I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Guilfest - Friday

Went to Guilfest the day after my table tennis/train fatality experience. For the first time I can recall I actually wanted to see the opening band on the main stage on the Friday, so I got down there pretty early (actually even earlier than planned because my Sky+ box died and the cricket wasn't on terrestrial/freeview) and got a good position from which to watch Nizlopi -- who were fucking awesome. I already had (and loved) the album but hadn't actually read anything about the band themselves, so it came as a proper shock to find out they were just 2 fellas, with all percussion actually provided by the double bass player either as beatbox or hitting his instrument. Fantastic stuff, I need to sort out getting my ticket to go see them in London early September although I can't do it just yet 'cos I'm not sure whether I'll be here or not.
Bring Me The Horizon

Now I'm trying to remember who else I saw on Friday, and I'm pretty sure that I didn't take a lot of notice of anyone in particular until Hayseed Dixie headlined the second stage (no longer sponsored by Uncut for some reason) at the end of the night. I wandered for a bit to see what the setup was like, had a beer, and after a while everyone else I knew arrived: Edi, Monica, Anne, Mike Wood, Keen and his 2 brothers. The lager came thick and fast because we were all absolutely boiling, and a few of us stood around listening to but not watching the Lightning Seeds, a band who seem never to have released a song that wasn't an immediately recognisable hit.

Oh, wait. While checking my flickr photos I'm reminded that I did in fact go watch another band or two; in the RockSound cave I watched the tail end of Dead!Dead!Dead!, and all of Bring Me The Horizon, who were bloody fantastic. Actually 'fantastic' might be a little strong, because there was a few things I didn't like... frankly I think they need to be sat down with a decent producer. They've obviously got loads of good riffs but seemed too keen to use them. What I mean is they kept chopping and changing riffs and time signatures and making songs overcomplicated. A bit of simplification, keeping a few of the riffs they write on hold until they can fit it into a new song, wouldn't go amiss.

Hayseed Dixie were shit :-( for a variety of reasons really. For starters they were just too damn quiet: between songs we could easily hear Embrace from the main stage, and during songs we barely had to raise our voices to talk to one another. And it seemed to me like most of the crowd didn't really know most of the songs, especially (and ironically) the AC/DC numbers. But I was mightily amused by the lyrics to "The Bootlegger's Daughter":

I'm in love with the bootlegger's daughter
How could I go wrong?
The bootlegger's daughter
Puts corn in the water
And makes me liquor all night long
It works better when you say it out loud...

I missed the last train from London Road back to Surbiton, but that didn't matter; still possible to get back from Guildford. Unfortunately I kept checking the live departures on my phone and sped up a bit just to make an earlier train than planned which happened to be running a couple of minutes late. So I decided to get that, do a bit of creative re-routing, and ended up not getting home until some daft time, I dunno, 0200 or summat. Should have been 1230. Anyway I uploaded all my photos before going to bed 'n all, because despite the time and journey, I was doing nothing but going to Guilfest again the next day...

Sunday, July 23, 2006

World Cup trip report 2: Gelsenkirchen

A calmer night than England -vs- Sweden preceded my second trip to Germany; a few of us went out for Italian food in a place by Covent Garden, on company money 'cos Fergus and Stone were over. So I managed to get to bed at a sensible time without too much beer in me, and I'd already packed a lot of what was necessary.
Good job too since the flight was even bloody earlier than the first one -- 0725 from Heathrow, ouch. I still decided not to get a cab, especially with a 24x7 bus service from just up the road to a series of useful places. So I left the house at some fucking daft time, drew some English out and waited for a bus.
!

And waited. And waited. And got a bit panicky. And phoned up a local cab firm who only had one driver working and had just 2 minutes previous had a cancellation. Fuck me that was lucky. Irish fella driving a 7 person people carrier who gave me a paper but kept me chatting the whole way anyway.

Natasha Kaplinsky was on the same flight as me, and in the same class (cattle) 'n all. Pikey cow. She's a lot fatter in real life; I know this because I saw a bird who I thought looked like a fat version of her in the queue at the gate, and only found out once I arrived in Dusseldorf that it was actually her.

