Thursday, November 27, 2008

National pride.

Never really had much.
Probably due to the fact that I find white Australian history shameful and I would likewise rate it's "culture" right up there with all the intense flavour of a boiled potato.

The first time I felt any sort of stirring in the national pride arena was last year in Hong Kong, a place I chose to stop only because our carrier didn't actually go to Singapore and because my back wasn't up to the two 12 hour flights in a row.

We were walking through God knows what sort of furious back alley in this incredible China town that never, never ends.
I swear the China Town there actually has a China town.

I remember looking back up this neon jungle of a street, crammed as it is with signs and thing hanging in windows that have no English definition, and I was struck by the fact that I felt so completely at home there.

Whilst jet lagged and in the middle of Kowloon?


"You gotta be kidding," I thought to myself.

I had never realised how very Asian (Sydney) Australian culture had become.

And I had never given a second thought as to how entirely comfortable I was in it.

And at the same moment, I first felt proud of the way Australia was developing.

More tolerant, more open, more likely to embrace differences.
More interesting.
Possibly also related to the then recent dismissal of John Howard and his nasty, racist little conservative government.

What a pleasant feeling it is not to be contemptuous of your own country.
Since then, I have remained hopeful that the extravagant mix of people and culture that is Australia will eventually cough up something truly remarkable and soon dilute the plain freckly convict stock beyond recognition.

On the same note, I must mention a similar experience of national pride that I had just this week, this time courtesy of dear little Slovenia.

I have been spending a lot of time and energy on arranging and now booking the next Euro trip.

As it happens, Jeff and I will be spending 8 nights in Slovenia, the country of my father's birth.

The Tischler's themselves were of Austrian/Viennese descent apparently (makes a great deal sense- I feel totally at home there), and Mum's family were German (Prussian in fact, so look out), but Oma's -my paternal grandmother's family were full Yugo.

Having had a reasonably unpleasant time in Czech Republic when we visited, because of the "communist hangover" as Jeff calls it, and even having been mildly uncomfortable in Hungary due to the social and economic climate being so dire, I have been feeling a little anxious that Slovenia may be disappointing.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that I've been feeling down right freaked out.

Seriously - committing to 8 days in a country that may not even hold a candle to it's rich cousins across the border just because Dad was born there, is sticking my neck way out.

OK, so those rich cousins moved the borders quite a few times in order to absorb Slovenia's richest cities whenever no-one was looking, but still, if it has anything like the feel of Prague, I'll be devastated.

Last Sunday I had emailed a few hotels to find out about availability and whether we could possibly get a non-smoking room so that at least for a few hours each day, we would be able to breathe freely.

Just this year, Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary were so hard core with the chain smoking that I all but sprinted into Germany- perhaps the first person ever to flee in that direction for sanctuary.
Germany of course, went smoke free January 1st, they just never told them in the north, that's all.

Naturally I assumed that Slovenia would be worse again, smoking being couple in my mind to poverty, and I had already started with the mental preparations necessary to resign myself to being descended from chain smoking hillbillies.

You may imagine my surprise then, when I received the following email from Lake Bled.


I would like to confirm your reservation, Slovenia is nonsmoking (country) all rooms restaurants nonsmoking,

Train station is 5 km from Bled so taxi or i will pick up you for free but send me 1 more e mail to me a few days before your arriving

best regards Di etmar

So there you have it.

Another burst of national pride for Simone.

Not only does my country of origin have the balls and common sense to thumb it's nose at the backwards social customs of it's rich relos across the borders, it has people friendly enough to arrange a play date with a total stranger almost 11 months in advance.

Friendly, organised, healthy, ballsy.

Hmmm hooray for Dietmar, I say.

I have a travel book about Slovenia that describes her people.
Allow me to illuminate, courtesy of Lonely Planet.

Slovenes are a sophisticated and well-educated people. They have a reputation for being sober- minded, hard working, dependable and honest - a Germanic bent that is the result of 600 years plus in the orbit of the H

But they retain
something of their Slavic character, even if their spontaneity is a little more planned and their expressions of passion a little more muted than that of their Slavic neighbours to the south.

Think quietly conservative, deeply self-confident, broadminded and tolerant.

