18 September 2008
Arrive at Rome Ciampino airport 10.40am, local time. Exit plane, go through customs, recover bag with minimal fuss again. Things appear to be going a little bit too smoothly... Try to locate ATM in arrivals hall as no Euros in posession and need to pay for bus into town. Where is ATM? No ATM in sight. Wander around looking for ATM. Definitely no ATM. Go to currency exchange, ask where ATM is. As suspected, no ATM in arrivals hall. Ask if i can withdraw money from UK bank account at currency exchange, answer negative but am informed there is an ATM in departures hall.
Leave arrivals hall and get thwacked in face with the hot hot heat outside. Wander around departures hall looking for ATM. No ATM in sight. Ask currency exchange where ATM is. Locate ATM and insert card. Card rejected. Go back to currency exchange and ask if i can withdraw from UK back account; affirmative. Hand over card and am informed 'not Maestro, only Visa or Mastercard'. Hand over Australian Visa. Need PIN, have no idea of PIN. Problem. Hand over Australian Visa Debit, insufficient funds. Real problem. Go back to ATM and attempt to over draw on Austalian Visa Debit. SUCCESS! Over draw account, am thwacked (again) with charges, but finally have Euros to be able to catch bus out of airport.
Arrive at Termini approx. midday. Text dad to inform of imminent arrival. Hop off bus and wander around looking for dad. See Forrest Gump looking character - have found dad. Dad appears to be styled by Tourists R Us and is wearing trousers with runners, a shirt tucked in, cap and backpack. Reunite with dad and his wife etc. Eat mediocre lunch.
Walk to accomodation. Settle in, crank a/c and nap. Leave late afternoon to walk down to Trevi Fountain. Arrive at Trevi Fountain along with 2000 of our closest friends. Dad and wife obsessively paranoid about gypsies and pickpockets. Realise with some level of horror that they are both wearing money belts. Enjoy Trevi Fountain, no gypsies in sight. Eat dinner of... pizza! Quite nice.
Begin walking back to accom... 9pm at night and still 30 degrees. Mars wants to catch taxi (it was a long walk!) but dad and wife obsessively paranoid about being 'ripped off' by taxi drivers. Suggest going on train. Wife over rules contention and we walk. Get back to near hotel and wife decides she needs milk, for cups of tea. AT 10PM! So we wander, aimlessly, for an hour in 30 degree heat looking for an open shop to sell her majesty fucking milk. Mars highly irritated but attempts best behaviour. Irritation impossible to conceal.
Arrive back at hotel, sleep with ear plugs and air conditioning, wake up and everything ok. Mars uncharacteristically indecisive, trys on many many outfits for the day. Dad and wife don't know what to make of scenario, luckily they are slow at getting ready too. Finally ready to leave hotel when i catch sight of dad in full tourist paraphenalia, complete with 'special' hat (white, broad rimmed) that is made in Canada for purposes of Canadian Army. Indestructible, i am told. Looks ridiculous, but we proceed.
Catch big red open top tourist bus and circle city taking in sights from above. Stop for lunch in nice restaurant with out door eating area. Wife kicks up a fuss about how it's probably going to cost more to eat outside and that we should eat inside. Dad and i already seated - i aint moving. Wife not happy and for probably the only time on that trip, she doesn't get her own way. Eat lunch and hop back on the red tourist bus. Wander around Roman Forum and Vatican City. Mars finally cracks at wife at some point - cause and effect of the heat, no doubt.
Day three, arrange custodial hand over. Work out where on the map mum and her middle-aged-lover are staying, lo and behold it's on the complete other side of the city. Meeting place, Vatican City - slightly ironic. Catch local bus for one euro and go for brunch with dad and wife (ok to sit out side this time after we weren't charged extra the day before) and wait for mum and middle-aged-lover to arrive. See mother bounding through crowd towards me. Reunite etc. Pleasantries exchanged between parental factions. Most bizarre experience. Take photo.
