Avatar Trekkin’ Abroad – France (Part 3)

I awoke without the bearings of a hangover. There was something muzzling the back of my brain but for the moment it was being held back by the medication in my bloodstream and my unwillingness to succumb to the rum. There wasn’t much time for hanging around though as we had to ditch my sister’s flat and finally haul ass out of there for good.

A few curious other oddities about France. For some reason they really cherish granola because the price is much more expensive there than it is in Britain. I expect it has nothing to do with exchange rates and where it was made; I believe the French just don’t want people to eat it. It belongs to the government and they will continue to hoik up the price as and when required.

The local prostitutes, according to information gathered by my sister via her friend, do not hang around in bars. They do not have a red light district. They do not expose themselves in windows for foreign businessmen to oggle for pleasure. In Lyon, for some reason, they hang outside the local Lidl. Having walked past the supermarket in question several times I rarely saw anyone pertaining to be a prostitute. Once there was a woman eating a sandwich however I don’t think we can jump to conclusions there, unless French ladies of the evening do freaky things with bread. The only other occasion was there was an attractive woman perched on the corner yelling into her mobile. Even then I hardly think that’s conclusive proof. Whether it’s true or not I can’t really say. My sister is adamant that they were protesting not so long ago though. Protesting for better digs? Possibly.

If you leave cans of carbonated beverages in the freezer for long enough they will explode. I’m not quite sure about the science, and I’m hoping that Wrong Science might be able to offer assistance.

There are not a lot of music or games shops in Lyon. There are, however, a surprisingly large number of piano shops. This may explain why there was a piano in the park. Perhaps the French enjoy tinkling the ivories more than blasting aliens or zombies or listening to electro pop music. If we’re ever invaded they may struggle and we must remember this and offer our help in any way we can. I’m a dab hand at Ghost Squad and House of the Dead.

The only last anecdote I can offer is after we had packed all the last of my sister’s crud into her bags, after we had pushed them all through Lyon onto a plane, after we had landed in Stansted airport and waited for them to appear on the turning gizmo, after several hours transferring between trains and my sister had disappeared at York into the arms of Big Dave I’m alone whizzing through the night back to the North East. I’ve been travelling all day and as my hands had mostly been pushing heavy bags there had been no chance to indulge in a little coffee. I’m alone now so I ask the trolley lady for a coffee and whether I can pay on my card. She jokingly says the machine isn’t working. So I get my card out only to be told, no sorry, even though it sounded like I was winding you up the machine can’t take any card payments. No payments in coin euros either. Bugger. She does, however, offer me a cup of boiling water. I’ll take what I can get round about now so I accept. She then says because I had been so nice about it that she’ll give me the drink for free. My heart leaps. I want to dance. My smile turns to a wince turns to a struggle to maintain a happy expression as she passes me my drink and I return to my seat. For whatever reason she’s made me a tea.

I asked for coffee. I specifically asked for coffee, but you can’t pass up a free drink. Do I want to be the arse who got a free drink and then said, “Actually, sorry, I don’t mean to be ungrateful but I asked for coffee.” No, of course not. That’s not what the British do. I’m sat and so as not to be ungrateful I wait for it to cool and then force it down my throat. It’s awful; every taste like I’m drinking liquid gravel.

This is not what I wanted. I did not ask for tea yet this is what I got. It’s a struggle but I finish it like a man and throw the cup on the floor in triumph! So ended my trek, with a bad taste in my mouth.

Avatar Trekkin’ Abroad – France (Part 2)

My kettle troubles aside, things were going pretty well.

The first day proper was split into two; at first we would clean and tidy the remains of my sister’s flat, which sounds as though it exploded but really it didn’t, and then head to the park for a picnic and ice cream. I won’t bore you with the details of how much I hoovered and dusted and carried what seemed like endless bags of rubbish downstairs to the bins. Apparently France does not have any charity shops so unless you can palm your tat off on neighbours or friends all of it goes in the refuse. With the chores out the way it meant we could trek to the park for sandwiches and crisps.