The way I found out is that as it happens there were a bunch of other Yahoo! staff on the same flight as me, and the only one I even knew the name of, let alone recognised or had ever spoken to, ran into me on platform 10 and 11 (IIRC) of the station at the airport. Weird, that was. Platforms 10 and 11 were the only platforms I could find, and she (Sarah) had had similar grief. I'd had a fight with a ticket machine but managed to, as far as I could work out, buy the ticket I was after, some 4 day travelcard thing for this whole chunk of Germany.

So Sarah and I got on the only train there was any sight of and ended up 20 minutes later at Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof. Changed trains to get one to Oberhausen (where all the Yahoo! staff were holed up in the same hotel) and got totally confused by passing through Dusseldorf Flughafen station en route. It was above ground. had platforms numbered 1-6, and didn't appear to be very close to the actual airport. At least it made us both feel better about not having found it before.

Found the hotel fairly simply but it was about 4 hours before we could check in. Stupid early flights. Also, my room was a double, despite the lass at work explicitly asking for twins for everyone and being assured that's what they'd get. My brother was most pleased to be sleeping on the floor.

Ah yes, my brother. I'd only offered him the match ticket -- for free! -- on the Monday if he could find his way over. And so he did, with some crazy ass flights involving changing at Stuttgart on the way in, Munich on the way home. Go look up London, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart and Munich on a map... lunatic. He should have just ponied up the cash to fly direct business class rather than have all that hassle.

Left me bag at the hotel, as did Sarah, and we had a drink at the place directly opposite Oberhausen station while waiting for her mate Anelie to pitch up. Which she did, a couple of drinks in. Hotel, bags, beer and a fucking giant pizza, then off to explore. We got a tram to the CentrO, Oberhausen's premier reason for people to visit, a huge complex to give the place a huge Milton Keynes feel. Here's yer shopping centre, here's the drinking district, here's the eating zone, ... we went into the large bit with a tent and huge screen and shitloads of Germans getting lagered up. Germany were playing and by 'eck do that lot make a lot of bloody noise.

The weather was so unpleasant. Just really really bastard hot, offensively so. I coped just about but Sarah didn't so her and Anelie went back to the hotel. After spending a while failing to see the game very well I left and went for a wander, ending up in an Irish pub with a good view of the game and sat with the rest of the Yahoo! contingent after I recognised one and introduced meself. Game over and the streets went mental (Germany had won, duh) and I headed to the airport to pick up bro. That was a bit traumatic 'cos I tried to direct him to the useful bit of the station rather than the shit bit I'd started at, but after a few phone calls it worked.

Back to Oberhausen, the hotel, and we watched the evening game in the hotel bar over a burger and a beer or two. Nothing too heavy; we're watching England tomorrow!
Up and at 'em bright and early, me and Kev went to CentrO for a wander, some munch, some liquids, some dehydration, and a new England shirt each. Sat in some shade for a bit but it didn't do much good. Back to the hotel, changed, sun creamed up and went to the train station. When we'd been out before we saw a Gelsenkirchen-bound train and it looked like your stereotypical Indian train with fucking hundreds of people packed into it and hanging out the windows etc. So we were a bit hesitant to get one ourselves, but looked at the timetable and had a beer while considering our options. Two other English lads asked if they could perch their BK's on our table. Got chatting and ended up deciding to share a cab with 'em.

Cab took not very long, and as we turned into the entrance to the stadium we had to stop while some pissed up English fans crossed in front of us without looking. The fella nearest the bonnet turned to us and tapped it, then held his hand up to say sorry... and his hand turned into a point through the windscreen, pointing directly at me in fact. It was only bloody Xavier, AFC Wimbledon fan extraordinaire, accompanied by Titters, Mikey T, General Lee, and I think one other guy whose name I don't know. Got out and bid farewell to our cab sharers, said hello to the AFCers who were in a hurry to get in and put their flag up.
the English end

Walked around the side of the ground, getting hotter and hotter until we thought, screw it, let's go in. Had some beer, some more beer, and then Sarah and Anelie arrived, at which point we had some beer. We'd stood in the shade for a bit outside a bit where a bunch of ex-pros were schmoozing inside, and then got shunted out of the way by some Englishmen in dark glasses who were clearing a space for someone from the UK government's imminent arrival. FFHS. So bollocks, we went inside to find our seats.

