Danny Breslin

How it is…

A Welcome in the Hillsides

Desperate to get away and clear my head after England rolled over for a belly tickle in the World Cup, I decided to head for a foreign country. I went to Wales. Some of you might be questioning the rationale of this move after the events I told you about from a previous venture over the border, when it was me versus a pub, but you know I don’t hold grudges.

I’d read about something called The Evo Triangle on a website that gives you information on the greatest driving roads in the UK (check out the link for info and photos of the route); I had to give it a go…

I found a hotel called Gwesty Ty Gorsaf in Blaenau Ffestiniog, a town famous for its slate industry. If you find yourself in the Gwynedd area then turn off the A5 onto the A470 and check it out. There’s also a steam train that runs from there down to Porthmadog.

 

I’d read some negative reviews about this hotel and its restaurant but let me set this straight right now: the rooms are comfortable, the staff are really friendly and can’t do enough for you and the food in the restaurant is superb – I couldn’t manage dessert because they feed you so well with the starter and main.

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I sat in the bar watching Argentina v Iran with a decent pint of lager in front of me, trying desperately to shut out the wall of noise coming from a gaggle of local women who, as women do, all spoke at the same time oblivious to what the others were saying. It’s strange, why do they do that? When blokes talk they do it each in turn, listening to the opinions on offer before giving a response. Women just move their mouths continuously producing a drone punctuated by occasional shrieks which I take to be laughter; although what the difference is between that sound and the sound they make when stubbing a toe escapes me.

I had no idea what it was that they found so amusing because they were speaking in Welsh, a strangulated language that made it sound like they were taking it in turns to clear their throats. This is after all proper Wales where they speak Welsh as their first language and English only when trying to communicate with stupid foreigners like me. This is the language that was spoken in my country before the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians came over on holiday from Northern Germany and Southern Denmark and decided they liked it so much they’d stay. By the way, did you know that the name Wales is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘strange’? Sums it up really. I’m only joking my friends, the Welsh are a proud race and on the whole nicer, friendlier and more honest folk you’d struggle to meet.

Anyway, lets cut to the chase as they say. After eating far too much breakfast, I headed out towards midday in bright, glorious sunshine to find this fabled route. Saying a fond farewell to the A470 I turned back onto the A5. Soon enough the turn for the A543 came up and I took it. All that stood between me and an open road were a tractor and rusting camper van which disappeared from my rear view mirror as I accelerated up this fantastic stretch of tarmac.

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Between the fluffy white clouds the sky was the colour it was meant to be and the sun shone down like it was pleased to see me. The moors rolled away towards hills in the distance and as I crested a rise I saw a small lake with water the darkest navy blue. I didn’t want to interrupt the drive but I  had to stop for a look and a breath of the clean air. As I was getting a lungful the camper van pulled in behind me and the middle-aged couple inside sat there unwrapping sandwiches. I waved to them but they chose to stare at me and not return the greeting. Their mouths had been turned down at the corners for so long that they had set in a permanent frown, even the enchanting vista around them couldn’t coax a smile. Sad!

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The tractor lumbered past but I was soon passing him and heading off again. Several motorbikes passed me coming the other way, the bends it seemed were fun on two wheels as well as four.

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A few miles later the sign for the B4501 came into view and I followed it. The moors gave way to a descent into a  forest and the tall trees were a blur as I pushed on. I guess I should have been paying attention to the signs on the side of the road that indicated I should be aware of a new road surface and advising slowing down to 20mph. As the Queen song goes though “Don’t stop me now ’cause I’m having a good time…” Taking an easy right hander I realised I was no longer in control and the gravel was taking me sideways. My car usually grips the road like a limpet but now I was sliding towards a tree that would definitely bring a halt to both my progress and my enjoyment.

Friends, I still don’t know how I recovered from the slide, I’m just glad I didn’t brake because that would have been the end of me. I wrestled the wheel over and took my foot off the gas, as soon as I felt it straighten up underneath me I accelerated in a hail of gravel and dust, my heart beating like a drum roll and a string of expletives falling off my tongue.

I found another much larger lake off to my left which caused me to take a break once again, watching the sailing boats glide across the glistening surface they couldn’t have removed the huge grin from my face with surgery. You know one of those days when you think to yourself how good it is to be alive?

