mic; and even by Nikki Jeremi herself, ultimately Richards would find a weakness (when the match eventually got under way) by breaking down the knee and leg of Dave.S. Jeremi and hastily exiting with the 1,2,3.

The Firestorm champion, Mikey Ratings squared off against the ever-colourful and agile, Brandon Adams in the last of the quarter-final match ups. In what was arguably match of the afternoon, a series of counters and close falls made it hard to predict a winner between the two. At one point, Ratings somehow countered a superkick attempt into a chokeslam leaving the crowd stunned as Adams dug deep to kick out. With the referee distracted, frustration would get the better of Ratings. An attempt to nail Adams with the Firestorm belt backfired, as Adam’s sent the belt back into the face of Ratings with an expertly timed superkick. As a result, Adam’s sent himself into the last remaining semi-final spot and Mikey Ratings packing.

In the first semi-final, a renewed Jonathon Richards put on quite a showing against the masked luchadaore, Lucha DS. A series of near falls peppered this back and forth match but, ultimately, a reverse DDT followed by a majestic top rope Swanton from DS would see off a dogged Richards.

In the second, Butler continued his dirty tricks, despite being superior in size and brute strength over his opponent, Brandon Adams. A relentless Butler struggled to keep down a tenacious Adams, even with some brutal looking throws and German suplexes delivered. In a moment of contraversy at the Broxburn Bowling Club and in perhaps in nod to the great Roddy Piper himself, Butler delivered a brazen low blow out of sight of the referee. This gave Butler a brief window to lock a spent Adams into a painful looking submission maneuver to the neck. Adams quickly tapped, but his efforts did not go unappreciated by the Broxburn crowd.

In the final match of the Roddy Piper Memorial Tournament, a rested Lucha DS looked to take advantage of a spent, but still dangerous Butler. However, early in the match, a disgruntled Prince Assad who had made his way to ringside, had other ideas, pulling the referee out when it seemed DS had the trophy in the bag. The attention of the whole locker room was drawn, as carnage broke out in the ring at Broxburn Bowling Club. This rendered the final a no contest and with no clear winner of the tournament, it was announced by SSW management that an over the top rope Battle Royal would commence to declare the winner. Adams and Mikey Ratings continued their earlier feud by eliminating each other. Jonathon Richards would continue to be embarrassed by SSW’s young trainees, who helped lower the top rope to assist Dave.S.Jeremi in eliminating Richards. Jeremi would soon follow as well as Assad and finally Dylan Angel, leaving the two men who started the final to begin with to battle it out. With Butler’s clear size advantage, the match, trophy and prestige of being the first ever winner of the tournament seemed there for the taking. But, the high flying DS would see off a charging Butler, side-stepping and sending him over the top rope for the victory.

Arguably the deserving winner in an action packed afternoon of wrestling in aid of FOCC (Friends of Chernobyl’s Children West Lothian), in the first ever Roddy Piper Memorial Tournament: Lucha DS!

LuchaDS - Copy


Half Baked: Lessons Learned From a Dead End Career In Hospitality – Part 1.

Pappas Kitchen

I’d go on to associate 3:00am on a Sunday morning with stumbling home drunk from town: eighty quid down, my trainers scuffed to bits and guided by streams of piss and the stench of Joop to the nearest 24 hour bakery. Before those bleary years, there was a time that I’d be ‘working’ at this god awful hour, before I would notice what laborious road I was hurtling down; and about eleven hours before your mum had the dinner on. I’d go on to work in many restaurants, cafes and bars. But it all began in my dad’s small bakery in Torry at the unsullied age of twelve. This was work experience. An introduction to the working world and a literal awakening by a tinny cheap alarm clock picked up from the cash and carry.

My dad always worked in the industry. A baker by trade and a grafter. Growing up, I have memories of him dotting about the city from A to B, looking to pick something up or sort something out. I would be given the choice of coming in or waiting in the car, as he went down some unspecified stairwell or chap on the back door. I would usually pick the latter as these visits tended to be lengthy, despite the assurance of “just popping in”. As he would talk about…whatever the hell bakers talked about, I’d get to try the cakes or be shown how something is done or how a machine works. For example, he worked in a little shop that specialized in wedding cakes. I remember being given a blank cake board and a piping bag with various coloured icing to play with. This was the equivalent of pencils and paper to keep me busy and kept me out of the way. I didn’t mind. I found these experiences fascinating. I fondly remember meeting some local characters and learning how an industrial kitchen functioned.

My dad would go on to buy The Pantry: a small, no thrills bakery that catered mainly for the early morning trade. Initially, he ran the place single-handedly, although help would come in later in the morning to serve the public. I think he found the experience somewhat lonely. In my opinion, the best part of any kitchen job (bar, you know, actually cooking things and completing a successful service) is the social environment created by you and your colleagues. Working side by side with the right team can keep you going throughout a long day. Without that, you may only have the radio for company and the inner workings of a tired brain.

wood-tools-1416960

On Saturday night, I’d go to bed fully clothed because…that’s what grown-ups do?..dreading the inevitable 3:00am wake up from my tinny pocket alarm clock; and my dad who would absurdly wake me up a minute or two before it went off. I often ignored his attempts to wake me in hope that I would get away with not going. This had limited success. I’d lumber into the car in pitch darkness and sleep for most of the journey, awakened as we approached the bakery, by the stench of fresh fish and the sound of screeching seagulls.

