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September 2002, England, UKprevious month
The Daily Mumble October 2002 Archive
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October 2002 Highlights:  a night at the airport, my dented Mercedes, I spy my home from midair, a live eel up her shirt, Switzerland's Expo.02, Whiskey poisoning, the $2000 speaker story, Nicola Conte live, Milanese statues take a break, a romantic weekend break (alone), Halloween in Orcop, letting go of the stress...

Links: Map - where am I today? October 2002 Photos Daily Mumble Home / Archives Guestbook


Tuesday 8th October 2002 - 02:43 (GMT+1) Stanstead Airport, UK

Ponti's Restaurant
Departures Area
Stanstead Airport
60 miles north of London

2:43am

Hello.

The last (and only other) time I stayed overnight in an airport was back in December 2000.

It was my final night in Japan - I'd just spent the previous six weeks enjoying myself far too much as I discovered the delights of those east-Asian islands for the first time. With only a few hundred Yen to my name (about $6.00), and the day rapidly drawing to a close, crashing at the airport seemed to be the only option. I found myself an extremely uncomfortable row of plastic seats in the departures lounge, and settled down with my sleeping bag. The next thing I knew was I was being prodded by security: "No sleep! Airport close!"

I couldn't believe it! Whoever heard of an international airport closing for the night?! Still, the prospect of having to look for a suitable cardboard box outside (where the temperature dropped to -25°C that night) was enough to persuade me to be a bit more devious. Keeping one eye on the security guard who had continued his round, I slowly headed for the exit. As soon as he was out of sight I dived under another row of chairs. Back out with the sleeping bag, and soon enough I was happily dozing.

I woke up at about 3am wondering where the hell I was. It was ominously silent. I could just about make out the ceiling of the vast hall by the light of a couple of emergency exit signs. I didn't dare move for fear of triggering an alarm.

And so there I lay, motionless, thinking what a miserable way it was to spend the last night of what had been the best six weeks of my life.

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Tuesday 8th October 2002 - 03:16 (GMT+1) Stanstead Airport, UK

The staff here are far too genki for this hour. Don't they know it's the middle of the night?!

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Tuesday 8th October 2002 - 03:16 (GMT+1) Stanstead Airport, UK

This restaurant was called "Ponti's" when I walked in 30 minutes ago.

It's called "Café Expresso" now.

There's originality for you.

Rather than waste money on changing all the signs, I think they'd be better off investing in some decent hot chocolate that contains more milk and chocolate than granulated sugar.

oh dear, I am bitter. That's what being up at 3.22am does to you.

Nevermind, check-in begins in an hour.

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Tuesday 8th October 2002 - 03:40(GMT+1) Stanstead Airport, UK

I dropped my hire-car off in central London a few hours back. When I picked it up 3 weeks ago it had 2000 miles on the clock and a slight scratch on the driver's side wingmirror.

When I dropped it back tonight it had 5200 miles on the clock and a very dented passenger-side door.

It was me! I did it!

I think the denting was sub-conciously deliberate on my part. I'd taken out the insurance excess waiver when booking the car back in July. Thus, when the opportunity arose to drive behind a car reversing into a parking space, I seized upon it, although not with the conscious intention of being hit by him.

Having made sure that the excess waiver payment would not be wasted, I then proceeded to drive the car for a further 23 days with absolutely no mishaps.

Silly Joseph!

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Tuesday 8th October 2002 - 04:00 (GMT+1) Stanstead Airport, UK

30 minutes to go.

Last time I was here (dropping Kae off for her flight back to Milano) we missed check-in by three minutes! B******* wouldn't let us through! Knowing my luck I'll fall asleep in 10 minutes and wake up tomorrow.

Oh dear I need the toilet. That means leaving this restaurant which means that I'll have to take my huge rucksack with me which means that I'll lose my table at "Ponti's", oh, I mean "Café Expresso", which means that if I want to carry on writing I'll have to buy another cup of liquid sugar with a touch of cocoa powder tapped on top masquerading as a hot chocolate... oh dear, what should I do? Hhm, I think if I have a choice between wetting myself or not writing anymore mumbles for a few hours I'll chose the former.

