"No, sorry sir, they're not in yet"
Dorset Boy #2 looks disappointed.
He's just received the same answer from the third Oxford Street tourist-tat shopkeeper in a row.
"But I do have this" the shopkeeper appeases, as he hands DB#2 a fridge-magnet instead.
DB#2 brightens up.
He pays his £2, but leaves the store still slightly disappointed not to have been able to buy what he came in here for. And the other two tourist-tat stores.
The Viz cut-out-and-keep 'conversion kits' just won't suffice.
It's only days until the Charles & Camilla mugs are in stock, folks.
"She's your type"
"Her - right there", I point.
"Well spotted" he replies, "let's go over there and sit with them."
It was an unusual display of bravado from the normally more reserved Bookseller but, at the end of a long evening - in fact, perhaps because
it had been a long evening - with that comment he makes headway through the crowd for the seats besides the girls I'd spotted at the corner of the bar.
By the time we reach the corner, it becomes apparent that His Type has departed to relieve herself. Nonetheless, His Type's Mate immediately introduces herself and starts making conversation with both of us. His Type returns to make conversation with Bookseller, leaving me with her mate. Trouble was, His Type's Mate is most definitely Not My Type. With her over-zealous enthusiasm for tequila, shrieky-shouty voice and Keith Flint-style starey eyes, she is not my type at all
"Come On!" she orders, "Let's DANNCCCEEEE!!". She shakes her head like a demented child, which makes me writhe with discomfort. Bookseller is engrossed in deep conversation.
"No thanks" I reply, "I'm quite happy just sitting here. Sipping my pint."
Not My Type quickly shrugs off my rejection as she dives into the crowd, leaving me to sip my pint as requested. Bookseller is intertwined in unbridled passion.
Only minutes later, Not My Type returns with her catch of the day: a man old enough to be her father, if not her father's father. Immediately, she lunges. Not so much a snog, as a smothering
of the poor old man. Caught rabbit-in-headlights, he finds Not My Type straddling him whilst tugging his head left and right, 70s wrestling style. On the odd occasion I can make out his face beneath the almighty struggle, I can just make out the whites of his eyes dart around the room, their panic-stricken look accentuating his lack of opportunity to gather air. Not My Type's victim is under attack. Bookseller is in love.
I sip my pint, thanking someone upstairs for my lucky escape.
1 Year Old Today
And so it is...
And very nearly unrecognised by myself until kindly alerted to me in my last comments box, this blog is one year old today.
This makes me pleased and proud.
Because whilst I didn't really know why I was starting it, it's become a nice little hobby. No more, no less... gladly not the time-consuming obsession it became in its first few months. But it gave me great pleasure reading others' blogs, added to which I've got a lot out of writing my own. And not to mention made some great real-life, non-virtual friends out of it.
I'm sorry work's currently not allowing me to devote more time to it, as I enjoy the mentally challenging ritual of regular posting. So will be using this long weekend to put finger to button a bit more.
I sincerely hope I'll still be sticking to it this time next year.
The queue slowly shuffles forward as we approach the airport security gate.
Times have certainly changed when it's become necessary to pass through at least three high security checkpoints, in addition to a couple of passport checks.
It's a sad sign of the times but one that is increasingly accepted to provide reassurance: a necessary inconvenience - no more, no less.
The queue shuffles forward some more. I sigh a weary sigh.
Then notice this German airport rise to this challenge by employing The Most Gorgeous Security Officer In The World to undertake the oft-regarded undignified duty of frisking those who 'bleep' through the gate with her hi-tech electro-magnetic table tennis bat-like device.
Unsurprisingly, this queue is much longer than the other one. It shuffles forward some more. But now, I am quite excited.
I empty my pockets, resisting the temptation to leave a couple of rogue coins. I pray to the security Gods that my belt is of sufficient metallic content to cause the gate to bleep.
The queue shuffles forward some more. It is my turn. Gorgeous awaits longingly with her cute bat.
I am beckoned to walk through the gate. BLEEP! I am called aside, and frisked energetically.
But it is not Gorgeous at all. Alas, she has been ordered to swap roles with the box-loader-upperer person.
Instead, those pesky Germans have tricked me into being frisked by a large bald man.
Pionta Guinness, le do thoil.
