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FOR WHOM BIG BEN TOLLS...

Sent 14 January 2002

All right!

This is an e-mail that I started writing when in London that, as usual with everything in my life, I didn't finish and since then heaps of stuff has just gone and happened. So I've left the e-mail as is and tacked on some stuff at the end, so as not to worry about which tense the writing is in, grammar, spelling, truth or the government. Giddyup!

LONDON, 2 JANUARY 2002.

Friends, Romans, countrymen. Lend me some cold hard cash (but none of that useless Australian garbitrage).

Although I made the comment a while ago that these e-mails o'mine are not very frequent, it looks like I'm sending them at the start of every month, much like an un-asked for (and late) report on ... stuff. That's not true.

Well, the adventures just keep on injuring, don't they? Last I wrote, we'd just left Scotland and had just arrived in the land of the leprechaun - Switzerland. I mean, Ireland.

So anyway, there was an Australian, a Slovenian and an Irishman in a bar. The Australian says: "I don't know where your money is, you baloney..." and the Irishman shot him with armour-piercing rounds and he and the Slovenian lived happily ever after. And such and such.

Ireland is sensational. Or, as advertisements over here tend to say, "Ireland - probably the best country in the world". Seriously, no-one will admit to being the best of anything over here - all of the ads include the proviso "probably". Seriously! Either they're all very polite or just not very good and certain of being defeated in a test case. Dead set! Can you imagine Mohammed Ali saying "I am PROBABLY the greatest!" or me saying "These e-mails are probably self-indulgent"? I can't, because I said so, that's why.

Saw something very funny in Dublin I just gotta tell ya's. Late one night returning to Dave and Ronni's from a night of drunken debauchery (involving a fair amount of carousing and wassailing) we walked past a car that was very dirty, some would say abnormally so. Normally, budding comedians will write "Clean me" and similar requests on such cars. The Irish equivalent, however, was "I wish my bird was this filthy!"

Ahhhhh, the Irish (dries his eyes).

While in Ireland, I must admit we were pretty slack in terms of getting out and about and seeing stuff. o( (that's meant to be an unhappy cyclops, by the way - I'm starting my own Cyclopticons. Feel free to use them). This had something to do with the number of pints consumed each preceding evening but, nonetheless, I must confess that I felt more could have been done. I have decided that the only suitable punishment is to return to Ireland and kill myself with Guinness. Wish me luck. I ) (That's a cyclops winking)

We did get to check out some of the ancient monastic settlements and celtic ruins etc to the north of Ireland and the beeeew-diful Wicklow Mountains to the south which was nice. Also did a walk in the Wicklow mountains with Ronni's, may I say, extraordinarily cool and not-at-all nerdy bushwalking group, which was cold (and nice). We saw Wales from the mountains, which is not very amazing if you are in Wales, but fairly cool if you're in Ireland.

At the Dublin Museum we learnt about how the Vikings started the town of Dublin (yes, really - or probably) after tiring of attacking, raiding, raping, slaughtering and massacring the local populations (as recorded in the TISM song - "Death, Death, Death") and deciding to let bygones be bygones and settle down amongst them (that takes big cajones, don't you think?) Also learnt about the many, many, many Irish uprisings that have been made against English rule since Edward the first (or second or someone else - I obviously didn't learn very well...) tried to take over the Emerald Isle and the one - count 'em - ONE!! that was successful back in 1919 that led to the creation of the Republic of Ireland and the enforced separation of north of south (as seen in the movie "Michael Collins" - out now on video). It really was sad to see how many times the Irish tried to cast off the yoke of English oppression after being beaten down so often and, generally, so brutally. Their celtic brothers across the water (in Scotland, obviously, and not Wales) did much better in taking on the English, though not without their fair share of sorrow.

What the hell am I doing here? This isn't funny at all. 0

Get some perspective, Jonesy, these people don't wanna hear about the trials and tribulations of a proud and ancient race - they want to hear about how many times you fell on your extremely tender ARSE while pretending that you could snowboard in Andorra. I'll get to that.

OK. Well, speaking of celtic brothers, we got to go to a Celtic Cup rugby game in Dublin, between Munster and Ulster. Munster won, which was strange because I was barracking for them. If anyone's interested, Wales put 9 teams into the cup (Ireland, by comparison, had four) and none of them got into the finals. Poor Wales.

