James Went To Vienna

Before going on holiday one should always ensure that the next holiday is booked.

But also before going on holiday, one should ensure that the previous one has been blogged about.  Though I still didn’t manage to click ‘post’ before I went to Croatia.

It seems ages ago, but back in May, myself and my most excellent friend, Martin, sat down on a Friday evening and decided to try to find somewhere to go away for a weekend of beer and culture.

I had some budget restrictions – shock horror.  We also wanted to go to a country that we’ve never been to before and also had to take into account Martin’s sensible aversion to Ryanair and Easyjet…being from the north I am used to shit transport, so I’m not too fussed.  I remember when I used to think the Thames Trains slugs were luxury.

We happened upon Vienna.  It ticked the boxes – flights were relatively cheap, maybe £120 return…from Heathrow too…and with Austrian Airlines.  I’d never been to Austria…Martin had but not to Vienna.

The flight and train from the airport were efficient, metro trains also were – if unpleasantly hot.  Our Airbnb accommodation was spot-on, two large bedrooms each with their own balcony, in a modern flat with a few quirky touches.  Our host was typically pleasant and efficient.

Vienna was easy to get around – I think we paid €14 for a 48 hour travel ticket, not that we ever saw anyone being checked for a ticket.  Viennese must be rather honest.  Underground, overground and trams – there were always plenty of options.

Our location was slightly down-market compared to the rest of the city, plenty of immigrants sat around doing nothing at night, but like the rest of the it felt peaceful, civilised and safe.  We had to catch the train over both the River Danube, and the Danube canal, which was a pleasant view – though only around 20 minutes and we were pretty much right in the centre.

Speaking of being civilised and peaceful, the whole city felt relaxed.  Barely anywhere did the city seem that busy.  Tourists were surprisingly rare, though numerous enough where you’d expect them – the city of 2 million people was spread out, with loads of space.  The vibe of the city was totally different to that of say, Madrid…or London.

Cyclists even stopped at red lights!

We can also be civilised.

One of the reasons that I wanted to go to Vienna so much – it was on my top 20 must visit list that I wrote a few years ago and still haven’t got around to publishing – was to see some of the works of Gustav Klimt, one of my discoveries of last year…thanks to a fellow Codhead.

Unlike beer, museums were not cheap in Vienna.  Each one cost around €15 to get into, and there is only so much museuming that one can do.

So on the Sunday we went to the palatial Belvedere Museum, which hosts The Kiss – arguably Klimt’s most loved painting.  There was a variety of interesting…and boring old-school type art to look at, but anything Klimt was just mesmerising.

And to see The Kiss up close, and as an original, was just simply breathtaking.  I just couldn’t stop looking at it, almost as if I was in some form of drug-addled gaze.  I could have stayed there for hours…well…maybe 20 minutes just looking at that photograph, but we had schnitzel to find and consume.

On Monday when we had time to kill before our flight home (more time than we knew at the time…should have flown with Ryanair), we took a punt on the Museum of Modern Art.  Which had a vast array of Klimt and Schiele, along with a wide variety of other impressive modern art – along with some absolute tosh.

On the Saturday evening, however, we had a bit of a fail.  After having excellent guided tours in both Sevilla and Madrid, I’ve come to believe a guided tour as almost as necessary as having a pre-flight beer.  Our host was an older lady with a toilet brush in her hand.  She explained to us that you have to have 2 years of training to become a tourist guide in Vienna.  Ahhh, good old European bureaucracy.  She explained a lot of things to us.  Detailed, factual explanations.  I can still hear her voice grating on me now.

The tour was supposed to be 2 hours long.  After 5 minutes I turned to Martin in apology, and explained this wasn’t as good as other tours that I’d been on.  After about 30 or so minutes we looked at each other and discussed how to escape.  We followed through some arches and when we came out, the group started to head right – but to the left was a selection of outdoor stalls selling beer and sausages, in the sunshine, with trance music blaring out and Viennese breasts popping out of traditional costumes.

Life is about taking your opportunities.  And we took ours.

I hadn’t done much research into Vienna, just an hour the night before so I hadn’t really planned on where to go.  I knew though that there was some kind of beach bar near the Danube Kanal, so we headed there on the Friday night.

So it was a wonderful surprise to find a long graffiti-adorned walkway along the canal, with lots of pop-up bars – the kind of vibe you’d expect in Peckham, but full of Europeans – loads of pretty women, of course.  An hour later I was attempting the Tango with a man on a stag do.

Believe it or not, they like their beer in Vienna – and its cheap.  €3 a pint was fairly normal.

Food was also good there, but nothing especially stood out.  We had steak one night – but could have had that anywhere.  We had Chicken Schnitzel, whilst sat outside in the pouring rain – just covered.  And a pork knuckle, which looked impressive but was a bit dry.

There’s a massive fairground there, but we didn’t go on anything.  I don’t have money for both rides and beer, and there is only ever going to be one winner there.

Whilst the city itself was peaceful, the bell-ringing on the church right next to our apartment wasn’t – there was no chance of a lay-in, especially with the need for the doors to be open to cool down the apartment.

And then we had plane problems on the way home.  Firstly it was an hour late, then they started to get people on the bus to the plane (via a boiling hot greenhouse-like glass tube for a period of enforced sauca), then we were taken off the bus (via the boiling hot greenhouse-like glass tube) as the replacement plane didn’t have any chocolate muffins and needed to be stocked before people boarded.

Martin said to me, “two letters.  B.  A.”.  I said to him, “seven letters.  R.  Y.  A.  N.  A.  I.  R.”.

Our illusion of Austrian efficiency had been shattered.

Despite any imperfections, I had a fantastic trip, it was a source of much joy and inspiration, and Vienna really is one cool city.