Not bad seats; in line with the penalty spot (yes, that penalty spot), on the side. An entirely different kind of heat struck us once under the roof (they'd covered it the previous day so the pitchside temperature dropped by 10 degrees, to only 30). Really bastard sticky and humid, presumably an atmosphere comprised of the combined sweat of 50-odd thousand Englishmen. There were some Portugal fans around too, but really, so so few compared to us lot.

In the English media this is obviously the most talked-about game of the entire tournament, so I won't bother with any in-depth rubbish match report. Everyone saw it on TV and if they didn't then they don't care. But I will say that in the stadium is totally different to on TV, and none of us realised just how shit it was. Except for the penalties and the result and stuff, but we certainly didn't know anything about a stamp or a headbutt or a wink or owt. It was a fantastic experience and I can now say (a) I've been to an England game (b) I've been to the World Cup (c) I was present the first time Owen Hargreaves proved worthy of wearing an England shirt. But bloody hell, I hated Cronaldo enough beforehand..
The back of Bobby Robson, honest

Had another drink after the game while the majority of fans filed out and then took a leisurely walk toward the tram stop. Briefly detained by talking to a pissed-up and angry Bobby Robson outside, whose hand I shook and who turned away just as I took a photo of him. Nearer the stop we peered over to the road beneath us as Ian Wright, Ray Stubbs, Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker got in the BBC bus. Tram back to Gelsenkirchen centre was crowded but uneventful, and the station was pretty chaotic. Walked from one entrance all the way through to the other, getting directions to the cab rank from a uniformed English copper on the way. But the idea of getting a cab left us when a fight looked imminent amongst two groups of people who both claimed to have been there first. So we got a train instead, lovely and crowded and full of English and sweaty as hell.

It stopped. For ages. Not at a station, just in the middle of nowhere. And there was no aircon. And it was just fucking horrible and nasty and shit. And the Southampton fans further up the carriage launched into No Surrender while trying to kick the windows out. Sigh. When we finally got to Oberhausen we spotted some of the other Yahoo!s perched on a bench munching on kebabs, so we also bought kebabs and sat with them. Turns out they were on the train in front of us, on which a Scouse lad had taken exception to being pointed at and reacted by biting the finger off. WTF!

Finished the kebab (which was bloody good; to be expected considering the enormous Turkish expat population of Oberhausen and the surrounding area) and went back to the hotel. The hotel bar, to be precise. Kevin flaked out before I did and when I gave up my table for a single seat at the bar the TV started showing our match in its entirety, and I got chatting to 2 lads from the midlands. This was a mistake. They were sound, they thought I was sound, and I ended up having triple Blue Bols after triple Blue Bols after triple Blue Bols with them. Gah. My head felt wretched the next day.

As it goes, the next day was the day I started this blog. I'd taken me (work) laptop to Oberhausen with me for a reason I can't quite remember. But it came in handy with the lack of choice over English language TV and me brother buggering off early Sunday afternoon. That morning we'd got a train to Dusseldorf to see what the city had to offer and first impressions weren't good. Typical to a lot of train stations this one was a focal point for the local characters (to put it politely) and in a not-so-salubrious bit of town. Everywhere was shut and we just walked for ages and ages until, fucking hell, there's a proper town centre here, and a big river, and shitloads of bars, and it's all really really nice. Wow. The best bit (although not one we took advantage of) was the road which must have had 25 pubs on it -- and nothing else. Every building was a pub. I kid you not.
bridge over German water

But we didn't have time to sit around drinking (although we'd already had a pint and a giant ice-cream before finding the really nice bit of town anyway) as the plane was calling. Back to the station, back on a train, off at the airport, see ya soon bro'. Back to the platform for me and a swanky inter-city train was next in, 2nd stop Oberhausen, result.