Opening up was always the worst part: lighting all the stoves, cranking them up full blast to get some heat into the kitchen; waiting for hot water to boil and counting the minutes and seconds until you could take your jacket off. Front of house was basic but practical: brightly coloured price tags peppered the walls and the display cabinets lay dark and bare. Between the hours of three and six, my dad would systematically work through producing pies, cakes, pancakes, etc. I’d be tasked with putting them on display, cleaning and other odd jobs. We’d also get deliveries during this time. I’d find myself making cups of teas and bacon rolls for the tradesman either ending or beginning their shift. You could usually tell which, by the dirtiness of their overalls and the level of weariness in their voice when they ordered.

As the morning went on and darkness fell to light, the bakery would get busier and I would get chirpier, knowing that the arrival of day come with my departure. I’d either get a lift home from my grandfather who would often help out; or from some indistinguishable woman who would do the sandwich run around local offices and drop me off on the way back. Before leaving, I would walk up to Blockbuster Video to rent a couple of Mega Drive games – this is how I would spend the rest of my weekend.

These sporadic shifts would indicate who I would become in the working world. My dad would go on to sell The Pantry and I dodged diabetes as a result. His next acquisition would be something far more exciting…The tinny alarm clock never did ring again. Where as I, was just beginning to chime.


For All The Cows: I’m back here I guess…

088

Three tins of Red Stripe*, a failed bet (sorry, bets) and awaiting news of a job I have diminishing hope of getting and I’m just about in prime territory for writing. Yeah, throw in a Friday night alone with Radio 6, 4od and frozen pizza and I have all the ingredients for a semi-structured, completely unrelated to anything I’ve just listed, blog entry. All I need now is to post pictures of my dinner and I’ll be near enough suicide. So where do I go from here? Well since my last post was about Belgian beer and I’ve gotten as far as Jamaican lager then I can’t envision much progress. Still, at least that’s somewhere to go from. Will I try to meet somewhere half way? Will I stop asking myself rhetorical questions? Will I ever buy any other frozen pizza other than Ristorante? You bet your arse I won’t.

Travel on the mind.

Literally the view from my laptop.

Literally the view from my laptop.

On the 3rd of November it will be five years to the day that I packed my not so little backpack, pushed back the tears and left Aberdeen to travel for the first time. I wouldn’t have thought that particular day in the calendar would mean that much to me but in all honesty, I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. My better half and I will be in Paris that weekend and being the sentimental guy I sometimes am, I would like to celebrate it by visiting the Eiffel tower and cracking open a bottle of wine. Now, I’ve been back in Scotland for a year and half now and even been back in Aberdeen for five months of those five but I can honestly say that there is hardly a day goes by where I don’t think of leaving again. And although I have thought and done in the past, I will just have to sit on such thoughts this time around – at least for the time being. I’ll be writing a sick inducing nostalgic entry for the third so if you can’t get enough self vanity, set your reminder for then.

Work to be done.

I started a new job in April which I am really enjoying as a Support Worker, working with homeless adults in supported accommodation. Ironically, I could do with some support myself but I must have failed to mention that at the interview. Regardless, I’m really enjoying it and sincerely think it’s the right job for me. Problem being, I’m only contracted part-time so find myself running around Edinburgh covering shifts in other projects to pay the rent. I realize the importance of a good reference now and finally realize that I need some balance in my life as well as the start of something serious on the job front. Although I’ve worked for a lot of places, in truth, a two-year old could draw all over paper with a green crayon and still create a more credible CV than mine. Time to buckle down and earn a reference/experience in something other than Head Cappuccino Making and Executive Chip Fryer. Although do look out for those jobs on Gumtree. I heard Glasgow is seeking skilled chip fryers for the Commonwealth games.

Needless to say, I am going and I’m tailor made for that role. I’ve retired from track and field.

I Could probably predict the future…

With the other half pegged down for a two-year contract at work and settled now in Edinburgh, it gives me time to focus on my job. I’m hopeful to land a full-time position within the company and would be unfortunate/have no one to blame but myself if I didn’t nail it down. We have been reading off of different pages when it comes to future plans thus far but have amicably agreed that if we were to travel extensively again, it would have to tie in with some sort of job prospects related to what we’re doing now. Hypothetically, I could walk around Bondi beach, offering housing support to backpackers that have spent their last cent but in that will never happen – I hate doing paperwork in the sun…

Realistically one of four thing’s are likely to happen: We end up moving back to Germany; We move down South to London; We travel then use a working visa abroad – i.e.- Canada; We stay in Edinburgh for longer. Simple! Next stop, a house and children and a five door car, but only if I still get to watch wrestling – that’s the deal. Who said life was complicated?

What else is new?

  • Remember I went to college because I thought it would be important to come back to education? Overall it was a waste of fucking time but I did get a grade out of it. I failed Higher German (poor attendance, terrible class structure and a really bad teacher that looked nothing like Cameron Diaz) but I passed Higher English and got an A. In all honesty, it was a great class even though I was the older student who sat at the back hungover and looked like a perv. The problem being with college is that I wanted to do nothing with it, therefore, there was not really any point of me being there. I didn’t want to get into University like most of my class or gain extra highers. I just wanted to do something I enjoyed and be rewarded for it even if it meant I had to work less. So waste of fucking time? Well yes but you know what, I needed it. I thought some sort of study would be good for me and, on reflection, it was. Reading The Great Gatsby over and over, being forced to write for hours and turkey burgers on paper plates – I had no idea what I was missing.
  • After a five-year absence I will be coming home for Christmas: I’ve not been in the country the last five years so it’s not as if I’m the selfish, ungrateful son who has turned his back on his family but still, five years is long enough. Expect a night out on the cards for my birthday on the 27th. I thank the both of you in advance for turning up and you both looked splendid in your new cardigans.

