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To the island! June 30, 2007

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.

I have to make a visit to a small island and not, unfortunately, one located in one of Berlin’s many lakes. No, I need to get on a plane. Be away from home. Talk to people. Nothing I loathe more.

“Darling, shall I not go?” I said looking for discouragement from the Russian over a late-night dinner. But the Russian and I both have far too humble origins to ever seriously contemplate doing anything as decadent as deliberately missing a flight. I did once miss a train while waiting for it on the platform – it came, loaded up, dropped off and departed without me noticing – but that doesn’t matter in the UK, or never used to, at least, as you could just get on the next one. But, having booked my ticket to a small island, and even if the ticket did only cost 3p, I daren’t not go.

When I get my job at Lidl, none of this will be a problem, of course. Then I’ll be a 9-5er. I’ll know my life-timetable weeks, maybe even months in advance. Trips to small islands will be penned in and then relax, unworried about, in my otherwise untroubled filofax. But no sooner do I book a trip to a small island with my current ludicrous life-timetable than despicable work comes crawling out of usually work-free crevices and I am left juggling 18 things at once. And I am the clumsiest person on earth. As the Russian lovingly puts it, “Your hands grow out of your arse.”

I wondered if I might have the good fortune to be in a (non-fatal, of course) plane crash. Just a bit of a skid off the runway, then me suffering from shock for, say, about five months and nicely being holed up in hospital and enjoying the room-service. I offered this scenario to the Russian for his consideration. “Whaddaya think? A plane crash might be nice.” “You haven’t paid the rent yet.”

I’m not very good at life at the moment. I’m having to do an amount of work that, presumably, 99% of other grown-ups cope with on a day-to-day basis. Then there are trips to islands. Summer guests. Summer weddings. Visas to organise. Officialdom to deal with. And the Russian’s insistence that we VOLUNTARILY get on a plane at another point in the summer to go to a place which neither of us will know, where we will know no-one (admittedly, that could be a plus) and where I will yearn, the whole time, to be at home. Do I still have to feign interest in the local iron-age mushroom museum at 36? Couldn’t we just stay in bed?

Thankfully, the destination for the next plane-journey of the summer isn’t yet fixed. Various places I’d rather skewer my testicles than go to in unknown bits of France and Spain have been posited. (I’d be happier at Lidl.) “Hm, but where would we stay?” I say, hoping to fudge the issue for another few heavenly minutes. “No, we can’t go there. The water’s too rough and cold…” “…or there, they vote Le Pen…” “…no, isn’t that the bit of Spain which is a Belgium-sized greenhouse?” The British Isles and the former Soviet Union are ruled out for the sake of neutrality. Anywhere else non-EU and the Russian will need a life-force-sapping visa. “Greece?” the Russian suggested as I manoeuvred my ear-plugs, blindfold and slippers into position. “Yes, we could go to Mt. Athos [and I could become a monk, at last, which is what I’ve always wanted, never meeting anyone ever again, but for Prince Charles when he comes on retreat].” “Is it island?” “No, it’s on the mainland…” “…or Mykonos?” “No, I don’t vont go gay place. I hate gays.”

Lesbos it is, then.



1. bye bye bellulah - June 30, 2007

If it wasn’t for not wanting to appear too strange and dull in conversation with other people, I’d barely leave the house. It’s my fear of scorn and ridicule that shape any sort of life I have other than staying in alone. I feel like I have a life that’s all background research for party small-talk.

2. annie - June 30, 2007

Is it a work trip or for pleasure then? I love getting on a plane (though don’t really like flying), when you work in the same place every day, going anywhere else seems incredibly exotic. Should have been a travelling salesman…

I can recommend Skiathos (one of the ‘Sporadic’ isles charmingly enough) where I went on last holiday two years ago. It’s a leetle bit touristy but not unbearably so & very pretty – booked it through Sunvil, they are fab.

3. MountPenguin - July 1, 2007

If it’s that island, the one where the security level has just been jacked up to “paranoia” status, then for that hospital stay just stand outside your nearest major provincial airport and some members of the local disaffected young-angry-men-of-former-colonial-nation-origin [*] community will be along shortly with a blazing car and some gas canisters which should have you holed up in medical care for a while.