2 minutes in I get my ticket checked. 2 minutes and 15 seconds in I get booted off, being told that not only have I not validated the ticket -- you have to shove it in these little machines that stamp a date on it -- but even if I had, the ticket itself isn't valid on swanky inter-city trains. Gulp. On me own in the middle of nowhere with a raging hangover, and England shirt, the day after we got knocked out of the World Cup and I get booted off a foreign train for fare-dodging -- go me!

Thankfully I didn't get fined or anything, just told what to do, and I did it. Departed at Duisburg, validated the ticket, got a shitty local train back to Oberhausen and locked meself in me hotel room and started this 'ere blog. And in fact the rest of my trip is detailed in the first couple of posts I ever made here, so I'm not going to say any more. Especially because I did pretty much fuck all anyway.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

lesson learned

Learnt a very valuable lesson last night: when I visit Loz, Yvonne and Freya, I shouldn't leave their house at 0010 because the last 71 is at 0007. D'oh! Still, the walk probably did me some good...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

If at first you don't succeed

According to the Scotsman newspaper (and actually reported in a far less salubrious paper, in which Welsh Mark read it although he claims he didn't actually buy it *cough* Daily Mail *cough*), the fella that topped himself by stepping in front of my train last week was actually on his second attempt of the day. Bit mad that, I wonder how he felt having survived the first attempt. Sounds like a crazily exhilarating thing to experience, but obviously not something that made him think life was worth living still :-(

smoking boom in Surbiton


smoking boom in Surbiton
Originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
Bit odd this. Very few fags in More this morning, and only Marlboro at that. It was normal yesterday, is someone aware of a forthcoming fag shortage and has bought them all ready to put on eBay and make a mint? I think we should be told.

Monday, July 17, 2006

tell me why I don't like Mondays


Edi carrying 4 beers
Originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
I fucking hate Mondays and I fucking hate this particular Monday. Back at work for the first time since last Wednesday. In at 9am for a conf call on which I promised to do something which I subsequently forgot to do. Bollocks. Then had a normal day at work, ie a shit one. And now I'm sat at home on me own, which as of Friday was actually a little bit unexpected. And it's really fucking hot. Oh well.

I don't remember what I did last Wednesday after getting my phone. I took some photos with it, obviously, but can't recall what I did on Wednesday evening. I think I probably went to the pub, since that's what I've been doing an awful lot recently. Maybe it was the day I went to the Princess Louise with Alex for a few... good toilets in the pub. And good beer, being a Sam Smith's place.

Had Thursday off work to go to Cambridge and play table tennis with Julian (and a fella called Lee). Didn't keep absolute scores but I'm pleased to report I ended up on +3 after 3 hours of 4 games on / 2 games off. Had a pint and some cheap food straight after, then Julian headed to his film festival and I went to the station. Got on the 1645 train, first stop Kings Cross, just a 45 minute journey.

Got to Wimbledon at 2100 though, 'cos 45 minutes actually turned into a lot longer. As we hurtled through New Barnet there was an almighty crunch/crack, the train wobbled a lot, on slammed the brakes, there was a burning smell, and we slowed to a halt. Quite a lot of fairly worried looking people in the carriage, me included (my heart was proper pounding), who weren't exactly cheered up when 5 minutes later an obviously incredibly shaken-up driver announces over the PA that we'd hit someone. Fuck.

Train stayed where it was for a good hour or so (IIRC) "while the police do their stuff" until we were finally moved on to the next station and told to get out and wait on the platform where another train would be provided to take us onto Kx. Quite a few people trying to be discreet and nonchalant but in reality heading up to the front to see what the front of the train looked like, and then we were all told to get back on the train anyway, as it was going to New Southgate and Alexandra Palace now, and as they're on a different mainline [which, err, they're not] there'd be more trains, unaffected by the delays caused by our incident.