DSCF7037

  • Leaving my worst South African accent at the door, I flew over to Johanesburg in August for my cousin’s wedding. It’s probably something that I’ll go into another time but it was quite a humbling experience spending time with family who you rarely see but who love you so much and are so happy to see you. I was well looked after and truly welcomed with open arms. Being a large chunk of my dad’s heritage, it was a long overdue trip but was incredibly worthwhile.
  • My phone’s knackered – Angry birds? I’m fucking raging.
  • Oh and I ate this. Impressed? Didn’t think so.

DSCF6037

*Make that five.

 


Brussels: 5 Tips to Get You Started.

Manneken Pis

Manneken Pis

Brussels is famous for quite a few things: Beer; Chocolate; Mussels; Frites; Graffiti; Being the base City for Europe’s bigwigs; A statue that urinates 24/7, just to name a few. But if murals, politics and local landmarks isn’t your scene, and if none of the others listed don’t take your fancy, then hell, maybe Brussels isn’t for you! If I had you at beer? Then you should probably read on.

Eat: Fin De Siecle

Delicious Pork Shin.

Delicious Pork Shin.

Waiting in line for a meal isn’t a bad thing if the meal itself was worth the wait. This restaurant certainly delivered. Queued out the door and apparently busy every night of the week, there is nothing flashy about Fin De Siecle. But for what it lacks in style, it makes up for with bundles of charm, character, atmosphere and incredibly unpretentious but delicious Belgian cuisine. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the queue was relentless during our whole stay (no reservations folks) but don’t fret – you’ll be well looked after. The staff are fantastic: hurrying here and up and down and there. The menu is chalked in French, so you may want to save your blushes (and your servers time) by brushing up a little on the language before you arrive. Don’t expect to pay any more than 15 to 20 Euros for a meal and you should probably skip lunch that day as the portion sizes are generous to say the least. Fantastic.

Tripadvisor Reviews.

Sleep: NH Hotel Du Grand Sablon

Du Grand Sablon

Du Grand Sablon

Situated in the scenic Place Du Grand Sablon ( a charming little area, dotted with art galleries) you can’t go too wrong with this hotel. The reviews are mixed (as is the case with most hotels) but as I understand it, they come mostly about the dated rooms. My experience? Great. Nothing more; Nothing less.

Our room (on the 4th floor) was bright, clean and modern. One of the best I’ve slept in. The location is DSCF6121excellent: just up the hill from Grand Place, which is around a ten minute walk away. The breakfast was superb with plenty to choose from and of a high quality. The wi-fi was free but slow. So, so, slow. Overall, the hotel was great value for money. In fact, our stay was an absolute steal at £230* for four nights. Merely looking for a central place to crash, I was quietly pleased with my choice. Du Grand Sablon more than exceeded my expectations. Green? Not my colour but hey, I’ll roll with it.

*Lastminute.com Standard double room with breakfast. City tax not included.

Tripadvisor Reviews.

Go: Grand Place

Town Hall, Grand Place

Town Hall, Grand Place

Grand Place (which should be pronounced in a more alluring accent than mine) is the main square/hub in the centre of Brussels where you’ll find an abundance of restaurants, chocolatiers, bars and shops as well as some stunning architecture such as the town hall. There is many a tourist trap to be found around these parts, so some common sense is needed: don’t be ushered into restaurants. Shop around for your chocolate and be aware that prices are hiked up here. However, treat Grand Place as your base to explore elsewhere. There are some amazing restaurants and bars in the surrounding areas that are worth checking out. Brussels is a safe city so you should feel at ease venturing out the centre.

Drink: Cantillon Brewery

The Bar

The Bar

DSCF6008Unassuming and nestled just off a quiet street, Cantillon Brewery is quite easy to miss. Even standing outside peering in, you will still be unsure to what it is you are looking at. Since 1900, Cantillon has been brewing beer in this building and is still a working brewery today, maintaining it’s traditional methods. But I don’t need to google that fact, as the proud and friendly workers, (I say workers as there are no tour guides and you will be making your own way around) proudly state this to you upon entry and this information will be etched into your memory forever. Once your interest has peaked, you will be provided with two glasses of beer: a bitter and a kriek (cherry). And a warm metallic stove to huddle around. The beer is Sharp, bitter and clean and will be unlike any you have tasted nor will ever taste. A small brewery with a big heart, Cantillon is an ideal rainy afternoon activity but deserves much more respect than that. Six Euros will get you a self-guided tour and samples of their beer but you are likely to stay to sample more – there is plenty on tap! Check it out.

Visit: Bruge

Historic Bruge

Historic Bruge

Only an hour from Brussels by train, you would be foolish not to visit Bruge. Okay, so I’m cheating here, but if you can spare a day, it certainly would be worth your while. Allow yourself to be swept along with the sea of tourists, frantically snapping through cobbled back roads, Gothic cathedrals and winding canals. Don’t bother with the locals as you will have trouble finding them. Once your patience is wafer thin, enjoy the scenic stroll back to the station – the trains back are frequent.

Not selling Bruge for you?

In all seriousness, it is a beautiful city even listed as a world heritage site. Despite it’s popularity, there is a little peace of privacy to be had for everyone who visits. Simply get lost and see where the day takes you. Strangely, Bruge feels somewhat peaceful, yet it is incredibly busy with foot traffic. An unlikely combination but it works.

There you go: Five tips to get you started.

Have you been to Brussels? Any recommendations? Feel free to share by dropping me a comment below.


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.

Enjoyed this article? Then please punch the share button!