[*] I was going to write the ‘M’ word, but I have a vague fear that would be in contravention of some politically correct law against inciting racial hatred and I might face arrest on my next trip to the island, which I’ve been putting off for a lot more than a year because I just know whenever I go there’ll be a major ‘incident’ and the plane will be diverted to Inverness or somewhere.

4. wyndham - July 1, 2007

Myself and Mrs T have been considering where to go on holiday, with equally little success. But what with me retiring from work at the grand age of 40, I”ve got plenty of time to ponder these things. I, myself, have always enjoyed getting strapped into an airplane seatbelt and forced to watch films for hours on end and eat processed food. But, no, I wouldn’t recommend going via Glasgow Airport at the moment. Or any time, come to think of it.

5. Blonde at Heart - July 2, 2007

Come to Israel! (I think) you do not need a visa.
Is the island you go to is by any chance Jersey? Or is it a cooler place like the Bahamas?

6. marshaklein - July 2, 2007

Ooh! I’m sensing a little hostility in this comments thread – MountPenguin: Provincial? We’re a nation state, I tell you! With our own capital city and everything. (Phew! Now that I’ve flexed my “chippy jock” muscles, I can go back to avoiding conflict wherever possible)

How about Symi? Haven’t been personally but my parents (who love non-touristy places) raved about it. Unspoiled and very quiet, apparently, apart from a ferry each day from the mainland which brings day-trippers for a couple of hours stop-over. I know you said not Britain, but have you considered the West Highlands? That’s not Britain, not really; I mean, it’s hardly even Scotland. Oh, I know that, for most non-Scots, the Highlands represents everything that’s quintessentially Scottish – mountains, glens, heather, whisky, Gaelic etc, etc, but most of the Scottish people actually live in cities, which bear a staggering resemblance to cities in other european countries. Oops! Chippiness creeping in again, sorry!

Let us know when you decide.

7. MountPenguin - July 2, 2007

Marsha, my mostest apologies for the misunderstanding, I meant “provincial” purely as in “a non-major international hub with mainly Cheap’O’Jet and charter flights”.

I also understand Glasgow was once a European City of Culture and has its own clockwork-driven tube line (?), which makes it count as a Big City in my eyes (I originate from deep in the provincialiest sassenach (?) provinces).

8. pleite - July 3, 2007

Penguin, d’you know, I was in Glasgow, on my first ever trip north of the border, when Glasgow became the city of culture. Can’t remember what year it was. I was about two and snogged a girl who wore blue eye-shadow on the trip, but it didn’t end in blissful union. Actually, I seem to remember her pouring either honey or marmalade into my shoes. I think it’s her wot made me gay. Anyway, Robbie Coltrane led the festivities on some square or other in the city centre. There were lots of Celtic/Rangers jokes, especially as some famous player – has quick hypnotherapy session. Is it something like Maurice Johnstone? – had just crossed the divide and left one to play for the other, or something like that.

Marsha, thank you. I have googled Symi and, sure enough, come across its German wikipedia entry as the top link, with nice pictures and the exciting info that it’s only 9km off the Turkish coast. To be honest, I’m scared to be in the same room as the Russian most of the time. If we converse for more than twelve seconds, he’ll have suggested 18 holidays, getting married and moaned about money into the bargain. If it’s Greece, I think it HAS to be Mt. Athos. I must make sure to pen your dates into my mind as well as my defunct filofax. I mean, imagine if I’m being ordained an Orthodox priest when I should be meeting you and Mr. Klein for a wee dram. Of course I’d adore to go to the Highlands and see all those biscuit-tin landscapes for me sen. (Is that right? That was meant to be Scottish for myself.) I despise whiskey more than anything on the planet, but I presume there isn’t a local by-law which FORCES you to drink it, after all. I will, indeed, keep you posted of any exciting developments.