Got off at Alexandra Palace and there were loads of delays to all the trains, the first one that arrived was too crowded to fit on and the next one was cancelled. This after I'd recounted my journey thus far to Hasty on the phone and arranged to meet in Wimbedon for a pint. I gave up waiting there and wandered to Wood Green tube station instead, and disappointingly for my dislike of the tube the journey was fast and comfortable and I got to Wimbledon before Haste. Had a few drinks, got home late, went to kip.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

k800i arrives


YES
Originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
All hail Orange and their choice of delivery company. Ordered it at 3pm yesterday, arrived at the office 0920 today.

podcasts and mash-ups

If there are two terms I fucking hate it's them two. For crying out loud, a podcast is nothing more than a sound file, just a bloody mp3 or whatever. Why give it a stupid name (tied to an Apple device) just because someone devised a way of indexing them? Gah. It's just ham radio over the Internet! THIS IS NOTHING NEW, PEOPLE. Sigh. And as for mash-up, I just can't stand the word. Not entirely sure why, but I think it might have something to do with my employer using it all the bloody time, even in posters around the office ("mash-up or shut up"). It just really grates.

So the really unfortunate thing is that I actually like a fair few podcasts and mash-ups, and in particular Radio Clash - a podcast about music mash-ups, among other things. I don't agree with their dislike of the Arctic Monkeys' singer's voice, mind. Coverville's ace too, another podcast based on cover versions. I've subscribed to a couple of others too but I can't remember what they're called, ho hum. On top of podcasts, mind, I've also just discovered Resco Pocket Radio, which lets me listen to streaming radio stations over wifi on me PDA. If I can find somewhere that sells spare cradles so I don't run out of battery all the time on it then I'll be able to have all kinds of music going on anywhere in the flat, but most importantly be able to fall asleep/wake up to it, rather than my phone's alarm signal.

Not that my new phone will necessarily have a crappy alarm signal, mind. That's right, my new phone -- Orange finally pulled their finger out and made the k800i available on upgrade. On about my 7th attempt to get through to their customer services yesterday I succeeded and, all prepared for a bit of verbal to-and-fro, bit of bargaining, threat to leave and a PAC request, I was somewhat taken aback as the fella immediately told me I could upgrade for free, on a 12 month contract. That's, like, perfect, exactly what I thought I was going to have to demand, not just be given. So all good news, and it gets delivered to work between 0900 and 1700 today. As Loz said to me elsewhere: bonus!

Getting into work for 0900 sucks, mind you. Actually it doesn't objectively suck per se, but being asked to get in for 0900 yesterday for a conf call sucked when the number and passcode weren't sent out, the chairperson didn't turn up 'til 0920, and none of the other participants were anywhere to be found. They are in Sydney though, so they'd probably gone home. Trying again today, no worries about making it in on time though what with it being 0630 as I type this. Been awake since 0440 :-(

That bombing in Mumbai doesn't half suck. For my sins I normally find it pretty difficult to empathise too much when shit happens halfway across the world, but this time it feels pretty close to home because I was bloody there just a few months ago. I know people in that city, and I really hope none of them were among the victims. I'll find out today when I get into work.

Hmm. BBC Breakfast is different before 0700, they're not on the sofa yet. Wonder why not.

Edit @ 0721: oh, they're not on the sofa now either. Because the format changed weeks ago and I forgot despite watching it every morning. Duh.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Gallic thug

What the hell was Zidane thinking? Bloody lunatic.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

still no k800i ffhs

Bloody hell. Orange really don't want me to upgrade my phone. Well, they probably do, just not to the handset I want. Just went into one of their shops in Kingston and got told the k800i is only available to new customers. So much for all that "we treat existing customers the same as new ones" guff they come out with. But! The fella said to call customer services and I could upgrade that way. Shame customer services disagreed. Sigh. I'd buy it SIM-free if it weren't for the fact I need a 3G SIM/tarrif to go with it.