Cold Slow Smoked Ham

2012-12-24 11.56.41

Twenty Kilometers East of Ravensburg in the scenic region of Baden-Württemberg, (say that three times fast…) South Germany, lies the small town of Wolfegg: known for its vintage car museum, castle and now (at least in my eyes) it’s slow smoked ham.

Georg Klawitter, (that’s ‘George’ to you and I) has been living and working in the region his whole life.When not at 2012-12-24 11.57.53his day job, you will likely find Georg in and around the house, working away on one of his many projects. A skilled carpenter in his spare time, he shows me around his work shop which is dressed with bundles of wood, bound with chunks of metal and peppered with layers of saw dust. However it is the towering cabinet outside of the work shop that catches my attention:

“There’s about 50kg of ham in there – just shy of 200 euros worth.” claims Georg, as he ushers me to the cabinet and unlocks the door – an expensive piece of equipment in its own right. I soon find out it isn’t a cabinet at all. It’s a smoker.

Smoke rises, and escapes through the top, you see?” explains Georg proudly, as he becomes animated over his new project and entertains my interest.

As Georg pries open the door, smoke fails to bellow out, to my surprise, instead continuing its silky path to the top of the smoker, funneling out through the top:

“With cold smoke, liquid is forced out of the meat, producing more tender ham.” explains Georg.

2012-12-24 11.49.19It’s a hefty chunk of metal around three feet deep and six-foot high, allowing for the smoke to have room to rise and time to cool down. The smell is amazing: a dense woody aroma; The mouth-watering looking layers of hanging ham looks good enough to eat, but it’s not. In fact, the ham is soaked in a good amount of water for 24 hours, coated in salt, garlic and herbs for three weeks and left to dry out before going anywhere near the smoker. Once in, the ham is carefully cared for throughout the smoking period, maintaining a cold 10 to 15 degrees throughout the process – which can take several days to a week or two depending on the cut of meat/the size.

Forever a community figure, Georg is smoking the ham for friends, family and neighbours to give out as christmas presents. Sensing my interest, I am given a taste and try to recall a time where I had tasted better – heavenly. Unlike the smoking process, the sensation is instant as the intensity of the salt and the smoke come together sharply to form an explosion of flavour.

Conversation is limited between us due to my even more limited German, so rather than continue to struggle, I leave Georg to get on with his work as he wisely closes the smoker door to keep me out and I head inside for coffee.

I should try that” I think to myself, before remembering that I can’t even put a shelf up properly. “Leave it to the experts I guess… Besides, smoking is bad for your health.”

2012-12-24 11.55.36 2012-12-24 11.55.30 2012-12-24 11.49.19 2012-12-24 11.55.08 2012-12-24 11.49.31

2012-12-24 11.51.29


For All The Cows – One Step Forward.

Although the last few years have been beyond my expectations, It wasn’t until I opened up a little – to myself and to others – about where my life was going, that it began to finally sink in that I needed to readjust my focus. Travel has and will be a big part of my life from here on end, as long as I am fortunate enough to do so. But coming home from being on such a roll, to slowly jolting to a complete stop, wasn’t easy to get my head around – I enjoyed my freedom and I never wanted it to end. However, as the old cliché goes, all good things must come to an end and I can now officially say, with a heavy heart, that this stint of travel is now behind me but someday, I will be back for more. For now, I’m here to stay and, in truth, I’m okay with it.

Give or take a few months, I have been working in hospitality for ten years, most of which has been full-time. For someone in their thirties this is quite long, but for someone at the age of twenty Seven, this is far too long. Through a string of broken promises to myself, I have stalled on getting out for a long time. But to be fair, I can’t knock it: through hell and high water, minimum wage boosted with jars of coins, ‘DARREN’ marked tip bags and the money saved by getting my hands on as much free food I could handle, has gotten me round the world and back: fact. But since coming home, I’ve never been so cynical and dissatisfied with what I do and to some extent, what I don’t do. As the months have passed, I’ve found myself going backwards and to be honest, I have become somewhat unhappy. Alas, here I still am, serving tables, wasting time and becoming more and more impatient day by day, as the constant demand of tourists chops me down, down, down. This is not where I want to be.

As for my own personal development? I wish I could tell you the answer. I desperately need to do something different with my life, and I have to push that forward in the New Year as opposed to just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It’s only a matter of time for me. However now, more than ever, it’s important I use that time wisely – December, 2012.

I spent the majority of January getting increasingly frustrated with myself. I ploughed through job sites for ten minutes then got lost in923 You-tube watching videos of drunk racists on public transport for the remainder of the hour. Add in wrestling, Gumtree and a thousand and one articles on ‘career changes’ and you can begin to build a picture of what 2013 had met me with. It wasn’t until the tail end of January that enough was enough: Petra had been carefully nudging me along but I was still somewhat hesitant. It wasn’t until we went out for dinner with my mother one evening that I received that final nudge that would help me progress forward. I mentioned at dinner that I thought about going into support work. I explained that I needed a job that would still involve working with people but wouldn’t be so thankless. Like a moth to a flame she zoned in, as herself and Petra began systematically breaking me down and building me back up with encouragement, praise and approval as I played with my sachet of brown sugar and listened intently as I stared into my coffee cup.

The following morning, I applied for a position as an ‘Assistant Support Worker’ at a local unit in Leith. The job would involve working with adults with difficulties ranging from homelessness to depression – every tenant is different in terms of their circumstances. This would be the first job out with hospitality that I’d have applied for in quite some time. I held out little hope, however  I was open and honest in my application, just as my company was at dinner the night before. Perhaps support work would be my calling. I didn’t know. But at least now I knew it was time to find out. I was finally ready.