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Back on the road and the A5 came into view way too soon. I followed it back across the border and all the way home to the Midlands.

A Welshman once proudly told me that Wales is God’s country. If the big fella is up there I honestly doubt He’d be Welsh but, on the other hand, He does seem to have put an extra bit of effort into creating their countryside.

 

 

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A time for giving: free eBook for everyone!

Roof-of-World

Yesterday I promised an announcement, well here it is: as an early Christmas prezzie for anyone who hasn’t yet read my book

Me & Gus on the Roof of the World

I’m giving it away for free on Kindle for the next five days.

Now this isn’t much of a gift to all of you who have read it already, so how about when this offer is finished I reduce the price of the paperback too? I can’t give that away for free because it is a print on demand service which means I can only offer it at the cost price (unless there is a way around that), leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do for you.

So get your copy of Me & Gus on the Roof of the World right now for free and merry xmas to you. All I ask in return is a review or a blog post so others get to read it too. Never heard of it you say? Okay, check out the testimonials.

Here’s the links for your free eBook:

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

For other parts of the world please visit your local Amazon site and type in Danny Breslin. Hurry though – five days and counting!

 

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Me & Gus on the Roof of the World, Travel | , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Bogged down

I haven’t been around for a little while so sorry about that my friends and loved ones – yeah, you know who you are! I’ve been so bogged down doing stuff for other people that it might seem that I’ve been ignoring you. I did my best with a couple of links to articles that I thought might interest you but if that left you feeling unfulfilled, if you crave your regular dose of Breslin medicine then I apologise for my absence and say to you don’t worry, Danny’s back!

I’ve been wondering what I should write about next on this blog. Maybe travel tales?  I’ve already told you about things that happened in Germany (my favourite story ever), France and Belgium, special memories from India and almost causing a bloodbath in Tunisia. And if you’ve read Me & Gus on the Roof of the World then you’ll know all about and been highly entertained by my visit to Nepal, Tibet and China. You’re so cruel to find that funny.

Would you like to know what happened the couple of times I went to Amsterdam? Well forget it because so would I…! If my friend Dutch Judy is reading this, maybe she could let me know if she’s heard anything?

So where else? Maybe Canada? St. Lucia? Other forays into Europe? I can’t go into my journey around South Africa because that’s supposed to be my next book, if I ever get it written.

I’ve told you tales from when I was at university, living in the Halls of Residence in the first year and annoying my friend Kate the other two years. Occasionally I’ve mentioned one or two things from my often shady past, but I have to be careful what I write because you never know who might be reading. Mind you, thanks to Edward Snowden we know full well who is reading.

I’ll drop some more short stories like The Match, First Impressions and Lasting Impressions on you in the coming months but you’ve got to ask nicely.

Hit the comments button and tell me what you want from me – and keep it clean! Yeah, you know who you are too!!!

I’ll sign off now until next week but I’ll leave you only after asking you this one favour: if you have read my book Me & Gus on the Roof of the World whether in paperback or as an eBook, and you have enjoyed it, please help me out and leave a review on your local Amazon, if you haven’t already. Oh, and please tell all your friends to read it too if that’s okay?  You don’t know how much I appreciate that simple act of kindness.

Luv ya

 

 

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Great Reviews

It seems a few of you actually enjoyed reading my book Me & Gus on the Roof of the World, so much in fact that they have left some really great reviews on Amazon which I’ve put on my testimonials page just to show off. Here are some of the latest ones:

Brilliant, I couldn’t put it down!