Recently I saw that it was nominated as the best city to live in in the world.  And from my two days there, I can thoroughly understand it.  It works, it is relaxing, people seem to have a high quality of life.  The weather is good.  The beer is cheap.  The tourists are minimal.

It is the kind of place that I could go back to repeatedly, and given the importance of this city to the history of the 20th century – home of some of the most important economists, artists…oh yeah and Hitler, I am surprised that it is not far more popular a place to visit.

There are so many other places to visit in the world, but if I get the opportunity, I would happily go back.

Hell, I could even live there.

Complaint: Austrian Airlines

Dear Sir/Madam
A month or so ago, I travelled with yourselves to Vienna.  In Austria.  Though you probably know that Vienna is in Austria.
The flight on the way there was efficient and friendly – abominable cupcake, but hey, free food.
Vienna is a great city, as I am sure that you already know.  We had a great time there, but were ready to come back on the Monday, expecting to get home with enough time to do some tasks ready for work the next day.
Alas.  We were at the airport in good time, security checks were efficient and we made it with enough time for a beer in the bar.
We then walked for quite a long time all the way down to the gate.  Not long after, they announced a delay of one hour.
Not ideal, but I’m kinda used to being delayed on transport, living in London.  Plus there was a decent bar…albeit rather a long walk away.
So we had another drink and then made our way all the way back to the gate.  A bit of standing around then we starting boiling…I mean boarding.
Which meant rather a long time stuck in a glass tunnel, being heated to excessive levels, before then boarding a rammed coach to go to the aeroplane.
Or at least we thought it was going to the aeroplane.  It just sat there, we remained hot and uncomfortable (though not physically boiling any longer).
Nobody knew what was happening.
Eventually we were all told to get off the bus, walk back through the greenhouse, and wait.
No information was forthcoming at first, but we were told that we couldn’t board the plane as the catering facilities were not ready.
Yep, you read that correctly – we had to suffer in both the greenhouse and the coach going nowhere because there were no stale muffins on the plane.  Who cares?  Why can you not load passengers and muffins at the same time?
So we hung around, no idea what was happening.  No information, no new ETA.
Eventually, the boarding process started, but my impression of Austria as an efficient, well-run country was shattered.  Miraculously, I suspect the delay was just short of the 3 hours at which point you would be due to compensate us by EU law – though I’d be interested to find out from you exactly how long it was delayed for.
I was considering visiting Vienna again next year, hell I was even vaguely wondering about the possibility of moving there to work if Brexit ends up a complete disaster rather than just a partial disaster.  However, the 2-3 hour delay I suffered because of Austrian’s buffoonery has probably put me off from a repeat trip.
Not only that, I then returned to severe delays (shock horror) on the tube network in London, and was subsequently even later home than expected.
It was a much later night than I expected.
A shame to finish a wonderful trip with such an inadequately organised airline.
Regards
James
******
Dear Mr Winfield, 
Thank you for your email dated 22 July 2018. We appreciate your patience while waiting for our response. 
We regret that you were affected by a flight delay on your journey from Vienna to London on 11 June 2018. Any change to your anticipated schedule can be stressful and your frustration under these circumstances is understandable. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this caused and for the unsatisfactory experience. 
Based on our records, flight OS 455 was delayed due to unforeseen technical problem. While we understand your request to be compensated, kindly be informed that your arrival delay was less than 3 hours at your final destination. Therefore, as per EC Regulation 261/2004 we ask for your understanding that we are unable to comply with your request. 
Even though we cannot comply with your present request, we would be happy if you continued to place your trust in Austria. 
Yours sincerely,   
Aldiny Obusa
AUSTRIAN AIRLINES
******
We were less than 30 minutes away from compensation.  Doh.

Abandoned Package For Pablo Hassan

Dear Sir,

 I am contacting you regarding a special cargo that has been abandoned here at our warehouse for over a period of 2 years and when scanned, t revealed an undisclosed sum of money in it. From my findings, the cargo originated from Europe and the content was not declared as money by the consignor in order to avoid diversion by the shipping agent. I strongly believe the box will contain about $4.5 million or more.

 In my private search for a reliable person, my proposal now is to present you as the recipient of the cargo since the shipper has abandoned it which is a possibility due to the fact it has been abandoned for a period whereby a new beneficiary can be presented to the clearance department for claim and also my position at this shipping service. I will pay for the fee and arrange for the cargo to be delivered to your address. Alternatively, I can
 personally bring it myself and then we share the total money in the box equally.

 Regards,

 Mr. Lewis Hawkins
 Asst. Operations Manager
 Zim American Integrated Shipping Services Co. LLC.
 Chicago (IL) Agents: 9950 W.Lawrence Avenue,
 Suite 215 Schiller Park, IL 60176

******

Oh finally, that’ll be the money for the cocaine I shipped to the tropical island of Doncaster just over two years ago.  Shame that I had to waste several people over non-payment.

Have you checked the box for explosives?  It could be a trap.  Be careful.  Send me a photo.

Who are you?  Do you have any connection to Serco, the gang from Doncaster?

Regards
Pablo Hassan

******

Dear Pablo Hassan;

 Thanks for your quick response to my mail. Please I have crossed checked the customs clearance declaration on the airway bill of the cargo and it is confirmed the cargo was truly not properly declared as “Money” instead it was declared as family treasures which means I need a Non Inspection Clearance Certificate from TSA to ensure we get Customs Approval document to get the cargo removed from our warehouse and shipped to your destination. However, like I stated in my email, this Non Inspection Clearance process will cost $3,200 which I am ready to pay myself to ensure we can get this delivery process rolling but you have to assure me that my own share of the funds will be given to me in the event I am not able to deliver cargo to you myself which I will try but not 100% certain due to my commitments at my job. So kindly get back to me with this final assurance to ensure I can move ahead with the clearance and delivery protocol of the abandoned cargo.

