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Houston, we have a problem

This page is to document the travails and adventures of a convict who escaped Blighty and ran away to the Americas.. See ! the photos of exciting travels and mundane things side by side. Read ! what he gets up to on weekends in US of eh? Think ! about what sort of twat would write this rubbish.

Diary Entries

Wednesday, 04 March 2009

Location: Houston, USA

As you know, i have moved to Houston and will continue with the Shawsheets by email and photos on PlanetRanger.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

yeah yeah
look, the Shawsheets have the narrative, here are the illustrations

you know the rest

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Location: Oxford, England

Global warming
It was very cold after the wind. Then one morning, all was bathed in an eerie glow so I looked outside at 0630 and was gobsmacked. All was white with 3 – 4 cm of snow. Although I had not seen any for 30 years, I guessed what it was straight away. While all the roads would be well used by the time I got on them, I was worried about the driveway which was brick with 2 brick walls either side. Not having driven on snow, was unsure what to expect…….but twas ok.
I blame global warming.
Which reminds me – when the English get a bee in their bonnet, which seems to be a daily occurrence, they go on and on and on about it.
Did I mention that when the English get a bee in their bonnet, they go on and on and on about it.

Friday, 08 December 2006

Location: Wales

After one visit to Chester, up in the norff, I drove back via Wales, which was absolutely 2 things :
Lovely and wet. That’s the 2 things – lovely……….and ……..wet.
If you bought a jumper made from welsh wool, you would have to dry it out before wearing it. And the sheep had weird looking wool – in fact I named them WWW – weird welsh woollies.
And the welsh have their own language don’t they ? It sounds like a spitting competition.

Tuesday, 05 December 2006

Location: Denmark

Foggy Week
Foggy Week was the weirdest weather I have experienced and remember I have lived in Melbourne and Auckland. It was foggy from dawn til dusk for like 5 days. Temperature was down to minus 5 and the result was a wet, dripping malaise that caused black ice everywhere (see above) and if you stood still and listened, you could hear the drip drip drip of the moisture on the leaves. The damp and wet cold was most unusual.
It was eerie as you drove to and from work in the dark, misty shroud. Lots of frost meant the hedges and fields looked white and with the fog and headlight glow made a surreal scene. Add to that, were all the Christmas lights – they go crazy here so each house had a glow around it and the varied designs and colours strained to get through the mist to appreciative eyes.

And the sheep….at 7am were eating frozen grass !
And heathrow – closed for 4 days just before christmas

Friday, 20 October 2006

Liverpool (yeah yeah yeah)
Well I experienced ferry cross the Mersey and tunnel under the Mersey but only one of them was a hit in the 60’s. I swear the tunnel was weird. Like the one under Sydney harbour – you go down down down and then level out, then………….but it didn’t slope up – it stayed horizontal and there I was, emerging into Liverpool. Strangest thing.
Of course, one must visit the Beatles Story musn’t one, and the Cavern, and Beatles Street, and John Lennon airport and ……..
Saturday afternoon in town and I swear I was in Footscray, or Blacktown or Ipswich except the pallour was paler – they had ugg boots on, trackie dacks, fat girls with skirts far too tight and everyone looking like they were inbred. Cruel, but fair assessment.
But using the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain I found a lovely pub near my hotel and settled in for the cloudy afternoon. This pub (The Philharmonic) looks like the interior of the Titanic, wood panelling, stained glass, beaten copper friezes, tall tall ceilings with chandeliers – gorgeous.