Go with mum and middle-aged-lover to Trevi Fountain (again). Look in market stalls, find first husband selling pizza in take away shop. Eat pizza in take away shop. Slowly. Go back to hotel as mum tired after only arriving that morning. Play on mum's mini computer by the pool all afternoon before dinner in hotel restaurant. Early night, go to bed, sleep with ear plugs, wake up everything ok.
Catch local bus to Mussolini Museum. Decide big red open top tourist bus is the go - all aboard (again). Circle city until we arrive at the Collusseum. Go in, find guide, listen intently, take photos etc. Finish at Collusseum and need to pee. Find toilets, dry retch at smell, decide i can't go in there. Sit and procrastinate for 20 minutes before finally deciding to just get in. Got in.
Wander around Roman Forum, find guide, listen intently, take photos etc. Am informed of another 'special' guided tour we can do around back alleys with secret stories, ending at hidden wine bar with best food in Rome. Fall for it.
Find guide, listen intently, take photos etc. (It was a really good tour actually, we went to all these little pokey churches you never would have known were there - i touched a Michaelangelo statue!)... Went to wine bar, drank much wine (was good) and ate spaghetti and meat balls (also good). Went back to hotel for sleep etc.
Last full day - mum's birthday. Went to the Villa Borhese for wander around gardens. Wandered, took photos etc. Had some lunch and a drink on the 'posh street', booked restaurant for dinner on posh street before travelling by taxi back to hotel. Had drink in hotel bar by pool, got ready to go out to posh restaurant - outfit styled by a combination of H&M and Primark. Tried to hold head high.
Went to posh restaurant, choked at prices and tried to decipher menu. Drank wine and listened to piano man playing Elton John covers. Ordered food, ate it, drank wine, enjoyed it, watched mum go red as she got a 'shout out' from piano man and he played Volare dedicated to her, requested by the middle-aged-lover. Had a good laugh and nice evening. Poor mum, didn't actually get any presents for her birthday. Mars releived she didn't have to pay the bill which ended up being over three or four hundred euros or something. Ouch.
Back to hotel for night cap before packing suitcase. Mother calculates what time i need to leave for bus in the morning and then adds an hour to be 'on the safe side'. Go to bed, sleep with ear plugs, wake up at 6am. Quickly pack up last things, say bye to mum, hop in taxi to bus station, hop on bus to airport, arrive at airport over 3 hours before plane due to take off. Wait, plane takes off. Arrive back in Liverpool airport to rain and freezing, catch bus back to Manchester where it's also rain and freezing.
Home sweet home.
I thought it was funny, but I am inbred. However, Mars didn't want me to post it, she was paranoid her boss was reading this blog. Now, on the eve of Mars starting a new job, I say, 'Sucks to her boss!'
And, it is my pleasure to present...
A conversation with Dot and Mars
Mars: oh there you are... i knew you were there
Dot: You get travel agent job?
Mars: noooo :(
Dot: New plan of attack?
Mars: kill myself. jump off balcony…
Dot: Hmmm... that's not really a way FORWARD.
Mars: well... we're only on third floor, so more likely i'd just injure myself quite badly
Dot: Then you could live as a vegetable! you might like that... someone would feed you and wheel you around...
Mars: wouldn't it be you? who is this 'someone'?
Dot: I don't know, someone like Lou from Little Britain.
Mars: heh sucker
Dot: I was speaking on the phone to Mum the other day and my brother had shown her my facebook account and Mum says to me, 'Why aren't I your facebook friend? Aren't I good enough?!?' She was quite indignant.
Mars: does she have a facebook?
Dot: No. She didn't understand.
Mars: my mum's on...
Dot: Really? Is she your friend?
Mars: yes of course
Dot: Has she seen your hair? Has she seen the smoking pic?
Mars: probably. i don't care.. i'm 27!
Dot: Good point. Still, I WISH you'd take that photo of me smoking down.
Mars: get over it Dottie
Dot: Anyway, got any gossip?
Mars: not really.. noy
Dot: You applied for any jobs?