 Furthermore, for you to have full confidence of the existence of this consignment, the US Customs Ultra Scan Report from the Chicago O’Hare Airport Chicago where the cargo was scanned by the authorities is attached to this email alongside my work I.D which indicates that the trunk boxes have been scanned and confirmed to be filled with United States Currency. So in order for me to negotiate with the officials for the release of the withheld package to you, I will go ahead and pay for the US Non Inspection Charges which was the main reason the consignment was with-held by the Chicago O’Hare airport authorities in Chicago, IL since these charges were not paid by the diplomatic agent delivering this consignment to you from Europe and complete shipment.

 At this point, I advice you re-confirm your full Name’s and address, Telephone number and the nearest airport to your home then wait to hear from me once I have paid for the Non Inspection Charges and concluded negotiations for the release of the consignment to you but you have to assure me once again that my own share of the money will be given to me as I am doing this all by my own and not with the consent of my colleagues.

Warmest regards,

Mr. Lewis W. Hawkins

******

Dear Mr Hawkins

What are you saying to me?  Do you realise who I am?

I am PABLO FUCKING HASSAN.

Do not mess with me.

Either you have the money or you don’t.  Have you ever known anyone to have a forced vaginoplasty?  Because that is what happens to guys that fuck with me.

We can do business, but I am seriously concerned that you are either having one over on me, or you are part of the Serco gang.  Or even worse – a pig.

Show me the money, and we can do business.  I have top grade cocaine available, all the way from the Scottish mountains.  Even better than the Peruvian shit.  But I need my debt paid first.

Regards
Pablo

******

[…no response some days later so I e-mail again]

Oi.  Ya gassing me?

******

[I don’t think I’ve got a deal]

Sainsbury’s Complaint: Pulling Teeth

I’m rather quite busy nowadays, especially with my job, commuting and trying to enjoy London, so I don’t always get the time to complain.  I have not only a list of complaints to make, but also a folder of complaints to share on my blog.

So I thought I’d be efficient and save up a few for Sainsbury’s, and sent it shortly after they announced their merger with Asda.

******

Dear Sainsburys

I am sure that you are currently being overwhelmed with part-time snobs given the proposed merger with Asda, with a flurry of complaints from wannabe Waitrose shoppers that have suddenly just found their passion for ethical consumption, and whose complaint has nothing at all to do with the fact that Asda attracts shoppers from the lower classes.

All I care about is food quality.  I am happy to grant you my personal approval for the merger, but please keep your quality at the current levels.

If the quality drops to Asda’s level – I will shop elsewhere.

Gosh, that was all a bit serious, wasn’t it?  Did you miss me?  It’s been a while since I’ve e-mailed, but I do still love you.  Even if you are about to marry someone else.

Though I do have one of those annoying married-couple questions.  Well, 4 actually.

Firstly, for my delivery in January (yeah, back when it wasn’t that cold), I had ordered a pack of your excellent fruit-flavoured yoghurts.  I was delivered yoghurt, vanilla and toffee yoghurts instead – as a substitution but I sadly didn’t check it.  What on earth would possess someone to think banana is a similar replacement for mango and apricot?  Or worse, toffee as a replacement for peach?!  Surely a different fruit-based yoghurt would make more sense?

Then for my delivery in February, I had some smoked fish but it had to be eaten that day – and my delivery was at something like 9/10pm.

Something similar in March, with pork tenderloin that had to be eaten the same day.

And this month, I ordered two jars of strawberry converse, but one is actually raspberry.  I don’t mind raspberry – but you should know that strawberry is kind of different.  Similar to ordering a bacon and egg sandwich and receiving an egg sandwich.  Good – but not quite all there.  A bit like me on a Monday morning.

Toodlepip
James

******

Dear James

Thank you for taking the time to get in contact with us at Sainsbury’s

Currently with the merger there are no plans for us to lower the quality or the standard of any deliveries or shops done with Sainsbury’s, the two separate supermarkets will be operating as they usually do now.

If you ever experience any of the issues that you’ve mentioned on future orders such as short dated items, incorrect items or poor substitutions please let us know and we would be more than happy to arrange a refund for you.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in contact with us and we hope your enjoy your day.

Kind regards

******

Hi xxxx

How about my past issues that I detailed below (previous e-mail attached)?

Kind regards
James

******

[several days later]

Dear xxxx

Is the ignoring of the issues that I originally mentioned part of the new customer service experience that I should expect post-merger?

Regards
James

******

Dear James

thank you for taking the time to get in contact with us at Sainsbury’s.

With the points detailed on your email, I’ve made sure to forward them through to the store to ensure management there is aware of these issues and so they can take steps to prevent them from happening again in future.

The substituted yoghurt’s in January, these will have been picked out by the picking system that the drivers and pickers use in store when a product is out of stock, the system itself makes the decision on what is available in store to replace out of stock items with, depending on the stock which is available, the pickers aren’t allowed to deviate from the choice that the system makes.

The short dated products, I’ve reported this to the store to let them know that they have been letting customers down with the short date on products, this allows them to order in a wider range of stock for the coming weeks to avoid such short date products being sent out.

If you could get back in contact with us and let us know if the strawberry converse was marked down as a substitution or if it was just an incorrect item send out, once we know this we would be more than happy to take a further look into this for you.

We would also recommend letting us know of these issues on a case by case basis to allow us to notify the store and sort out any refunds which may be due.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in contact with us and we hop you enjoy your day. 

Kind regards

******

Hi xxxx

Normally I would e-mail straight away, however I have been exceptionally busy this year.

