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MONTHLY UPDATE/SNOREFEST (the stream of consciousness edition)

Sent 15 February 2002 from Ambleside

Hi, everybody! (“Hi, Dr Nick!”)

Take a look at this juice extractor: Now only twenty-nine NINETY five! Prepare to be confused...


Still in Hawkshead and there isn’t too much to report from this sleepy little hamlet. Been here for a little over a month. The one exciting thing that did happen was we left and went to Glasgow when we had two days off. That’s how exciting Hawkshead can really be!!

Glasgow was great – we went to check out the Celtic Connections Music Festival – one of the biggest celtic music festivals in the world. Saw heaps of cool bands – three Scottish ones on the first night (including the very popular “Tartan Amoebas” - lead singer looked like the guy who plays the saxophone in that band in "The Lost Boys" know the one? Yeah....) and then the next night we saw an open stage kind of thing (some of the performers were even good; stand-out moment: “Aye Waulkin’ O” – a Rabbie Burns number done on harp and violin) followed by an Irish band and then a band from Cape Breton in Canada. We also drank a lot of cheap and not-so-cheap booze. Just like in that song “Maggotted in Glasgow” by Strangelove that I’m gonna write. One of the more surreal moments occurred when Tasha and I were in this cool little bar and The Simpsons came on the large screen TV’s they had there – everyone in the bar was watching and absolutely pissed themselves whenever Groundskeeper Willie said ANYTHING. They all looked at each other as if to say: “YOU talk like that!” and then burst out laughing. It was bizarre (and hilarious).

Glasgow kinda reminds me of Melbourne – not as scenic, perhaps, as your Sydneys and your Gold Coasts, but with a really cool vibe and funky little bars and restaurants everywhere. And, just like Melbourne, they all speak with a Scottish accent and wear kilts and are Mel Gibson.

The only thing that differed from Melbourne was the weather. The weather was TERRIBLE!! Actually, that’s just like Melbourne has been this summer, hasn’t it? Gloating shall

The weather was REALLY bad, though. On the second day we were there, I couldn’t open the door to our hostel, so I naturally thought it was locked, as I’m really buff and my muscles are really huge and I can open doors really easily. Imagine my horror when I found out the door wasn’t locked – I couldn’t open the door because of the wind outside!! Mercy!!

Anyway, once outside, the wind buffeted us around a fair bit and nearly blew us into the traffic at times. It was really funny.

The next day, no joke, the front-page headline was “Seven die in freak winds”. The wind had got up to 140 mph in some parts of Scotland, and it had overturned a few lorries and brought trees down on cars. A number of pensioners were in hospital after being blown around and into stuff. It was terribly, terribly, terribly funny. That is, terrible.

And funny. And then we came back to Hawkshead, where nothing resumed to happen.

While I have little to say about Hawkshead, I have noticed something about the English. English food generally cops a grilling (please, no pun intended, really, really) from most comedians or, indeed, humans that visit here. “Take my wife – please: take her!!”

Pun not intended.

Anyway, I’ve never really found it that bad, mainly because I’ve mostly eaten in pubs and I quite like pub food. And the sweet, sweet liquid refreshments that accompany such food. (Drool, spittle, drool, ten-hour drink break, “Oh yeah, that’s the stuff”, drool).

Anyway, I must admit that I haven’t seen deep-fried Mars bars or pizzas yet (and I must also admit that the fact that I’ve voluntarily eaten haggis may put my conclusions in doubt) but the food has generally seemed OK.

However and anyway, the English people do seem to have some problem with eating healthy food. A lot of the meals that we serve at the pub come with salad. And most of them come back with salad. “Please: take my salad!!” They seem to have a problem with eating anything that isn’t yellow or brown or some shade in between. Also, most meals come with chips but there are some meals, such as the chilli con carne and thai curries, that come with rice. All this means is that the English people then have to ask for chips instead of rice. LIKE YOU DON’T GET ENOUGH CHIPS ALREADY, YOU LIMEY GITS!!!

(I realise that “Limey” is more of an American slang word for the English, but I just preferred to use it to “Pommy” just then. I don’t know why: it’s a mystery.)

It is also nigh on impossible to obtain freshly squeezed orange juice. I was caught out the first time someone asked for “fresh orange juice” in the pub. Seeing my confusion, the guy pointed behind me to the little Schweppes bottle of dry-freezed, “5% real-juice”, cordial drink with a use-by date stated as its radioactive half-life and repeated: “The FRESH orange juice!” Ah, yes, silly me. I thought you wanted JUICE from an ORANGE. My mistake.

And what’s all this crap I keep hearing about tolerance?!?!

Anyway, as you can gather from my 8-paragraph tirade about meals that we serve in the pub and other exciting news, not much has been going on here. However, we have made a number of plans that I’d love to inform you about.