Oh, BaH, it was just some shitty little island which doesn’t deserve even to be mentioned. I actually changed my flights, which made me feel quite glamorous, and came home early. Too much work. And, anyway, not nearly as interesting as Israel, which is a place I really, actually, truly WOULD like to visit. I don’t know about visas, but I’m sure the Russian would need one, as he needs one for everywhere bar Belarus and Space.

Wynders, so chuffed to bollocks to see you. It’s been too long. I always feel privileged when you drop in. I am an actor starring in panto in Shrewsbury and you are John Gielgud, popped in to say hello. (The John Gielgud comparison is nothing to do with age, I promise.) So thank you, John. Erm, but holidays. I’m very impressed at you retiring at 40. Can Dex afford to miss all his schooling and perhaps you could just all drift round the world and the young boy would learn things hands on. Might be rubbish at important things like Greek and Latin verbs later in life but would be handy for treating tics and knowing how to cook lobster.

Annie, I don’t know how to quantify the trip. Pleasure + duty. But I truncated it, as I say. I worry I’m going quite mad. Or having a nervous breakdown. Which is quite nice, really, and to be highly recommended. Just an oodle of undoable work and a badly-timed trip. Never mind. It’ll all be over soon, I hope. (The work, I mean. That wasn’t meant to be a dramatic-sounding suicide hint.)

Bellulah, girlfriend, I am so with you. I loathe leaving the house. And I absolutely detest flying. Not the in-the-air bit. Just the build-up. And of course attempts by horrid types to blow up airports have not passed me by. But don’t you live quite in the middle of nowhere? I’m having visions of drives through stunning Scottishness just to get a loaf of Sunblest and a pint of semi-skimmed. When I get to the real never-leaving-the-house stage, I would like to be living somewhere with Scottish levels of beauty. And a garden. And have a gardener.

9. june - July 4, 2007

i have that same sense of panic/inner turmoil when it comes to skipping a flight – and yet yearn for the day when i can do it without blinking.

10. marshaklein - July 4, 2007

BiB, it’s “ma sel” (usually written “masel”, actually). I think “me sen” is Yorkshire. Oh, and “whiskey” with an “e” is Irish. Scotch whisky has no “e” (as you can no doubt see!) and the drinking of it is certainly not compulsory (I’m not keen on it myself, except occasionally as a flavouring in a pudding). Anyway, you surely know that the Scots subsist wholly on deep-fried food (pizzas and Mars Bars being favourites) washed down with Buckfast! Sorry, just can’t seem to rid myself of that persecution complex!!!

I’m not a rampant nationalist, honestly. It’s just petty little things that get me down. Like immediately after the recent terrorist incidents the BBC intially referred to “foiled terrorist attacks in London and SCOTLAND”!* Grrrr. Actually, these things seem to irritate Mr Klein (an Englishman) more than they do me but then, they do say that converts are more Catholic than the Pope. Which I suppose he would know all about, being Catholic an’ all.

* Which was very quickly corrected to “London and Glasgow”

11. pleite - July 4, 2007

Marsha, I know a convert-to-Catholicism or two. Papa Ratzi would indeed shudder at their fervour. And my initial googling of Buckfast – god, I love that search-google thing within Firefox – has come up with a wine from Devon, which can’t be what you mean. Do tell… I had a (very good) pal from Northern Ireland years ago – sadly lost to the annals of time and the French Foreign Legion now – and it used to get right on his (very well-defined) tits that terror attacks in Northern Ireland would get not much coverage but as soon as someone had a finger-nail blown off in London, it would get Sissons looking more earnest than ever. Is this a very UK thing, I wonder? I know France is perhaps even more capital-centric than the UK. But, and I suppose this even applies to the saints from the BBC sometimes, English folk do tend to think the world ends at England’s borders. Of course Scotland isn’t as abroad or foreign as France, but I think it does sit in the English psyche as another country, which Mr. Salmond and others mustn’t mind at all. My sister feels she lives abroad. And I suppose Scots have a similar feeling about England. I wonder if this would change much should Scotland become independent. Probably not much, and not quickly. I’m sure English (and perhaps other Brits) still think of the Irish as being in what the Russians call the “near abroad”. Foreigners, technically, but not really.