Around a week or two later on a break from work, I came home for lunch and found myself standing in the usual scatter of mail. Amid the take away menus and bills, I found a brown envelope marked in my name. It was stamped from the job I applied for. I promptly opened it there and then and began to skim read. I was invited for an interview. Excitedly, I confirmed my attendance and looked forward to the day.

The interview soon came and went and all things considered, (lack of experience, the high amount of applicants and little knowledge of the line of work) I felt like it went well. In fact, I don’t think I could have done any better if I was to do it again today. A positive, encouraging experience but I didn’t hold out hope in getting the job.

I was setting up the restaurant on a Monday morning – as I do every Monday – when I got the call. I had gotten the job that I was so sure I didn’t get. I was overwhelmed by the news and unashamedly cried when I got off the phone. I felt flattered, shocked and grateful that someone had faith and was willing to take a punt on me. I’m a somewhat emotional and personal person (no shit I hear you saying…) and that phone call, really did mean the world to me. This would be the start of a potential career, the start of something new and the end of an era.

As I carried on half-heartedly aligning place mats with cutlery, I instantly felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders. I wanted a change so badly and I guess my reaction reaffirmed that. I was struggling with the idea of not traveling again for a while and although for now I may be grounded, in a strange way I felt like I was on the move. This was one step forward and the beginning of a whole new journey. A journey that was completely unexpected.


For All The Cows: 2012 – A Year In Review.

The year the world was meant to end was also the year I came back to Scotland, with the intentions of getting my act together. Achieved? Well, no, not really: 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag but exciting none the less. I managed to pack in some travel as well as set up base somewhere new: Edinburgh, to which for a change, I still reside:

January:

433

Petra and I had been travelling three months prior and had just finished a rain sodden trip through Malaysia. With the beach in mind, we skipped the last part of our travel in Borneo, and made our way for the guaranteed sun of Thailand: The majority of January was spent lying on the beach in beautiful Koh Lanta, eating food and reading my first book over 500 pages: A milestone in itself (Yeah, I know…)

February:

845We would be saying goodbye to our trip in Singapore, which seemed fitting since we started our trip in another awe inspiring city: New York: The last couple of days were spent catching up with an old friend, reflecting on the success of the trip as a whole, and getting in some last minute cheap but delicious eats and feel good sunshine. We love the food in Asia, and my year long Winter plumage can attest to that.                                                                                           

March:

Although back home with a bang, March held it’s own excitement: I had moved into a hostel in the P1270013centre of Edinburgh – sleeping in an eight man dorm room – whilst I looked for a job and a flat; Petra remained in Germany until further notice. It was slim pickings across the board, and luck was certainly not on my side. It began to sink in that, for now, the travel dream was over: It was becoming disheartening in the capital. After a couple of weeks of searching, my luck was to change and I had found a place in Leith. Not just any old place: A place that was perfect for me and more importantly, perfect for Petra. The next stage of my life was about to begin.

April:

DSCF5578The flat situation was sorted and Petra had flown over: We were settling in fine, and for me – at least – the job front was turning out okay as well: I started to work at a seafood restaurant, in the heart of the city centre called ‘The Mussel Inn’. I wasn’t too happy that I was back to doing what I had always done but for the moment, paying the rent came as a priority. I fitted in fine, albeit, a bit slow off the mark: It had been a while since I had worked in somewhere as busy and my head was still on the beach in Thailand.

May:

The year began on a high but was slowly turning on it’s head: Petra was finding it hard to pin down 923work (even interviews…) and she was becoming increasingly unhappy, having a knock on effect on me. But after weeks of hearing nothing, her luck was to change and an offer from Amazon came in: Not the best of positions but a job none the less and with a good company: A job that was badly needed; A job that was welcomed with open arms; And a job that would essentially settle us in Edinburgh.

June:

245

It was the start of the Summer with nothing much worth of note: I continued to work anti-social hours whilst Petra settled in to the ‘nine to five’ working life. No money for a Summer holiday but I was starting to think about what I would do in the coming months: Would I go back to long overdue study or begin to search for a job with career prospects?

July:

A weekend off from an ever-increasingly busy restaurant was on the cards, so I decided to head down to leeds-131London to visit friends: Managing to find some sun and and a club on the Friday night, I went a little too hard and was a complete write off for all of Saturday, falling asleep in the graveyard next to Borough market and going back to bed shortly after. Buying a drink for a fiver and only eating the ice cubes says it all…

August:

601437_4512881977446_1914679072_n

It was festival time in Edinburgh, and as well as Petra’s, it was also my first. The city is transformed from being littered with rage inducing tourists to being littered with rage inducing tourists coupled with punch-bag-worthy hipsters. Still, it was fantastic: Our first proper introduction to what Edinburgh can offer, and we loved it. Highlights included Richard Herring: Talking C**k, The Boy With Tape On His Face and seeing one of my heroes Mick Foley in the flesh: You know how they say you should never meet your heroes? Well, that stood true for me. Under whelmed summed that experience up, not helped by a rowdy, under appreciative crowd.

September:

DSCF5607

After much deliberation I had decided to meet somewhere in the middle of work and education and took the plunge to go back to college part-time to study Higher English and Higher German, as well as a short course on a Thursday evening studying Journalism at Edinburgh Uni. Let’s take the good first: Study keeps my brain ticking over, I’m genuinely interested in the topics I’m studying despite no plans for University, and it keeps me away from work for three days a week. The negative? Sitting on the bus for two hours, not receiving a bursary and slumming it with the teenagers who are more interested in their smart phones than education. Oh, and the food is terrible.

