Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Golf attack and Pep talk in Munich

Well, I survived the golf, easily the most boring assignment I have had to endure. It’s the only boring one, in fact, that I’ve had to endure.
Golf itself has to be the most pointless, utterly futile waste of time, effort and grass, for everyone involved.
I was being paid, but other people actually voluntarily travelled and voluntarily watched grown men wasting their lives by strolling around on grass.
It was excruciating. There’s no other word for it. Well, there are two words for it. Fucking excruciating.
You weren’t allowed make any noise or movements when these highly paid geniuses were about to take a shot. Wardens holding up signs saying “Ruhe Bitte” attested to that. You weren’t allowed burp, you weren’t allowed fart, you weren’t allowed scratch your arse.
I wanted to scratch my arse, just for something to do. Instead I looked at the trees, wondered how many had been cut down to make way for the golf course, how many animals had been inconvenienced, what little joy the spectators must have in their insignificant lives if they can get kicks from this non-sport.
It wasn’t just me. One spectator was asleep in his chair on the Friday. I couldn’t even enjoy its relaxation factor – I was too angry about the futility of it all to be able to relax.
It did get mildly interesting at the end on the last day, when it became apparent someone might actually win the fucking thing and it would all be over. Someone did and it was. The relief!
The golf itself was the only problem. They looked after me very well. The catering was the best I’ve had anywhere – roast spuds, steaks, veal and lamb dinners with as many sandwiches and drinks as you could eat/drink – and they gave me gifts too, presumably by way of apology for boring the arse off me.
They gave me a Hugo Boss money clip made from gold or silver or something. Evidently golfers and their brethren have so many loose bank notes floating around in their pockets that they need clamps to hold them altogether. Well, I don’t. The thing weighed a ton so I left it in the hotel.
But I did eat like a king over the five days or whatever it was. On Sunday I had a brunch and two dinners. I felt I had to celebrate once the golf finished up so I treated myself to an Allgäuer Lendenpfanderl (Schweinerücken) auf Butterspätzle mit Schwammerl & Röstzwiebeln. Jaysus, it was lovely, all washed down with the most delicious of beers.
I like that, in Munich, you have to stress that you want a “small beer” so they don’t come back with a liter!
Yeah, Munich is starting to grow on me. Some of the Münchkins I met were incredibly friendly. And the food and drink is without a shadow of a doubt the best in Germany. Sorry Berlin, but Currywurst is not a reason to be proud.
I did find a Späti of sorts at the Hauptbahnhof, but because it was the only one around it was a target for all the bottle gatherers, freaks and winos in the city. I stayed in a rundown part of town, too. It was good.
Yesterday I’d to go up to see Pep Guardiola introduced amid great fanfare by Bayern Munich. It was like the return of the messiah – there were even more journalists (more than 240) than aboard Edward Snowden’s non-flight to Cuba – but he spoke very well in German, said all you’d expect him to say, and revealed that his German teacher is a Borussia Dortmund fan.
Thankfully he didn’t drag the arse out of it like the golfers had done and once I’d finished my report I found myself on a train back to Berlin. Homeward bound, baby!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Oslo

Oslo is fucking expensive, extortionately so. There are no other words for it. In fact, tickets for Oslo should carry a health warning: “Don’t bother unless you’ve money to burn.”
Even then, you won’t have enough.
Apart from money, I spent the guts of four days there, but didn’t even see the local currency. I paid for everything on credit card, used nothing else. It saved me pushing around wheelbarrows of cash, or gold bars, or whatever it is they use. I suspect they all use plastic.
The first pub I wandered into was charging €9.36 for a beer. I looked like pissy beer too, so I left, went looking for a Späti. I found a Späti, five minutes before it closed at 11pm.
“Where’s the beer?”
“We don’t have beer.”
“WHAAAA?????!!”
“No beer for sale after 8pm.”
I left thinking I may have found a hellhole even worse than Munich. At least they have beer in Munich.
I wandered on. It was my first night in Oslo and I’d just finished my day’s work.
I missed out on all the free champagne and vodka at the Russian embassy because I had to write coherently for my paymasters. I finished my report in a park, where I’d moved to get away from the Russian secret agent dude who was reading what I was writing over my shoulder, Prism-style. He evidently couldn’t read English so he returned with a Russian girl who asked me what I was doing. That’s how they operate, the Russians. They get the women to catch you out.
Meanwhile they were all availing of the free booze provided by the Russian ambassador, or the Lukoil North Shelf drilling company to be precise, and were becoming increasingly rowdy as the music got louder and louder.
It was all very off-putting and not conducive to report-writing, so I had to find refuge in the nearby park if I was to have any hope of getting the damn report done. I finally got it done. The relief!
I guess I wanted to treat myself. It would have been a bit shit just to go home and go to bed. It was my first night in Oslo, I wanted to live it up a bit!
So I walked and walked, looking for a reasonable pub until my legs were stumps. I kneed my way, bloody and stumpy, into a bar near my house and at that stage I just wanted a beer. I couldn’t go any further.
But I didn’t want any pissy shit. If I was going to get ripped off, then at least let it be for a tasty beer. So I discussed the various beers on offer with the barman for a good ten minutes before finally deciding for one he reckoned was exactly what I was looking for.
€16.77. Sixteen seventy-fucking-seven. Easily the most expensive beer I ever bought, will ever buy again. Of course, I only had the one.
The next day I went to the supermarket for breakfast. Müsli, coffee, milk, yoghurt, cheese, ham, pasta, sauce, frozen pizza, apples and shower gel cost €38.47. The coffee was “Fairtrade” coffee. Yeah right.
I returned later for six-pack of beer. Also extortionate but at least they weren’t €16.77.
At least there’s more to Oslo than beer – unlike Munich. The city itself is pretty pretty, especially when the sun shines, though the shops are all brands and/or chains, same as any other city. It’s remarkably unremarkable, probably the reason I remembered nothing from my previous visit to Oslo. All I could remember was that it was the worst New Year’s Eve I ever spent. Now it’s only the second worst.
Everywhere you look there are signs saying something is “Forbudt” – a neat combination of forbidden and verboten.
On the last day I wandered by the Nobel Peace Center, and immediately thought to myself: Jesus, these guys need to be grilled. I went in.
“Why did you give Obama a peace prize?”
Your man was pretty apologetic, explained it was something to do with his commitment to reducing the number of nuclear weapons, but yeah, it had been a mistake to give it to him. Two members of the Nobel peace prize board are strenuously campaigning to have the award revoked, he said. If it happens it’ll make more of a statement than any prize they ever awarded.
The work itself was grand. Usain Bolt ran and won by running 200m faster than anyone else this year, and anyone ever in Oslo. He was pretty cool afterwards, a funny guy.
“I would be lying if I said I don’t like looking at the women,” he said when he was asked why he kept going back to Oslo.
Maybe someday I’ll have money to burn and I’ll go back too, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. I’m definitely not in as much of a hurry as Bolt was.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bolting over to Norway