If you really want to understand the Slovenes and Sloventsvo (Slovene-ness), then there are two Slovenian words that you should know.

The first is the adjective priden, variously defined as 'diligent', 'industrious', hard-working' and - tellingly - 'well-behaved'.

The second word is the noun hrepenenje, which expresses a more complicated concept. The dictionary says it means 'longing' or 'yearning' but that's only half the story.

In truth it's the desire for something seemingly unattainable and the sorrow that accompanies it.

'Hrepenenje is the exclusive property of the dispossessed, the country's agonising history of border changes, emigration, alienation and powerlessness within a larger unit.'

Somewhere else in the book, it goes on to explain how important language and literature are to Slovenes, poetry in particular.

Goodness gracious, that nailed my family fairly accurately.
And Dietmar too I should think.
And I like it.

Doesn't really cover the swearing though, does it?
Or does that fall under the category of poetry?

That's perhaps the first time I've enjoyed being pigeon-holed.
That's what she said. LOL

Pics = Kowloon & Dietmar's hotel in Bled.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No idea what to call this- bum wad maybe?

*** I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but have given up waiting for Jeff to download the footage from my phone, so I'm posting it without such trimmings.

Hands up who's been to Merrylands.

Goodness, what an interesting place.

I know that I have previously described it as being home to the world's hillbillies.
But I believe that today's display gives me leave to pretty much whatever I please without feeling even slightly remorseful.

So here goes.

Bear in mind that I arrived 20 minutes early to work this morning.

And that I was ushered into the newish car park by 2 security staff.

And that as soon as it was too late to avoid it, I found myself stuck in horrific traffic within the car park itself.

Can't go forwards, can't go backwards.


Took me 15 minutes to get back out, only to see the same staff still waving people in.


Then I get back onto the street and stop to let 87 people cross very s-l-o-w-l-y.
Each of them has a shopping trolley containing a minimum of 3 microwaves, each in a pale blue box.
Plus half a dozen packs of 18 rolls of toilet paper.

I have never seen so many microwave ovens. I hope I never do again.

Having worked as a geriatric nurse, seeing masses of toilet paper did not alarm me.

Except for that African family who purchased 180 rolls of the stuff in one go.
Clearly they have a big weekend planned.

After waiting another 10 minutes for the semi-trailer to stop reversing across the main road during peak hour, I eventually made in to work at9:30.

Just then I discovered for the first time in almost 40 years that I had lost a key.

My $300 work key had come off my keyring and was gone.



So I had to find poor, stressed Jim in the other shop and borrow his keys to open, which I finally did at 9:40.

Not bad.

But I'd had to battle I cannot tell you how many trolleys full of...microwaves and toilet paper along the way.

People were fighting in the car park.
It was glorious. A rare display of the best humanity has to offer.

I could have allowed it all to prompt me into having a bad day, but I just smiled to myself and thought,

"...hey, what a great blog!"

Anyway, as I later found out, K-Mart was selling microwaves for $29.
I chose not to enquire as to the price of the bum wad, or anal serviettes, as Jeff calls them.

I did take the time and trouble to film the bum wad/microwave procession though.

I thought no-one would believe me else.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Delete Zagreb (boohoo) and add the extra time onto the lovely Lake Bled in Slovenia.

Why did my family leave this place again?

Oh yes, fascists.

Crossing everything that we have good weather on October 7th so we can get plenty of killer pics.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Nailed it.

Well if'n that wasn't the week from the lowest plane of Hell.

Moving at work under Jim's approach of, "I'm Sicilian, we don't make plans."

And coupled with the fact that we went along to the Euro Expo run by Flight Centre last week and in order to obtain their discount, we had to lock in and pay for flights by last Friday.

Well the money wasn't a problem, we knew that would happen, but the flight dates had to be sorted out for not only the two of us, but for 4 other people whose itinerary I hadn't finished working out.

Further complicated by the alteration of our initial destination from London/Berlin to Frankfurt/Vienna and I found myself with not a spare second to unwind.

But, hours of online detective work paid off and perhaps the 6th route I plotted has now become final.

I only ripped out 3 clumps of hair too, so that's pretty good going.

