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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 22 Jun 2007

Location: Southampton, England

MapLast night was a first. I can't believe it has taken me this long, but I finally delved into the much loved English tradition of heading out to dinner for a curry. Honestly, before I even came over here, I hadn't eaten a whole lot of curry, now I tend to cook it once a week. But last night was the first time I ventured out to a restaurant for it. And it wasn't just any old curry - it was a 7.95 all you can eat special!

To make matters worse, we were the only people in the place. Now, while I appreciate that a good curry, much like a good chili, tastes better the day after, giving the flavor plenty of time to soak into the meat, I must admit to wondering if the curry was closer to a week old than just a day. That didn't stop me getting a damn full feed.

What is it about an all you can eat venue that makes people get stupid, and not just pile up their plate, or go back for seconds, but go for three of the largest heaped plates of all time. And with curry? For some reason, Johhny Cash's Ring Of Fire was playing on continuous loop as I shoveled more and more curry into my gut, and started panicking about the following days bowel movements.

But that wasn't the only first for the night. It was also the first time that I have discussed the ins and outs of prostitution with a waiter whilst eating a meal at the restaurant. As I said, we were the only people in the place, so the guy didn't have a lot of other tables to tend to. Perhaps it was the fact that we had come straight from football training, and Pottsy was still wearing his footy jumper, and both of us were wearing our footy boots still; or perhaps it was our sweaty smell that kept people away. In any case, we had the devoted attention of the waiter, and upon asking who was singing the lovely Indian music playing through the restaurant, we were told it was the greatest singer in India, but that she was ugly. Somewhere from that, the conversation, which I must say he controlled, ended up talking about $1.50 for an hour of 'jiggy-jiggy' with hot women in Bangladesh.

The waiter continued to insist that the quality of the Bangladeshi women in the business were second to none. At one stage, with the preaching coming thick and fast, I wondered if he wasn't in fact a pimp, and that the restaurant was just a front for running a brothel stocked with Bangladeshi women behind the kitchen. When the waiter finally did leave, the phone rang, and with no one around, Pottsy took it upon himself to answer the phone. Surely that couldn't afford to miss the opportunity to get a take-away order given the less than booming business they were doing.

Taking mental note of the restaurant name 'Dhaka', Pottsy answered the phone, "Hello, Dhaka Restaurant, we're Dhaka than you". When the lady on the other end of the phone asked for a take away booking, Pottsy politely said that she had reached the restaurant, and that he would arrange for someone to come across and take her take away order. Soon after we paid our bill, though we considered doing a runner figuring that the 40 quid they'd be getting from us would hardly be enough to keep the restaurant afloat for long, and left. Interesting night.

Today was also a day of firsts. I know the British just love to queue up for things, bu todays example takes the cake. They are just so orderly. Half day Friday, and I need a new pair of jeans, among other clothes that don't seem to fit any more, so I headed to West Quay. Having no luck in the first half dozen shops I'd looked in, and those that know me well I'm not much of a shopper outside of 'get in, make purchase, get out'. So when the alarms in the building went off, I took it as a sign to leave the shopping for later. They had vacated 75% of the shopping center, leaving a few shops open at the main entrance, so I decided to head out into the street and try a couple of other shops further down the street.

Having killed half an hour, and still having no luck in the jeans department, I headed back to the shopping center to see if the situation had changed. The sirens were still wailing, but the people that had been shopping in the back half of the shopping center didn't want to leave. Instead they had formed an orderly line, waiting inside the shopping center with deafening sirens blasting away. I turned and headed out, stopping in at one final shop on the way out.

Finally, jackpot. I found the jeans. They looked good, fit nice and didn't cost me my left testicle. As I stared at them in the mirror, about to get changed back into my old jeans, one of the staff came into the fitting rooms and asked everyone to get changed into their clothes and leave immediately. The fire brigade had asked everyone to vacate the shopping center My jeans would not be purchased, and then it was clear to me that a higher power, perhaps the Duke of Denim, had decided that I didn't really need a new pair of jeans.