Firstly, I was scheduled to start back at Rigby Cooke on Monday 25th February this year. When we realised that going home this soon would mean that we would miss out on heaps of things we wanted to see and do, the thinking music didn’t play for very long before we decided not to go home just yet. I e-mailed work, to let them know that I wouldn’t be able to make it, and I received an e-mail back saying “We have accepted your resignation.” Yikes!!! So anyhoo, we’re here to stay for a while.

That is, until we leave on the 10th of March. We head down to London for a couple of days and then fly to Dublin to participate headfirst, like a semi-nude man jumping into a garbage bin full of green jelly and needing to be dragged out by his feet as he nearly drowns, in the St Paddy’s Day celebrations on the 17th, Dave O’Brien’s birthday celebrations the following day, his mate’s birthday celebrations 2 days later, and then my birthday celebrations 6 days after that. Guinness is the objective. We will cavort and wassail around Ireland for as long and as hard as our hangovers will allow and then fly to London on the 28th and then to Athens on the 29th. More cavorting and wassailing will ensue (and not a little carousing) until we get to Istanbul on or around the 15th of April. We’re then doing a trip around Turkey that will finish up in Gallipoli on Anzac Day.

From there: who knows? (I do). But, really, it’s a mystery.

This was all really just a subtle way of telling 26 MARCH you when my birthday is so that 26 MARCH I can expect many cards, gifts and offers of marriage (which I will cruelly turn down).But that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think about me?

Back to Hawkshead, where I am, it actually isn’t that bad. It’s actually nice to have very little going on. It lets me practice on my guitar (my Spanish guitar what I bought in Spain...What? Didn’t I tell you?), watch movies, read books (including my copy of “Don Quixote” what I bought in Spain – “Excuse me?!?!”), play poker, drink beer, learn Greek and go for walks and rides.

Did I say “rides”?

Hmmm… There is one story I can tell you. It’s another one of those “Travel-disasters-that-are-nothing-like-real-disasters” stories that I seem to have millions of. It’s long, though (unlike all my other stories), so I’ve put it at the bottom so those of you who don’t want to read it can print it out and draw moustaches and devil horns on it.

There are two other cool things about Hawkshead.

One: it really is set in a stunning area – the town is actually in, and part of, a national park.

The other is: Mad Pony. Mad pony has become our favourite character in the soap opera that is Hawkshead. Tasha and I discovered him once when we were walking across a paddock on a public footpath. Just after closing the gate behind us and starting off, we saw a blur of white coming towards us from the top of a hill about 500 metres away. Wondering what it was, we stopped to watch. It looked kind of like a horse, but was small, covered in hair and, rather than galloping, seemed to charging. I thought it might be a huge boar, not knowing if they have them still in England or not, but knowing that can grow pretty big in Manga films. As it got closer, and showed no sign of slowing down, we concluded it was some kind of boar-horse – a “Borse” – and that we were in for some gouging. We turned and ran back to the gate. Tasha scrambled over it (“If you picked that Natasha would jump over the gate – YOU ARE A WINNER!!!” – Banzai (don’t worry about it unless you’re in England)), but I turned and stood my ground, determined to Crocodile Dundee the Borse into submission. Just before it got to me, it, seriously, skidded to a stop, and then, I swear, winked at me. It then jumped up and down on the spot and then took off again, running around in circles for a bit before coming back to us.

He was, like, totally on speed or something. He had really long hair, but was really dirty, so he looked like he had dreadlocks. He followed us across the paddock in stops and starts, charging away and then charging back again at times, before we said goodbye to him, promising to return. He waved his hoof and then did a backward somersault.

The next night, two old people staying in the hotel started telling us a story in the restaurant.

“We’ve just a...mad pony...” the old man said, visibly shaken. We burst out laughing, nearly drowning out the old woman’s tale of how she was kicked and tried to beat the pony back with a stick. Mad Pony. What a character!!! That’s not the last we’ll hear of him!

Finally, messages to those of you that have sent e-mails. Sorry I haven’t replied personally. It’s just too gosh-damned hard out here in Hicksville. Soon, my pretties...

Rob B: Looks like we won’t make it to the US this time round. Don’t get famous too soon, or else we won’t be able to afford to come and see you strut your stuff (check out Rob’s stuff-strutting at

Tim-bo G: Thanks for the Harry Pothead thing – true genius. Now, get back to work.

Jacqui C – thanks for the news. Still miss the Astor. Euro-shmeuro.

Will F – as you can see, the craic in Ireland was so good – we’re going back for more. Can’t get enough of that craic.

Jamie O – forgot about the Ozman. May try and catch up with him when we come back to the UK. And I’m going well, thanks for asking. How are you?

Joey Jo Jo – stop writing to me and get out there and drink those beers. You know you want it. Only write AFTER the drinking.

Colette – We’ll try and get to Bournemouth one of these days. And I think Josh said he’d contact you… Oh yeah, and good luck with trying to be an angel. How about Angel from Buffy? Oops, something just happened.