We also visited, of course, the Guinness Brewery (again - it just gets better and better) and the Book of Kells (I said "hi" from all of you).

Then hooked up with good mates Hilda and James, local Dublin-ites, and Marie Smyth, now a Galway resident, for some difficult-to-remember and wallet-draining but certainly very Irish craic. Also visited Marie in Galway very briefly, though an untimely hang-over prevented us going to the Aran Islands as planned. Maybe I'll get there on my (possibly annual) punishment trip.

After 2 weeks, we had to bid a sad and teary farewell to Ireland and return to Scotland. Thanks again, Dave and Ron (and Marie), for the use of your house(s), and sorry for all that stuff I did (whatever it was). Scotland really, really rocks. Edinburgh (and Glasgow) are nice, but it was the Highlands that really captured my fancy. I don't think you will ever hear any person say that sentence again, by the way.

As we were short of time, we did a 3-day MacBackpackers trip around Scotland to give us a taste - and what a taste it was! It was like there was a party in my mouth ... and everyone was invited! Our guide - the dinky-di highlander Graeme - was a champion and responsible for most of the tastes we had. "Hi boys!"

Stop that.

We headed north from Edinburgh, through Fyfe (apparently Fyfers are the Scots that give the rest of Scots a bad name, tightarse-wise - be prepared for many Scots making jokes at their expense. Having said that, we did meet one guy from Fyfe who seemed very nice. Dirty Fyfer...), past Perth and into the highlands proper via a whisky distillery (cue saliva drooling from mouth).

We drove past many sites of battles between the Scots and the English, including Culloden Battlefield which is, well, PROBABLY, the most famous and where, I'm sorry to say Jacqui and Frase, I saw where the Cameron clan took it on the chin for Bonnie Prince Charlie, before arriving at Loch Ness. I thought I saw something out on the water, but it was just a bright yellow bouy about 5 metres from shore. Another time I yelled, grabbing the guy next to me and pointing out, but it was just the mountains on the other side of the loch. Apart from that, Loch Ness was fairly uneventful. After telling the Malaysian guy up the back to keep his hands where he could see them, to prevent him "fiddling like a monkey back there", Graeme assured us of a good Ceilidh in Inverness that night. For your information, and especially for Jacinta's, "Ceilidh" is pronounced "Keely" and means "party". Cin - my advice would be not to let your daughter go to Scotland without a large chaperone.

Next day - further north, past the Black Isle - so named by some obviously drunken highlanders as "it's connected to the mainland by quite a long piece of land" - around past the Isle of Skye, past more spectacular Highland scenery to Fort William, named rather antagonistically after William of Orange who defeated the Scottish (and English) King James VII/II in Ireland.

While on the topic of antagonising the Scots, Graeme told us that no Scottish person will sing their official national anthem - God save the Queen - as the fourth verse of that rousing song goes along the lines of "...And we will march north and crush those murdering Scots" or something like that. Personally, I don't blame them for not singing a song about crushing their murdering selves.

On our last day we traveled through Glen Coe, where the Campbells traitorously turned on their fellow Scots, resulting in a long-standing hatred of the Campbells (the local pub has a sign saying "No entrance to children or Campbells") by most highlanders (and now me - no more Campbells soup - Fight the Power!), saw some Hairy Coos (pronounced Hae-ree Coos) which are, well, Hairy Cows, visited the castle of Eilean Donan (I think that's the write spelling (haha)) which featured in the movie "Highlander" (out now on video), Doune Castle which featured in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (out now on video), the town of Stirling and the Wallace monument erected in honour of William Wallace (as semi-inaccurately portrayed in the movie "Braveheart", out now on video) and past many other spectacular sights until we arrived back in Edinburgh.

We then hit the pub, some stuff happened, got up the next day, threw up, made it to our bus back to London with 5 minutes to spare, threw up twice more (there was a toilet on the bus, thank Christ) arrived in London around 8pm, caught a train around Lisa's place, had some pizza and waited for the taxi to pick us up at 3am to take us to the airport. Then ... it was on to Andorra. Since Andorra is a tiny little country on the border with Spain and France, I got to practice my Spanish again with cute Andorran girls working in Burger King. To those of you who may have something to say about this friendly, inter-cultural practice, I'M the victim in all of this, don't forget that. Christmas in Andorra was great - not very Christmas-y, but very snowboarding-y, which is much more important at Christmas time. Seriously, it just, like, fully ROCKED, man! Many, many bruises and injuries were suffered; however, it was all in the interest of going faster and faster, so that's all good. And all of the major injuries were suffered by other people, you'll be pleased to know.