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Location: Oxford, England

Now the house, from photos you will see soon, is carpeted. Now if the runout special had been on longer, I reckon the walls would have been carpeted too. Every room has carpet and all are different colours – the bathroom, kitchen included. Imagine cleaning up spilt honey off carpet ?? smashed eggs ??
But it has nice features, tis clean, and bright with new windows and doors that work well. It is hidden behind a Lexus dealer so it is not obvious – in fact the only one who finds it without calling is the postie with the bills !
The kitchen is big but with no benches so there is all this space with nothing in it. The fridge is the cupboard on the left, the dishwasher is actually a washing machine, tried doing the dishes but broke quite a few til I woke up.
2 great potential storage cupboards are actually boilers and hot water systems for heating etc – no one has told the poms these things can go outside, like dogs, clothes lines, and barbeques. And another thing – where do you hang your clothes to dry esp. sheets – no clothes lines ! anywhere ! so I bought a portable Hills Hoist. It has tripod legs, fold down arms and can hold half a sheet, or five jocks and a towel. And it blows over in the wind.
But….. I have lawn. Now is it good or bad ? I have mowed it twice in a month. Mowed lawn for the first time in 12 years … it is bad. Standing on it while barbequing is good. The nice trees and bushes around it are good. The *&^%%$# stinging nettle plant is bad ! Pains for hours….and all I did was to look at it and say “what the *&^% is this ?” .

Thursday, 21 September 2006

Well to be shaw to be shaw to be shaw, oi was a well oiled beef hooked. On a long weekend in Dublin with Pam, we managed to meet 4 Irishmen. To wit :- the taxi driver from airport, taxi driver to airport, and a couple in a pub. The rest of the milling throngs and I mean milling – the place was jammed – were either Romanian, Polish or Kiwis.
One purpose of the trip was to call in to Mecca – a.k.a. the Guinness brewery; and to pay homage to the black drop. As usual, bought a fridge magnet to make the trip feel worthwhile. At least if the Irish left town, they had the decency to leave their brewery behind.
The Book of Kells did not attract me at first (“but you gotta see it in Dublin”) but like a lot of experiences unknown, you don’t know what you don’t know until you do it. I was blown away by the skill, time an dedication these monks had to write the Gospels in such an ornate, fancy script with beautiful illustrations. Various displays also showed how books were bound, covered and kept in good shape in them olden days, you know, without staplers, word processors or Tippex. Fascinating.

Boris was in Ireland at the same time but hundreds of miles away so we never got the chance to catch up.

Tuesday, 05 September 2006

Do Buy
This is how the name should be spelt. Everything is done in the name of conspicuous consumption. After all, you gotta look good in the desert – right?
How does one describe Dubai – take one man made paradise, put it in a sand pit, then place in a very hot oven. From time to time, open the door and blow contents all over the place with a fan.
For instance - after a cloudless day, I was driving in a taxi looking at the famous hotel (Burj Al Arab) only to be suddenly faced with a sandstorm which reduced visibility to 50 yards. Covers the Rollers as well as the Toyotas with white powder. The heat must be unbearable in summer (50 C plus 90% apparently) although I was there during 38 C + 50%.
Another way to describe it is Bizarro world for those of us who remember Superman comics before he got involved with girls (yuk!). ladies (well you gotta assume they are ladies underneath) in burkas with eye glasses perched over the top, talking on a mobile phone which is outside the burka of course. She kept saying “speak up, your voice is muffled”. One time I saw a lady eating a Baskin Robbins ice cream by holding the face flap up a little so she could hold the cone near her mouth and not get ice cream on the flap.
Bizzaro because only 20% of the population is Arabic – the rest are Pakis, Indians, Caucasian expats – doing all the work for the aborigines who are relatively wealthy. One night at an Italian restaurant, the Philipino waiters sang operatic Italian songs to the diners while at the American sports bar, the Kashmiri waiters told Nepalese jokes.
Ultra Modern buildings face to face with wooden dhows and Pakistani labourers lugging bales of cloth, tyres, electrical appliances in boxes. It is an architects dream – they must have been given a blank sheet and told to be imaginative (a blank cheque as well). But there is just this one strip of tall buildings and on either side is low rise mud huts and sand…sand….sand.
Seeing as how they and fuel are both cheap, there are so many cars but only two or three roads so jams are legendary e.g. 3 hours to go 13km !
I liken it to Hell – it’s as hot as Dubai but you wouldn’t want to go there; and everyone is from somewhere else. Boom boom.