I literally couldn’t put this book down. Whenever I had a spare moment, I found myself reading with anticipation to find out what happened next. Me and Gus on the Roof of the World is Danny Breslin’s first person account of a truly unforgettable trip of a lifetime to the Himalayas. Unexpectedly, much of the “unforgettable” “trip of a lifetime” parts of the story come from Danny’s experience with falling seriously ill with altitude sickness and eventually overcoming it. Firstly, I really enjoyed the story. And wow, what a story it is! Danny takes you right there along with him on his amazing journey, from the initial suggestion of the trip all the way through the planning, the excitement, the nerves, the travel, the arrival, the people, the emotions and the experiences, to the sickness, the delirium, the paranoia, and the hospitals. It really is a remarkable story, and reading it makes you realise how lucky Danny is to be here today to tell it! Mostly I enjoyed the way Danny told his story. He is such an excellent story-teller that for the best part of the book I honestly felt like we were mates, and he was telling me face to face over a pint and a packet of crisps in the pub. He is also incredibly funny. I lost count of the number of times I chuckled out loud. What was particularly impressive is that Danny’s humour never wavered neither in his story-telling nor evidently during what was clearly a terrifying ordeal. I would truly love to know what the “nagging nurse” made of him! I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Me and Gus on the Roof of the World for so many reasons and I thoroughly recommend it. This book has a bit of everything; travel, trauma, tenderness, humour (actually it has a lot of humour) all told by a genuine, down-to-earth, all round top bloke. I know that altitude sickness is no light matter, but thank you Danny for sharing your experiences in such a light, entertaining, and refreshing way. Gina4Star

Great Storytelling!

Danny is a great story teller! I felt like I was sitting on a stool in the pub listening to him tell his story real-time. He brings everyone to life and creates so clear of a visual you can actually see the adventure unfold. Though he easily could have died on this adventure, his humor never wavers.  He had me snickering and snorting throughout the book! Denise Hisey

Great read!!!!

Well what can you say, both amusing and touching, written with a vision which almost puts you with the author on his travels, you can almost visualise the scenarios (good job you can’t smell though). Looking forward to further tales. Pen Name

 

Not bad eh? So if you haven’t read it yet, then just pop along to your local Amazon site and download it to your e-reader, or tablet with the kindle app. If you are a complete Luddite and don’t have the sort of gadgetry I’m talking about then you are going to have to wait a few days until it comes out in paperback – see how good I am to you? In the meantime you can have a glance at the outline.

If you have already gone through it and you weren’t too disappointed with it then please give me a (kind) review on Amazon/Goodreads etc. or better yet tell your family, friends and followers about it with a blog post.

If you want to talk to me about this or anything then drop me an email: dannybreslin@mail.com – and keep it clean!

September 25, 2013 Posted by | Me & Gus on the Roof of the World, Reviews, Travel, Writing Your First Book | , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

On the ocean wave

You wouldn’t put my Border Terrier, that little rascal Bones, in the middle of Kew Gardens and expect him not to start widdling until he could no longer lift his leg. It’s in his nature, he can’t help it, and he just loves to widdle. Similarly you can’t strategically shave an ape , put him in a tuxedo and expect him to act like Lord Doodah. So why the hell has my infinitely better half decided it would be a good idea to book us on a cruise next year? Not just any ship either, it’s Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, the poshest boat on the water.

She should know better. When we was in South Africa a few years ago we went on The Blue Train. Now that is upmarket, think butler and silver service dining and you sort of get the idea. I won’t tell you too much because it will all be revealed in my next book, but I will reveal how I revealed my bare buttocks to some Boer farmers out the window as we passed them. I still don’t know why but oh man it was funny!

So has Mrs B lost sight of my darker side and is trusting me not to misbehave? Or has she gone insane and actually believes I won’t piss in the punch bowl? Luckily it’s only a few days so I won’t spend too long In the brig.

At least I’ll get a few blog posts out of it; if it all goes awry maybe even another book?

We disembark in Hamburg, from there we are getting a train to go see her late father’s family in Poland. She’s been making excuses to them why they haven’t met me yet when they say “You must bring your husband next time you visit”. I too have been asking her why she has always been reluctant to introduce us. She won’t say but if I was a suspicious man I’d take a wild guess that it has something to do with the strength of Polish vodka.

August 26, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Sunny days in Dublin

I caught up with an old friend who used to live in Dublin on Facebook today, I used to go there to visit relatives. Bunking off school and travelling with my uncle who was a truck driver, a job which brought him to England a few times a year. Getting suspended from school but my parents not finding out because I skipped off to Ireland – but not before intercepting the letter from the headmaster.

My cousin knew these lads in Ballymun and introduced me to them. That was it, I was taken in, made a member of the gang and every spare moment was spent with them. It didn’t matter to them that I was different, that I spoke differently. I was one of them.

