Luggage

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I often feel that any travel related story is a Platinum (TM) First World Problem. “Oh no, our flight to Paris is delayed! Quelle catastrophe!”…

Traveling often, I am plagued by the first world problem of luggage envy. Standing in line with all the other suit and ties one can not help but compare one’s carry on luggage with those whom he finds himself surrounded by – its like the unintended observances at a gentlemen’s urinal: I doubt one would admit to partaking in it, but one just can not help but be impressed occasionally, and feel slightly inferior by comparison.

I have a simple black trundle case that suits me for work travel perfectly. It is sturdy, has a life time warranty, and rather well set out. I can live out of it quite comfortably for a week. But it is like comparing a utility to a BMW, at times. Perfectly functional, but – well – it just isn’t… pretty.

I found myself in New York (note the casual dropping of enviable travel locations – bonus points in any white whine) and in the beloved Strand bookstore. It was at that moment I lost all self control. I had been diligently avoiding purchasing books for the prior three weeks of travel but suddenly with new found energy and resolution, I decided to unleash the Amex and pick up a what felt like four cubic tonnes of reading material.

This posed a slight problem. How was I now going to get all of these beautiful books home? It turns out, although I had more that enough room in my checked luggage, cling filmed books look suspiciously like drug parcels during airport screenings, and the TSA kept opening my bags (A FWP in itself).

I had a light bulb moment and assumed that this was the perfect time to release the proverbial stone upon two birds: I could buy a pretty carry on case to put my books in and travel home.

So I purchased a gorgeous little roll on case. It was more like a duffle bag with wheels. It was stream lined and, most importantly, looked great. Getting back to the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I could fit in it, as well. It was looking like a great acquisition.

Until I arrived at Atlanta airport.

At gate A3 and needing to get to Z546 in forty minutes.

So I started running, as most people seemed to be. Running for the gate and my connection onto Los Angeles. Running for freedom!

And then it started.

Above a certain pace – shall we say, slightly faster than a brisk walk – my beautiful luggage develops what can only be described as a case of speed wobbles.

Picture a poor, flailing, scrawny man running through a major airport with a suitcase convulsing on two wheels behind him. It was no longer rolling, more so rapidly bouncing from one wheel making contact to the ground to the other. This was not a quiet process either.

Maximum velocity was soon reached. This is the point at which the wheels can no longer absorb the jolts and jiggles, and like a beached whale giving up on life, it merely falls upon its side.

Picture it, ladies and gentlemen. Me, sweating and swearing, dragging my beautiful case on its side whilst listening to the stitches crackle and pop, praying that it could hold the excessive weight of books I was smuggling aboard the plane. If only I had been practical.

Damn these first world problems. Damn them.

Inked

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I am admittedly prone to the occasional bout of OCD. That kind of paranoid frenzy that stops all events, appointments and even drinking whilst I purge whatever fixation is captivating me out of my system. It often strikes of a weekend, when suddenly I am overcome with the desire to clean out “that” cupboard or sort out a collection of five years worth of IT junk.

I suppose it plays into my transient nature. I like moving around and try to avoid accumulating clutter that might weigh me down. Note, I try. My addiction to Victorian lead crystal and antique furniture is hardly advantageous when one is packing to move rentals yet again.

But the general concept sits well with me. One of my latest purges was to remove all biros from the house. They appear everywhere. In random drawers, cupboards, boxes of stationery. All in various states of depletion and subsequent states of reliability. The only time I ever feel I need a huge clump of pens is when entering an examination and I enact a Mr. Bean style survival mechanism in case all previous 50 back up pens fail, thank god I’ll still have numbers 51 – 70 in my clear plastic bag.

ImageIt was a lazy Sunday, and I purged the last of the damn biros from my house. It left me with my desk set – a mechanical pencil and a fountain pen, and two parker biros in the kitchen drawers for shopping lists and scrawled notes that my matching pen and set should be spared from. This, it seemed, was a small victory for my mental sanity. I had purged yet more clutter from my house, as I continue to wage the War Against Waste.

All was well and good until a tragic first world problem struck.