We lost our first casualty - Megan - on the first afternoon of snowboarding - the Monday - to a broken wrist. Not as bad as the girl that we heard was out of action in the first hour on the first day, but close.

By the end of that day, we'd lost approximately 50% of our number to some kind of injurious pain - the broken wrist, Dave had hurt his knee and ankle, Lisa had mild concussion from a friendly bump on the head, Dan had hurt his wrist, too, and Rachel had done her hammy or her pancreas or something (she's English so she of course doesn't know what a "hammy" is). The only permanent injury was the broken wrist, though, so, although everyone was sore from not being able to ride a snowboard properly, all the rest of us were out again the next day.

Everything looked good by the end of Tuesday (except for the fact that we were all living in our own personal hell-o-general-pain - sore knees, wrists, elbows, muscles, in some cases, heads and, of course, sore ARSES!!!!) as none of us had suffered permanent injury except to our egos and brain cells. Christmas dinner was just the ten of us at a local hotel's buffet restaurant - inappropriately named the Himalaia. Including wine it only cost us about 12 or 13 quid each, which ensured that our hip-pocket nerves were the only things not spasming at the end of the evening. We then retired to our apartment to lick our wounds and prepare for another brusing the following day. Ouchi-wawa!!

Everything was looking good until Wednesday, that is, when Tori toried (what wit!) her crusciate ligament or something in her knee and was down for the count. The following day, it was Natasha's turn to visit the medical centre to get her knee strapped up.

By the end of the week, out of the original ten, only four of us were still snowboarding - 3 had gone down to injury and another 3 had swapped in their snowboards for the seemingly pain-free (and, it must be said, cajones-free) ski option.

With odds like these, you'd think that snowboarding was a giantly dangerous activity. To put it in perspective, though, our snowboard instructor told us that, in the previous 5 or 6 seasons of instructing, she'd had a total of 4 people getting injured. The ten of us had managed to nearly double that in one week. That takes effort and not a little style.

And I'm the victim.

We then returned to London in time for New Year's. For New Year's Eve we decided to buck the trend and stay in London, rather than go to Hogmanay with all of the other Australians and ... have a lot of fun ...

Since we stayed in London, though, there was nothing for it but to visit out big friend Ben and hear him ring in the New Year. There were thousands of people crowding Westminster bridge under the big guy and, as the big hand got nearer and nearer to the little hand, great drunken roars went up in anticipation of the big countdown. We all watched, waiting for the 12 chimes to bring in the new year. And we waited. After the big hand had quite clearly moved on to somewhere around the 12:01 mark, we all realised that we hadn't been able to hear the chimes thanks to the aforementioned great drunken roars and that we were now well and truly in 2002, 2001 a distant memory. The champagne corks went flying posthumously and no-one cared.

So now we're back in London and the quest for jobs and roofs (under which to sleep) begins. o{

May be able to work in Scotland, though.o}

Hope all of your Christmas and New Year's festivities were most-excellent, Bill-and-Ted-style. Thanks to everyone who has e-mailed, the contact is much appreciated.

May 2002 be good to you all and not bend you over and make you it's little bitch.

'Til next time

love the rilestar

PS The 'dries his eyes' comment appears courtesy of Rob Blatt and the Infinite Monkeys.

KENDAL, 14 JANUARY 2002

Yes, it's taken nearly two weeks to get near an internet-enabled computer, because we are out in the middle of NOWHERE! Well, in the middle of Cumbria, anyway, which sometimes feels like the middle of NOWHERE!!

On the night of the 2nd, we called the proprietor of the Red Lion Inn to see whether the job he'd advertised had been filled. On hearing our Australian accents, he immediately asked if we could be up in Ambleside in the Lakes District by the weekend! We said: "OK". This tiring episode of job-hunting obviously left us feeling physically and emotionally drained. But we headed up there, he picked us up and now we are working and living in the Red Lion Inn in Hawkshead (population 100), in the beautiful Lakes District in Cumbria. Where there are no internet facilities.