Josh – have you contacted Colette?

Colette - has Josh got on to you yet?

Steve S – Hi Steve. Good luck with the piece of girl and with the new/old dudes. Bye Steve.

Marg, Gab and Adne – thanks for keeping me up-to-date with the Rigby Cooke murmurs. Keep them murmuring updates coming!

Dad - love your work.

Gabby - Ummm. Happy Birthday!! And it sounds like you're having a ball - rock on!

Gareth - of course you're on my e-mail list. Even if I took everyone off, I'd still send them to you. Because you're worth it.

And to everyone else who’s sent e-mails: thanks for making the effort to contact us. It keeps us going. I know that sounds sarcastic, but underneath the (thick layer of) sarcasm, there’s some genuine feeling. (The genuine feeling covers up further sarcasm. This may take a while).

And now a treat, for those of you who have read all this way – check out this e-mail my good buddy Aaron sent me. You don’t have to be Australian to appreciate the subtle flavours of this comedy bite, but it brought a tear to my eye:

Love the rilestar and, of course, the tasha

The “Disaster” “Story”

Captain Francis – this one’s for you.

Very basically, on one of my afternoon breaks at about 3:30 I thought I might go for a little ride. The sun normally goes down around 5 o’clock these days, so I expected to have had about an hour-a-half of daylight. Plenty of time!! So I grabbed the bike and rode over Hawkshead Hill across to Coniston (around 4 miles, I think), where there was another lake I hadn’t seen. A real cu ... bad hill, but the views were worth it. From Coniston, looking at the (in retrospect, especially crappy) map I’d brought, I thought I could ride down the entire length of Coniston Water, take the first left and ride back to Hawkshead through Grizedale Forest in time to get back to work at 6:00. It all went according to plan until I reached the end of Coniston Water (which was GORGEOUS, darling) and took “the first left”. After riding for a bit through a number of towns that weren’t on the map and crossing a number of crossroads that indicated there were many more roads in this area than the ONE indicated on my map, I rather belatedly came to the conclusion that I was completely lost. I was helped to this conclusion when I suddenly came out of a deserted back lane on to a busy, truck-filled, two-lane highway that had a sign pointing in one direction to “Barrow” (very far to the south-west of where I was heading) and “Lancaster” (very far to the south-east). It was good, though, solely because it meant that if I turned the bike around and rode away from that road, I would be heading north and, therefore, it was hoped, towards Hawkshead.

By this time it was after 5 and it was starting to get quite dark. I rode through a little village called Bouth, where I managed to speak to a local about the best way to get to Hawkshead. He looked at me like I’d asked the best way to get to his Arse. “You’re riding there?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yeah...” I said simply (deciding not to take the obvious, though hilarious, route of : “No, I’m swimming there,” etc).

“Without lights?”

I smiled in reply.

I’m not positive, but I think he hurumphed, then said worryingly: “How fit are you?”

He then drew me a little map that, though two-dimensional, seemed to go up and down a lot of hills. He said that if I followed the signs to, and then made it to, Satterthwaite, I could then follow the road back to Hawkshead. I thanked him and set off.

After a long time, I made it to a crossroads which had a sign pointing to Satterthwaite (1½ miles) and, thankfully, Hawkshead (5 miles). Not so thankfully, the road climbed a very steep hill. However, the sign for the flatter road that headed off in the other direction pointed to Dale Park (2 miles) and Hawkshead (5 miles). Though my incredulous map-making saviour in Bouth had recommended the best way was via Satterthwaite, I couldn’t resist the flatter road. I slowly made my way down it. This road then constantly climbed a number of steep hills. There were also no more signs, meaning no more indication that I was heading in the right direction. So I just had to keep riding and praying to a non-existent God in a cold and thankless sky. I don’t know what that means.

When it got close to 6pm I decided I should probably call the pub with my mobile. As I was riding in and out of valleys that weren’t good enough to be mentioned on crappy maps, there was no reception. However, at the top of one mountain, in the middle of a now pitch-black forest, one bar of reception showed up on the phone. I called – the number was engaged. For quite some time.

I rode on. Fortunately, it had rained earlier that day, so I was able to make out the road from the patches of starlight-reflecting water on the bitumen. Real safe way to ride. Luckily, I was also well-camouflaged in my dark green rain-jacket and black pants in case any cars tried to see me.

Finally I got through on the phone. After two rings, someone picked up. And then the batteries ran out on my phone.

I kept riding. Finally, I came out of the forest and could see a lake on my right with the lights from a large town. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Hawkshead, but I had to be close...

Half an hour later, I rode into Hawkshead. It was, by this time, just after 6:30pm. The boss was good about it (and has been a wise-cracking smart-arse ever since), but Natasha, who had been frantic and was out in the car with one of the other employees searching the ditches beside the road for my dead body, punched me a number of times.

I told her I’d buy a better map.

Next exciting instalment...