Kicking a ball against a wall, hanging out in Belclare park on the swings, lazing in the sun on a grassy bank. The local disco which was one of the roughest places I’ve ever been to, you could guarantee at least one fight would break out, usually more. Long summer days with my friends.

Then today I learned that two of them have died in the last few years. It took the wind clean out of me. I haven’t seen them in thirty years, so why does it hurt so much? It hurts because in my mind’s eye they’re still the scruffy young urchins who took me in, who made me their friend. They never got any older and they’re still waiting for me with a football, always ready for a kickabout.

I’m not religious, all that stuff goes over my head, but wherever they are now I hope the sun is still shining.

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 6 Comments

International Incident

Before I met Marion I wasn’t much of a traveller. I’d been abroad before but only to Europe: working in Bremerhaven, following New Model Army to Bree in Belgium, and a couple of lost weekends in Amsterdam; not very much at all. Marion though was a proper traveller, she had gone around the world a couple of times and seen many exotic places – unlike myself whose idea of exotic was stumbling around off my face in the red light district wondering why the women in the windows kept waving at me!

When we met and moved in together, she decided that she would take me on my first proper holiday (great, I’ll book the caravan). To prevent me getting out of my depth first time out she took me away for a week in Tunisia, to Port El Kantaoui. This was before the amazing time I had in Goa that I have related in a few previous posts.

I wanted to relate a story from when we were there. Don’t expect alot of photos though, they were not taken on a digital camera and so are tucked away in an album somewhere around the house, I’m not even sure if we kept the negatives, sorry folks.

We took an excursion on a coach from our hotel, checking out the local sights. We went to a souk in the morning and I was immediately out of my depth. Let me explain, I wasn’t keen on crowds unless it was at a footie match, at least then everyone is there for the same reason and everyone’s facing the same way (I’m not making much sense here.) I also didn’t like strangers shouting at me in the street; I didn’t do that to others, why should it happen to me? I didn’t like to be touched by people I didn’t know – and I especially, ESPECIALLY didn’t like strangers manhandling my girlfriend!

At that time all these sights and sounds were alien to me and it was getting a bit much. Marion saw my distress, possibly alerted to it by my telling a marketeer to take his hands off her or lose them, and suggested we make our way back to the coach.

We found a quieter shop at lunchtime and went in to buy a few baubles to take home. The shopkeeper took an instant shine to Marion; maybe it was because she was blonde, but to be honest she has always turned heads, unlike me who turns nothing but stomachs. He starts telling me what a beautiful lady she is and would I be interested in selling her to him, it was probably the same spiel he used on all his “Breeeteesh” customers. “How much?” I asked, just out of interest you understand.

“200 camels.” Came the offer.

“Behave bruv, she’s worth at least 500.” Well they do like to haggle.

“400 and not a camel more.” He said firmly, wanting to close the deal.

Marion was shocked,  “What are you doing?” She shrieked.

“Shut up woman, after he spends a week with you I’ll be able to get you back for a donkey!”

The doghouse can be a very cold, dark and lonely place.

As we were driven towards our next destination I asked the tour guide why so many of the houses were unfinished. He told us that there was a roof tax that didn’t apply if there was no roof so they all pretended to be building a second storey to avoid paying it. Genius really if you think about it.

We came to our destination, El Djem, it was truly a place worth seeing. It was like a smaller version of the colisseum, built by the Romans right there in the desert. It was in better repair than its big brother in Rome and was still in use for concerts and such like. In fact it’s the third largest Roman ampitheatre in the world and they told had been used for scenes in the film Gladiator.

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Standing there on the sand, before the stone terraces and towering arches, where so much blood had been spilt for the entertainment of the masses was a weird feeling, both disturbing yet exciting at the same time. I could imagine standing there with the braying crowd calling my name, the blood of another gladiator sprayed across me and spilling out into the earth. Sorry folks, it’s just a boy thing!

It was hot, I don’t mean like the heat of high summer here where it can get a bit uncomfortable, I’m talking the temperature hitting 40 degrees – damn you Mr Celsius! It was so hot the Tunisian tour guide wouldn’t venture out of the shade. Even my beloved floppy England cricket hat couldn’t cope with the weight of the sunshine. It was so hot you could have wrung the sweat out of the air.