June, well, my Friday flight will now go unused, unless I decide to fly back to the small island in question before then to make use of the return ticket, which seems like a false economy. If only it weren’t 90 times more expensive, I’d so happily take the train. I could get to London via Paris. It’s doable. It would mean never getting to the Americas/Australia/Japan ever, but I could still make it, presumably, as far as South Africa or Malaysia by train, couldn’t I, which wouldn’t be too bad. Plus, seeing as I really never want to go further ever again than Potsdam, I wouldn’t lose an excessive amount of sleep over it.

12. Karl-Marx-Straße - July 4, 2007

Anyone who describes Buckfast as “a wine from Devon” can only be someone who’s never drunk the stuff. How about “a wine from Devon, drunk by wino-s, not only from Devon, the colour of lucozade (or piss, if you prefer), and incredibly dangerous to health, a mixture of ethanol and cochineal yellow”.

13. pleite - July 4, 2007

Now Karl, if that was a sales pitch, you’re going about it all the wrong way. Although I greatly approve winos drinking wine, rather than whatever it is they used to drink out of brown paper bags, like good traditional winos, in my youth. I always imagined it was beer, but perhaps it was Buckfast.

Have you noticed the exciting technical new thing whereby the avatar of the commenters is shown? All very exciting – if you’re a wordpress person, that is – but why doesn’t yours show up? Or maybe there’s a delay. And why is there that margin before the photos? Why not have them neatly to the left? I can’t grumble, because I don’t think wordpress gives me as much BSE as blogger used to, but sometimes…

14. wyndham - July 4, 2007

Shame, then, that all my avatars except one are grey generic outlines. My beautifully simple WordPress blog has been compromised.

Not that I’m uptight about things like that. Of course not. No.

15. narrowback - July 5, 2007

BiB, I’m stunned you were not at least familiar with buckfast…you moust have had a sheltered youth. karl’s description is right on except for the “youth appeal” such swill has…here in the states it’s such fine gallo products as md2020 aka “mad dog”, or thunderbird aka “t-bird”

due to overexposure in my youth, I can’t even look at grape jelly let alone wine

16. marshaklein - July 5, 2007

BiB, for more information on Buckfast, I refer you to the following wikipedia article:


It is indeed made by monks (Benedictines, I think) but it’s reputation derives from its being the favoured drink of the Scottish “ned”, to whom its attraction is, undoubtedly, its cost.

Sorry if I was a bit moany yesterday – I’m not always such a chippy bitch, I promise.

Oh, and, if you look at http://www.seat61.com/index.html , you’ll see that you need never get on a plane again to go anywhere in the world. You’ll probably need a shed-load of cash, though…

17. pleite - July 5, 2007

Marsha, I need to go to London in the summer and I am seriously thinking about doing it by train, which I know is bonkers. And I know I won’t, as it will cost a gazillion pounds, but it would be such heaven never have to fly again. But tootling off to Paris or Brussels on a night train, say, and then hopping on the Eurostar. Would probably only set me back 900 quid, whereas Easyjet will of course only cost 20p. ANYWAY, tell me, have you fallen in love with the Smeatonator? WOOF!

Narrowback, I am beginning to worry that I must have in fact led a sheltered lifestyle in my youth, and there I was thinking I was a well ‘ard Londoner and all that. But then there was nothing very tough about London when I was growing up, at least not the bit I lived in. It was pretty much suburbia, and might just as well have been a small town in some nice, civilised county or other. In any case, I’ll keep an eye out for Buckfast cocktails in groovy Berlin bars from now on. There must be a Berlin Buckfast, for example. (The Russian and I are desperately trying to find sake. He had a sake, lime juice and ice cocktail the other day, called I can’t remember what – a Green Samurai or something – and it was lovely. A dash of Buckfast might be just what it needs.)

Wyndy-pops, but you can remove them! You know when you go into your wordpress dashboard and there’s wordpress news on the right-hand side? Well, there was something about these avatar comment thingummies and it had instructions on how not to bother your arse with them, or, rather, bother your arse so as not to have them. I’ll get round to removing it eventually, until the whole world comes over to wordpress and then it would all look very pretty indeed.