My Guinness tastes surprisingly good as I stand watching the Blarney-blessed guitarist sing. Barstaff serve up Oysters and various suspiciously green-tinted drink at increasingly regular intervals. Everyone's in good spirits as the packed crowd sway around me. I can almost feel the cobbled streets of Temple Bar beneath my feet and taste the sea-air of the Liffey as I take in the craic that permeates the room.
Until I have to locate the toilet, and the illusion becomes shattered.
Because to reach the toilet I have to leave the bar, walk down the gauche shopping mall, and turn right just before the mock-Venetian balcony adorned restaurant.
Relieved, I return to the bar.
"ALEEZ!" the inebriated crowd chant in uncomfortably precise unison, "HOOO DE VUCK EEZ ALEEZ?"
I've had more surreal evenings than St Patrick's Night in a mock Irish bar in a mock American hotel in an entertainment complex in industrial Germany.
Just not many.
Work going crazy again
Back in a few days.
(In latest news, boss described himself as a "very lucky man" to have his wife. Before giving me a frosty glaze.)
I meet my new boss for the first time on his return from month-long honeymoon.
Before long, I get proceedings off to an excellent start by accidentally confusing his name with that off our notoriously difficult client. This client being, I'm reliably told, perhaps the most evil man in the world.
Eager to impress, I arrange a 'catch up' meeting.
As we sit down, an attractive blonde smiles over at us. I find the warmth and friendliness she exudes slightly uncomfortable from someone I've never met before. Nonetheless feeling rude not to reciprocate this possible flirtation I am distracted throughout the meeting as my eyes wander periodically to where she is sitting.
The meeting goes well, and I return to my desk. A colleague takes me through some pictures of my boss's wedding. Realising the bride looks curiously familiar, I remember my boss mentioning she works in the same building.
Complete horror descends upon me.
I've inadvertently insulted my boss then flirted with his recently-married wife right in front of him.
Down and out
Well.... it wasn't any better, so out we go.
Next year. Maybe. NEXT YEAR.
This simply won't do.
I'm sorry. But it simply won't.
Two weeks on, and I'm still banging on about a three-day trip.
So, to milk no longer, a succinct close:
Munich's Bierkellers were quite the splendid place to spend a day. Half-cut by lunchtime, the atmosphere was distinctly lively by mid-afternoon. Bayern-Munchen fans following a lone trumpet-player through the increasingly boisterous crowd only added to proceedings. I got chatted up by an old German lady, which was nice. Protestations that "we've only had four" rang hollow as we remembered each Stein equals a couple of pints. All the more wonder then as barmaids carried nine of the buggers with complete ease. Which might explain why there seemed none between waif-like twentysomethings and the Popeye-armed fortysomethings.
The football match, of course, was utterly diabolical.
May tomorrow night's return leg be better.
I didn't meet anyone who could unlock my 90,000 chance opportunities. Yet.
THE END - Catching up on my backlog of what's happened back on these shores next.
The Mad Professor
Sometimes words can give only scant justice to an experience:
We're still in Munich. It's still the same Monday night.
(Sorry. I've been rather busy. So my blog has developed a bit of a backlog. Like 'Neighbours' in the 1980s, when UK broadcasts were 18 months behind Australia's. We knew from the press that Scott and Charlene were to marry, but were still watching the episodes where Mrs Mangel was causing her evil mayhem, before she developed her kind side. Angry Anderson was still over a year away. Absolutely fucking frustrating. I do empathise.)
To recap, we've flown with celebrities whilst I read a dodgy book
, and sampled the wrong curry
Leaving the Indian restaurant, our attention is immediately caught by the flashing neon sign opposite:
This is good, we think. Not just a pub, but a pub with a disco
. The name, we agree, is genius. Monday night in Munich is already looking promising.
We make our way through the entrance and down the stairs to the sounds of Nena's '99 Red Balloons'.
The club is garishly decorated, with various knickknacks adorning the walls and bizarre paper-mache style sculptures hanging from the ceiling. We settle into sumptuously-cushioned seats as shards of ultra-violet light permeate the room.
There is nobody else in the club, except the barman, a strange old man, and the DJ.
The DJ changes the record to Scorpion.
Already uncomfortable we realise the establishment has over-promised and under-delivered. Regardless, we're on holiday (of a sort) so enjoy our beer and engage in banter.
The DJ plays an assortment including Europe, Human League and Toto. It's as if the last twenty years never happened.