As far as I can remember, there was no substitution listed for the raspberry jam.  I still haven’t eaten any of it, and I have run out of strawberry jam.  I have plenty of gravy granules for which I am very happy to use on my toast instead of strawberry jam.

Do I need to e-mail in separately now for each of the issues which was in my complaint?

Kind regards

James

******

Dear James

Thank you for taking the time to get in contact with us at Sainsbury’s

I do apologise that this raspberry jam was incorrectly sent out, to cover you for  it I’m sending you out an evoucher for £1.25 to be taken off a future online shop, the voucher code is xxxx-xxxx-xxxx and it’s valid for two years so no rush to get it used up.

It’s always recommended to email or call us whenever these issues happen ASAP to allow us to have it fed back to the store, but we do understand that this isn’t always possible due to work and such and would be more than happy to assist once you let us know.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in contact with us and we hope you enjoy your day.

Kind regards

******

Dear xxxx

Thank you for refunding the mistaken product from the most recent order.

Does this mean that I still need to open separate complaints for previously extremely short-dated products that I outlined in my original e-mail over a week ago?

Kind regards

James

******

Dear James

Thank you for taking the time to email Sainsbury’s, and sorry for the delay in replying to your email.

I can understand your concern over your previous emails and the issues you have raised in them. I know I would want to ensure that they had been dealt with correctly, and I am sorry that you have had a number of issues with dates and incorrect items being sent.

We appreciate any and all feedback, as it allows us to know, how we are doing and were we can improve. After checking your account I can see that xxxx has correctly logged all the issues you have raised to report back to the store for you.

As the haddock, pork and yogurts have not been refunded, however, I am happy to refund these for you now. To do so I have sent you an evoucher for £10.00, which also includes a small gesture of goodwill. The evoucher code is xxxx-xxxx-xxxx, and this will be valid for two years allowing you to use it against a future order.

We appreciate you bringing this to our attention, and I hope you have a nice day.

Kind regards

******

The Asda experience has begun.

Fat, Fat, Fat

I’m feeling down again and guess what has triggered it?  Being fat.  As always.

Nothing else really gets me down – things can annoy the fuck out of me like cyclists and Brexit, but nothing actually depresses me like the loss of self-esteem that being fat, and getting fatter does.
Earlier this year, I lost, I think 6 or 7kg whilst on my 3 month detox.  I have since put back on 8kg – reaching a new record highest weight, 98.5kg.  Some of it I actually put on before my detox ended with an Easter chocolate binge (2.5kg – because I didn’t lose weight from doing some exercise and got pissed off), then most of what I lost in 3 months I had put back on within 1 month.
The usual suspects are about to say, “do some exercise”.
I accept that this is a good idea, and I am not against getting on my bike – I managed to ride 2km the other week which I was pretty proud of, once I got over the psychological challenge of imaginary people taking the piss out of a fat, ugly bloke on a bike.
However, I very rarely have any time.  I’m home by 730pm on a work day.  That leaves me 2 hours to have dinner and do any tasks that I need to do – there simply is not time Monday to Friday to do any exercise.  And I’m shattered by time I get home anyway.
Then at the weekend, I need to clean my house, do my washing/ironing, any admin, clear e-mails, reply to messages that I didn’t have the time to during the week, do some studying/coding, ring my parents, have a roast dinner – and hell maybe I’ll have a couple of beers.  Sometimes I go crazy and organise something by the way of a social life.  I often intend on doing some exercise, but I tend to run out of time.
This weekend was the perfect example, I was going to ride my bike, hell maybe try and go 2.5km this time – push myself, but instead I spent hours trying to improve my AngularJS knowledge, as I feel under pressure to improve this as quick as I can for my job – I need a proper pay rise as I am sick of being nearly 40 years old and on shit wages with little pension and no hope of ever owning my own home.  If I had a pay rise, I could have at least employed a cleaner – and then had more time to do more positive things.  Alas my pay rise request was rejected.
I’m averaging 3,500 calories a day – which is kind of a problem.  But I’m tired, partly because I’m so fat and work/commute such long hours, so I eat more.  And also I binge/comfort eat when I’m depressed about being fat.  I had not far off 2,000 calories by lunch today.
It is all a negative virtuous circle.
Alcohol also makes me more tired, of course.  I’m drinking less than I used to – but still 30-40 units a week. I think my doctor wants me to be drinking 3 -4 units a week.  It is quite a bit less than last year though.
I also have much lower self-esteem than I have had for many years, partly I guess because most people around me are much fitter, much less fat and much better looking than me.  And also have money.  I’m not as social as I used to be, I rarely feel creative inspiration and I’m definitely nowhere near as funny as I (think I) used to be. 
It may be easy for you to say “do some exercise” or “sort it out”.  I see fat people and think exactly the same, forgetting how fat I am.  But it really fucking isn’t easy.  I try all kinds of ways of incentivising myself to lose weight but I just ignore them most of the time nowadays, as I’m simply trying to keep myself going in the short-term.
Only 3 things have proven to have worked for me losing weight:
  1. Going clubbing every weekend
  2. Being unemployed
  3. Detox
The latter is the only feasible and desirable option in the current stage of my life.  I’m slowly starting to feel that I may need to employ another detox.  Though not until England have been knocked out of the World Cup.
Other solutions could include working from home occasionally (unlikely), changing job to one with more normal hours (ballache and risky), moving house nearer work (total ballache and risky) or finding a hot woman that I want to impress and hence lose weight (dream on…).
However, being so fat does affect my self-esteem in general, makes me question myself as to whether I want to spend time with people, apply for new jobs – well, everything I do or think about doing.  And don’t even get started about dating – I don’t even go on Tinder now in case I get a match as I’m too fat to meet anyone anyway.  I actually look like I have boobs when I’m sat on the tube – not to mention 8 chins.
 