September was also the month that Petra found a great job at Edinburgh Napier University: A job with great prospects and a job that will continue her education in Scotland. She finds it hard work but ultimately rewarding; She is doing well and deserves it.

October:

DSCF5757

Another weekend away, accept this time I took Petra with me. In fact, Petra picked the destination: Barcelona. A weekend that had promised torrential rain, instead remained dry throughout the day and soaking throughout the night so I guess luck was on our side. A beautiful city with a lot to offer and a much needed break from the capital. Prosecco you say? Yeah, a bit too much…

November:

A month of pure procrastinating. My job patience is wearing thin, my German class sucks big time and IWhen 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...) have little to no time to do much out with both of those things. What time I do have is spent with recyclable bags at Tesco, attempting to write with little to no motivation and blasting music into my ears as loud as I can to forget how pissed off I am with everything. But hey, such is life…

December:

2012-12-27 21.08.35I jumped at the opportunity to come back to Germany with Petra to celebrate Christmas with her family, making it the fifth year in a row I’ve been away from Aberdeen for the holidays. Do I feel good about that? No not really. But it’s just sort of panned out that way…

As it is, I’m enjoying the pure ‘down-time’ here and it gives me time to re-charge, re focus and even get around to doing a bit of writing: Something to which I have little time for. Yesterday, I celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday by throwing up repeatedly and relaxing at a thermal spa. I was welcomed back by a birthday cake/s: The first I’ve been given in years. Please excuse the word order in the photo: We are in Germany after all…

So what does 2013 hold? Honestly, I don’t know. Petra and I will continue to live in Edinburgh as her job demands this but I have no problem conforming to that: I love it there. As for my own personal development? I wish I could tell you the answer. I desperately need to do something different with my life, and I have to push that forward in the New Year as opposed to just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It’s only a matter of time for me. However now, more than ever, it’s important I use that time wisely.

Oh, and how did I see in 2012? By dressing in drag of course…

Take it easy folks and all the best for 2013.

 DSCF4645


The First: Qantas Strike Action; A Tale Of One City – Part 3.

Picture courtesy of Parsons.com

Picture courtesy of Parsons.com

For all different reasons, people were scrambling to get to where they wanted to be,  be it work, family engagements, whatever. So in that respect I was quite surprised I got the phone call. In truth, we weren’t really that bothered if the phone rang or not. We were told to be downstairs for 8pm but to be on the safe side we made the decision to go down for 7pm. We packed our bags with a sense of dread but also looked forward to finally getting to Melbourne.

Bags packed, loose plane clothing on and with a semi-premature feeling of finality, we headed downstairs to the lobby for six thirty – you know, just to be sure. Using the last of our food tokens, – the posh Marriott kind – we pulled up chairs centre circle, dug into some pizza and pasta and maintained a watchful eye over the hotel lobby. We had confirmation that we were on our way out of The States, but I was to remain slightly on edge: I had lost faith in Qantas and worried that there may be more mishaps to come. A few slices in, Petra had spotted familiar faces across the lobby, dragging their bags behind them:

They must have gotten on the flight tonight as well” she said.

Hmm…Yeah…I guess…Hold on.”

A gulp of water and some laboured chewing later, I went over to check what the gossip was:

The Qantas representative – the useless one we had been stuck with – was in the midst of getting a grilling from a very angry passenger. It seemed she was upset because people were leaving to the airport, to which she wasn’t told about. She was sporting shades, (tucked into her top) sandals and had a book clutched in her hand. Key point being, she wasn’t ready to leave, and this situation – in comparison – would act as her final boarding call at the airport. I was confused. It was barely past seven. Didn’t she have an hour to spare? As I continued to listen in – looking for my opportunity to get involved – the whole picture began to unravel, and it wasn’t to appeal to everyone’s tastes. Then, the Qantas representative dropped a clanger, heard all over the hotel lobby: She explained that if you happened to have been in your room at the time of the phone call, you were on the flight; If you happened to be by the pool, out of the building, taking a shit or anything else that involved not being by the telephone? Well you would have missed out. And as a consequence, not be flying out of Los Angeles. Never having dawned a Qantas uniform, even I felt qualified enough to realize that this was poor judgement on her behalf. The angry, sandal shuffling woman was now infuriated: She, personally, had been told prior that she would have priority because she was first class. Suddenly, I found it hard to sympathize. Unceremoniously, I piped up:

Sorry to interrupt, Can I just want to confirm some information with you? We are still leaving at 8pm, right?…”

No” She said.

We leave now. If you want to go to the airport tonight, be outside in five minutes.”

I bounded back over to the table, leaving the angry passenger and the representative behind. I told Petra we were leaving. Bewildered again, she finished her slice and shook her head. We were right to come down early.

 News had spread and more and more people began filling the lobby. Some with luggage; Some without. We slid past the gathering crowd, made our way outside and scrambled into a mini-van. Within minutes we were joined by others, and we were on our way to the airport.

 Upon arrival, we were greeted with the same check-in desk we fondly remember from those long and stressful hours from a few nights before. Not much had changed: There were still hoards of people, albeit, now in single file; Smiles upon faces and a lightness in the air. We joined in in the back, waiting patiently, ready to move forward and begin zigzagging our way closer to the check-in desk. However, there was one noticeable similarity from the last encounter: The staff.: They looked somewhat nervous; Like they had something to hide; Like they knew something we didn’t; Like they did the night before.The anxiety I felt at the hotel began to creep back in. I couldn’t help but feel that there may be more drama to come.

