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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 13 Oct 2006

Location: Southampton, UK

MapFriday the 13th – Oooh spooky, especially in the Halloween month

Well, this will be the first diary entry in a while that isn’t specifically about a particular event (Oktoberfest, Jay-Z Concert, AFL & NRL Grand Finals in recent weeks) but with such new surroundings, there are always things that I forget to mention, and make mental notes to put in the following diary. The main difference being, this will probably be shorter than recent entries (maybe), and more coherent as I will write it through the week (then again...), rather than in a mad panic at the end of the week, when I get a chance to use the internet cafes in the ass-backwards technology town.

Firstly, for fear of starting to turn into a ghostly white, sun fearing, queue loving Brit, I am making a stand to use only Aussie language – it was half spurred on by a comment I made last week, joking, referring to a doona as a duvet. I was told in no uncertain terms that as this rate I would be referring to thongs as flip-flops in no time. That’s not something that I want to imagine, so, I will make my best efforts to avoid British terms. As such, on Wednesday nights, much to the shagrin of my fellow work mates, I have taken up playing SOCCER after work, not football as they would tell you. I know what you’re thinking – it doesn’t matter what you f*%king call it, what the f*% are you doing playing it? Yeah well, with an utter lack of amateur sport available in town, I am left with little choice. Plus with my current lack of personal transport, the fact that I can either get a lift direct from work, or walk there in no more than 5 minutes makes it a great help.

It is basically indoor soccer, just on a much bigger scale. And instead of springy nets on the sides of the court, there is a skirting board all the way around the field, about a meter outside the boundaries. The ball is allowed to bounce off the skirting boards on the sides, and if it hits the boards behind the goals it is either a goal kick or a corner. Pretty simple. Everyone has a go at goalie, for roughly equal time, and we umpire the game ourselves – but there hasn’t been a single penalty given since February. Although I think they would have given me a couple last week if it wasn’t the “brutish Aussie’s” first game. Anyway, our team won 9-8, but we did have an extra player (8-7), but I don’t think I quite counted. One thing is for sure, the legs felt it for a while, and I was still walking funny on Friday. My main concern is having the courage, or straight forward desire, to play in the middle of winter, when the court has been known to be covered in snow? May have to reassess my options when we get to that.

After my second week, I still haven’t shown much, if any, improvement, having a tendency to kick the ball over the goal, and more often than not, over the 20ft high fence. I did however avoid coming under question this week for rough play, and even tried diving once – I still don’t see the appeal, especially on the wet Astroturf. I did also manage a couple of great saves in front of goals, and managed to avoid letting any through this week. Happy with that. Also, the legs held up much better this week, and I didn’t spend 2 or 3 days limping like an idiot.

So why soccer? Firstly, whilst poker is a great sport, and does get the heart racing, I don’t think I can maintain any substantial level of fitness by throwing chips around. Secondly, I still haven’t found a single basketball court, let alone one that has an a league attached to it, and the gridiron team finished their season only a couple weeks ago. I am also actively (don’t know how I ended up in this position) seeking to start a Southampton AFL team, with the backing of the BARFL who are trying to obtain sponsorship with the Southampton Walkabout. In any case, the ads posted on the have resulted in a few calls from interested players, admittedly of varying skill, and I will hopefully have posters up in the Walkie in the next week. At the very least, my troubles have gotten me invited to a meeting in London on the morning of the UK AFL challenge (Geelong vs. Port Adelaide) and if I attend I will get a free ticket to the game afterwards.

One of the other things I am considering doing to keep myself busy, not so much fit, is to take up the learning of another language. Southampton University appears to run part time language courses, according to the poster I read in the bus on the way home. Whilst it could make some form of sense to expand on my mediocre (but more efficient than I had ever imagined) knowledge of the German language into something of a proficient level, I am thinking of maybe studying Spanish. For one, I am going to the USA this year, and I read somewhere that they reckon within 10 years that Spanish could be the mother language of more than half of the population… damn those Mexicans are moving in fast. But seriously, with a possible plan to head home (whenever that is) through Central and South America, the ideal language to learn would be Spanish. Aside from Brazil which speaks Portuguese, the majority of countries speak Spanish, in some form or another. Plus I have every intention of heading back to Spain before I leave Europe. Weather or not that ever takes off, I don’t know, but I called up the university and left a message on Monday night and am waiting for a reply. I guess it will depend on when theclasses are and how much they cost.