18. Lukasz - July 6, 2007

They are quite attractive… The British media’s perception of borders is that they end at the M25 – there has been outrage (if such a thing is possible) about the lack of coverage of 90% of Sheffield or Hull being under water. And the coverage there has been has suggested that the dispossessed of the North should receive no help if they failed to insure their TV/car/house/children.

I am slightly surprised that you have never heard of Buckfast – maybe you were out of the country at the point(s) it made national headlines…

19. pleite - July 6, 2007

Łukasz (it took me bloody ages to find that l with the squiggle) (anyway, shouldn’t you be being a Czech Lukeski/Liukchik rather than a Polish one?) (Lůkáš or something?), Buckfast has somehow managed to pass me by. Did it cause a (London-centric) press sensation along the lines of alcopops? I never could understand all that worrying about making booze more palatable to 15-year-olds. As if we weren’t all gagging for booze by about 12 even pre-alcopop.

20. liukchik - July 6, 2007

Well, it seems to be limited to Scotland, as far as I can tell. My generation used cider in general – probably one of the reasons I simply cannot bear it, and the popularity of Magners/Bulmers in pubs across the UK these days.

Alcopops were unpopular in their first incarnation – I remember that the Australian alcoholic lemonade was rather vile, and drinks companies must have noticed that 12-21 year olds tended to drink either spirits with mixers or sweet drinks (I remember a thing called 50/50 or something similar in pubs in Portsmouth in a clear glass bottle that was sweet and fruit-flavoured), so the moved on to making bacardi breezers, etc.

I have ever understood the desire for sweet alcohol. At all. Ever. Foreign lager or stout. That is all.

21. liukchik - July 6, 2007

p.s. your blog has descended into booze again.

22. liukchik - July 6, 2007

And get yourself over to Facebook – FriendsReunited is so 2003!

23. MountPenguin - July 8, 2007

I too have never heard of Buckfast.

24. Billy - July 8, 2007

Alcopops are evil – the kids should suffer in their introduction to alcohol. Growing up in the West Country it was cider all the way, can’t drink the stuff now.

25. bowleserised - July 8, 2007

Yes, come and play on Facebook. It’s the new blogging for people who have too much work to do.

26. Welsherella - July 9, 2007

Hello! I know I haven’t been around here for ages (have been working really hard which came as quite a shock to the system and I therefore needed lots of sleep and haven’t blogged or blog-read much but am, however, now fully trained! Hurrah!) but I wondered if, one day, you would do me a favour? It would be a very enjoyable favour and you have unlimited time in which to carry it out; decades,if you like. You see, I am missing Deutschland very, very much and so the favour is this: would you go to Weimar and walk down Schillestrasse and sit and eat cake on Goetheplatz and (most importantly) go to c-keller, smoke lots of cigarettes, drink coffee (or green tea if you prefer) and eat one of their fabulous (but slightly suspicious) baguettes. Would you do that? One day? And blog about it?
Oh, and I did Weimar-London by train, and apart from almost being enlisted to smuggle someone’s cocaine through customs inside a stuffed koala, it was a fabulous experience.
Much love, Welsherella xx

27. pleite - July 9, 2007

Welshy, congratulations indeed. And that’s a nice favour to be asked. As soon as I find out where Weimar is – I know it’s in the East, so think there’s quite a good chance I should be able to get there by tram for 2 euros 10 cents – I’ll go. But, darling, do you mean you smoke? I don’t have you down as a smoker at all. I’ve accidentally given up today, so I’m drinking myself into oblivion to ease the pain, which I think is an excellent trade-off. In any case, I’ve heard lovely things about Weimar, so SHOULD go. Thank you for the prompt, and remind your father it’s now time for him to buy you a flat.

B., I’m scared of Facebook. Will I love it? And instantly be addicted to it? As it is I spend 23 hours a day online. I need to devirtualise. But if it’s as good as blogging, though I’m less than ardent in my love of blogging at the mo, I might just have to give up the one remaining free hour to it. Don’t I have to be a member before I can even have a checking-it-out peek at other people’s pages?