DSCF3579

A few twists and turns later we found ourselves obstructed only by a couple with their young family. The father had been talking to the sheepish looking check-in guy for quite some time. Scanning the horizon, I began to notice more sheepish faces, cowering behind the desks, including our troubled representative from the hotel. There was clearly something up. The man – with his family it toe – turned around and headed right, away from the line. We were up next. I stepped forward, lay my passport on the counter and peered at the man behind the check in desk pleadingly: Within seconds and to no absolutely no surprise, I was to be told that there would be no seats left on the plane. Here we go again, I thought. Despite our early arrival, we were still too late. On the flip side, it wasn’t the end of the world: He offered us a flight to Melbourne, connecting with Sydney. But before he could do so, I had gotten frustrated again and as did Petra. Not with him; Not with the situation; But with the woman from our hotel for – once again – giving out terrible information. As much as I wanted to sympathise with her, I simply couldn’t. It wasn’t mine nor Petra’s finest moment.; flaring out, speaking up and adding nothing but more stress. But, thankfully, it would be the last we seen of her: Cowering; Behind her desk; Well over her head.

As the queue became longer and longer and more and more people streamed into LAX, we began feeling fortunate that we were on a flight at all. There was a good chance that people in our hotel were going to be at the airport later expecting flights out, as well as many others. As the terminal filled up, I predicted a lot of unhappy people. Many will have made a wasted journey and could expect another trip back to the hotel: Too many people, not enough aircraft and a terrible breakdown of communication: This, yet again, was a mess.

 We had been told at check in that due to short notice, the plane hadn’t been able to be stocked on time, there for, there would be limited food and drink on board. We were then handed a voucher worth the equivalent of one hundred dollars for us to spend in the terminal: Well, this was different. I had never heard of such a thing. Naturally, my first question was:“Can I spend this in duty free?” He didn’t know. And neither did the guy behind me; Or the woman with too much make up;Or the guy with the tacky phone cover.;In fact no one quite knew what to do with the voucher, including Qantas themselves. But I guess we had time to figure it out. We headed upstairs, voucher in hand, feeling menacing.

Upon further probing we understood that the voucher came with restrictions: The main being that it could only be spent in one place within the terminal; Not a variety of. So with a little deliberation, naturally, we decided we would head to the bar, grab some sandwiches or the like to take away and spend the rest on whisky, cocktails and pints. Naturally.

The bar was dotted with normal passengers but laden with voucher waving Qantas nuisances. We had found a table in the corner and as we looked down on the ever increasingly busy terminal, we had time to reflect a little on the whole situation. I felt sorry for the staff: Not only Qantas, but for the ground staff, the baggage handlers, the taxi and the bus drivers; The catering staff at all the hotels; The maids, the cleaners, the cabin crew and those who had lost out on whatever plans, work or appointments they had waiting for them at the other side of the ocean. We had it easy: an extended holiday with a sprinkle of stress thrown in to keep things exciting, but others may have been effected in terrible ways: Missing a funeral is what came to my mind… As I enjoyed my pint, at Café El Qantas, I also felt sorry for our waitress: She was stressed – big time – and incredibly stretched, trying to deal with the floor on her own. Being a waiter myself for many years, I knew exactly how she felt and tend to sympathise with people I can relate to. I managed to catch a word with her: The consensus she put across on behalf of the terminal, was of the frustration with Qantas, and how chaotic it’s been for everyone involved:This mirrored my thoughts. Everyone had something to moan about or a story to tell. I wished her well and let her get on.

As we settled in at the bar, we began chatting to people around us, most of which were on our flight: A community of disgruntled passengers, becoming happier by the second, gripping onto a pint of lager and looking somewhat more upbeat then their downstairs counterparts

Do you mind if I sit here?” we were asked, by a man we briefly met in the cue.

Picture courtesy of Nikki Smith

Picture courtesy of Nikki Smith

His name was Andy: A thirty something year old from Melbourne who was in LA for business. He too had been caught up in the strike but he didn’t seem to mind, despite having a family to get home to. We began talking light-heartedly which came as a welcome contrast to the bull-dozing negativity that was circulating LAX. Even better, he was up for a couple of drinks, so before long we were on the whisky; Petra drank a cocktail. We shared a story or two as we waited on our food (club sandwiches) and he seemed to genuinely enjoy our travelling tales: His eyes lit up when I told him about upcoming plans and how my time was in Australia, Germany and Asia. He had travelled also – And I sensed he somewhat missed those days… We drank at the bar for an hour or two, taking full advantage of our 100 dollar vouchers. I was drunk.

It was time to stream through security and make our way to the gate. On the way we passed a news team, filming people holding up their vouchers to the camera: Would I have done the same if asked? Yeah, probably…We also passed some absolute fool in a Costa type chain, buying everything he could possibly get his hands on; Shortbread, muffins, cakes, crisps – you name it. I felt this was incredibly foolish as you CAN NOT take this into Australia with you: He would either have to eat it all on the plane or declare his loot to customs: So unless he would like to argue/ be fined over a half eaten chocolate muffin, a near empty tube of Pringle’s and a pocket full of crumbs it really wasn’t worth his while. All I was taking into Australia was a belly full of beer, and I was all the happier for it.

We had left it a bit tight to get through to the security checks as we capitalized on every single moment spent at the bar. As a result, we ended up rushing through – Andy included – and made a speedy beeline for the gate. Upon arrival, we were greeted with gloomy expressions, slumped over teenagers engaged with their smart phones and scattered crowds dotted over the carpet. I had seen this before. I knew exactly what lay ahead. Our flight had been delayed: Delayed for another three hours.