[And with that, Joseph heaved his huge rucksack onto his back and staggered off to the loo]

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Thursday 10th October 2002 - 22:46 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

I could hardly contain myself on that Boeing 737 when I saw this landscape below. The poor chap beside me had to endure about ten minutes of babble from the complete loony who took photo after photo whilst repeating over and over, "It's Kleine Scheidegg! I lived there!"

Click here for a bigger image and to find out which pixel represents my bedroom window!

The Bernese Oberland

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Thursday 10th October 2002 - 22:58 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

What is Art?

 

Yesterday Kae and I visited a new exhibition here in Milano. The item shown above took the form of a 10 minute film projected upon a wall. The girl you see is squirming in the manner of someone who is either in absolute agony or on the brink of an orgasm.

Why?

There's a live eel squirming around under her shirt!

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Friday 11th October 2002 - 13:27 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

Whilst in the UK earlier this month I took the opportunity to scan into my computer another few hundred photos that until now have been confined to a banana box under my bed at my parent's house.

Yes, it was quite a disturbing experience. Take this gem for example.

oh dear!

Taken on a Greek boat, this photo is a fantastic example of my youthful good looks (age 16). I think I'll have to add it to the horror story that is my photo album, "Joseph Through The Ages".

I think next time I visit the UK I'll leave those banana boxes well alone.

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Tuesday 15th October 2002 - 10:08 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

 

The Expo.02 websiteThe Expo.02 websiteThe Expo.02 websiteThe Expo.02 websiteThe Expo.02 website

When Kae mentioned the idea of going to Switzerland for the day, I jumped at the chance. It's been over a year since I was last there, and spying my former home from the Boeing 737 a week ago resparked my longing to be amongst the cows. Living in Milan it's not exactly far to go to reach the Alps - a couple of hours on the train.

Kae takes a photo of Milan Station

The purpose of the trip was to visit Expo.02, the Swiss National Exhibition, which lies in the top left-hand corner of Switzerland, around the three lakes to the left of Biel. Expo's have been held in various countries over the past ten years or so, for example in Spain in the late 90's. I don't know if England's ever had one, but it's pretty safe to say that it never will now, following the fiasco surrounding that was The Millennium Dome. Anyhow, Switzerland's opened in May this year, and will be closing next week.

I remember when living in Biel with Aunty Heidi back in 1996, the preparations were already underway, with many international architects submitting ideas for the design of the various exhibition halls. There was consultation with local residents and environmental groups, all of whom were concerned with the impact that such a huge project would have upon them and their surroundings. All of this planning clearly paid off. Not only were the exhibitions the most memorable and impressive that I've ever seen, one could tell that when the crowds leave life will return to normal for the locals without the necessity of a huge cleanup / deconstruction job.

Expo.02 was situated in four towns around the shores of north-west Switzerland's Three Lakes: Biel, Murten, Neuchâtel and Yverdon-les-Bains. Our first stop was Murten, a small town that until 15th May 2002 had only seen 3 tourists, all of whom had accidentally fallen asleep on the train and found themselves being woken by the ticket inspector at the end of the line. Anyhow, the place was now buzzing with excitement. Local yodelling bands parked themselves in the middle of the highstreet stopping all the traffic, 10 metre long helium-filled flying dragons appeared from the sky to eat mallard ducks strapped to the backs of schoolchildren, in the Garden of Violence screams would emerge from the flower beds whilst stepping on certain paving stones would trigger cries of "Get Lost!" and "Go Away" from the herbaceous border. It was all quite bizarre. Murten's highlight though was the 34m (112ft) high "Monolith", a gigantic rusted metal cube floating a little way offshore, inside of which was an exhibition entitled "Panorama Switzerland Version 2.1 - a series of doctored images revealing a different Switzerland". With a 2 1/2 hour queue for the boat we decided to admire that one from the shore!

The Monolith

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Space of Negation

Pictured below is a typical exhibit from Expo.02. It takes the form of a hole in the ground, 30cm x 30cm x 30cm. The hole is lined with concrete, and has a thin layer of gravel on the bottom. Other than that it is empty. It has a blue metal hinged cover that can easily be lifted, allowing one to insert one's head into this "Space of Negation".