I had never been that hot and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. We decided it might be prudent to retreat to the comfort of our air-conditioned coach. On the way we were stopped by a man selling postcards. We asked him how much and he gave us a cheap price so I handed over my money. In return he gave me a tattered old street map of the area. “What’s this? I paid for the postcards.”

“No no, the postcards are extra.”

“Well I don’t want this, just give me the money back.”

“No you give me more money.”

I felt hot and bothered and I wasn’t going to let it go as I felt my hackles rise. “I don’t want this, give me my money back and I’ll be on my way.” The heat and his arrogant expression pushing my temperature up. He lifted his chin and sneered at me, I snapped. I ripped off my hat and sunglasses: “GIVE ME MY F****** MONEY!!!” Marion sprung in front of me and pushed the man backwards then spun and grabbed my arm. “Let’s go!” She insisted, pulling me away.

We got back to the coach, my breathing was slowing. She said that the veins in my head and the tendons in my neck had stood out and I had literally turned purple. She told me that the locals would have mobbed me if she hadn’t pulled me away, I shrugged, “Sorry hon, it was the principle of the thing.” She explained that the principle could have cost me my life for the equivalent of two pence. Well when she puts it like that…

On the coach on the way back to our hotel the tour guide proudly announced that we were passing the presidential palace, I made him scowl when I asked him if they had finished it yet.

 

 

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Tyne Cot

I nearly forgot to finish the tale of our journey through France and Belgium, writing about it has taken a hell of alot longer than the actual trip itself. Anyway, let’s just get on with it and we can then move on to other outlandish and often tall tales of derring do.

We left the story, if you remember, with the fantastic four having just visited the bloody Hooge Crater and heading off into the wilds of Belgium to find Tyne Cot, the biggest of the many graveyards that dot this countryside.

Having forgotten already the tantrum upon hearing that stupid song in the museum, I was in high spirits and had returned to my usual demeanor with a song in my heart and a knife in my sock. (Don’t worry, I don’t really carry a knife in my sock, it is just an expression. I mean why would I need a knife in my sock when I’ve got a gun in my waistband? – Just kidding!)

I was explaining to my uncle how I considered myself a sort of missionary when travelling to other countries in Europe and that includes his native Ireland. “How so?” He asked, “You’re a Godless English heathen.”

“Ah, but my mission isn’t driven by religion.” I paused, considering my next line while looking out of the car window into the middle distance, “I see myself as bringing culture to the dark places where there is none.”

“Do ya hear him? Sweet tundering Jaysus, would yous ever shuddup?”

Satisfied that I  had annoyed him sufficiently for the time being we pulled into the car park at Tyne Cot. There is a visitor centre there where you can read about the action seen in the area, you can see various items such as cap badges, paybooks, and personal items of the soldiers. The bit that got me were letters home from the boys at the front, donated by their families. All the while the names of the lost are being read out on the p.a. system. I must admit my earlier light mood was gone and I felt emotionally drained.

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We left there and followed a path towards the cemetery itself, and what a sight to behold! Nearly 12,ooo headstones standing to attention under the summer sun. Row after row, the majority of which do not contain a name, the graves are marked known unto God. To me that seemed like a final indignity; when the body has perished and the soul goes to heaven (if that is your belief), when there is nothing left all you have is your name, who you were; they were even deprived of that.

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I don’t know what other people think when they wander amongst these stones, but I wonder who these boys were. I wonder what made them laugh, what made them happy, what made them sad; I wonder what they dreamt about doing when the war was over; I wonder who waited for them to come home.

At one end of the cemetery is the Memorial to the Missing, a wall containing the names that they didn’t have room for at the Menin Gate: 33,783 UK servicemen and another 1,176 from New Zealand.

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Ask them if it was worth it…

We jumped into the jalopy and headed south towards France. As we entered Lille I realised my mission was coming to an end and I hoped, I told my uncle, that the people of France and Belgium had been somehow enlightened by my presence if only for a short time. “Stupid boy!” Came the reply.

