And That Was Christmas 2018

Christmas is over.  Normality is returning.  Sobriety is around the corner.

As usual, I went to Hull to see my parents and some of the extended family, for 5 nights.  About 1 night too many for me, about 360 nights too short for my mum.

It being time with the family, meant that the television was on much of the time – there is only so much I have to say before I start boring myself let alone everyone else (verbally, anyway).  I guess there is something kind of comforting about sitting around together on the off-chance that we can prise my mother away from QVC onto one of the few things we have in common.  Like Hull.

Conveniently, Hull City were on Sky so I didn’t have to find excuses as to why I didn’t want to go to the KC Stadium to watch them (I don’t want to give any money to the bastards who own us), and despite going 1-0 down, we came back to win an entertaining game 3-2.

Topping that, my favourite thing we watched was about Hull, called A Northern Soul.  A documentary about an ordinary working bloke from Hull, one struggling with the realities of life in Hull (and espousing the reasons that I escaped as soon as I could) but one who has a dream.  I won’t ruin it, but it was melancholic, funny and very Hull.  You should watch it.

Oh and we watched an early 90’s film called Point Break.  About surfers who become bank robbers.  You shouldn’t watch it.

Culture in Hull is a major thing, as you will likely understand, so we went to a photography exhibition at the university, about the end of the fishing community in a part of Hull called Hessle Road.  Some of the photos are here for the curious, and my favourite is below:

The other thing apart from Hull that we all have in common as a family, is enjoyment of food.  And roast dinners.

My mother cooked a banging Christmas dinner.  Definitely an 8 out of 10 – the weird frozen parsnips and crappy frozen stuffing balls took the edge off – but perfect roast potatoes, and I mean PERFECT, along with banging gravy (cheers sis) made it an awesome dinner.  Alas my mother still hasn’t got the hang of cooking beef, ie longer is not better.  And I cooked the Boxing Day meal, though I was disappointed with how my braised beef turned out too.

I received some presents too.  I was desperate for socks, and my appetite was sated.

Alas, my grandmother’s idea of good socks isn’t mine.  She asked if I liked them – and you know me, I am pretty rubbish at lying.  So she told me to give them to my Dad, and I said “OK, I’ll do that”.  Cue evil look.  Bless her.

I got a couple of great t-shirts too (well, I love them) and the piece de resistance – my mum knitted me a scarf.  And it’s actually an awesome design, just the kind of thing I would buy.

Envy is not attractive, my friends.

I couldn’t help thinking about those not as lucky as me.  Those without families to spend time with, or those on the streets.  I wish there was some kind of over-arching solution that I could enact, to resolve the difficulties of everyone, alas…there isn’t.  I’ll just have to settle for a donation to charity, and the knowledge that I made the most of the time with my family.  One day I’ll solve all the problems of the world.  One day…

As much as I was ready to go back to London by Boxing Day, craving the comforts of a double bed and a shower that is more than a pointless dribble – even if it did mean that I spent 3 hours on Hull Trains feeling like I was a piece of toast under the grill, I think I made the most of the precious time with my wonderful family.

I guess that’s all I have to say.  Time to go enjoy my last weekend on the pop until Easter, although not too crazily as I’m really craving doing healthy stuff now.  So much so that I’m tempted to stay in on NYE and just have a pie and a bottle of wine – being able to get up the next day and get on with whatever I deem necessary – like moving this shitty Blogger blog to WordPress and the 21st Century.

I hope you had as wonderful a Christmas as myself.

Oh yeah, why did I get 4 bottles of shower gel but no deodorant?  What is that about?

Complaint: Sports Mixtures

Dear Cadbury’s

There is an argument at the age of 38 and with several fillings and a few teeth missing, that I should have learnt my lesson and stopped eating sweets.

But stuff that.  Life is short and I love sugar.

And Sports Mixtures are one of my favourite sweets – that and Tangfastics, I find hard to go a day without one.  Or two.  Or three.  And I wonder why I’m fat.

Anyway, before I bore you rigid about my new weight-loss plan that will never work, I would like to make a complaint about Sports Mixtures.

Normally they are awesome -80% of the time, the pack is fresh, squidgy and fruity.

But occasionally, around 20% of the time and this is not a new thing, they are really hard, ugly and dry…a bit like me on a Monday.

Why is this?  This has been happening for years – since Lions used to produce them.  It is like some packs get freshly made sweets, and others get dry sweets that have been left on the side for weeks.