A new credit card arrived. Ah, the smell of fresh platinum in the morning. I eagerly ripped it out of its cardboard box and went to make my mark upon the ridiculously small signature panel on its back. Alas. None of the ‘actual’ biros in my house would write on the plastic strip. The fountain pen was obviously out of the question. And I was about to run out for dinner. All of those innocent biros that I had cut down in their various states of ‘prime’! Surely one of those hundreds of bastards would have sufficiently gripped upon the plastic and inked my name upon it?

My only option was to deface a card I have to live with until 2016 with an illegal signature in black permanent marker. Like a common bogan tagging the back of a toilet door.   

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Not So Chance Encounters

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There are certain social norms that must be adhered to. The first meeting. A carefully crafted interaction between two gentlemen.

A tête-à-tête over a cup of tea in a little jazz café followed by a stroll of the surrounding heritage area. Very civilised.

We parted ways and agreed to catch up the following afternoon for a cheese and wine sampling. This also, promised to be very agreeable.

gentlemen

One of my most heinous first world problems are Mornings. I consider them most cruel as there are 365 of them in a year.

They are simply not agreeable to me. I wake up lethargic, foul tempered, looking like I’ve been dragged backwards through a pub brawl.

In fact, I’m not even sure how it is possible for Happy Morning People to exist. What freakish genetic disorder must one possess to bounce out of bed looking fabulous and generally be joyous at such ungodly times of the morning? And why must they flaunt it?

It is now winter time in Hobart which makes things even worse. It is terribly dark and cold first thing of a morning and the early starts give me terribly lethargy and a general haze for an hour or so until I fully awake from my slumber. And then I have to peel off my layers of snugly-warm but fashion questionable winter sleepwear.

But back to the bello. The following morning he decided to surprise me and leave breakfast on my door step. This in itself is an endearing act. Kind and chivalrous. Until things went horrifically wrong. In my slumbered haze I wandered out into the kitchen to draw the curtains over the French doors, revealing myself in all my morning glory.

Or exposing the portal to hell. However one looks at such things.

There I stood, half slumped over, blinking in the soft morning light, attired in my two piece plaid, flannelette pyjamas, striking bed hair to accentuate my balding, bright red woolly Explorer Socks and the remnants of a face mask on my forehead, giving my complexion the healthy and radiant look of someone plagued by scabies. The boy in striped pyjamas from the wrong side of the fence.

Such a productive morning. Not even 9am and I managed to kill all the Magic™ from the perception of my character. See, that is one of the benefits of meeting someone for the first time. No matter what we say (or admit), generally first encounters are crafted in some manner. We might wear different clothes. We may not swear as profusely as normal. Perhaps we actually succeed in withholding that Silent But Deadly from crop dusting our new boss. But alas, oh no. I had shattered all illusions. Reality hit hard and fast and I assume I will have to pay for his trauma counselling.

Money Laundering

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This truly may be the climax of my First World Problems. Perhaps I shall peak too early on this blog. Firstly, my plans for regular forays into my first world dramas have somewhat suffered. However, spending all day looking at computer monitors rarely inclines one to spend their leisure time doing the same. In fact, I had to write this post by hand in bed first. Quelle Catastrophe!

It should have been just another Thursday. I logged into my internet banking and the balance looked fine. I hit log out and something caught my eye. An $900 transaction. Two of them. I logged back in, and noticed two sets of nearly $1,000 debits matched with a corresponding credit the next day. Lots of them. They appeared to be from an offshore company I had never heard of and could not find anything about when searching for their merchant name.

Forget having to walk 14ks to the well, I had to ring my bank and cancel my beloved Platinum Visa. And then the true horror of having to cancel all my direct debits.

Ah the internet. Convenience and frustration at its best. Having to log into all those sites we never check but should. All those companies who hold our details and bill us and we never question.

Perhaps I should question more often, or at least take a gander. It seems that I had been financing terrorists or a meth lab for god only knows how long and neither my bank nor I had noticed.

A true first world problem. Not being able to keep up with all your money.