I had to give up Venice as getting there from Ljubljana may have required a parachute. The train goes there but first goes full north across the border into Austria before turning around and making about 20 stops for Italian and Slovenian Nannas to get on.
If it went direct it would be a 2 hour trip. It can take up to 8.5 hours.

Yet another fine example of good old fashioned Italian organisation.

Anyway, the point is, it would have allowed us only two nights and one day in Venice for almost two full days of travel to get in and out of the damned place.

I would have found it very frustrating to go to Venice and not have time to see the galleries and such properly.

So we diced Venice and have elected to spend one of the extra nights in London so that the boys can do an overnight trip to Amsterdam, plus the other night will be spent in Zagreb in a bid to make the journey from Berlin/Dresden to Celje somewhat easier.
Really looking forward to the passive smoking.

The final route will be:

Frankfurt/Vienna -5 nights - day trips to Budapest and Prague
Berlin -at Tone's 4 nights
Dresden - 1 night
Zagreb - 1 night
Celje/Vitanje - 3 nights (meet relatives/Dad's home town)
Ljubljana - 4 nights - day trips to Lake Bled, Piran, Predjama
Salzburg - 3 nights - day trip to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
Munich - 5 nights - day trips to Schloss Linderhof & Neuschwanstein/Oberammergau, Rothenburg/Harburg,Ingolstadt
London -5 nights - maybe a day trip to Bath
Hong Kong - incl Disneyland

And the best thing is that because I made a mistake , we will now be spending our 20th unniversary in London instead of on some God awful long haul flight.

We plan to do Beatles walk and cross Abbey Road again on that day. woot woot

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Done and done.

Well we booked our airfares today.

My only request regarding airlines was NOT GARUDA, NOT BRITISH AIRWAYS, NOT QANTAS.

Because I truly believe that Qantas are trading on a very old and very outdated safety reputation.
I understand they now out source a great deal of their mechanical work and I think we can all see that it's really starting to show.

With all their little problems of late, I suspect they're hedging up for something rather spectacular.

I do hope I'm wrong.

Especially since we just booked return flights with them.

Strange, but I heard quite a few people saying they'd prefer not to fly Qantas at the travel expo today.
Even Vivien, my step-mother has decided to dodge Qantas when they travel to Europe.

Just a few short years ago, they were in the position of charging almost what they pleased...

The biggest queue by far today was around the Emirates stall.
Couldn't get near them, which is a pity, because I've heard nothing but good of them.

Anyway, Qantas!

Bloody Hell.

Apart from safety concerns, I would prefer anyone else (not British Airways - too many whingeing Poms) because the last thing I want to do on an international trip is talk to Aussies.

And here's why.

I have included translation for Gretchen's benefit.
Mostly, these are things I have actually heard.

"Yeah Love, give us some more free beers and that, I'm gunna get pissed and stuff on the plane, eh!" = I am so stupid, cultureless and boring that my farts are more interesting than my conversation.

"Errrrrrrrr, brown bread.And what's this green shit? Can I get more mayo?" = I eat like I'm at a 3 year old's birthday party and never try anything new. I'm an idiot.

"I'm not eating none of this wog shit!" = May I have a dish with a little less flavour please? I'm afraid my First Fleet ancestors have eaten nought but damper, beer and swill for 200 years and this has caused DNA damage and resultant brain shrinkage, yet an increased sperm count.

"I hope the pilot's not Asian." = I'm a cunt.

When I go away, I like to go away.
And I like the adventure and change of culture to start immediately.

I adored being the minority and immersing myself in another culture.
There's nothing like it.
You can just feel it doing you good.

So, on this flight, my MP3 player will be turned UP (to 11), and for the second leg, I will be swallowing enough Temaze to deaden the pain caused by the proximity of the damper sodden twits who will also be representing our magnificent country.

If white Australian culture were a biscuit, it would be a Milk Arrowroot...extra plain. Unremarkable.
And it would stay in it's own packet, criticising the other chocolate coated, caramel, nutty biscuits for not being as plain as themselves, and for encroaching on their shelf of the pantry which they stole from all the other more interesting biscuits in the first place.

And if we fall from the sky during this flight, rest assured that bits of white bread and processed cheese will be washing up on foreign shores, wreaking havoc on flora and fauna alike.