I should have kept the most recent packet that this happened with, but am happy to inform you when it next happens – it happens roughly one in every 5 packs.  Maybe a little less frequent.

I hope you can find out why this is happening, and fix it.

Kind regards
James

******

Dear James Winfield,

Thanks for getting in touch with us; we want our consumers to always enjoy our products. Please be assured that any changes to products are implemented only after very thorough research and evaluation, and we are sorry that on this occasion you are disappointed.

We have made a small change to the proportions of the ingredients we use in our Sports Mix sweets; the new blend of ingredients also means that our Sports Mix sweets will have a softer texture, something that we know from feedback, our customers would prefer, while still having the same great taste.

Again, we are sorry that the change to the product does not suit your taste, and please be assured that your comments have been duly noted, and will be shared with the relevant colleagues.

Kind regards,

Consumer Relations Team

***************************************

Not even a voucher for a new pack.

Something Must Change

I have had enough.  And I am not talking about Brexit.

The Metropolitan line has become so bad that I’m getting home close to 8pm.  Today, I was on a tube stuck outside Harrow-On-The-Hill, awaiting a platform as both northbound platforms were occupied by other trains.  Neither of which apparently had a driver.  Fucking brilliant.

A good 15-20 minutes just stuck there, going nowhere, until the train finally moved, so I could then sit on the platform for a while and wait for my end destination train to arrive – which was stuck outside awaiting a platform.  Plus a bit of earlier slowness due to a signal failure.

At the moment, I am getting out of bed at 6:30am and getting home at 7:45pm, on average.

This is a long day.  I am tired.  I am drained.  I almost want to just say “fuck it” and quit my job.

Which would be stupid.  I actually really enjoy my job – the working part is great – I still pinch myself sometimes when I remember the shit I used to do for work.  I’m challenged every day, I am learning so much – I have great colleagues and an excellent manager.  I do get paid a relatively shit wage, and they do ask me to do things I hate like going to Luton – or go flyering – which is due to be timed for the next Beast From The East – like…fuck off.  But the work itself – it was my dream, and it is perfect.

I see what you are saying.  Why don’t I move house?

I currently live by myself.  I definitely will not get such a good deal elsewhere (Brexit?).  Is it worth the pain and the long days?  I’m not sure.

I actually had a look for rooms this morning, a bit closer to work – not hugely but enough to get me off the Metropolitan line, without using a sweatbox line either.  But all the half-decent rooms were at least £100 more than I pay now.  I need to reduce costs.  Not increase them.

Also playing into this is the ridiculous amount of weight that I’ve put on.  Almost every week I hit a new highest weight.  My belly has become ridiculous.  Sometimes people overtake me when I’m walking.  I almost waddle occasionally.  My ankles ache under the weight sometimes.  It isn’t far off 20kg that I’ve put on from just before I started this job.

Sometimes I look at fat people and imagine saying to them, “go on a fucking diet”.  Then I remember I’m fat.  Obese, actually.

It isn’t so easy though.  Last week I was refreshed after a week off, and managed to go 4 days of proper healthy eating.  I lost a little weight.  Then I drank on Friday night, ate too much food, and ended up consuming 5,000 calories (not an unusual amount for me when drinking).  Saturday I felt crap so needed comfort food.  Sunday too, though less.  Monday I went to Luton and we ate shit food for lunch – I got home late and just had junk food.  Tuesday I felt shit and ate loads.  And on…I should be able to reverse the pattern tomorrow – as I can relax and have a lay down if I feel tired – not having to shove something sugary down my throat just to give me some very temporary psychological benefit.

All being well, I will start next week being healthy – until something goes wrong.  I’m so mentally weak when it comes to controlling my eating at the moment.  The slightest thing – just waking up in the morning not having had enough sleep is enough to mean the whole of the rest of the week eating unhealthily.  One bad day and I cannot catch up with myself, as I’m working these long hours and getting home at silly times, and always being tired.

So I’ve had my moan.  I’ve set out what is wrong.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have a plan to fix my problems.  I just haven’t quite decided on that plan yet.  And no it doesn’t fucking involve exercise – I DO NOT HAVE THE TIME OR ENERGY.

Right.

If I’m going to move house then I need more money.

There are only two ways of increasing my salary – a promotion or a new job.  I don’t want to do the latter.  But I’ve proven myself and there is still no promotion.  Maybe it will happen in the next few months.  Maybe it won’t.