So that's about it. I got home and started watching a DVD of the Isle of Wight Festival, of course skipping straight to Wolfmother, and withing 2 minutes had spotted myself in the crowd, Carlton jumper standing next to Milo in the Collingwood jumper. Man they were good. But having flicked through the DVD, I think there is no doubt that the crowd fed off Groove Armada more than any other group for the weekend - and they were the second last act on the Friday night. Not to say that the festival went down hill from there, but it was definitely one of the best highlights - 10 minutes of live Superstylin'.

But looking at the DVD, and seeing 50,000 people crammed around one stage, I started getting philosophical... or maybe just trying to figure myself out. I'm still upset that I am not at Glastonbury festival this weekend, simply because the Titans are hosting the games this round in the AFL UK, and I basically have no choice but to be there. There are hourly updates on just about every radio network about the happening at the festival, and with 170,000 people there, it is no surprise. I must admit though, even though it is only Friday avo, the IOW festival clearly had the better weather, with on and off rain expected all weekend.

So back to my question that I asked myself. I like to think that I have a lot of friends, plenty of whom mean the world to me, and most of them I miss dearly every day being over here. But, given the (almost always) solo mission through Europe and working over here the last 15 months now, I can clearly operate without the aid of my friends at every turn.

Now, like everyone, I go through periods where I need 'me time'. And I enjoy just sitting in my room, doing my thing, weather than be watching TV/movies, browsing the net, reading or sleeping. I don't need to be around people all of the time. So, the question is, why in the world am I so attracted to events that it seems EVERYONE ELSE is at? I mean, Glastonbury, they're almost all rock bands. Clearly not my first choice in music (though, my taste is far less black than it used to be, many of you would be surprised), and sitting in a field in the rain, with no working toilets or showers for three days - how in the world can that be appealing? Yet I feel like I am missing out on something spectacular right now.

And it is not just the festival. Dublin for St. Paddy's Day, Oktoberfest, Running of The Bulls, ANZAC Day, the World Cup in Germany. Aside from a festival of beer, I don't have any real relation to any of the other events. I'm not Irish, and hated Guinness till I got to Dublin. I'm not Spanish, or a matador. Yes, I am an Aussie, but only first generation, and have no connection to the troops that lost their lives at ANZAC Cove. And I f--king hate soccer with an incredible passion. So why in the world am I going to these places. Even the failed Stonehenge Summer Solstice trip this week, do I look like a hippy, druid or witch? Though that could be best explained by my tight arse nature and the possibility of getting right up next to the stones without paying a cent, or pence.

Anyway, I came to two rather disturbing conclusions. Firstly, I like to, perhaps need to, be around people more than I had thought. I will never be a recluse, but I didn't think that I depended on being around people. The second possibility, and an even more disturbing thought, is that my trip to date, in which I thought I was being an individual wandering through Europe (ha, an Aussie back packer, there's an original idea), has been nothing more than the act of a sheep. I am simply a follower, following the crowd wherever they are headed. I guess I can rest in comfort at the thought that there are thousands of followers out there, doing exactly what I am doing, and that I am by no means, alone.

At the end of the day, I am going to relax in the idea that I am getting out there experiencing everything that is on offer at the moment. As my favorite add of all time, the Virgin Credit Card add says, 'Life's More Fun When You Say Yes' and I guess at the moment I am saying yes to the same things as everyone else. I also like the 'Play Now, Pay Later' that I saw at the IOW Festival, but given it was tattooed on a drunk guys chest, it didn't seem to have exactly the same effect as the Virgin add.

Anyway, I'm rambling. But, I am having an absolute ball over here still. Words can't describe what the last 15 months have been like. I have made some awesome new friends, without whom this would have been an entirely different experience. But rest assured everyone at home, I do think of you daily - all of you. Don't think that my new friends are replacing you guys either, there's plenty of room in my life for friends, I clearly like crowds!