Soldier On

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It was one of those shamefully delightful evenings. Early on a Saturday night I had retired to bed, with some trashy DVDs and a bottle of port. Yes sir, like a proper alcoholic. A friend touched base via SMS asking what I was up to. At this point, one could paint a picture. Was I having a quiet drink? Was I already out or heading out? Who was I kidding. I had my track pants on and a bottle of McLaren Vale “daddy long legs”. I fessed up and was delightfully pleased to find that he was drinking at home alone as well. And yes. Drinking alone together is less sad. So via the bottle shop to stock up with further supplies, I soon found myself exceedingly drunk watching the extended directors cut of the Lord of the Rings.

I knew my only commitment the following day was a leisurely dinner at one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate a friends birthday, so my seedy walk home mid morning the next day thru the CBD wasn’t ringing any alarm bells.

The sun was viciously bright. I strolled on feeling greasy, tired and dehydrated, whilst trying to simultaneously not vomit and telephone my friend. The standard happy birthday greeting. And what have you got planned for today? I knew the plans. We would have a fabulous tapas dinner with a curious selection of foreign wines. Delightful.

And then it struck. They requested my company on the occasion of his birthday. For a bush walk.

Right.

How hard could this be?

They were older friends. We were probably going to stroll around some wheel chair accessible duck boarding and then retire to a quiet dinner. I dragged myself home – which granted, was already a considerable walk, had a quick shower and a coffee. I was set.

The first hint that this was not merely a quiet walk through the botanical gardens came when the arrival at our destination simply didn’t. We drove on. And on. Climbing and winding, out beyond the CBD and into a strange area that I had never set foot in before.

As we pulled up into the car park, yes indeed, we weren’t in Kansas any more Toto.

However, just as I had suspected, clear tracks, duckboards and picturesque look outs over water falls. How civilized. And yet, the track kept going. And so did we.

Leaches.

Now there was something that I, in my track-pants and runners, was not expecting. Curiously, it seemed that the faint traces of blood in my alcohol stream were insufficient to support the poor creatures, and for the entirety of the trip whilst many clung aboard, only one little sucker decided to have a go.

The elevation continued to increase, and the track became more abstract.

We walked on. I hadn’t eaten since 6:00pm the night before, so the stop for biscuits at morning tea time was ever so civilized. It was at this point that I stupidly offered to carry one of the backpacks. I failed to recall prior to hoisting the pack onto my back that traveling with a Dutchman does have its advantages – they think of everything – as well as its disadvantages – I was carrying a small commercial kitchen and what appeared to be enough rations for a nuclear winter upon my back.

Further, we climbed.

The wet bush abruptly ended and as we rose above it we began to crawl through dry, twiggy and overgrown paths, winding ever further upwards. For what seemed a good half hour I had to hold my hands above my head as the track was so narrow the hedge like border did not permit you to leave your bare arms hanging by your sides.

This was no leisurely bush walk. We were casually climbing a “challenging” grade walking track to a summit of 1260m.

My legs were shaking, whilst my stomach seemed to be rotating itself – possibly lubricated by the immense amount of sweat I was now dispensing. Oh joyous moment when three hours later we finally reached a small hut, and luncheons were served.

No wonder the bloody backpack was heavy. Out came tea cups, cutlery and masses of all types of food. Whilst I do appreciate the finer selections of cheeses and cured meats, on this particular occasion I would have gladly suffered with tomatoe and ham had I not had to lug the contents of the larder three quarters of the way to the top of a mountain.

Thankfully, this food was exactly what I needed before embarking on the final survivor esque leg of the journey. The final ascent to the summit was primarily compiled of large borders for one to jump around and across like some kind of deranged mountain goat on two legs.

As we reached the summit, the truly touching moment came when the true connection to and significance of this mountain top was revealed, and how glad they were that I could share their special place with them.

So there we were. Looking out over the immense, wild west coast. My two dear friends in loving embrace, as I delicately spewed the precious little food I had eaten over the last 12 hours down the rock face into the valley below.

And dinner, you may ask?