 
The rest of my life I’m reasonably happy with, though everything is open to improvement.  My weight is just consistent failure and it makes me sad.
I’m off to go buy some sausage rolls and a chocolate muffin.

James Went To Madrid

Gosh was it really 2 weeks ago?  Erm…gosh was it really 4 weeks ago?  That is assuming I actually finish this post tonight.  5 weeks…OK 6 weeks ago.  Definitely finishing it this time.

Can I actually remember any of Madrid?  Oh yeah, I went with my family.

The Why

My father suggested a family holiday a while back, in celebration of his retirement.  I think I was probably 16, maybe 17 when I last went on holiday with my family, and I stated that I would never again go on holiday with my family.

Well, I’ve gone back on quite a few things that I said when I was young.  I may not have been the source of genius and wisdom that I am now.

My Dad’s initial suggestion was Florence, but I was a bit hesitant as I’ve done Italy so much (I’ve since been told by several people that I really do have to go to Florence) and wanted to try going to different countries.

Like, erm, Spain.

I’m not quite sure how we settled on Madrid – I don’t think I suggested it, maybe I did, but I’ve long wanted to go there…at least since they renamed a square after Margaret Thatcher.

The Journey

Myself and my sister flew from Harrod’s airport, also known as Heathrow Terminal 5 with its array of super-expensive shops that common folk like me cannot even afford to step inside.

Curiously our flight wasn’t listed on the boards, though we were assured that the flight was on, just a little delayed.  So we settled down for a beer and a £10 sausage sandwich.  Yes £10 for a fucking sausage sandwich, I shit you not.  Though it came with a free cup of tea.  I don’t drink tea.

Our flight still didn’t display, but we eventually worked out that it was listed to fly 30 minutes later with a different airline and slightly different flight number, but at the expected time.  Cue a slight rush.

And an upgrade – we had booked with British Airways (or so I thought) but flew with Iberia, on a proper long-haul jumbo with super-comfortable seats, loads of space – and the best thing – €3.00 beers.

The Apartment

We were staying in an Airbnb.  Quite impressed that my parents were comfortable on not only Airbnb but also using Uber.  I booked the Airbnb.  Myself and my sister booked the Ubers.

The apartment itself was just a decently respectable place – albeit no plug for the sink.  Drama.

However it had a little sun-trap of a patio which was just beautiful to sit outside in.

The Start

We just looked for somewhere near our apartment to grab a bite to eat, and the small bars nearby were closed – it was mid-afternoon.

But we found this cheap and tacky locals place, sat in the sunshine and had some beer, and the world’s largest chorizo sandwich.  I was relaxed.  I was happy.

The City

I didn’t know what to expect as I was far too busy in the run-up to do any research at all.

What I found was a really busy city – lots of traffic for sure!  Everywhere there were lots of people, lots going on – people were excited.

Of course we were in some of the most tourist-central zones and it was not short of tourists, especially in the squares.  We also found ourselves there on Madrid marathon weekend, Spanish Cup Final weekend, and a fairly sizeable protest about justice.  It was so busy.

Which I love.  I love Spain anyway, but there was just such a good vibe, a real buzz about the place.

The Weather

We of course went to Madrid when it was much hotter back in England – at times we had warm sunshine, but not always.  On the Saturday, when we had our guided tour of Madrid, it was decidedly chilly – I was in Spain, and I was cold.  Yes, I was wearing shorts.

The Tour

Easily one of the highlights of the holiday was having a guided tour of Madrid.  Having done one in Sevilla, I now don’t think that I’ll ever go anywhere and not have a guided tour – and the one I semi-randomly selected, as there were almost as many tours as tourists, was brilliant.

Our guide imparted lots of history – especially with regards the previous kings of Spain, he was funny, with great historical facts and unusual anecdotes – a really well-designed tour.

I really felt like I got to know Madrid, and Spain itself.


The Taste Of Hell

On Sunday we went to this small version of hell, which was thousands of market stalls and millions of people.  Like a large version of Blackpool market – punctuated by a scattering of hot Spanish women.  Rosa – why the hell did you recommend that to me?!  What did I say to upset you?!!

The Food

Food was a bit hit and miss.  I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t like tapas as much as I thought.  Though on the first night we went to an excellent tapas place – guided by my personal Spanish tour guide.  The last night too, I had an awesome steak – and a real, proper restaurant experience.  I moan so often about the 12.5% service charge in London just for bringing my meal…this place was the definition of how to serve customers.  The steak itself was excellent, but it was all the extras that really made the experience.

At other places though, we had some distinctly average tapas.  And I had a disappointing meal one night too – for some reason I chose mini-burgers, and I don’t normally do burgers.  The bread was stale and I wasn’t amused.

The People

One of the reasons I love Spain so much is the people.  I remember when I went to Ibiza in 2004, DJ Mag had printed an Ibiza special issue, with an article “what annoys you most about Ibiza”.  Someone had said, “the fucking Spanish”.  I spent a fair amount of time watching someone go through 3 pallets worth of magazines, cutting the offending corner of said page out.  He finished by the end of our holiday – I gave him a little round of applause.

I, of course, love Spanish women.  I can listen to them roll their r’s all day and night.  But in general, I just love the passion and the friendliness of Spanish people – their excitement and lust for life.

One of my dearest friends happened to have moved to Madrid, and she introduced me to lots of her friends, who were all such nice and interesting people – proper well-rounded people that had stories to tell, yet were just genuinely lovely people.  And spoke English to me – I felt so humbled.

The Return?

Madrid was the kind of place, like London, where I could visit repeatedly.  I just enjoyed the vibe and the feel of the place.  There isn’t masses of things that you have to do, like say London or Paris, it is more just a place to go and enjoy life.  I could even live in Madrid – albeit not in July and August.