I reckon on jukeboxes, as well as paying extra to put your tunes to the front of the queue, you should be able to stump up to change the volume. On comes Pantera, shove another quid in to push the volume up, job done.

Jimmy Connors is wearing a fucking horrible shirt on TV at the moment. And he needs a haircut.

Have a word. The word 'comedy', in fact.

Not sure whether this is deliberate or not; perhaps the paper budget didn't stretch to extra paper once the error was noticed... either way, this poster is up in at least 3 places in the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, where I've just returned after a few drinks with Wooj, Harvey, Yvonne and Darryl. Spent most of the evening talking about music: subjects included the glory of Glenn Danzig's career, Motorhead's early albums, and why on earth the jukebox played just 2 of the 11 selections those guys made at about 2030. We left at midnight! Yet there were still people putting money in it at 2350...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

portugal knocked out

GOOD!

audience already

Bloody hell, turns out someone -- and someone I know at that -- has actually found and read this stuff already. Hi Alex ;-)

Nice to hear Cronaldo getting jeered every time the little twat touches the ball in the semi on BBC.

Put filthy leftist Owen's birthday in my calendar today so I can get the date right in the future. This despite having known him for, what, nigh-on 14 years? I wished him happy birthday, albeit qualifying it by admitting to guessing the date, at 9am this morning -- a week early. Mind you he was a few days early for mine last week, so as he said, "we're even". I'll get his right next year mind ;-)

I can't wait 'til I get my next phone -- hopefully next week. I've been desperate for a k800i since I first saw it announced in January or so; well it's finally on the shelves and my 12 month contract with Orange runs out in, I think, 3 days. They've got it on their site (unpriced :-() and accordingly I intend to get my mitts on one in the next couple of weeks for nowt (a threat to leave the network normally does the trick so far as pricing is concerned). My desperation only increased after seeing photos taken with (and of) it on flickr...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

World Cup trip report 1: Stuttgart


Italy vs Germany is a not bad game so far. I really want the Germans to win, mainly because I love seeing the Italians lose because they take it so badly (cf England 1966, Korea and Japan 2002) but also because I didn't meet a single unfriendly German in the twice I was over there recently. The whole place is World Cup mad and they put on a bloody awesome tournament from what I could tell.

My trip to Stuttgart could have started better. England played Sweden (and let in their only goals of the tournament, FFHS) on the night before I was flying and I'd promised myself not to get battered, not least because I had to get up so early 'cos the flight was at 0750(!) But events conspired in a variety of ways that the day found me arranging to watch the match with 3 almost-distinct sets of people in a boozer opposite the office, and being in charge of getting the tickets too. Ended up having a few too many but got home at a relatively agreeable time (certainly more agreeable than John and Jamie, who I later found out had ended up missing their respective last trains home). But then it all started to go really wrong, because work phoned me :-(

I didn't answer it first time; nor second time; but conscience got the better of me and I logged into messenger to see what the fuss was about. Cue a 3 hour IM conference, the first 2 hours or so of which are hazy to say the least. Then IM went down and I was chatting to Welsh Mark on IRC for a while, having decided myself that I was beyond the point of no return and staying up all night was the only choice available to me.

Come 4am and I was a proper wreck. Struggling to stay awake and all alone online I had an apple, cleaned me teeth, drank some sugary drinks, just generally trying to stay awake and deal with the agony that is a creeping, waking hangover. Eventually I had a shower, packed a bunch of stuff for the trip and headed to the cab office.

The local cab office is not open 24hrs.

Got a bus to Hounslow. I didn't mean to get it there, but fell asleep for the minutes surrounding each intermediate area I promised myself I'd stay awake for (Kingston, Teddington, Twickenham). Made the dreadful decision of getting the 111 from Hounslow to Heathrow rather than the tube, although it's conceivable that had I gone underground I might not have resurfaced until Cockfosters. Was getting mighty panicky about missing the flight having failed to remember just how far off the beaten track the 111 goes, but in the end managed to get through security before the gate had been announced.