By the time we arrived back in town, we had to suffice with a takeaway.

First world problems: having to share significant moments with your friends. On the top of a picturesque and stunning mountain, in the arse end of civilization as we know it.

Fragile Fromage

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Refrigeration has been on my mind of late.

In the 1920s the household fridge was revolutionized. No longer were these devices filled with lethal gasses (flammable and or just plain nasty) and banished outside lest they leak and turn your house into an improvised explosive, oh no. Now safe, non flammable and non toxic, cooled with newly synthesized chlorofluorocarbons, they could take pride of place inside the kitchen.

Unfortunately the beloved CFCs also turned out to be ripping a gaping hole in the ozone layer as they break down in the atmosphere. Meh. At least the tonic water was cold.

Today, fridges are no longer filled with CFCs, however they are still a cause of contempt and problems. Not just any old problems, first world problems.

I have recently been preparing for an interstate business trip. This in itself is another first world problem. How dare someone pay you to go away and meet with other people in a warmer state! I was crawling towards my time off, and had arrange a little luxury for the evening, to distract me from the stress of work and study and life in general.

The simple pleasure of relaxing with some nice wine and cheese.

It is a difficult ritual to establish and one must plan it with care. The wine must speak for itself whilst not overpowering the cheese. The cheese, in all it’s dairy goodness, should compliment the wine but be the centerpiece. Thankfully one should only buy Captains’s Table biscuits for cheese so at least one part of the equation is static.

I excitedly opened my bottle of red and gathered the local Brie in question. I cut my sliver and was about to place it onto my biscuit when I noticed the cool touch of the delicious dairy against my skin.

The cheese was cold.

Far too cold.

And now, my dear whitewhiners, can you see the predicament? One can not simply partake in refrigerated cheese. The taste, texture, consistency will all be wrong! That delightful dairy can not ooze slowly over the tongue and palette when it is essential the fromage equivalent of an ice cube!

And there is only one solution.

One has to wait, for one’s cheese to come to temperature.

Let’s be honest: patience is not my virtue. So naturally I consumed a rather large quantity of wine before adding any food to my stomach.

And in my drunken state I proceeded to eat the entire wheel of cheese and roll into bed like a fat bastard, moaning about being far too full.

LUXURY.

Prose: Amanda

I LOATHE writing that includes dialogue. But in line with my vintage instalments (read: lack of time to document current White Wines) Here’s some drama of another variety.
Amanda is an old faithful, and won a poor arse 18 year old $200 bucks.

I look back at 1964 with fond memories. It is an old friend now, but at the time it was a harsh awakening. it was a big year for all concerned. Cyclone Audrey ravaged southwest Queensland and New South Wales. Out bush, a bloke by the name of Campbell set a new world land speed record at Lake Eyre. He then turned around and did it in a boat in Western Australia. “Beatlemania” swept the nation and Queensland declared a State of Emergency over some trouble at the mines. Tensions abroad were growing, and Menzies brought back conscription, in response to the “perceived threat” of communism and the Vietcong through South East Asia – news that was published in our first national daily, The Australia, which hit the press in July. While all the chaos of the sixties was raging around us, in the small town of Lleyton Heights in country Victoria, we were on the verge of a breakdown.

All because of one woman. 

She was fabulous! 

You can find her poorly constructed story here. 

 

 

Vintage Instalment: First World High School Problems

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The following narrative turned up whilst I was clearing out some old paperwork. It dates back to my high school days. It seems I established a benchmark for first world problems (and drama) early…

For those of you who do not know, the majority of public transport in Tasmania is provided by Metro, or the Metropolitan Transport Trust. Now, Metro is a well established company with a motley collection of aged busses, most of which have served the Tasmanian population over twenty five years. These dilapidated coaches trundle along, never on time, always unclean – unless of course, it is a cold winter’s morning when they appear to run early so you either miss it completely or are forced to wait outside for the school doors to be opened.

I have developed a phobia over years of not only the occasional reckless driver and the antiquated vehicles themselves, but their safety equipment on board. Or lack thereof.

I have a fear of dying on a metro bus.