So what’s been going on in the house? Well, we have seen almost nothing of our newest house mate, Sarah (yeah, her name is Sarah). Saturday night was a good night for the house, with Dan bringing back a DVD from the gym. Somehow everyone (besides our newest house mate who was replaced by Paul, Tracy’s partner) was up for sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday night. As the movie was about to start I said I was going to the off-licence up the road to get a couple beers, did anyone want anything? That resulted in a mass exodus from the lounge, and a hike to get 2 cases of Stella (20x250ml bottles, what the?), a 6 pack of some German beer, 8 Boddingtons and 4 ciders, which inevitably ended up as snakebites.

Back at the house, Dan said that the DVD was apparently a US comedy. Well, his description of the film was about as funny as it got. It was called Goodbye Lenin, and was in German with English subtitles? US Comedy? It was about a mother of two grown children who had a heart attack in Soviet Berlin just months before the unification. When she came out of a coma, months after the unification, the doctors were worried that the truth of the demise of communist Berlin would cause her to have another heart attack, so the son goes to all lengths to prevent his mum from finding out the truth. At the end of the day, everyone agreed that while it wasn’t at all what we expected, it was still a pretty damn good film. The only disappointment being that there was no Hoff action when the wall was being torn down, and we all know that The Hoff is THE reason Germany was again unified!

After the movie, with the natives wondering what to do, the poker chips came out (man am I happy there are poker chips in this house) and the six of us played poker, some for the first time. Somehow (Gerard and I are sure it was by sheer fluke) Dan ended up winning the game, after buying my bluff, then knocking out Tom. The win officially put Dan on the black board as house poker champion, which was adjusted the following day to read “acting” poker champion. Serious talks are in place to begin a WSOP (Wantirna) style tournament in the house, with this player happy to take anyone’s money! God knows I need it.

This week has been pretty quiet in general, with me happy to save as much money as I can, still having to rely on the credit cards from home to get me through till my first full pay check shows up in a couple weeks. I lucked out at work finding out one of the guys had season 4 “Family Guy” on DVD and managed to get my hands on them to keep me busy at night. I knocked out the 13 episodes in 3 nights, and they’re not bad - still holding the politically incorrect line easily. Even better news is that he’s pre-ordered season 5 which is available over here next week, so I should see them in a couple weeks. Now, unless you’ve been here, you have no idea just how crap the TV is. Free TV costs you £120 odd a year for your TV licence – what a joke. And all they play is crap. So you buya set top box for £40 odd, and it expands the available channels for ‘free’ from 5 to 30 – maybe. And most of that is crap too, with 24 hour “ring in and fill in the blanks and win £1000” TV shows, and telesales shows too. And when you find something worth watching, nine times out of ten you can’t get it because the signal drops out... Ahhhhhhh. So I’ll happily watch DVD’s instead. And besides, anyone that knows me, knows that I refuse to watch British TV shows, I think it all stems back to “The Bill”… but that’s debateable.

I am officially just the third person to visit Southampton this year according to the bar chick at the Walkabout. Upon doing a bit of research, I think I may actually stand in just as high, if not higher, as the other two in the eyes of the Australian public. It would appear that the first to visit Southampton, the week before I arrived, was Shane Warne for a country cricket match, and somehow managed to get an honorary degree from the local University. Apparently they are giving them away know. Maybe he got his for his work in advancing the removal of sexual harassment in society? If I wasn’t in good enough company with just Shane and I having visited Southampton, last week I was fortunate enough to MISS the Peter Andre book signing at W.H. Smith in town. Man, a photo of that would have been the first thing to go on the “What The?” photo page of the website. Who in their right mind would buy that clowns autobiography? There must have been a ghost writer, as I’m pretty sure he can’t read, so it would make sense that he’d struggle to write a book. Then again, no-one else would lay claim to having written the shit he’s recorded, so maybe he can write?

At this stage that’s about it for me. I have finished that ”DC Confidential” book that I was reading, and feel all the more intellectual for it. In fact, for the first time that I can remember I actually have a look at the political news. It usually drives me crazy at home, and did here, until I read the book. It gave an interesting insight into the Afghan and Iraq wars, and makes me beg the question, ‘What are you going to do about North Korea Dubbya?’ You never did find any WMD’s in Iraq, now Kim Jong Il (however you spell it – you all know him, the ‘You’re bustin my balls Hanz’ guy from “Team America”) is setting off nukes under your nose, and not even pretending to hide it. Maybe this will give a hint as to weather the Iraq war had more to do with George Bush Senior than the President was making out? Time will tell.

Till next time, I hope you enjoyed the Oktoberfest photos, and hopefully I can get the Grand Final weekend photos up, as well as some from the house and around Southampton - if I get a chance.