The flight was, I assume, uneventful; I was asleep before the safety demonstration and only just managed to keep my eyes open long enough to eat the breakfast mid-trip. Stumbled off, through passport control and into the terminal where I managed to successfully withdraw some euros, buy a ticket into the centre, and arrange a rendezvous with me bro' and his missus.

Got the S-Bahn and emerged confused by the myriad exits from Stuttgart Hbf, arriving on ground level outside a boozer and finding myself unable to get hold of Kevin. Called Sal who said he wasn't with her, he was on his way to meet me. Would have helped if he was answering his phone... but then he called and found me. Walked for 10-15 minutes in the opposite direction to the city centre to my hotel, the somewhat misleadingly named "Mercure Stuttgart City Center" and checked in, dropped me stuff off, and wandered back to meet Sal.

A brief excursion through several wonderfully air-conditioned shops was brought to a halt when my thirst and hunger overrode any desire to buy goods not fit for consumption. Accordingly we sat outside a bar and had some shandies (nb: not slang; we drank Radler), which weren't very nice so Kev and I graduated onto some local weissbier -- which also wasn't very nice. What was nice however were the Diavolo pizzas. Huge and mightily spicy, covered in 5-second chillis, mmm.

Feeling human again we set off to explore the town, basically spending the rest of the day stopping off for beer and food while mixing with the hundreds of Australians and thousands of Croats in town. We ended the night having dinner and a few jars outside one big place which had big screens on showing Holland vs Argentina, which wasn't the classic I'd been claiming it would be since January :-(

Thursday was something else. SO MANY CROATS in town, almost all fully merchandised up in the red and white checkerboards, and by 'eck can't them lads sing. Not only that but the entire nation is populated by people who are 6 foot 5 or taller. Very enjoyable seeing Aussie sport fans intimidated too, heh. Went to the ground with quite a lot of time to spare and followed the signs to our zone, but I reckon we made a wrong turn somewhere 'cos we ended up wandering along a long road with an industrial estate on one side and not much on the other, only a distant view of the stadium. After a while we stumbled across a decidedly temporary looking beer stall which actually marked the entrance into a far more permanent fixture, but whose atmosphere was really quite spooky and whose corridors were filled with smoke. Nonetheless we had a couple of drinks in there before heading back round the road until finally coming across a stadium entrance.

I won't bother doing a match report 'cos there's doubtless a thousand and one places where you can read a better one than I could write, especially considering the distance by which we were separated from the pitch. We didn't even know Poll had shown a yellow to Simunic twice, much less three times, nor could we tell in the ground that there were penalties that should have been given. But it was bloody entertaining, both on and off the pitch (how do Eastern European supporters manage to smuggle flares into football matches?) and the journey back into the centre was more comfortable than a Monday night trawl back from Charlton to KT6. Had a drink while lounging on deck chairs before getting a cab back to me hotel.

Bro and sis-in-law buggered off before I got up on Friday so I was free, to do what I want(ed), any old time. So I wandered the by now well-beaten track into the centre. Bought an official FIFA World Cup shirt (we'd wandered through quite a lot of merchandising in various places the day before but I hadn't been able to decide; this time I forced meself as if being hassled by an irate waiter in a curry house), discovered yet more nice bits of town including a huge park with a bunch of fountains and other stuff. Spotted a bridge which looked like it went over a river, crossed it to discover it was going over a main road outside the train station but was pleasantly surprised to discover that on the other side was yet another huge park. But it was baking hot and I didn't want to burn up so I went to a pub and sat inside with a pint and me book.

A couple of chapters later some English lads arrived, a couple of Burnley fans and one Leeds. Joined them for a drink and some banter and towards the end was joined by another Leeds guy who had been following the team around Germany and not even camping, just sleeping in his car. Can't remember -- in fact I don't think I caught it properly at the time -- what he said, but I got the distinct impression it was an expression of his distaste at having to share a drink with a Cockney. Like any good reporter I made my excuses and left, for another wander. But I was bored and after a short while walking in the heat just went back to the hotel and watched whatever game was on, Switzerland -vs- Korea IIRC.