Of course, having a close friend there means there is extra reason to go visit – alas, I am not very good at visiting my friends…mainly due to financial constraints.  I’m sure I’ll get that pay rise one year.

And yes, I might even go on a family holiday again one time.

Next up – Vienna

Calmness Has Returned

I was having a bit of a strop last week – eating loads of shit food, drinking too much wine and being a bit miserable and grumpy.  It happens.  I’m not one of those people that can pretend to be 100% happy all the time, as much as I do appreciate life.  Most of the time, I’m at least content – but I’m pretty demanding upon myself and life – I have high expectations.

Though at the core of it was some unhappiness at work.  It was a crap week, a tough week – I was feeling a bit displaced but mostly feeling underpaid and overworked.

That hasn’t changed.  My days are 13+ hours long from getting up to getting home.  I am still paid exactly the same as I started, when taking into account inflation, enforced pension payments and a small pay rise.  I should be earning much more as a developer even with just one year’s experience.  Yes I know that I could withdraw from my pension, but as I received a statement from one of my previous company pensions suggesting that at my current rate I will get a pension of £30.51 a year, I probably shouldn’t.

However this week I’ve felt a sense of calmness return – though at the same time a sense of rabbit in headlights syndrome.

I’ve moved from coding in languages/frameworks that I’m comfortable in, to coding in a framework, AngularJS, that I know fuck all about.  Yes I’ve done courses on it, but I don’t remember any of it.  This is my first time using it, and I stare at it pretty much like a virgin states at a vagina.

It’s great on one hand, as I was starting to scratch around for work, and needed a big project.

But it panicked me when I realised that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Yesterday and especially this afternoon, things started to come together – I could see how things were organised, and what I had to do to get things to work.  Baby steps, but it is exciting to be grasping new technology…albeit AngularJS is seen as an old framework now, and nobody would use it for a new project.  It’s new to me – and proves that I can adapt to new frameworks.

I also have a new colleague who is super quick (I must stop comparing myself to him), and knows AngularJS really well…I am already learning a lot from him.

Which overall means that I am much calmer.  My “fuck this job” attitude…well it wasn’t quite that, but I was on the verge of at least having a strop…hell I even responded to a recruiter’s e-mail…though I said the role sounds great but no thanks.  The role did sound great too.  Like…perfect.

So I might be underpaid, and the days far too long, the commute tough on my well-being and working in a basement being horrid – with the added threat of the odd evening of customer service.

But I feel calmer, it feels right again.  There is purpose.

Most days I ask myself, have I progressed in my career goals?  And recently the answer was tending to be no.  This week it is emphatically yes.  I know I am there to do a job for Lovespace, and I think I have done a very good job so far – for a junior.  But I must be selfish too, I must develop as a developer.  And I am now developing again.

Like most people, I am now looking forward to 3 days off work (assuming nothing goes wrong on the website…bank holidays have a habit of causing problems).

Nothing special is planned, other than life.

Saturday I’m going to watch the Champions League final.  In theory it should be a great game – you can get better odds on 0-0 than 3-2.  Maybe I might go to the Spanish festival of queuing beforehand that I went to last year, if I can find anyone willing to accompany me.

Sunday I’m just going for a roast.  Going to meet a fellow blogger, which should be interesting.

And Monday maybe go out for something to eat.

I’m keeping loose plans as there is good thunderstorm potential, and if one is on the way, I’d like to be able to head somewhere with a good view.  Maybe Alexandra Palace, but they have a festival on.

And then the usual cleaning yadda yadda.  Oh if only I had had my pay rise that I desired and could afford a cleaner.  Hoping to start making a website for my weather forecasting page – Facebook proofing, if you will.

I’m getting boring now, aren’t I?

Be done with you.

If you’ve bothered to read my latest ramblings I wish you a great weekend.  You know where I am if you are bored and you are not a twatt.  Rectum.

Do I Still Enjoy Living In London?

It’s only Wednesday evening and I’ve already ditched the vaguely less unhealthy diet (ie less than 3,000 calories a day), and opened a bottle of red wine.  Actually it was already opened – I’m finishing it off.

I am questioning things at the moment.  Particularly in terms of where I work and where I live.

Why do I live in Harrow?  Am I still happy in my job?  Is the commute worth it?  At what point do I get fed up of being on junior pay?  Am I still a junior developer?  Should I start looking for another job?  Should I move closer to work?  Is living on my own worth it?  Do I actually still enjoy living in London?  Am I black?

I knew the deal from the off – moving to London for a new career wasn’t going to be easy.  I knew I’d be much poorer.  I knew it would be hard work.

Yet as I get older, fatter and even less fit, doing the longest working days of my life with the longest ever commute is taking its toll.  I’m often tired, often resorting to Red Bull, chocolate, sausage sandwiches – just whatever I can to survive and make it through the day.

Once I get home, I have 2 hours before it is time to go to bed – 20 minutes to chill out and read, then maybe put TalkSport on or something for 20 minutes, then I’m normally ready to sleep.

There is no time to enjoy London.  There are all kinds of events at the office, all kinds of things I’d like to do – evening classes in Spanish, evening coding practice events – meeting other developers, finding new friends.  Having a fucking beer in the evening sun.

But I know if I don’t get my 8 hours sleep, I am not as on the ball the next day – and I really need to be in my job.  I cannot do my job properly at even 80% – my old job as a credit controller I could turn up still fucked off my face having not slept and still turn in a decent day’s work, as I didn’t have to think.

So my dream of moving to London so I could do all these cool things in the evening isn’t turning out to plan.  Not that I can afford them even if I had the time.