Mars: well... i haven't applied for any specific jobs. did i tell you i'm on performance management? OH i haven't told you!
Dot: What is that? (And 'No' you didn't say)
Mars: last week i got bollocked at work for having too many sickies. so i had to come up with something good... a good excuse, ya know
Dot: Oh... how many sickies?
Mars: not that many... only 4 (in 3 months) and yes they're paid
Dot: That's not that many!
Mars: that's what i reckon... they don't understand it's the australian way. Anyway, guess what I told them?
Dot: Urinary tract infection?
Mars: not depression... better than that
Dot: Um. No idea... what?
Mars: i'll give you a clue... it's bought on by 'stress', specifically... stress at work
Dot: Anxiety attacks?
Mars: close, anxiety 'brings it on' too
Dot: Cramps? Nausea?
Mars: no... it's recurring
Dot: Say it! Period pain?
Mars: 'flares up' occasionally
Mars: ha no... i'm too poor for gout
Dot: WHAT IS THAT?
Mars: so embarrassing.... that's why i didn't tell them about it… irritable bowel syndrome!!!!!!!!!
Mars: best disease ever
Dot: How did they take it?
Mars: very sympathetic. luckily i read all about it on wikipedia the night before
Dot: So it'll probably be okay to continuing being sick once a month?
Mars: well... yeah. but, thing it... now i'm on performance management it means i need a doctors note every time i have a day off
Dot: Too bad.
Mars: one more day off and i go on to level 2... much worse. not arsed at all. if anything... the pressure of not being able to have days off is going to make me ill
Dot: I might go now. I gotta apply for some jobs
Mars: aim high
Dot: Yes, gotta join those upper upper upper classes... then move back to Australia and say 'stuff-you' to the class system! And... you aim high too. Or at least just 'aim'. Okay?
Mars: just aim... goddit
Mars: bye nerd
10 September 2008
In one sense, of course i'm looking forward to seeing my parents. It's been 9 months since i said goodbye to them in Melbourne and particularly my mum, i've missed terribly at times. However, i am apprehensive about the emotional rollercoaster i'm no doubt, about to embark on.
I absolutely can't wait to see them, though i'm fairly certain it will be in equal parts a good laugh as it will be to them completely getting under my skin for the next six days. Thing is, i'm afraid six days isn't going to be enough time for me to get completely sick of them and happily wave them off as i trot back to Manchester next week.
And if i'm honest, i'm actually really scared of that last goodbye with my mum. It was hard enough the first time, and i'm just not sure i've got it in me to do it again. I do really want to see them, but i don't want the goodbye to be so horrible that it spells the end of my time away from home.
Wish me luck... i'm going to need it.
07 September 2008
I couldn't believe it... at first i thought it was cause i'd done something wrong... or had been clocked spending too long staring out the window or checking facebook on my phone about 25 times a day. So i asked her and she said no, i'd not done anything wrong.... Anyway, columbo and i have come up with another theory that basically, they were afraid of me wreaking havoc and sabotaging the place during my last three days. Quite rightly.
So before i left, i had to do this exit interview with a nice lady from HR and oh my god... all my frustration with the insurance industry in general came out and i let rip. I paid out on the busty wench and another so called manager in the place. HR lady said that i had cause to lodge a grievance, but i said i couldn't be bothered and it'd be more trouble for me than what it was worth.
So that's it - i'm out. And now i have 5 days off to do whatever i want before going on holidays... then annoyingly, when i get back i have another 5 days off. If i knew i was getting 2 weeks off i would have planned a fully sik holiday instead of just a 6 day city break with the parentals.
Weirdest way to finish a job ever... i hardly got to say bye to anyone. It was so calculated to happen exactly on 4.30... absolutely sums up my time at that place perfectly... i'm left thinking what the fuck just happened here... i've been ambushed.
04 September 2008
A couple of months ago I got an email from an organisation I used intern for requesting "amateur photographers who can document" an outdoor performance event. At the time I was very much unemployed and it felt nice to be wanted, so I wrote back and said I'd be happy to help out. Although, I made sure to point out: "I would describe my photography skills as 'amateur'."