If one piece of the bus could be labelled as the cause of my anxiety, it would have to be the doors. Those two glass panes encased in a metal frame could fly open unexpectedly, taking with them the limbs of any unsuspecting passengers. There is a certain irony in the well placed stickers above these doors which state:
“For your safety, the bus will not move while any doors are open”
Note the wording. Will not does not mean can not, as it was soon to be found out.

This particular episode became one of my most memorable trips home on a Metro bus. It happened in my fist year at high school when we were travelling on one of the articulated vehicles – two busses welded together. They were developed in the eighties on limited funds to deal with the booming population of greater Hobart. We approached a bus stop. This particular bus stop is just before a “T” Junction, where the bus turns down a steep slope leading to another set of lights. As usual, the bus was packed and I was stuck next to the driver near the front doors, and was quite relieved to be rid of the three or four people who disembarked.

I didn’t notice it at first, until a cool breeze began to glide across my skin. I looked across, and even though we were pulling away from the curb at a pace, to my amazement, the double doors were still open. The single lines were moving away from us, and we were heading down into the next street. I clung onto the driver’s console for dear life as we be began the junction turn. The driver frantically pulled at the wheel to manoeuvre the double length vehicle into the next street without taking out the cars next to us. He looked down at this petrified little boy (me) and said “Just give’m a lit’l nudge and they’ll close”.

I quickly pointed out to the driver buckled into his three point safety belt that I would be keeping my hands firmly attached to the console. The bus arched around as it pulled its rear end around the corner, a sudden lurch down into an unexpected pot hole or subsidence in the road and I had visions of my body flying out onto the main road to be squashed by the approaching Pajero. I would either be mince meat underneath the tyres of the large vehicle or squished into the front bull bar, depending on my trajectory as I fly out the front door.

My hands became moist with sweat and I felt my grip on the console begin to weaken. The bus was travelling at speed, and yet the corner was lasting an eternity. I did the only thing I could. I had to let go of the console and shut the door. I had visions of Keanu Reeves’ “rescue moment” in the film “Speed”. I latched onto the handrail in the stairwell and shifted my body weight slightly – and nearly tripped. I pushed the door slightly, trying my hardest not to have a limb chopped off in case the doors closed quickly. Nothing happened. I tried again, pushing my body weight onto the side of the door. It began to shut slowly… but I was moving with the door, to the outside of the bus.

I did the only thing I could to to save myself. I fell flat on my arse in the stairwell. And was bruised for a week.

~fin~

Dry Dinner

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It was one of those Mondays that makes paid employment my personal hell. I dragged myself out of bed and arrived at work sans coffee or breakfast. I assumed I would get time to grab a coffee once I arrived at work, but alas, I sat my bag down and the next thing I noticed was the 15 minute reminder for a four hour meeting that would run over lunch. I grabbed a muffin from the kiosk as I fled to the board room. As I sat down I unwrapped my luscious chocolate muffin. My teeth sunk into its baked goodness. And it was…

DRY

With a sudden jolt I was thrown back in time. To a scary place. A dry place.

Sunday dinner. Fine food. A bunch of wonderful people. Wine was flowing freely. Second course arrived and I reached for the bottle of white on the table.

Empty.

Not a problem. I excused myself, and went to explore the kitchen. As I rounded the corner, it caught my eye. My worst nightmare. The symbol of everything that Could Have Been. What I had escaped.

Cask wine.
The Bridgewater Briefcase.
The curse of Suburban Heterosexuality.

At this point, I freely admit two things:

1) I am a wine snob. And cask wine is deeply offensive to me. I question its existence. And anyone who considers it appropriate for consumption.

2) There was no god damn way I was sitting through dinner on one glass of wine.

So there I was. Squeezing the last drops out of a goon bag into my glass.

This was officially entered onto the list as a new Life Low.

The second entry for that night was leaving the dinner table again between the next course to drive to the bottle shop.

The third was arriving back to the same dinner with three bottles of wine in a brown paper bag.

A true first world problem, ladies and gentlemen. Wine running dry mid dinner.

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