The temperature was uncomfortable to say the least. Even under the shade of a tree I could feel the sweat dripping down my back. It got worse as we ambled through the sights of the park. Not only did they have acres and acres of beautiful scenery but they also had a free animal sanctuary / zoo which had bears, giraffes, freaky cats and crazy monkeys. Further along, a lake stretching as far as the eye could see. Further still, a piano sitting in a small clearing in the woods where anybody can have a go at playing it. The man sat when we walked past was struggling to find a song to compliment his friend’s voice and in the end gave up and started belting out Lady Gaga tunes instead.

After a rest and some chow at home we headed out for some drinks. I had already emptied most of the bottle of Captain Morgans so I was feeling the buzz. My sister took me too a novelty bar on a boat where huge burly men blocked our way only to wave us after some gentle persuasion. Downstairs was a bit morose so we ventured upstairs where a small crowd was developing on the dance floor for numerous cheesy songs. Apparently these are very popular in France and even I with my musical fascism found some music to flail my limbs to. As I had spent a fair amount of the day cleaning a flat then walking around in the baking heat the idea of staying up until the small hours of the morning didn’t sit well with me, however I managed well enough and we jaunted back around 2am singing Beatles songs to passers-by.

There were no party crisps when we got back, only lukewarm water and a surprisingly large collection of biscuits which disagreed with my insides and I fell on the sofa hoping to dream of dancing bears and French pastries.

Avatar Trekkin’ Abroad – France (Part 1)

I don’t go on holiday very often so it seems a bit silly to start a post as though future ones may appear. Perhaps those who travel more than me could contribute? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I’ve never been to France however what I saw has convinced me to return again at some point. I arrived mid-afternoon on Thursday to a barrage of rays and overwhelming heat. It certainly didn’t help that I was sporting my large winter coat (lots of pockets, helpful when faffing in airports). My sister met me close to where she lived and walked through the streets back to her apartment. It was a modest effort and one which was stifling considering the temperature. We didn’t stay long except to pick up the last remaining items she wished to ship back home.

There was an unmistakeable air of Europe about the place. How can someone say that if they’ve never been to France? I have been to Greece and Germany before so I can with some confidence say that it was definitely more European than Newcastle upon Tyne. The streets were relatively clean. The residents helpful and pleasant. My sister told me to keep an eye on my feet for the volume of dog shit that supposedly peppered the pavement yet I found very little.

And the women were zoomed in straight from the pages of Vogue or some other fancy magazine I’ve clearly never read but can make references to. They were uncommonly beautiful, graceful, barely looked in my direction the whole time I was there. My reasons for being in Lyon were hardly based around this premise anyway so it didn’t bother me too much that they paid more attention to plucking food from between their teeth than me. I’m surprised I didn’t walk into more lampposts though.

Most of the remainder of the first day was spent sitting and drinking. I had been travelling since 6:30 am anyway so it made sense not to rush anything. We stayed at my sister’s friend’s flat, which was much bigger than her own, for which we were both truly thankful. My first grievance was the kettle. Strange choice I know but for some reason it merely complicated the idea of heating water. Rather than just having an ‘on’ button which clicks off when it’s done it instead allowed you to heat your water to any temperature between 60 and 100 degrees. It also enjoyed taking longer than usual to perform its basic action and then, just as it was about to reach the temperature you were looking for, it seemed to dawdle, aware that you were desperate for a cup of coffee and revelling in the power it wielded over your sorry ass.

I should point out that I did and do not hate this kettle but it certainly needs to buck up its ‘chude to the common man.

Avatar Pointless Purchase of the Month – July

Ah, go on then. Seeing as you have all been desperate to know what other pointless things I have been spending my money on it’s only fair that we wheel out another pointless purchase of the month. June was pretty quiet but I’ve been looking to get my hands on one of these sweet sweet babies for the past week or so.

And here it is.

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Marvellous. Incredible. Completely pointless. Why? Let’s go over the details:

1. It’s a brilliant game, but I wouldn’t know. I haven’t had a chance to play it yet. I originally bought the special limited edition version which is still sealed in its original packaging, hidden away in the cupboard of wonders. So I do previously own it but decided to buy it again.

2. I actually already own it twice. The special edition and the less special edition, both of which are still sealed. So this would make the third version of the same game which I still haven’t played yet.

3. Even if I wanted to play it I couldn’t. The game requires an additional piece of equipment to strap to the bottom of the Wii remote  which I don’t own. Actually, I do own but it’s contained in the special limited edition version just to make matters that little bit more pointless.