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Location: Vienna, Austria

I only had a cuppla hours in Mozart’s birthplace (? I think) and it is his 250th anniversary of turning deaf or something so merchandise everywhere is at exorbitant prices. But my early morning walk for coffee and strudel was exhilarating for around every corner was a "gasp" moment when I would eye yet another beautiful building. It really is a lovely city.
Taxi moment
I seem to have a thing with taxis and strange experiences – this time in Austria where the rear vision mirror had the meter built in like an LED display or heads up display. Looked cool, saves space.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

Location: Heathrow, UK

Heathrow Hassle
Well, after the recent terrorist scare, all stops were pulled at the let’s make life easy factory. Heathrow and the BAA (British Airport Authority) who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery – caused all sorts of chaos at the airport. “Come early they said” so we did. I arrived at 0715 for a 1040 flight to Istanbul.
“Too many people !” they cried “why did you all come early ?”
“Because you told us to !” we cried right back.
“Oh, that”
So we sat in tents outside the terminal until within an hour and a half of our flight (for me 1.5 hours), thereby negating all advantage and handing it to the laggards who dribbled in and walked straight in. Once inside the terminal, in a show of extreme organisational skills, BAA made all of us queue in one queue no matter what flight or destination. One and a half hours later, I gave my case to a spotty youth, took a boarding pass and then queued for passport and then queued for security checks where we stripped down to undershorts and perfume (almost).
I caught my flight with 10 minutes to spare after being in queues for over three hours with no chance to get breakfast or even a cup of water. The queues were so long we had Births, Deaths & Marriages. No, really. Oh ok, engagements only because we couldn’t get the wedding planner into the queues without causing a scene.
My return flight to Vienna allowed me to relax for a while …quite a while as it turns out, in the Turkish airlines lounge. What an experience. It was a Sultans palace re-created, all glass, chandeliers, silk chairs with gold wood arms, jewellery in cases, curtains.
This particular trip to customers was one of airport chaos – as well as above, Istanbul airport computers glitzed so no screens showed data, and we were two hours late leaving for Vienna. In London from Vienna, the aforesaid BAA couldn’t remember that when a plane lands it must be let into the terminal, well at least the passengers must. 20 minutes we all stood in a queue (see the pattern) waiting to get off the plane and into the terminal.

Saturday, 19 August 2006

Location: Istanbul, Europe

Talking Turkey
Had to visit Istanbul and Vienna so went to Turkey on Saturday, spent Sunday walking about, did business Monday and flew to Vienna on Monday. As you do.
Hadn’t been to Istanbul since the Transit training trip in 1976 but they remembered me. The Turks……both of them….
Hot as Hades, packed with summer tourists – more coaches than I have seen in my lifetime, noisy, smelly, hazy – all the things that make Istanbul interesting. I shopped but my shopping consisted of Turkish delight, chilli paste, all spice whole, apple tea, Turkish coffee and some tea glasses – sounds like I am turning into a middle aged bachelor. Now, I thought Turkish delight (call lokum) was THE flavour but there are a thousand flavours, with and without nuts, chocolate, coconut, etc
Highlights :-
• the spice market- all types of pastes, powders, sticks and stones that pose as spice; a pet market selling the most manky chickens, birds and bottles of leeches, yes leeches, not sure for medicinal or nefarious purposes.
• having dinner on a balmy evening on a rooftop café, looking at the Blue Mosque;
• a cruise on the Bosphorus looking at Asia on one side and Europe on the other;
• and seeing a swimming pool in the middle of the river, on a platform with a café and ferry boat service to the river bank. Guess if you can’t swim in it, swim on it.