That's it. This sign is the only explanation you get.

Hello? Hello?

That's the "Garden of Violence" for you...

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The Artificial Reed Bed

Leaving the dragons and monolith's of Murten behind, we took the 30 minute train trip north to the vineyard-surrounded town of Neuchâtel, where suddenly everything becomes French. [Switzerland has 4 official languages: German (spoken by 64% of the population), French (19%), Italian (7%) and Romansh (less than 1%).]

Neuchâtel plays host to my favourite Expo "Arteplage" (exhibition area), what with it's upside-down flying-saucer roofed buildings and huge (5 metre high) artificial reed bed .

...glimpse into another world Glow-in-the-dark reeds

Although there were exhibitions within all of these buildings, we didn't enter and participate. There were two reasons for this: 1) lack of English explanations 2) Queues to rival those of Tokyo Disneyland any day.

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At Yverdon-les-Bains, our third stop on the Expo tour, I was taken aback by one attraction in particular. To quote the guidebook; "On the lake shore, a footbridge takes you into the middle of a cloud floating on the water".

That pretty much says it all.

The Cloud
Cloud Boarding
How it all happens

Having donned plastic mack (which had been pre-soaked both inside and out by the hundreds of folks who'd used it before me), I started out along the plastic bridge. Entering the cloud I felt... Cold. Wet. Couldn't see a thing! "So this is what it's like inside a cloud then?..."

The cloud was created by thousands and thousands of tiny little sprays, each shooting a constant mist of cold lake water into the air.

Well, if nothing else, it was certainly an experience! Expo definitely takes the biscuit when it comes to the bizarre on a large scale.

Following our cloud trip, we felt in need of being warmed up, and so positioned ourselves right in front of the stage under one of the restaurant / entertainment canopies. The bloke with the guitar had initially struck us as being quite good. A few bites into our pizzas we discovered that in fact this English chap was bloody awful - no wonder he couldn't get work in the UK. Half way through a classic U2 track he stopped, saying, "I'm sorry. I've forgotten the words". He left the stage only to be replaced by an old Swiss chap playing "Heidi's Greatest Yodels" on his synthesiser.

It was time to go.

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By the time we reached Biel, host of the fourth and final Expo Arteplage it was dark. Still, the restaurants and clubs were packed, and the table football was drawing an unusually large crowd...

This design enables one to have regular beer breaks

All in all, we had a fantastic day courtesy of Expo.02. If you're heading to Switzerland this week don't go home without visiting these four mad Arteplages, what with their floating Monoliths, screaming gardens and penetrable clouds. (You can give that British singer a wide berth though!)

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The Expo.02 website has loads more photos, facts and figures, virtual tours etc.


Thursday 17th October 2002 - 15:16 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

We went to visit Junyakun last night, a friend of Kae's who lives the other side of town. Last time we went there I made a big mistake - mixing Heineken with Jack Daniel's. I just can't stomach whiskey at all. The bus journey which would normally take about 40 minutes took over 90, due to the fact that we had to get off the bus three times so that I could vomit in peace before, catching the next one.

Last night saw no such madness. I did however feel a little queasy watching Junyakun (who is an excellent chef) prepare a HUGE cow's tongue for our supper. It was my first time to eat tongue. A little chewy, but I found that if I imagined that I was eating a sausage it went down a lot easier.

Oh, and I slept all the way home.

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Saturday 19th October 2002 - 11:24 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

Ah, the good old days, when the biggest worry of the year was what to wear for the annual Comic Relief fundraiser.

In addition to addition to adding three new albums to my online photo collection (Islay, Crete and Switzerland 1996) I've just added another 50 photos to my Herefordshire Archive album, most of which were taken at the Hereford Waldorf School. You'll find them on pages six, seven and eight.

Click here for more photos

(Incidentally, I'm third from the left. I'm not quite sure what my costume's theme was...)

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Monday 21st October 2002 - 09:48 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

I'm never one to miss a bargain, so you can imagine how delighted I was when, whilst shopping (drunk) in Switzerland in 2001, a white van pulled up, a bloke jumped out, and I was offered the chance to buy a set of top-quality speakers at a knockdown price.