After the game I thought I'd grab a drink and did so in the hotel bar. I would have preferred to sit in me room browsing t'internet or summat but in my confusion on Tuesday night I'd managed to not pack the correct type of plug adapter, bringing with me to Europe a UK-to-US one. I'd actually tried to rectify this mistake earlier in the day by trying to buy a UK-to-Europe one in the huge branch of Saturn but was cruelly denied :-(

Ended up staying in the hotel bar for a long time. Some lads from Crewe, a mad Scouser, a Bournemouth-via-Shrewsbury lad were my main partners in crime although a few other groups of lads joined us temporarily throughout the night. I barely moved for about 6 hours and had way too much to drink, by Christ did I ever feel rough the next morning. The worst thing was that before arriving on Wednesday I'd not even twigged that England would be in town for their second round game on Sunday, and I was off home on Saturday. Bah. But at least on Saturday morning I only felt hungover and was in my hotel; avoiding the centre meant I'd not been anywhere near the 122 arrests and woken up in a cell...

A familiar pattern on Saturday as I wandered into the town centre, by now totally awash with the English, and had a couple of drinks and etwas fur essen. Took me time 'cos I couldn't be arsed carrying me bags around. Lots of friendly Germans around 'cos their mob was taking on Sweden that afternoon, and I also did take a few photos while stood in the very spot where hours later there'd be chairs plastic and bottles glass raining down :-/ the news about which I was confronted with as almost my first sight upon my return to England, as they had BBC News 24 on the screens in Heathrow. I'd stayed awake on the homeward-bound flight but felt like death. :-(

The journey ended much as it had started; a 111 followed by a 281; and I was home in time for Argentina -vs- Mexico's second half and extra time.

back home


the plane, finally
Originally uploaded by Darren Foreman.
Back home now. Well, back in Blighty, and at work. Ho hum. My French boss is being very respectful, trying not to gloat about the weekend, which is nice.

Plane last night was delayed by 45 minutes, sigh. Journey finished by almost getting run over on Ewell Road in Surbiton, well, I would have done if I hadn't thought "hold up, this fucker's not going to stop" at the pedestrian crossing. Sure enough he screeched on his brakes and ended up straddling the precise area I would have been stood on if I'd set off as the man went green. Twat was on his fucking non-hands-free mobile phone while driving, but I didn't manage to get his licence plate. Dunno what I would have done with it anyway mind, reported him to the rozzers maybe? Who knows.

I can't get the Arctic Monkeys out of my head. Yesterday it was "don't do major credit cards, I doubt she does receipts it's all not quite legitimate..." for a few hours, this morning it's all "what do you know? oh you know nothing... but I'd still take you home, yeah I'd still take you home". I've not even been listening to them, well, not since last Thursday. Bought Q magazine on the way in this morning which has a CD full of 80s covers on it and I'd give that a listen to try and force the Yorkshiremen out but for the fact that while typing this sentence I've realised I left my headphones at home. Bollocks.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

dsf

Hmph. dsf taken as a blogspot.com hostname so I guess I'll have to settle for cheesehound.

I bloody wish there was more than one English language channel on the TV in this hotel. CNN Europe is just as bad as BBC News 24 in terms of repeating the same news over and over and over again. Not that I can legitimately compare it to the BBC right now because BBC World isn't working here. I'd watch DSF just because it's called DSF if it weren't for the fact that I can't follow it at all, what with it being all in foreign.

Just had a burger and a pint in the bar downstairs. Nice food they do here, although if I'd only been 5 minutes later I could have joined the 4 other Yahoo!s who went out for some scran just after I'd ordered mine. The bar is dead now that almost all the English have buggered off home. Probably for the best, at least it means I won't be collared by 2 blokes from the West Midlands and having Blue Bols tipped down me throat. By Christ did I ever feel rough this morning, thankfully the weissbier and enormous ice cream in Dusseldorf this morning made me feel human again.

/me cracks open a beer from the mini-bar. Cheers.