We were staying the night in Lille before catching the Eurostar in the morning. My sister had a set of instructions about where to park the hire car and it all seemed straight forward enough. Then you reach the underground carparks at the centre of Lille and realise that you have entered a maze that would rival the one under the palace of Knossos. I suggested we play out a ball of wool so we could find our way back out. Driving around in that subterranean puzzle I realised two things: 1) the ball of wool hadn’t been made that could take the job on and 2) I knew where Dante Alighieri had found inspiration for the Divine Comedy; if only we had Virgil and Beatrice to lead us through this Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, but they were nowhere to be seen – they were probably lost too.

Eventually we parked it anywhere and Teresa and Neil vowed to return and take another crack at it later after we’d got our luggage to the hotel. That was the next task at hand, where was the hotel? Dragging cases behind us we set off looking for daylight, to our utter amazement and confusion the exit signs pointed towards each other so we found ourselves wondering if we would ever see the sky again. Somehow, by accident I think, we found ourselves outside in the middle of a square. We had to find Rue somethingorother. I asked directions of two women who looked as if they might know where they were. Like typical Johnny Foriegner they pretended that they knew not a word of English; I knew they were lying just to make life difficult but I couldn’t prove it. I tried in my dreadful, halting French and they gleefuly sent us in entirely the wrong direction.

After a while we were able to find the place and soon wished we hadn’t. There was no restaurant on site so we would have to venture out to scavenge for food. My legs were aching and the last thing I wanted to do was more walking so I asked the receptionist if she would whip us up something, just as a joke, but she took it the wrong way. I think she heard the word whip and immediately decided I was a pervert. I’ve been called worse and it’s better than being French, the miserable mare.

The room lacked air conditioning and I slept with the windows open, hoping a real pervert with determination didn’t see this as an invitation, you never know do you? There wasn’t a bit of breeze and the room was stifling, if I got an hours sleep it was only due to exhaustion.

The next day I was glad to be getting on the train and heading home. As we came out of the tunnel to see merry old England the first thing we noticed was that it was still raining like it was when we left. Ah well, as William Cowper once wrote: “England, with all thy faults, love thee still my country.”

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Bloody Hooge Crater!

Let me take you back to Belgium and continue the story of my pilgrimage. We were up bright and early, well before they finished serving breakfast anyway, and hit the road. Again, out of the kindness of my heart, I offered to drive but was met with a perfectly synchronised chorus: “NO!” Ah, suit youselves.

We left Ieper and I must admit I was sorry to leave. It’s a nice little town and the people are friendly, I could live there and be quite a happy little chap. We journeyed through unremarkable countryside that had once been churned to mud and pockmarked with shell holes, scarred with barbed wire and soaked with the blood of so many; it was hard to picture the scene on that morning with the sun sitting so warm in a clear blue sky.

We were heading for the aptly named Hooge Crater, a First World War museum and cemetery. I said that after they took the top off the Messines Ridge they should have called it the bloody hooge crater. Afterall, with the amount of explosives they used the crater would be BLOODY HUGE! The museum is something you must see if you visit the area. There are exhibits showing life in the trenches, weapons, uniforms and other memorabilia and film footage shot at the time. I couldn’t help thinking about how easy life is for us now, how would I have coped without a warm bed and a tv? How would I have coped with not having my home comforts, sitting shivering in a muddy trench with my clothes and feet soaking wet?

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There was a soundtrack playing in the background, old songs from that era. Suddenly one came on that I recognised: some bloke singing “Keep right on to the end of the road,” a song that has been adopted by the supporters of a certain football club located just a couple of miles away from my team. That was it, I turned to my uncle who had heard it and was already chuckling, expecting me to react: “I’m off, is there anywhere I can go without them lot getting on my sodding nerves with their stupid song?” Fortunately I had reached the end of the museum tour and the exit door was there, I left in a huff.

“What’s wrong with him?” My sister asked.

“What isn’t?” replied my uncle.

 

No wonder the crater was so hooge!

No wonder the crater was so hooge!

 

Outside the museum was the biggest shell I have ever seen, which is not difficult really because I haven’t seen many, but you will see it’s scale in the photo above, stood next to the distinguished looking gentleman who has the misfortune of being my uncle, although he maintains… “it could have been worse, I could have been your aunt.” We sat and had some lunch on the terrace of the museum’s cafe, before heading across the road to the cemetery there. After that we bundled back into the car and set off into the wilds of Belgium heading for Tyne Cot, alas another story for another day.