Being the age I am now, owning all the pointless things that I do, sometimes I look at it all and wonder just what the hell it is that I’m playing at. Then I realise that I love it even more because of just how pointless it all is and then I laugh like a potter’s wheel and go to bed.

Avatar Newsboost – Cowvertising Takes Off

Advertising is absolutely everywhere. As you walk the streets hugh billboards dwarf entire cities from miles above. Television and the internet are littered with everything from pop-ups to articles to infomercials and back again to that period ITV needs to rake some cash in between showing a repeat of a Bond film. Just when you thought there was no room left for innovation in the advertising industry, a young farmer from the Lake District takes a spin and leaves modern life trailing behind.

Steven Pouterson works on the ‘Little Hooves’ farm close to Grasmere. He initially got frustrated that a lot of the animals were not fulfilling their potential on the farm and that only having one or two jobs was not enough. His work lasted all day yet they “phoned it in” during the morning and sat around doing nothing else. The worst offenders? Cows, as Steven explains. “There’s nothing there. You can wave your hands in front of their faces and they barely react. They are natures concrete bollards or something equally stationary. It then occurred to me that perhaps there was some way of making money from their laziness.”

Indeed, there is very little money to be made from laziness yet Steven managed to turn a very negative into a super positive.

“Do you know how many people visited the Lake District last year? Around 14.8 million. Do you know how many of them probably saw a cow in a field? All of them. They’re bloody everywhere. So it made sense to use the cows as living, breathing billboards. They have that large expanse of flesh on the side that it just ripe for logos and slogans.”

Since signing some deals with local businesses at the end of 2013, Steven’s “cowvertising” has taken leaps and bounds. Several major brands are looking into using his animals to advertise their products across the Lake District. Given that he has currently over three hundred cows to his name, he is looking at a tidy slice of revenue by the end of 2014. “There’s nothing cruel about it. We hang loose-fitting tabards on the side and the cows do the rest of the work. They’re visible for miles. I mean if you saw a cow with the ‘Dominos Pizza’ logo adorned on it, you would sit up and take notice.”

Several other farm animals have been seen to take an interest in the field. “Horsin’ Around”, a stable over in nearby Patterdale, is considering a similar move into animal advertising. They would have to take into consideration the smaller workspace of the horse’s stomach. Sheep in the area have been quoted as having, “major reservations” about the entire process but refused to offer an official statement.

Avatar Happy Death Day, Mr R. Brek!

It was exactly four years ago that a very good friend of mine died.

Not a lot happened on 24 June 2010, at least for the rest of the world. It was a Thursday. Apparently in some minor tennis tournament some guy beat some other guy in a really long match. Does anyone remember it though? Of course not. It is confined to the annals of history.

What unraveled for me though was the beginning of something special. In life Mr R Brek was, in all honesty, disgusting. A colleague at work had passed me him because they didn’t want him anymore and thought I would prefer his company. So in order to not waste him and his good name I knocked up a batch. It tasted akin to the material they line hamster cages with. I’ve sampled better food off the bathroom floor. One bowl was enough to put me off for the rest of my life.

Sometimes good things come out of bad things though. In life he could bring no joy but shortly afterwards we became great friends. He sat on my desk, smiling away without a care in the world, ready to lift my spirits whenever times were hardest. If there was a joke to be made he was the first to make it. It seemed appropriate to place a ‘Parental Advisory Explicit Content’ sticker on his face given how risque and daring he could be at times. When I changed jobs I brought him home to carry on the good vibes, besides not everyone appreciated his particular brand of humour. It made sense to put his feet up and enjoy life a little.

When I first gave him the idea of a ‘Newsboost’ Twitter feed he scoffed and threw apples at my flat cap, however eventually he came around to my way of thinking. It was at his instance, and his enthusiasm, that I gave him the ‘entertainment’ side wherein he flourished in a manner I would not have imagined four years ago.

So here we are, in 2014, still knocking around like a couple of twenty year olds. I wish him all the best on this day of days and trust that you will all raise a glass in his honour.

Ladies and Gentlemen, to the memory of Mr R. Brek who gave more in death than he ever did in life.