Several songs in, the strange old man comes over to join us. He witters some indeterminable German, and sits down next to us. With wild grey hair, eccentric clothing, and crazy starey eyes, he conveys the image of the quintessential Mad Professor. Undaunted by our protests of "sprechen nicht Deutsch" he continues his one-way conversation from which we can only make the odd word (like "Dresden", for example. Seriously).
Through all this, the barman and DJ are exchanging knowing looks, erupting in the occasional laugh. It seems unlikely he is our key to unlocking 90,000 lucky possibilities.
After a few minutes of this 'rabbit in headlights' lecture, the Mad Professor decides he can
speak some English, and starts asking personal questions about each of us. Volvo and M are naturally loath to reveal too many details about their families. Mad meanwhile jumps to a conclusion as I am childless: "Pansy!" he laughs, pointing. Before making overt suggestions at how Volvo and M's son and daughter - both under two years old - could have a happy future together.
Shellshocked by the whole experience, I make out Mad's words: "Eeey have zummfink fur ur dooorta" he announces to M.
M stared ahead timidly, motionless but for the shaking of his right foot I could detect underneath the table.
Mad reaches for his bag. From within he starts unpacking possessions. I cringe as he passes me some clingfilm-wrapped bread. I place it gingerly on the table.
"Aha!" he exclaims (ironically, as the DJ had started playing them), "Heer it izzz!"
Clasped within his hand he pulls a bundle of tacky necklaces.
The barman and DJ laugh some more.
We writhe uncomfortably some more. We're being sold to, we think.
"My frendzzz" he continues, "theyzz makin theezzz"
"Very nice" we lie.
We stare on in wonder as he fumbles one of the necklaces. Fumble, fumble. What the fuck is he doing? Then we realise, as the necklace springs to life. Its rubbish central design flashing continually, just as the 'DISCO-PUB' sign that had first attracted us did.
"Heer" he proffers, handing it to M, "theezzz for your dooorta"
M accepts, for fear that declining would make the already terrible situation even worse.
In any normal establishment, this well-meaning but barking mad and therefore somewhat intimidating character would be escorted outside. But here, his conduct is positively encouraged by the barman and DJ. It was no wonder the club is otherwise empty.
If they had intended to make us uncomfortable, they had passed with flying colours. Intermittent laughter continues between them. Then, just in case we needed another incentive to leave, the DJ starts playing Westlife's 'Mandy'.
It's all too much. We shake hands with Mad ("Pansy!" he shouts at me once more) and rush out to find somewhere sane.
I say jalfrezi...
"Chicken jalfrezi, please"
"Chicken jalfrezi, please"
"Chicken jalfrezi, please"
"Hot?" asks our waiter.
"Yes please", we answer in unison.Später Montagabend, München.
We all order the same dish, off a set menu, but in our individually distinctive voices.
We wait as the snow softly cascades down onto the cobbled Bavarian streets outside. Ice-packed pavements are silent but for the squeaky shuffles of the occasional Gunners fan.
Despite our cultured surroundings, we'd found ourselves unable to resist the Indian Restaurant opposite our bierhaus
. The restaurant's emptiness, and need to turn the toilet lights on, indicated a complete lack of custom.
Our hunger builds as we lick our lips, eager at the anticipation of dipping into our spicy, tomato-based dishes. Half-hour passes, and our waiter returns with our curries, but we find a very mild, coconut-based sauce. Not bad - not bad at all, in fact… just not what we'd ordered
. Realising "hot" meant "heated", our anticipation soon turns to anti-climax.
"Is this jalfrezi?" Volvo asks our waiter, politely.
"No - jalfrani" answers our waiter, "Is there a problem?"
"No!" we reply, again in unison, "No - not at all", tucking into our meals, before eying each other suspiciously as soon as his back is turned.
Considering ourselves certain connoisseurs
of the Indian culinary world, we're sceptical hearing of a new dish for the very first time. But not wanting to cause a scene, we finish our meals graciously as we whisper conspiracy theories and possible explanations, before paying our waiter handsomely anyway.
Back in the UK, my curiosity unsatisfied, I decide to educate myself.
I type 'chicken jalfrani' into Google:
Google returns just one result! (Technically not a Googlewhack owing to 'jalfrani' not appearing in dictionary.com.)
But Google being Google, it feels compelled to respond to my question with a question in the big sarcastic, underlined way only Google knows how:
"Did you mean: chicken jalfrezi
" it asks, patronisingly.
Yes. Yes, I did. I fucking well did