A Travellers Life

Long haul flights. Sleeping in airports. Cramped bus & train journeys up and down European countries. The constant smell of dirty clothes in your bags. £3 meal deals from Tesco. Lumpy hostel beds with no privacy to have a good wank. These are just some of the aspects of always being on the road. But the funny thing is, I love it and will probably keep doing it until the “computer says no!” or I get hit by a bus and die. You see, every time I return home from another adventure, I think to myself, “alright Dave, time to slow down and settle for a bit.” which is all well and but then, a few days later, my mind begins to wander and think about the next escape.

Recently, I met a German backpacker who had been on the road for three solid years, scratching together money where and when he could from odd jobs to keep him moving. His back pack was absolutely smothered in patches of flags from all the countries he’d lived in at various points along the way. Another guy I met in Newcastle (Australia) back in 2016 had been busking his way from Darwin and down along the eastern seaboard to one day, return home to Adelaide. He, like the German lad, was a very calm and relaxed soul. Very much at peace with himself and barely a care in the world. This, is living!

Adventures are what life is all about. I love that feeling in life as if you are swimming at the beach and you venture out just enough so as your feet are no longer touching the bottom. It feels a little bit dangerous because you could so quickly be caught in a rip and swept out to the ocean in a heartbeat. That’s how life should be lived at all times. On the edge!

When my flight home struck engine problems the other night and the pilot had to turn us back, I felt an exciting sense of danger as the rest of the plane fell silent with anxiety. I mean, if I was going to go then why not crashing into the Indian Ocean? It would be a quick and easy death and I’d die doing what I love most. I’ve had a gun pulled on me in LA, been mugged at knife point in France and experienced other moments on the road where I feared for my safety but that’s part of the adventure. And, it gives you some cracking yarns to share over drinks or at BBQ’s with friends.

So why not pack your bags and head off on an adventure? I mean, what on earth is holding you back?


German’s Do It Better!

As is always the case when I travel, some strange things tend to happen to me.  On my visit to Dortmund and Mainz, I rediscovered why I enjoy German football as much as I do and also managed to pick up sever food poisoning and diarrhea.  Exciting much?  Yep, I thought you would enjoy the details in a more shall we say, graphic light, so, here they are friends.

I’d decided to be clever and book a lunch time flight from  London Stansted to Dortmund as to avoid a pesky early morning flight which normally involved a sleep over on somewhat uncomfortable airport benches coupled with loud announcements.  So when I booked a 1 pm flight for the Thursday, I was more than ecstatic with myself.  What I forgot to remember at the time of booking was that, the night before, I would be watching Manchester City V Basil and that meant i’d be on a midnight coach to London before a two hour bus ride out to Stansted.  Despite these concerns, anything beats sleeping in airports as I am simply getting too old for that kind of shit.

So how did I get the food poisoning and shits you ask?  Well, look no further than W H Smith and their 3 quid meal deal.  To be more precise, it was their ham, cheese and mayo sandwich that soon became the culprit.   I’d arrived in Dortmund around 4 pm local time, met a young American fella who helped me navigate the bus and tram into the city then checked into my hostel which is where it all began to unravel.  I had some time to shower before heading up to Borussia Park and it was around this time that the chills kicked in.  Being one to always soldier on, I brushed aside these not so nice feelings and walked the 3 kilometers to the ground, collected my ticket and took my seat behind the goal at the northern end.  Then, with 26 minutes on the clock it really hit me!  But before I go there, let’s talk more about German football, more importantly, how they look after their supporters.

With cheap tickets, cheap beer, cheap food and modern stadiums that include standing areas, the German football model is bar none, the best in the world.  It’s steadfast, efficient and more than affordable to local supporters.  Match tickets can be as little as 10 Euro’s and in most cases, public transport to and from the grounds is free.  Increased ticketing prices don’t earn the clubs much so the powers that be in German football are clued up enough (unlike their English friends) not to price local supporters out of the game and piss off the majority of football supporters around the nation in the process.  When you visit Germany enough, you soon learn that pretty much everything they do is done with great efficiency.  It still baffles me no end why Australian politician’s and town planners go to America every other week when they should really be flying into countries like Germany to learn how to get infrastructure nailed on.    Like I said, when you visit Germany enough, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

I’m a big advocate of safe standing at football grounds and can assure you now that the only hope the English game has of surviving the “Disneyland” culture fast engulfing British football is to implement safe standing.  I understand the reasons why some may be against it but we have to move forward and look after local football supporters by way of cheap match tickets and safe standing behind the goals.

I digress.

So there I was at the 26th minute mark during Borussia Dortmund V Salzburg in the Europa League.  I knew it was time to visit the toilet and try to cough up what was fast engulfing my stomach.  It wasn’t coming at first so I decided to speed up the process by throwing a couple of fingers down the back of my throat.  Well, it worked a treat!  Seconds later, vomit was pouring out of me in somewhat of a Linda Blair fashion.  It was going everywhere.  Over the toilet bowl, my shoes, my jeans, the floor, my hands and even down my shirt.  It was grim and it kept pouring out.  Then the shit began to pour out of my backside as well.  I was in a process of bending over the bowl to throw up and sitting down to shit it out too!  What I was shitting out, I have no idea.  All I know what that there was plenty of it and I had to juggle the vomiting with the shitting.  It’s a skillful art you know.  Three goals went in during the second half but I had no idea as I spent the entire second half in the toilet emptying myself out.