I have proven myself as a web developer, yet there is no sign of a decent pay rise.  I know I can get £5-10k more elsewhere – I regularly receive e-mails from recruiters and department managers requesting I interview for roles for £10k more, that I am experienced enough for.  I have actually started thinking about the e-mails I receive rather than responding with pages of GDPR compliance law.

In fact, I am actually regretting saying “no thanks” to one last week.  Maybe I am only thinking that as it has been a particularly difficult and miserable week for the whole tech team, but I do feel that I am edging closer towards the door.  The low pay, combined with all the bullshit like 4 hours of unpaid customer service a month, plus having more responsibility than most junior developers (at least from what I read online) is making me question my situation.

At what point does having a good boss and being able to wear shorts stop outweighing the feeling of being underpaid?

Also living where I do takes up a lot of my time.  2.5 hours commuting each day if it runs to clockwork.  Which is a big if – though it has been better recently.

Not only that, but living by myself means I have to look after a whole house – one of the reasons I wanted a pay rise was so I could afford a cleaner once a month, so I could then study more.  Plus the amount of time I spend washing up without a dishwasher.

But what if I move house to near work then I realise that my current disposition against my job isn’t temporary?

The thing that most pisses me off is my belly.  But I don’t have time for exercise and I’m often too tired to eat healthily – which is a negative virtuous circle.  And I know I have to do something about this.  I really do have to take this seriously – but I simply don’t have the energy to do so.

So I don’t enjoy Monday to Friday in London any more.  Long gone are the days where I get excited to get on the underground in the morning.  I’m closer to being arrested for biting someone that spends 2 seconds at the ticket barrier trying to find their Oyster card.

Saturdays I then tend to have to clean the house.

Sundays are the best day of the week – I have my roast dinner adventure.

And then it is back to Monday.

Don’t get me wrong – I know a lot of people feel like this, and a lot of people have much more difficult lives.  But I worry that I am working so much that I am not getting time to enjoy my life.  I moved to London to fulfil a dream.

Yet it is just proving as difficult as other periods of my life, albeit just a very different type of difficult.

It is still preferable to Bracknell.

There are solutions.  Lots of potential solutions.  I best go to bed – it is approaching 10pm.  I didn’t answer the question, did I?

Complaint: Sainsburys Cucumber

Dear Sir/Madam

I still have not worked out the point of cucumber.

It tastes of nothing.  It seems to be just water.  It is utterly pointless.

Yet I add it to my salad.  Why?  I have no idea.  Just one of the many pointless things I do in my life, like writing letters of complaint over something worth about 55p in the vague hope that I am making someone smile somewhere with my vague attempts at humour.

Anyway, I had a cucumber bought from my local Sainsbury’s store the other day.  Other week, actually, I’ve been busy.

The sell-buy date was 19th August, if I recall correctly, but several days in advance if this, it turned totally loathsome, as if the bottom half of the cucumber had started sharing Britain First posts on it’s newsfeed.

Yet the top half remained decent and I kept eating it – how long had the bottom half turned minging for (RIP Jade Goody) whilst I was still eating it?  I dread to think.

So yes, I have spent more than 55p of my time writing to you, and more than 55p of your time in reading and hopefully responding to my beautiful drivel, about a cucumber worth 55p that I still ate half of.

Though as dull and pointless as cucumbers may be, it is quite shocking just how disgusting they become when they go off.  Like proper Hitler-style.

Bye

ps When are you fixing your yoghurt pots?

******

Dear James

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry that the cucumber you got was so offensive. I struggle finding the point of cucumber myself, so I Googled it.

Apparently cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae.

There is 10 main amazing health benefits to cucumbers but due to limited Internet access, I don’t actually know what these are.

I do know they shouldn’t be horrible on one end, so I’ve reported the poor quality through to our supplier and also added 110 points onto your Nectar account.

​This is to cover the cost of the dodgy cucumber, with extra, so you can pick up a perfect one on us, next time you’re in.

Your points will show in your account and be available for you to spend in the next 72 hours.

Thank you again for taking the time to get in touch. I hope that this has been helpful and we see you in store soon!
Kind regards

My Favourite Foreign Cities

I wanted to create a list of my favourite cities.

I appreciate that it isn’t easy to put them into context – those that I have visited most recently are most likely to be fresh in the memory and hold fond memories closer to hand.

Also I have visited the cities with different people and for different reasons – some cities I got to know much better than others.

24. Rome

I was only there for a short weekend, and with a couple (the female of which I rather fancied) so maybe this was never going to feature too highly – I also found the city rude and way too expensive.  This was before the days of Trip Advisor so it is highly unlikely that I have seen the best of Rome – and it hasn’t seen the best of me.

23. Amsterdam

This was just a day-trip, and we spent it in the Red Light district.  It just felt overly seedy, too touristy and vaguely sinister in places.  Smoking weed probably didn’t help.  There is, of course, much more to Amsterdam but I didn’t see it, hence it is low down in my list.

22. Brussels

A recent trip on the wonderful Eurostar, but Brussels is a damn boring city.  Excellent for beer, but not an awful lot to do apart from that.

21. Venice

Another over-rated city, absolutely packed-full of tourists.  Plus it rained when I went, and I had very little money so I couldn’t afford to go into the attractions.  Very pretty, and I don’t doubt many people love it for good reason – but it was just too cliche and obvious for me.

20. Zakopane

A cute town in the mountains of south Poland.  Awesome sausages and very cheap drinks prices – I had a lot of fun the first night and then was ill.

19. Bologna

I quite liked Bolonga.  It seemed an under-rated Italian city with plenty of culture and history – I did it on the same trip as Venice and didn’t have much money to spend, but found it enjoyable, if not a must-visit.