December 11, 2012 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Was Ist Vinegar?

Friends, I was going to just leave you today with the reblog you see below, but I can’t do that – not when I have a story to tell. So sit back in your comfy chair, put on your favourite reading glasses and let me take you by the hand and lead you on a journey to a land far away. Well, Germany to be exact.

When I first left school I had many jobs but like a shark I could never keep still, nothing ever satisfied my overactive brain so I didn’t stick around too long. A few years ago I was working in Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. We were in a former U Boat base which had been bought by Lufthansa, the German airline. They used the giant hangars to park their planes and we went in to paint them. It is quite a weird experience to walk across the top of an airliner, you could almost feel as if it was flying and you were up there thousands of feet above the ground. I digress.

Anyway, myself and the crew I was working with were staying at a hotel in nearby Bremen. A strange place where nobody seemed willing to talk to us; I couldn’t work out if that was because we were English or because most of the people I worked with were from Lincolnshire, in which case I could well understand why the natives would avoid them. The hotel manager was ok though and enjoyed our company in the bar. At least we suspected he did, never once did he smile though, even when we sat taking it in turns to tell jokes. He even joined in and told us a joke about the former German national team manager Bertie Voigts; yet after the punchline, which I cannot divulge to my sensitive readers, while we were in stitches laughing his face never even twitched.

We were working 12 hour shifts for four days then flying home for three before returning to Germany. Our time while there, when we weren’t working or sleeping, comprised of drinking copious amounts of Beck’s lager and schnapps chasers.

One day, I came back to the hotel after my shift, got showered and changed before heading to the restaurant to get a nice lining for my stomach before heading to the bar for the evening. It was fairly empty in there so I found a table and sat down to peruse the menu. The bored waitress came over and stood before me, “Ja?”

“Schwein steak und pomme frites, bitte.” I ordered. It struck me as strange that such an advanced country wouldn’t have their own word for chips (french fries as my American readers so erroniously call them).

“Ja.” She said maintaining the expression that almost screamed how much she hated this job.

“Brot und butter.” Another display of lingual laziness. Then I remembered that English stems from German so butter was their word first.

“Ja” She was considering suicide.

“Und….” I looked at my condiments (oo-er!) and realised that, although I had salt to hand, there was no sign of the vinegar – chips without vinegar? Unheard of! I refuse to go down the mainland Europe route of smothering my little golden friends with mayonnaise, that is simply disgusting and I will not even contemplate it. “Haben Sie…erm…vinegar?” I didn’t know the German word for vinegar.

She finally raised her head from her notepad, the boredom left her eyes as she regarded me with what appeared to be suspicion. I had momentarily taken her away from the mind-numbing boredom she seemed to be frozen in, probably saved her from slipping into depression, possibly saved her life! “Vinegar? Was ist das?”

Oh, now then, how do you describe vinegar? I reverted to charades, I hate playing charades: I was showing how I would shake the bottle over my plate through the gift of mime, all the while with a grin on my face repeating: “Vinegar…vinegar….you know, vinegar.” She looked scared, she muttered her excuses in German before fleeing the tableside of this mad man to fetch the manager. At least he could speak English thank God.

The heavyset bearded German approached my table, the formerly bored now worried looking waitress cowering behing his broad back. He glowered down at me with an expression that suggested I had molested the poor woman. “Vot do you vant?” He boomed.

“Have you got any vinegar?” Less than impressed by his unwarranted display of machismo I was considering sticking the butter knife in his thick thigh if that was a road he wanted to travel.

“Vinegar? Vot is that?”

I briefly wondered why he didn’t call it “Winegar”. I then nearly went into the charades that had clearly terrified his staff member but decided against it. I was getting desperate, I was hungry and this was cutting into my alloted drinking time. Last attempt to make myself understood: “Vinegar, you put it on your chips, it’s… acetic acid.”

The two Germans looked at each other, they whispered to each other, far too low and too fast for me to follow. Then the manager turned to look at me with his bushy brows knitted, “You vant to put acid on your chips?”

 

December 7, 2012 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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