Aussie Aussie Aussie!

Oi Oi Oi!

By the way, did you know that that chant was originally derived from a racist skinhead chant?
They don't eat brown bread either.


After spending last Christmas in a hotel room in Vienna watching Jeff argue with a doctor about having a lumbar puncture, I thought I'd take the opportunity to fracture a few family habits.

Like the habit of putting in 6-8 weeks of work, just for one meal.

Fair enough it's a spectacular meal, but seriously.

The people 2 doors down from us are German, and I first figured this out when I saw them washing their windows with extreme prejudice exactly 6 weeks before Christmas.

Exactly 6 weeks.

I like to do Christmas Eve though, mostly for Dad's sake.

I bake all the traditional things his mother used to bake and prepare pretty much everything my 2 aunts and my mother used to do altogether.
But that's because I'm an idiot rather than because anyone expects it of me.

It is so much work that I have a standard work schedule prepared.
I won't be posting that, I'm too ashamed.

The last Xmas Eve I did, the menu was as follows.
Bear in mind that everything is home made except the pate and the drinks..

On Arrival:

Champagne, beer, soft drinks.
Baked thyme fetta with crisped Lebanese bread
Olives and semi-dried tomatoes

Main Buffet:

Schnitzel - veal, pork (and chicken for those with the boring palate ie Adrian)
Baked leg of ham with fresh cranberries, garnished with oranges and cloves
Garlic marinated octopus (Vivien)
Fresh Tiger prawns
Sydney Rock Oysters
Smoked salmon
Watermelon, fetta and hazelnut salad
German potato salad
Slovenian cucumber salad
Roma tomato, bocconcini and basil salad
Fresh rocket lettuce salad with pomegranate.


Apple strudel (fucking hate making this shit)
Vanilla Kipferl
Anise Bogen (extra flat for irritation purposes)
Brandied chocolate cherries
Fruit platter
Fruit Mince Pies
Christmas Nut Wreath (as the centre piece)
White Xmas (for Clair)

Tea and coffee.

So between the cooking, which takes me weeks, the general preparations, the shopping, the cleaning, the biggest time sponge is actually the table decorating.

I get bored and change my colour scheme each year, even though I promise myself I won't.

This year is lime green and gold to make the most of my new Henry VIII and his wives decorations Jeff bought me at Westminster Abbey last year.

Polishing the silver, checking the glassware, setting up trestles, finding exactly the right candles and centre piece, trying to fit everything in the fridge, making the perfect tablecloths - I lose the plot each and every year.

So, after last year's experience, I find myself comparatively relaxed about Xmas this year.
So far anyway.

We decided to take advantage of this and make the decision to go out for Xmas Eve instead.

To a German restaurant that does goose and pretzels. And has oom pah-pah bands.

You know that slapping dance that Chevvy Chase does in European Vacation?
Yoga boy can do it properly- learnt during his Munich days - they take it very seriously indeed.

woot woot

And then back to ours for presents and my very ridiculous dessert menu.
Dad calls it zuker bakerei.

If I don't bake Xmas goodies 2 years in a row, I think something in me will break.

Oh fuck, that means I have to make strudel, doesn't it?


Anyway, that will all start in the next 2 weeks.
I have already amassed most of the ingredients - need more glace fruit though. And brazil nuts. And brandy.

Naturally I need to make double or triple batches of everything so that I can take it with me to Jeff's family the next day for Xmas as well as down to Aunty Kit's beach house when we visit the next week.

Anyway, today I finished the last of the fiddly Xmas shopping - every stocking is stuffed to the point that they cannot take so much as even one more Mintie.

I spent today making an advent calenar for Bronte and Laura, my unGodchildren.

It awesome.
It's out of 24 large matchboxes, which you cover with nice paper, and then stick them together to look like a tree.
Then you fill the drawers with lollies and little toys, and they open one drawer each day for the month of December as a countdown to Xmas.
I changed the colour scheme to pink, green and brown so that they can use it for occasions other than Xmas too.
The girls are at just 5 and 6, so the perfect age to enjoy this I think.

So, I have less to do than usual, but still a great deal to get through.

Oh, and I'm not making a gingerbread house this year either.

So there.