18. Bratislava

I’d booked a trip here just before I was made unemployed, so another holiday on a budget.  And it was -4’C – constantly.  We tried to find cheap/free things to do but the main conclusion was to drink cheap beer.

17. Dublin

Only there for 36 hours (awake all of them…oops), Dublin has a lot of energy and is definitely a drinking city.  We saw no culture – we were not there for that.  I even managed a few Tinder swipes – and boy people liked my mullet.

16. Maastrict

A random Ryanair flight in my early 20’s and where I discovered Leffe beer – my life changed at that point.  I don’t remember an awful lot about it, except drinking beer and remarking that everything was closed on the Sunday.

15. Stuttgart

This was back in the days when I used to enter competitions in my spare time – and I won a holiday to Stuttgart.  It was absolutely freezing cold, but had a great bar scene, good nightlife, excellent Bratwurst – a very functional German city.  And a huge Christmas market – if you like that kind of thing when it is -4’C by day.

14. Bucharest

My first visit to eastern Europe was interesting.  You could see just how poor some people were, yet it was clearly becoming quite modern too – though with many a dilapidated building.  Some amazing nightclubs – the centre of modern minimal techno, we had good food, good cheap wine – spent some time in a really nice park.  It is similar to visiting any western European city – but you know you are in eastern Europe.  Hot women too.

13. Paris

I’ve been to Paris so many times, probably more than any other city on the list.  It does have a certain pomposity and rudeness in places, matching the obvious tourist areas.  Yet there is far more to it than that, similar to London – stepping away from the main tourist areas is key.  I may have had my share of ultra-rude waitresses but I’ve also met loads of great people there too, and been to some damn cool parties.  I’d go again, but I’ve got far too many places that I have never been to – and far too little money.

12. Zurich

I was there for the Zurich Street Parade last year.  32 trucks full of nutcases dancing to a wide variety of dance music.  So much fun.  Probably would be really boring outside of then, it is very expensive too, and maybe doesn’t justify being halfway in the list.  But hey.  It’s my list.

11. Tirano

I was really touched by this little town in the Italian mountains – and the picturesque scenery.  I’d probably never visit again, and was ripped off for dinner, but it just felt really good being there.

10. Frankfurt

A load of us went here to go to Cocoon nightclub – what an awesome experience that was.  This was just such a fun weekend – one of my best weekends ever.  Was the city actually that good?  Well, I really like Germany and thought it had a good combination of surprise and impressiveness.  Doubtless it would not be so high in the list were it not such an awesome weekend.  Had my best Bratwurst ever here too.

9. Delft

We only spent one night here, but it is a super-cute town in the Netherlands – the people were really friendly, and we had a personal guided tour of the town.  Great beer again, too.

8. Milan

I enjoyed Milan more than I expected – I had this impression in my head that it would be of pompous, uber-stylish Milanese, though they were probably on holiday.  Great pizza, I discovered Gustav Klimt here, and the city itself seems to have more going on than the obvious, similar to Paris and London with some really interesting districts to explore for cultural events.

7. Lisbon

The first beer I had here cost 62p.  There is a theme here, isn’t there?  I like places with cheap beer.  Believe it or not, there is nowhere in Scandinavia in this list.  Lisbon also had a hell of a lot of charm too – quite a beautiful city, with a gorgeous castle – we had some nice food – though also one really shit meal, like, truly shit.  I’d go back for sure.

6. Den Haag

I wouldn’t have considered going to the capital of Holland – but I had won a competition to go on holiday there (I used to spend hours every week entering them when I was really poor).  Instantly I loved the feel of the place – a modern European city, lots of wide open space – one of the first things that struck me was the sheer volume of bicycles.  Wish the holiday had been in summer so we could have gone to the beach to…yes Den Haag has a beach.  Great city.

5. Sevilla

I went by myself here and really enjoyed it – I am sure that I would have truly loved it with others.  Gorgeous weather despite being the beginning of November, cheap beer, some very good tapas and a load of hot Spanish women to stare at.  Also where I discovered “free” tours…managed 3 nights on a strict budget too.  The city itself was just beautiful, I loved getting lost in all the tiny roads.

4. Madrid

The bigger the city the better.  And the more Spanish the city, the better too.  I just loved the vibe in Madrid, I loved the busyness – there was so much to do.  We had a great guided tour of the city and found out so much about the history of Spain.  Had an awesome steak dinner, some good tapas, and went to some really nice bars.  Plus sunshine.  Oh yeah and hot Spanish women.  I have a feeling I will be going back again – not in July or August though.

3. Barcelona

I was far too young to appreciate Barcelona properly, just being in my early 20’s.  We stayed in a proper rough area, with crack dealers and prostitutes outside our hotel all day and night.  Yet in the 24 hours that I was there (I went just to buy a load of duty-free cigarettes to sell), I just loved the vibe and more than that, for the first time I discovered that buildings are beautiful – not just functional.  It taught me to appreciate architecture and was a more important trip for my future being than I expected.  I need to go back.

2. Ibiza Town

Were this a large city then it would probably be number 1.  I love Ibiza – the whole island, but I’m talking cities here.  The historic centre is so beautiful, the vibe (that word again) is captivating, I’ve had some amazing food here – in fact, all of the best tapas that I have ever eaten has been on this island.  I feel at home here.  I wish I could live there.

1. Berlin

What can I say about Berlin?  It is a magical place.  So, so much history.  So many brilliant parties.  I’ve been 3 times (I think?!) – once was for the Love Parade back in 2014, 1.4m people dancing to techno…it was life-changing.  Berlin is such a cool city – so much history that relates to me.  I love Germany.  I love Germans.  I really should go back as I haven’t experienced it anywhere near as much as I want to.  Out of everywhere I have been – Berlin is my favourite city by some way.