Due to the voucher restrictions, their would be no more freebies at the bar. What was becoming a relatively great night, turned into a shit one. I wanted to carry on boozing and fully intended on abusing the drink cart on the plane. But until then, we would have to cough up some dollars. In stepped Andy who kindly offered to buy us another round. Sharing stories had become sharing laughs with him. Another drink was in order. One became two; Two became three; Three became too many, and we danced our way back to the gate. Andy went on to explain how great it was to talk to us, as it brought back so many memories of when he was backpacking: Memories, he said, he hadn’t recalled in years. Genuinely friendly and incredibly kind with his words and time. The drinks we had came courtesy of Andy; The fun we had was priceless.

Again, it was the early hours of the morning and again, we were at the gate waiting to fly. We had made in time to join another queue, waiting to board. The staff had that look about them again: A look that can only be described as unsettling. However the flight had been called, so I couldn’t see what could possibly go wrong. We made our way forward and stepped up to the desk. Ready to board, I handed over my passport and boarding pass:

Sir I’m sorry but you are not on this flight. You will be on the next, which flies out in a couple of hours.”

Our tickets were right. We weren’t in the wrong. But it seemed things had been shuffled around last minute. As expected, I blew up, but somehow managed to keep it inside, swallow it and get over it within a matter of seconds. There was nothing to be done, and the good natured drunk in me prevailed. We grabbed our bags, shuffled back the way we came and found a place to park our bodies. The bar was now closed. For the next couple of hours, I’d be sobering up on the patch of carpet I chose.

As we settled, Petra and Andy struck up another conversation. I became quickly bored of my chosen tile. I pulled myself up, stretched out and decided to go for a walk. I enjoy being in airports: I love the excitement, the bustle and the people that flock to them. I find being on a plane restricting (for obvious reasons) but at the airport I’m free to roam, wonder and daydream; I’m free to celebrity spot, eat sushi and and read smutty magazines; I’m free to eat peanut M&M’s, try on fourteen different after shaves and play on the escalators; I’m free to stare, peer and watch; I’m free to go where I’ve been waiting to go for months; And I’m free to fantasize about being there, turning my dreams into reality.

As I roamed, I recognized someone that I had fond memories of the last time I was at the airport: There was no second guessing and no mistaking. There she was with her short grey hair and her baggy fleece, with her eyes set deep into a book. It was the woman that I had felt so bad for: The woman that I should have checked on that first night at LAX but didn’t. The same woman that would haunt me all the way to the hotel. I wanted to make things right. I had to talk to her. I approached her and opened with a simple ‘hello.’ She was nothing like I had imagined her being: Very well educated, charming and full of character. Canadian and going to Melbourne on vacation. I explained to her how I felt that night and how it was important for me to clear the air. On an emotional level, situations such as this one – leaving her on the side of the street without so much as a word of concern – can effect me horribly: I tend to dwell over the little things in life. She was lovely. And I was so glad I spoke to her. She to, was full of kind words and she very much appreciated my concern. Her name was Janice. She was crying due to being swept up by the stressful nature of the whole situation and – like everyone else – had no idea what was going on that evening. She got to a hotel shortly after we did. A little bit of thoughtfulness that night may have went far in a sea of people that were only out for themselves. That thought, has stuck with me ever since.

Two hours had past, and I was back at he gate with Petra and Andy. We were met with another hour delay. Still, in high spirits metaphorically and physically, I approached the boarding desk and talked with Qantas:

I know you are under a great deal of stress but all I want is a truthful answer. Will we be flying out tonight or not?”

We would be. Shortly after our flight was called. It was time to say goodbye to LAX. The ordeal was over. And we were not the worse for it.

Half a dozen gin and tonics later, we touched down in Sydney and were soon on our way to Melbourne: four days late. As we collected our bags we said goodbye to Andy. It was a pleasure to meet him. We swapped contact details and I vowed to write about the strike and send him the link. We waved goodbye to Andy and said hello to Melbourne. We had touched down and the next leg of our trip was upon us. But surely nothing could top what we had just been through. Could it?…

Writers note:

It comes with the territory that things can do and generally do go wrong at some point on a big trip such as that: You take the good with the bad and if you can make something good out of a bad situation, then an ‘ordeal’ doesn’t necessarily have to be that.

Being ‘stuck’ in LA for another few days wasn’t a disaster. I would even go as far as saying that it was a highlight of the trip – Certainly one of the more memorable experiences that I will ever have in my lifetime. We/I were apart of something global and it was truly exciting. Saying that, I’m no stranger to this kind of thing; I was also caught up in the Icelandic volcano eruption, that grounded most of the flights in Europe for a short time. I ended up getting to Germany by bus, train and boat: Yeah, karma certainly isn’t on my side when it comes to travel. For those of you that no me well, I do love a good story, and although I may embellish facts from time to time, the base of this story is 100 percent true.

Life if full of mundane things: Whether that be sitting on the bus on the way to work in the morning, making ‘spag bol’ for dinner for the eighth time this month or wasting six hours straight on the internet looking at absolute garbage on you-tube. To be taken out of the realm of normality and to be placed into something so surreal and out of sort, is a true exercise of the mind. And I – for one – relish this kind of rush as often as I can get it. Would I choose to put myself through that inconvenience again? Of course not. However could I and would I get a kick out of being inconvenienced? Absolutely. Life is full of inconveniences. And there will never be a convenient time.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2013.

Take it easy folks.

Darren.