Until I decide that, then there is no point in looking for somewhere else to live.  I could move house to somewhere more convenient for my current job, then still not get a promotion and get offered a job in west London – I’d then have another long commute.  As dumb and pointless as Brexit.  Actually nowhere near as dumb, but you get me.  Booyakasha.

I actually updated my CV last weekend.  Amazing what being told to go to Luton on a Monday, not long after learning of the upcoming flyering, can do.  I still don’t want to have to go ahead with it.  I’m nothing as a human being if I’m not loyal.  But maybe I should be more selfish.

It isn’t an easy decision to make.  But something has to change – such long days give less meaning to my existence.

Also in January my new detox starts.  90 days and 90 kg.

Which will be a minimum of 90 days without alcohol, but also reaching a minimum weight of 90kg.  I’m currently 103.5kg and this year I lost 6-7kg during my detox (put 13 back on) so extrapolating this could mean 6 months of no drinking.  Which as you can imagine, I don’t want.  The theory being that I subsequently put more effort in before my detox starts, so I’m not sat in a Spanish piazza in May drinking agua.

And if I put weight back on after my detox like I did this year, then I’m going to punish myself with vegan roast dinners.

Something has to change.  I have to change.  As much fun as I’ve had this year, as much as I really do enjoy my job – I cannot continue on this current path.

Therefore my main goal for next year, one that I hope to achieve in the first few months, is to gain back at least one hour a day of my life.

Time to take back control.

ps Apart from the above, it has been the best year for years.  I’m trying my hardest to be miserable right now, but failing.  I’m still happy.

Complaint: Mouldy Tomatoes

Hey Sainsbury’s, how’s life?

We haven’t spoken for a while, which for most people other than my mum, is probably a good thing.  Definitely for you, as it means I have something to moan about and then you have to spend time refunding me the half a cucumber or whatever it is that I am moaning about.  Though the Metropolitan line is taking the brunt of my moaning capacity at the moment.

My lack of contact means that I’m either too busy or I’m happy, and until this delivery I was both.

Only one issue, the tomatoes – very nice but expensive tomatoes, had a huge patch of mould on them when I opened them.

They were dated 8th November, but when I opened them on 6th November I noted the mould.

That’s all.

I will leave it with you, and may I take this opportunity to wish you not only a Merry Christmas, but also a Happy Easter, in the hope that I won’t have need to write to you before then – I barely have time to text my grandma let alone complain to you.

All the best

James

(random image stolen from the internet)
******
Thank you for getting in touch and letting us know about this.  I apologise that the tomatoes were delivered with mould on them, I have reported this to the store so they have been made aware they were delivered like this.  I have refunded the tomatoes back on to the account.
********************************
I think our loving relationship is over.  I didn’t even get a “Dear James” from them.

The Value Of Your Investments Can Also Go Down

Last year you may recall that I got very excited when I bought some shares, and especially when they went up 10%.

They went up and down quite a lot but they were often 10% ahead, which would have been a nice £500 profit.

I had invested pretty much all my savings in there, £5,000, which was my redundancy money from Easynet.  I wasn’t using it, so I thought I should put it to good use and get it to grow using my wisdom – I’ve always fancied myself at being able to spot an investment opportunity – I often do pick out trends and future winners.

Quite why I thought I knew enough to make money from companies selling computer chips and parts for self-driving cars is another question – hardly my areas of expertise.

And then pretty much since the start of Donald Trump’s trade war this year, the shares have been falling.  Erratically, but the trend was down.  I didn’t want to sell at a loss, I wanted to wait until they went back up again.  They would, surely?

I stopped looking at them as I became too scared about how much I might lose.  Then a couple of weeks ago when I looked, I was £700 down.  I did feel a sense of foreboding and wanted to sell, but decided to wait until they went back up.  They would, surely?

I hung on and checked again last Friday, at which point it would have been just short of £1,000 loss.  I decided to sell if it went over a £1,000 loss.

It did on Monday.  I didn’t sell.  By Wednesday I had lost another £300.

I have now sold all my shares at a loss of £1,460.58.  Which is a fuckload of money to me.

Being a man of small means, still trying to find my way in life with no property, a low salary and very little pension – and being nearly 40, this money was kind of important to my future.  Well…maybe I was just going to go storm chasing with it for my 40th birthday.  But had it grown into something decent, then I could have done something even more constructive than storm-chasing with it.

Was it a mistake?  Yes.  Do I regret it?  Yes.  Will I regret it in 10 years?  Maybe not.