The fastest man in the world is taking me to Norway. Not literally of course, that would slow him down. But Usain Bolt is bringing me to Oslo, metaphorically, almost two years after he brought me to Zagreb, also metaphorically.
I’m not sure he’s even the fastest man in the world anymore. He lost his last race, and he never raced me. I’m faster than the second fastest man in the world so I guess that makes me the fastest. We’ll see.
I’m certainly faster now. I’m en route as I type, above the clouds, above the sea, thanks to Norwegian’s free onboard wifi. Mad huh? There’s an island down below me, looks mighty purty. Sure, what the hell, let me take a picture. Now, you can see it too!
I’m looking forward to this trip. I’ve been invited to a “Strawberry Party” at the Russian embassy later on. My boss told me there’d be Russian supermodels serving caviar and champagne.
I have to work too, unfortunately. Bolt is giving his press conference at the same time. Hopefully there’ll be some of that champagne remaining by the time I finish up. With a bit of luck his presser will be as quick as his races are, though he won’t be able to say much in under 10 seconds.
Norway’s damn expensive, judging by the prices on the plane; €5.50 for a beer, €3.50 for a coffee or a water. They don’t use €uros, but NOKs and everything costs thousands of NOKs.
I’ll either be NOKing back the free champagne or looking up long-lost Viking relatives to see if they’ll cook me a meal. It should be good.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Free beer and high society

I’ve been to another world. I caught a glimpse of it last night when work brought me into its proximity.
Marco Huck fought Ola Afolabi at the Max-Schmeling-Halle. Huck won. I was sitting beside the ringside girls - Tina, Sawi and Katharina. But the interesting shit happened afterward, after the press conference.
I was introduced to Ola, shook his hand, commiserated.
“Irish geezer,” he said. Nice fella. He thanked me for the best wishes.
Then the party. There had been a buffet laid on for journalists but nothing like the colossal spread for the VIPs and suited people. It was HUGE! The table was the length of the room, stacked from top to bottom with hot food, cold food, weird fruits, cakes, caviar, ice-cream, sculpted things, fancy ass rolls and all manner of shit I’d be afraid to eat in case it charged me. There was enough to feed a herd of elephants after a month of abstinence.
Not only that, but free beer. Free beer! As much as you could drink. A dream! Every time I went back with an empty glass they handed me another one, full. I did my best, I kept returning them, but every time I handed in a glass it came back full.
The people were the highlight, however. The place was crammed with celebrities in fancy clothes, though I’d no idea who any of them were. They were shaking their stuff, grooving their grooves on the dance floor while the DJ played 70s and electronic beats.
I felt like James Bond, despite my shoddy appearance. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera and the battery on my phone had died. I talked to one fella who looked like he could be a celebrity but I couldn’t tell you who he was.
The boxers were there too, all of them with their entourages, and all of them surrounded by beautiful women. Well, slappers. But glamorous slappers.
It’s funny. The boxers had faces like a trainwrecks, yet were surrounded by gaggles of drooling women, tits hanging out over low cut tops and high-heeled legs to the ceiling.
I stayed to the side, emptying my beers as fast as I could, trying to keep up with the full ones. All in a day’s work. Ever the consummate professional.