Billy, hello there! I’ve got a feeling cider or vodka, oddly, are always the starting drinks of choice. It’s an odd selection. I played by the rules and happily knocked back cider and vodka as a 15-year-old. The cider moguls are obviously doing their PR all wrong. Still, it’s further proof that if alcopops were meant to appeal to youngsters, there’s no major reason to think they should have. I DID find whisky much too hard going when I first tried it, but was still more than willing to give it a go.

Penguin, this must be due to our extended leave to remain outside Her Majesty’s realm. Though Narrowback knows it, and he’s American, so this Buckfast stuff must have international fame. Did your parents keep you in and only allow the BBC? I think my parents did that you’re-not-going-out thing once, but it wasn’t much use. And ITV was allowed. As was Channel 4 when it excitingly came into existence. I do remember thinking Countdown was an odd choice to start with, a bit like vodka and cider, but who am I to argue with a future institution?

Lůkáš, it’s always booze here, isn’t it? Terrible. And more booze-fuelled blogging tonight. I’ll probably regret it in the morning. (Didn’t Churchill say something along those lines? Not.) Does Weissbier fit into your very short list of acceptable tipples? And do you mean you don’t drink wine? When I finally face the inevitable and get full-time AA membership, red wine will be the thing I will cry myself to sleep over for the missing. (*Extends left hand. Raises glass to lips. Drinks final drop of red wine*) By the way, Friends Reunited wrote to me recently, saying, bossily, I hadn’t answered a message. I logged in to find the same two messages that have been there since before the flood. One from my brother, saying what a shit profile (or whatever it’s called) I had and one from a neighbour whom I hardly knew, except that she was a wild child back then and her message had rather a lot of references to God for an out-of-the-blue communication. She must have wronged me at some point; luckily I can’t remember a thing about it, if so.

28. Welsherella - July 12, 2007

Yes, I do mean smoke! Although I am not a smoker myself, I really enjoyed the couple that did manage to consume (or whatever the term is) without gagging whilst in Weimar, and often wished I was cool enough to do it properly… Here though, I think it’s disgusting, obviously, because I am British and that’s what we think! And dad has been reminded and because of my impending nuptials it will just have to be a house with three massive bedrooms, do you not think?!

29. narrowback - July 12, 2007

BiB my familiarity with buckfast comes from hanging with slightly un-savory types in belfast… it’s is a UK thing

BTW you can listen that gay version of “danny boy” here http://www.black47.com/music/index.html

just hit song 2 in the juke box at the top of the page

30. Karl-Marx-Strasse - July 13, 2007

When did Buckfast make the headlines? In my day it was all that Australian alcoholic lemonade and then later Smirnoff Ice and some Vodka-Ginger Beer mixture in beige bottles.

A Buckfast alternative is “Sanatogen Tonic Wine”, which has no relation (as far as I know) to the vitamins of the same brand.

31. pleite - July 19, 2007

Karl, I don’t know when it was. Was it pre-binge-drinking, I wonder? Alcopops is still the only booze-brouhaha I remember. God, and that was before New Labour. Wine-drinking will be banned in pubs soon, no doubt.

Narrowback, thank you. That’s lovely. I love Danny Boy. My ex does a lovely rendition and would give terrible cockshrink to my Irish relatives who’d run out of words after the from-glen-to-glen bit whereas he could belt englishly on. His grandmother, my old-woman friend, wants him to sing it at her funeral.

Welshy, quick, while he’s feeling proud and charitable, try and get a house with a pool. A sauna would be a nice addition too, though terrible for your electricity bills. Alas, I’m afraid to say I smoke more than enough for both you and me combined, so I’ll be both of us when I make it to Weimar.

32. narrowback - July 19, 2007

glad you enjoyed it BiB…while the original has always tugged on my heartstrings the B47 rework struck me to my core. if you recall I shared with you the story of the first time I heard them play it during our smoke filled booze up last march. became part of the basis for a lengthy friendship with members of the band

33. pleite - July 19, 2007

I remember the story well. I’m going to go off for another quick listen…

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