The event is this weekend and tonight was the information session for all staff and volunteers. Although, perhaps I should call it the Information Extravaganza. It was FULL ON with Team Leaders making reports, Site Managers going over legal obligations, Health and Safety officers explaining the difference between 'minor' and 'major' incidents...
...and then at the end of the night the Event Manager turned to me and asked 'What are your plans for documenting the event? Do you need help moving your equipment to the site?'
I giggled (so many people were looking at me!) and answered, 'Oh, um, point and shoot.'
The Event Manager looked really confused, so I explained, 'I'm not A photographer, I'm a volunteer who is going to be taking photos with my little digital camera.'
The Event Manager replied straight-faced, 'Oh, okay... thanks.'
And that was the end of the meeting.
I felt like an idiot and tried to make a quick get-away. However, as I was leaving I walked past the Marketing Director of the company who I worked with when I was an intern. He smiled at me so I stopped to say 'hello'. I was feeling really flustered and for some reason I just started babbling at this man, 'Oh, hi! How are you? I meant to say... I mean, it's funny how I used to intern for you in marketing and I put that on my resume and now I'm working in marketing! And, um, some PR stuff and... Oh sorry..." (This is when I realised how much of an idiot I was sounding like and started scrambling to try and STOP sounding like an idiot, only the problem was I thought I could fix things by talking MORE) "...I just mean, I was thinking, if I saw you tonight I should mention that because it really helped. You know. Me get a job."
Fortunately this man is just one of those always-nice people and he smiled and nodded and, when I finally stopped talking, said, 'Great!'
'See you Sunday then!' And I fled from the room.
As I walked home I had one of those turn-things-over-and-over-and-over moments in my head. I felt a bit down as it seemed to me like every word that popped out of my mouth at the meeting was of the bumbling-fool variety. However, it was a nuanced kind of embarrassment and I eventually managed to convince myself life wasn't so bad...
I passed Borders and decided to go inside to look at the expensive magazines to cheer myself up. The magazine section at my local bookstore is in the cafe area on a raised platform next to the tables and chairs. I selected my magazine and was admiring the cover as I walked down the six or so steps... I STACKED IT. My foot slipped out from underneath me, I over-corrected my balance, I twisted as my feet flew up into the air, and I went BANG BANG BANG hitting each step with arse and elbow.
The cafe went completely silent.
I jumped up so quickly!
As soon as I was on my feet people near me started asking, 'Are you okay? Are you okay?'
I fall over enough to have a standard answer to this question, 'Yes, fine thanks. I'm more embarrassed than hurt.'
However, because my fall was so spectacular it was like every patron of the cafe needed to ask me if I was okay. As I moved through the tables towards the exit everyone I passed asked, 'Are you okay? Gosh, are you okay?'
Eventually it became so ridiculous I raised my voice to make a general public announcement, 'Everyone, I'm fine! Thanks for your concern but I'm fine!'
I left the bookstore and came straight home to blog the whole day down down down...
I also just re-read the email calling for volunteer photographers. I didn't notice this sentence the first time I read it but now it has me concerned: "We welcome any volunteer photographers who have experience and a copy stand work."
What the hell is 'a copy stand work'? If this is some kind of technical jargon for fancy camera equipment then I'm calling in sick on Sunday. Try and save the grain of dignity me and my little camera have left...
Some days I just don't get it.
02 September 2008
THE MOST STUPID COMMENT EVER MADE ABOUT SARAH PALIN*
(emphasis mine... just for fun)
“She does appeal to me,” Ms. Gates said. “You would feel she has the same values as you. Having a child with Down syndrome, and being the governor, and she calls herself a hockey mom. I was impressed. She’s very pretty and seems very smart. I hope it works out.”
This post is not dedicated to all those idiots who think Palin can pick up the Clinton vote. What. An. Insult. To. Women.
*Unfortunately this woman is registered to vote