My biggest mistake was to ignore a good friend who told me to have a diversified portfolio.  No, I knew best and chucked 80% in one company, with the other company doing something similar.

I kept a watchlist of shares that I wanted to buy, and most have gone up.  Norwegian, which nearly doubled overnight at one point and I would have sold.  Nvidia, which was up 20% a few days ago but has taken a hammering recently.  Boohoo which is up 40%.  Only two have dropped that I considered buying, Facebook and Tencent.  I haven’t done the sums, but had I invested in all the companies that I considered, I would still have been ahead now – well ahead assuming that I sold Norwegian when they doubled.

I also thought about buying shares in Infineon (the company I invested most in) nearly a year before I did, and had I had done so, I would have been 30% or so ahead still.

Also, I’ve always thought the key to doing well in the stock market, was to buy shares during downturns, during recessions.  Of course, I bought them at the top of one of the longest-ever stock market rallies.

So buying shares per se wasn’t the issue.  What I bought and particularly the timing, was the issue.  My strategy, and lack of common sense fucked me over.

Now I am £1,460.58 down and I need to recover my losses.

Bearing in mind that on a good month I have £700 after rent and bills, this won’t be easy.

As tempted as I am to stick all my money on David Lammy being next Prime Minister, in reality this means cutbacks in expenditure and/or increases in income.

So a very boring 6-8 months is ahead of me, with minimal drinking, no proper going out, no buying things that need replacing…I have a huge list of things I need to buy…mostly because I have put loads of weight on and nothing fits me.  None of my coats button up and winter is around the corner.  It is truly back to austerity.

I was hoping to fund a trip to Japan next year (part current savings and part from 3 month detox savings) but unless I have a financial miracle (ie a significant pay rise from one way or another) then that isn’t happening.  In fact, there will be no booking holidays until I have reversed my losses.  Thankfully my upcoming trip to Budapest is paid for, bar the beer and vegan cheese.

Hell, I might even have to give up roast dinners for a few months, or maybe just do them once a month or something.

As well as cutting back, I will have to try to find some more income.  A few web development side-projects on weekends would be ideal, alas I’ve only had two proper website customers so far, so my portfolio is fairly minimal.  I’m not very good at selling myself, but I guess I’ll have to get out there and find some people that need a website.

Alternatively I need either a promotion or a new job.  The former is far more preferable…but maybe I’ll crack under a lack of roast dinners and attempt the latter.  I don’t want to, but a lack of gravy can make a northerner do crazy things.

It’s shit.  It is really fucking shit but I’m not actually that down about it.  It is only money, which I accept is easy for me to say – once you have the basics covered in life, which I do, then money becomes the door to extra opportunities.  Some doors have been closed for me, I won’t be able to treat myself or book a holiday for a while, but they are minor inconveniences.

I am pissed off with myself for bad decision making though.

On the bright side, I did get a £4.70 refund for a tube delay today.

There should be a further bright side too…I should lose weight.  I should be healthier.  It should force me to look into new earnings opportunities.  It could even open more doors than it closed.

This isn’t the end of investing in the stock market.  It is just a very painful lesson that I already knew but totally ignored.  Time to save some cash and wait for the next recession.

I blame the Tories.

27 Places I Have To Visit

I started writing this over 2 years ago…no idea why I never posted it at the time.  3 of the places on the original list I’ve already been to – Bucharest, Vienna and Madrid.

It isn’t in any particular order, bar the top 2 which I’d really like to do over the next 2 years…if I can somehow scrape the money together as they would by some way be the most expensive places to visit.  Which will only happen by the way of long periods without drinking or going out.

1. Tornado Alley
2. Japan
3. Cuba
4. St Petersburg
5. Melbourne
6. Dubai
7. Seoul
8. Iceland (Northern Lights)
9. Chile
10. Falkland Islands
11. Iran
12. Beirut
13. Detroit
14. Canada
15. Ukraine (Chernobyl in particular)
16. Athens
17. Belfast
18. Orkney
19. Hong Kong
20. Galicia
21. Zimbabwe
22. Costa Rica
23. Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
24. Belgrade
25. Ronda, Spain
26. Tbilisi
27. Tirana

I don’t see the list ever getting any smaller.

Complaint: TFL – Various

The first of my complaints this year to TFL – on a broad range of subjects.

******

Dear Sir/Madam

I don’t know where to start with this complaint.  How about GRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZR RGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZR RZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZR RZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZ RRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRR ZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZ RRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZ RRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZR RZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZR RZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZ RRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRGRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRRZRR?