Usually sold to bars and cafe's for over US $3,000, I could have them for half that price if I paid in cash. Please remember that I WAS very drunk... I had ideas of selling them on to my employer and making a wopping great profit.

Two months later when I was leaving Switzerland, having failed to find anybody even remotely interested in buying them, I had to export them to the UK at a cost of £150. As if I hadn’t already lost enough money there was a final sting – customs and excise charged me £200 import duty!

Last month when I was visiting the UK a friend of mine expressed an interest in buying these amazing speakers that for the past year had been sitting at the end of my old bed. I promptly dropped them off at his house, telling him to have them on loan for a week so that he could test them out thoroughly. I'd given up all ideas of making a profit having already forked out over £1000 - I'd be content to cut my losses by selling them to him for £500.

Not two hours after I'd returned home that night the phone rang. It was my friend. One of the base speakers rattled when the music was turned up to full volume - what should he do? I suggested he contact the manufacturer as the speakers came with a full warranty against faulty workmanship etc.

The following day I got another call from my friend. The numbers listed on the warranty were no longer in service, and he'd decided to ask a local dealer to have a look at them.

Two nights later I was in the pub when my mobile rang. It was my friend again.

"Er, Joseph, I've got some pretty bad news for you".

"Oh go on then, hit me with it".

"The dealer I spoke to knows this company, Dynalab USA, pretty well. They're a complete scam. They make units out of cheap chipboard, put any old speakers in them and fix a brick to the inside to increase the weight. They then ship them out as top-quality speakers, where's in fact they're only worth about £20!"

That's the last time I go bargain-buying whilst drunk.

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Thursday 24th October 2002 - 11:27 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

Last night Kae and I went out to a local converted warehouse, which now houses a very groovy club with some excellent music. Last night, being Wednesday, was free entry, and who should be DJing? None other than Nicola Conte. Almost unheard of in his home town of Milan, his Bossa Nova style is very popular in both America and Japan.

It was impossible not to dance! However, I had to control myself and refrain from my usual monkey-moves as last weekend, when we went out to a live gig in a small bar, I almost killed myself dancing. After 6 minutes of frantic ape-like manoeuvres I had to rush to a nearby hedge and vomit, before coughing continuously for 15 minutes and then contracting Recurring Hiccup Syndrome. That's the one which comes back throughout the night when you're trying to sleep no matter how much water you drink with your nostrils clamped shut.

I blame the smoky atmosphere. The mixture of beer and Campari Oranges had nothing to do with it.

Oh, I did shoot a fascinating video of a self-cleaning toilet that night, and if you have a broadband Internet connection I invite you to view it by visiting Tame Goes Wild's Videos and Voices section.

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Thursday 24th October 2002 - 11:36 (GMT+2) Milan, Italy

I've just discovered that my Dreamweaver Spellchecker dictionary has got the word "Heineken" in.

Well, I'm impressed anyway.

(Having said that, this website-building software has never heard of Campari, Haagen Dazs or Roald Dahl!)

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Sunday 27th October 2002 - 11:19 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Pack of M & M's, Coca Cola, Haagen Dazs, cheap sparkling alcohol, The Best of Roald Dahl, TV remote control.

That's my Sunday afternoon sorted!

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Tuesday 29th October 2002 - 18:55 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Milan has a gluttony of statues. Not just the stone ones covered in pigeon-poo, or the bronze types that have water gushing out of their every orifice. No, here you can't walk 10 metres without bumping into someone sporting a lovely dustsheet, with their faces covered in whitewash. Tutenkhamun makes a guest appearance now and then too. These poor souls stand completely motionless for hours and hours, with the occasional bow to the odd tourist who deposits a coin in the bucket.

Still, as this photo I took shows, even statues need a cigarette break sometimes!

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Tuesday 29th October 2002 - 19:42 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

What with Kaechan going off to Venice last weekend, I was left home alone. What should I do? Well, Sunday, as you can see above was spent pigging out, but that really was necessary in order to get over all of the excitement of my Saturday.