I called into the Pudding Shop, a café/restaurant that Transit used to use in the 70’s just before I grew up. Anyway, I made out I was a Transit courier and they plied me with beer and coffee. I didn’t tell them I didn’t actually do a trip to Turkey with Transit. (Photos on BtB* site) * Back to Blighty

Let’s talk turkey for a moment (haven’t we been doing that ?.Ed) and the stereotypical images. It seemed to vary between the swarthy type you picture as Turkish (picture for a moment, Midnight Express) and the fey effeminate type (picture Alexander played by Colin Farrell, all blonde hair, curls, and soft features).

Thursday, 06 July 2006

Location: Paree, France

Ahhhh Paris - still intriguing, still beautiful, still packed with tourists in summer, still so……French. But I had to do all the usual sights, you know the imitation Melbourne arts centre spire; a river like the Yarra; squares that are not as nice as Fed Square but architecture that is; cute, very small cars parked on top of each other…usual Paris stuff.
I even spent Saturday there and went to Ile de St. Louis where the famous ice cream parlour is located – Berthillon, of course. Fab ice cream on a cute little island in the middle of the Seine. Heaven on a stick, or in a bowl anyway.

Tuesday, 04 July 2006

Location: Hamburg, Germany

Hamburg :- I had more interesting experiences in one day than in several trips back in the 70’s.
I walked down the Reeperbahn, the scene of our tours in the 70’s where innocent Australians saw their first taste of sleaze – unless they went to kings cross on the way. Strip bars, shows and the word “sex” as far as the eye can see (and believe me, with my distance lenses in, I can see for *&^% miles). But by day, in 2006, it is looking tired and old, as probably, do I.
One highlight here was a tunnel to get under the river Elbe. A car tunnel it was, and it went under the river, and it was built in 1900 and was lined in those cream tiles like a pub dunny (I kid you not, you would have felt at home leaking against the wall just like in Young & Jacksons or the Cloncurry Railway Hotel.) What was different about this tunnel was that it went under the river…..just. Two cars at a time, each way, drove into a lift, where they were lowered into the tunnel, allowed to drive across the river through the tiled dunny, into a lift on the other side where they were whisked to the surface in a lift, mirror image of the first. On the whole, a claustrophobic’s nightmare. Fabulous experience.

I had a taste of German minimalism at the hotel too – one bottle of fluid for all purposes – washing hair, body, cleaning teeth, shoes etc saves all dose little bottles making ze mess – ja ? It was a nice hotel, old style, but I first thought it was very posh, as the car park was nothing but BMWs, Benz, Audi with an occasional VW. Then I thought, d’oh, where am I ????
At the Shell plant in Hamburg, we had lunch in the canteen – typical Shell – tight as a fishes *&^% - and the Bavarian specialty was revolting. But the pint I wish to make is the smoking room. In a room, annexed to the dining room was a glass booth, not unlike a telephone box minus the caped crusader, with a fan installed to extract smoke so the workers could chat to their mates while standing in the phone box, having ze cigarretten.
On our way home to the hotel after a meal, Fabian, my colleague, who can smell a party a mile off, saw some pretty girls waling into a construction site. I poo poo’d the thought but followed him into what looked like a building site. But, waiting on the edge of the river, surrounded by scaffolding from the neighbouring buildings, was …….cue trumpets….a beach – I kid you not. I had just read in the BA magazine, that cities have beaches to attract city folk on barmy evenings just like Brisbane’s Southbank, Paris’s Seine beach etc I read about Hamburg but here we were. And it was packed, reggae music playing, drinks from the bar, bbq going, beach chairs, and sand sand sand. All overlooking the most wonderful view of cranes, and container ships in one of Europe’s busiest ports ! but hey, if you can’t take Mohammed to the mountain, bring it to him.
The taxi driver to the airport must have been Herr Schumacher’s long lost cousin because warp speed meant nothing to him. What is it with euro taxi drivers ?

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