Yes, that was what awoke me on both a Saturday and a Sunday morning – early – very early in the mornings, back in September.

I live close to Rayner’s Lane tube station, with my bedroom facing onto the Piccadilly line.  I quite like being able to see tube trains go past – for some bizarre reason this marginally excites me and I sometimes like to wave at the passengers as they go by.

However my view has been spoiled, as all of the trees and bushes at the back have either been chopped down or completely stripped bare.  I now have an embankment of rubbish to look at with a load of chopped tree branches.  I can understand cutting back trees next to a tube line – but completely removing all foilage?  This is quite disgraceful – let alone the noise disturbance.

Then we had October.  Almost every day it seemed as though there were significant delays on the Metropolitan line.  A couple of mornings I couldn’t even get into work – nearly every morning I was late to work – and quite often late home.  Yes, you did refund some delayed journeys – but others you didn’t.  Maybe some delays were out of your control, but most of the time it seemed to be due to signal failures – why did these keep happening?  What are you doing to ensure that these stop occurring?  I believe that I am correct in saying that all signalling on the Metropolitan line is due to be replaced by 2022 – but does this mean 4-5 years of regular signal failures for myself and other passengers?

Then we had some snow the other Sunday.  Not a huge amount of snow, but enough to wipe out both the Metropolitan and Piccadilly line for pretty much the whole day.  Why did this happen?  Why was there no testing done to ensure this kind of failure wouldn’t happen?  What has been done to ensure this doesn’t happen next time it snows?  Am I safe to go work in central London next time snow is due?

Also the information provided on the website/twitter was dreadful.  Why couldn’t we have been advised of the likely timescale of it being out?  And why were anti-economic messages put out advising people not to travel?

Speaking of going against the economy, and the UK in general, I was absolutely appalled to see advertising for RT.  Russia Today, is a Kremlin-funded (if not Kremlin-run) outfit that wants to subvert our democracy and turn all western countries such as our own into unstable, poorer countries.  They have put out reems of outright lies both about what has happened in this country, and across the world.  This is pretty much the equivalent of advertising for the Nazi Party on the tube in 1940…that didn’t happen did it?  So why allow our enemy of RT to advertise?  Please seriously reconsider the impact on the country of RT – as this will impact on the income from fares too.

And finally, do you realise that removing Uber’s license will mean more people get illegal taxis back from nightclubs?  Is that what you want?  Uber makes many people feel safe on their journey home.  Plus it is safer for taxi drivers themselves as they are not going to get robbed.  Not only an anti-economic decision but an anti-safety decision.  But one assumes the socialist mayor and trade unions are running the show on this.

I appreciate that my complaint is multi-faceted, but I do expect some kind of responses to the questions that I have posed.

Running the transport network for the best city in the world cannot be easy.  There are a lot of things that you get right, and 90% of the time, the service is excellent.  There are great improvements being made, and these are all appreciated.

One more thing – any chance of electronic boards at Rayner’s Lane to see when the next tube is due?

Kindish regards
James

******

Dear Mr Winfield

Thanks for your feedback form about your complaints.

I’m extremely sorry to read about the experiences you’ve come across.

I’m sorry to read there have been changes to your view of the tubes from your window.

With regards to delays, as a commuter myself, I can appreciate the frustration and inconvenience caused especially as you rely on the service to travel and punctuality is of essence.

We try our best to run all of our trains to schedule. However, on a network with services as frequent as ours even small delays can cause further disruption to customers down the line.

Having said this, your satisfaction is our utmost concern. Also we want our customers to have a good experience with their journeys on the Underground.

When there is severe weather, for customer safety changes need to be made based on investigation from Train Operating Managers, this is why there were delays and cancellations on the lines.

With regards to your comments on RT, Uber license and information board at Rayners Lane station, I’ve forwarded this so it can be looked into. I can assure you that it’ll be taken seriously as they will investigate it. They’ll also put measures in place to resolve the problem.

I’m grateful that you brought this matter to our attention; we use feedback from customers to ensure that we can consistently develop the services across our network. I also wish you a more pleasant journey on our services.

I would like to again apologise for the inconvenience caused.

Thanks again for contacting us. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you can call us on 0343 222 1234 and we’ll be happy to help you.

Kind regards

xxxxxxxxxxx
Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services

******

A fairly pointless response.

However – behold the electronic information boards at Rayners Lane:

I’m taking credit.

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]