About a week ago I suffered from a heavy dose of shock when the Milanese smog lifted for a few hours, enabling me to see the Alps to the north from our balcony ('oversize window ledge' would be a more accurate description). Anyhow, Saturday I decided to go hiking, and so got up extra early (about 11am) to take the train to the lakeside town of Stresa. I'd done my research the day before, when I'd spent about an hour in a bookstore meticulously copying out the appropriate section from Lonely Planet Italy. I was going to be heading for "a well-known tourist town packed with German's and Brits, although one can easily escape the crowds by taking the cable car up to the top of the mountain where many beautiful hiking trails begin". Sounds perfect. Or so I thought.

After a hour spent sat next to a screaming brat I was only too delighted when the train pulled in at Stresa. Armed with my guidebook excerpts, I made my way for the lakeside, where no doubt the crowds (which the station was mysteriously lacking in) were gathered.

Here they are. All two of them.

Yes, well, anyway, suppressing my jealousy I continued along the promenade, skirted around the happy bride and groom having their photo taken, passed through a field of rather bizarre 4-metre-high stainless steel horses and arrived at the cable-car station.

Despite not understanding a single word of Italian, I soon gathered from the big sign on the locked entrance door that the cable-car had closed for the autumn not 24 hours before my arrival.

By this time I'd realised that it really wasn't my day, and so returned to the still deserted station where I bought a copy of that English tabloid classic, The Sun, and sat for an hour reading that from cover-to-cover whilst waiting for the next train home.

Yes.

Now I hope you understand why I spent Sunday in bed eating Haagen Dazs, drinking a whole bottle of cheap sparkling wine whilst watching MTV.

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Thursday 31st October 2002 - 14:07 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

Ho hum. Another month gone. It's been quite a good one overall. Very stressful, and not one that I'd choose to have repeated, but nonetheless, overall pretty good.

A few days back I made two decisions: the first was to stop hating Milan. It seems to have worked, I feel much better and more at home now. I even ordered a pizza using Italian today, rather than my normal Simple English. A small but important demonstration that I am at least starting to accept my surroundings for what they are.

The second decision that I made was to generally chill out. The past three months I've been extremely uptight, making life very difficult for both myself and those around me. I don't think I was ready before now to simply say "I don't need this stress, therefore I let it go". Perhaps what has helped me to do just that is my looming return to Tokyo, now only three weeks away, and all that that entails. Visas, accomodation, work, money, you know, normal life stuff which hasn't touched me since last November. Anyhow, I'm pretty surprised at how much I've been able to let go, as a result of a concious decision. The problem in the past has been maintaining a positive outlook. So far, so good.

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Thursday 31st October 2002 - 21:15 (GMT+1) Milan, Italy

It's Halloween!

Halloween was always a big night in Orcop, the small isolated village that I grew up in. I didn't actually go out for trick and treating myself, except perhaps once at the age of eight; I was far too scared of the Big Kids that lived down the road. They were only a year or two older than me, but the gang of six would scare the living daylights out of me when I took the dog for a walk. They never did anything to me, it was just the fact that I didn't know them - I was so unconfient in those days.

So, instead of donning a white dust sheet, I'd stay at home, hiding behind the lounge curtains watching and waiting for various ghosts and witches to turn up at the door, whom mum would greet with a few sweets, or a homegrown potato when she'd forgotten to go shopping for halloween supplies.

At the age of eleven I became quite wicked, and saw the event as an opportunity to get my own back on those Big Scary Kids down the road, and so it was that on October 31st 1989, what with mum and dad being out for the evening, I decided to be truly awful and give the "gang" a nasty shock. Above our front door, there's a flat roof. It's the perfect platform on which to balance a big bucket of freezing cold rainwater, with a piece of string attached to the handle which when tugged will result in anyone who happens to be waiting patiently for the door to open to get a good soaking.

I'm ashamed to say that I went through with my evil plan. They screamed and howled like real witches that night on our doorstep, giving me a strange feeling that was a cocktail of fear, guilt, and glee.

Funnily enough, it wasn't long after that, that the scary kids down the road and I became good friends, soon spending many hours together hanging around by the telephone box down the road, scaring many other children who were just a bit too young to join "The Gang".

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