We did, however, buy a mobile phone before we left London. It's a BT pay-as-you-go phone. Hawkshead has coverage for Vodaphone and Orange mobiles, so sadly it is of little use. If you want to send text messages, though, please do so, and we'll walk up the hill behind the village every day or two to check our messages. And I'll send the phone number next e-mail...

But it's a great area for walking and cycling and talking English etc. Just the uvver day, me and me bird was walking through dis field when we saw dis old geezer comin' towards us real suspicious-like. So I says to 'im:

"'Ere, you old geezer! What's up wiv you?"

And he looks me up and down and he says "Nuffin' for you t' worry 'bout, Guv'nor! I'm right sorted, me."

An' 'e just walked straight past, without so much as a by-your-leave! Seriously!

OK, nothing much else to report, so I'd better send this on. I was waiting to send some pictures, too, but because I'm a right technological git, I can't, so I'll do it next time.

Awright?

Thanks again to everyone who's sent mail. Jo - keep up the carnage, Dad - thanks for the news, Dave-o - I'll write proper soon, Steve T - you owe me 10, Dan - bad bad news - get out of London while you still can!!, Adne - sorry about those bad thoughts, Mum - G'N'F'N'R, Marie - you are the Surfing Queen and Josh - I'll look into Alan Parttridge still A-HAAAA!!!

love ya's!

rilestar

PS We also got robbed in Shepherd's Bush - I'll let Dan Watkins explain:

"And then wednesday night... This story starts at about 7am...Lying in bed after a late night and a few drinks my bedroom door swings open, the light comes on and someone starts yelling. Open my eyes there's a guy in the doorway yelling and swearing "F@#ken get up! What the f@#k are you doing?..." I didn't actually know it was possible to construct an entire conversation predominately using the f word... This guy is a complete stranger, never seen him before in my life. The gist of the swearing is that our front door is wide open, there's a pair of jeans and the contents of someone's wallet strewn all over the front porch (minus the cash of course) and that I'm an idiot for leaving my front door open in this neighbourhood. Now bearing in mind I've had about three hours sleep and quite a few drinks before bed you'll have an idea what sort of state I was in.

I followed the guy downstairs (my room is on the top floor and the furthest from the front door), half in a daze noticing that the place looks trashed. Get down to the front door, find out that the guy apparently came past at 4 and saw the door open, walked back now and saw the door open and stuff all over the front porch, came in to see if everyone was ok. He left, I picked up the stuff off the porch and went to wake people up. Fortunately they were only after cash, not much of a plus for Tasha who lost her wallet, but a lot better than it could have been. Report it to the cops. Try and make sense of it all. Half the cops think the guy in my room was a nutter but a good samaritan, the other half think he was the thief using the fact that I was half asleep to talk his way out of the house. Honestly? I don't know, he could have legged it the second he saw me and I wouldn't have had a hope of catching him. They searched every room in the house, got to Graham's room took the jeans and wallet from beside his bed, and as near as we can tell they bolted because he rolled over in his sleep.

no worries.

Monday morning my friend drops in to see if everything is ok, Jo answers the door. Refuses to let him in, chats for a while he leaves.

Last night I get a call from Jo... we've been robbed again. They had keys (one of the spare sets is missing...). Nice guys, locked up after themselves so that no-one else could rob us. This time they wanted more. Jo's stereo and...well I never would have guessed it...my backpack! They came into my room, emptied all of my stuff out of the pack, put Jo's stereo in it and walked out!

There may be some other stuff gone, but nothing obvious. We're off to see the cops and see if the guy we've seen is in the witness books. And of course the locks have all been changed. Theory stands now that he was the thief, if Jo hadn't answered the door on Monday he would have robbed us then. Who knows.

Oh, and helpful tip for anyone coming over here in the near future... most travel insurance policies don't allow you to extend the duration from overseas, and if you get travel insurance in London... well it doesn't cover you in London because it's considered your home base. So make sure you have enough travel insurance for the trip, unfortunately I learnt the hard way.

*grumble*

On the plus side, the worst happenings often make the best stories and I figure these things come in threes so I'm fine for a while ;-)"

Who woulda thunk it?!?!

Next exciting instalment...