By full time (Dortmund had lost 2-1), I’d missed all the goals scored and I tried to walk back into town but was feeling great pains not to pass out as the chills and a most nauseous feeling had overcome me.  I had never felt this ill before in my life and hope I never do again.  Sadly, I spent most of the night on the toilet in my hostel as well as most of the next few days.  The train to Mainz was tricky but I somehow managed to navigate that with great skill.  At least the toilets on the train were free unlike those in the city center of both Dortmund and Mainz which cost 1 Euro each visit.  You can probably guess I invested quite a good deal on money into the German toilet economy over Thursday and Friday.

Despite being ill, I caught the entirety of the the 1-0 loss Mainz suffered to Schalke ’04.  The match itself was quite entertaining and I managed to score a ticket in the home end to bounce and sing the night away with the red army which itself was quite an event.  Once more, the model of German football shone ever so brightly.  Looking around during the first half, I couldn’t help but notice the groups of young men and woman, many friends and football supporters who were able to enjoy the match together.  In England, they would surely be spread out over various stands and only spend time together in the pubs before and after the match.  It was my umpteenth visit to Germany to watch football and, as always, I walked away feeling impressed with how they do things.  If only England could move with the times and sort it out.  One can only dream, or get violently ill with food poisoning.

Not So “Royal” Brunei

Part of travelling inevitably includes moments where you wonder if it’s all just a little too much. In recent days, I have encountered a few of these thoughtful reflections off the back of my flight home with Royal Brunei. I mean, it all started well enough on Friday afternoon when I left Heathrow on track at 5 pm. I spent a few hours in Dubai before boarding once more to make the second leg to Bandar Seri Begawan. And that’s where the fun began.

We arrived on target at 5:30 pm local time and soon found out the 8 pm departure was delayed to 10 pm after some engineering faults were discovered in our plane. Fair enough, I thought. The only problem so far was knowing I would miss my connecting Tiger Air flight once arriving in Melbourne. I brought this up with the Royal Brunei ground staff who happily fed me the company line that it wasn’t their fault I was going to miss my Melbourne connection to which I argued that it was. This carried on for almost half an hour, both myself and the ground staff remaining surprisingly calm throughout.

Before long, the 10 pm delayed departure stretched out to midnight and we were finally away. 45 minutes into the flight however, the pilot’s somewhat frantic voice informed us that we had to turn back due to engine failure. The entire plane fell silent as many of us began wondering if we would, in fact, make it back. The cabin staff looked a little panicked as well which didn’t help the nerves as you know, when the cabin crew look stressed, something serious is up. We were back on the ground within 30 minutes. From here, it only became more farcical.

Royal Brunei ground staff had very little, if any idea as to how to handle the situation and we were all left confused and tired for another 2 hours before we were finally packed off to dodgy hotels in the back of nowhere with no real idea of when we would actually be on our way home. Upon arriving at the hotel (if you could call it that?), the reception staff had no idea we were coming (it was 2 am) and tried to charge us for our shared rooms. We weren’t having a bar of that I must say. This shady hotel would be our home for the next two days as we were on hold for our flight home and could be summoned at any moment. The rooms wreaked of cigarette smoke and the food was dodgy as fuck with showers that pumped out little to no hot water. Fun!

Finally, after way too long held up in our hotel rooms, we were sent on our way home Monday evening local time, tired, worn out and begging for the mod cons of our own homes again. The only solace from the experience was enjoying the company of some truly interesting people with intriguing stories and backgrounds. It’s why, in the end that I will continue to travel avidly despite the hiccups and tiresome moments that one encounters from time to time. Of course, it would be nice to have some compensation from Royal Brunei for time and money lost from having to re-book flights and such but, as is the case with corporations these days, once they get their money from you, they wash their hands of you with company “policies” and PR spin.

Over the past 18 years, I have travelled with Royal Brunei multiple times though, the chances of me flying with them any time soon are slim to none. Royal Brunei could have done so much more for us but they chose not to. It’s poor PR from a company I thought more of.

My Teenage Wet Dream!

In and around 1992/93, most boys my age were spending their weekends at parties trying to get drunk and pick up girls. It was never really my scene because, at this time, I was getting head long into art, music and literature. My Friday nights in particular were spent scouring the shelves of my local video stores to find new and interesting films to engross myself in. Alfred Hitchcock quickly became a favourite as did the likes of David Lynch & David Croneburg. Yet, it was another David, and three particular VHS tapes that became a staple of my Friday nights in.

Those of you who know me well enough, know exactly where this is going. Yep, it’s Bowie again. I know, I know, another blog on entry on David Bowie but they say you should write about the things you love yes?

Anyway, back to those VHS tapes.

The first cab off the rank was of course Nicholas Roeg’s, “The Man Who Fell To Earth” which was made in 1975 and released in 1976. During 1993, I must have watched this film around 30 or 40 times over and not made head nor tails of it. I didn’t care to much at that point because it was a mysterious David Bowie in his first major acting role and he was one seriously fucked up cool geezer with “that” hair and a wardrobe to die for. He was emaciated, off his head on a diet of milk, red peppers and cocaine. Fuck me he was cool!

It was a fitting end that his final project was a stage play, “Lazarus” which was based on an extension of “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.

As you can see by now, my Friday nights in were pretty fucking cool! But wait, it gets better still……

The second VHS tapes I rented on a regular basis was the “Serious Moonlight” tour concert film. This was Bowie hitting the big time in suave suits and sell out stadium gigs around the world wrapped up into on 90 minute package of thrills, spills and Bowie’s most loved (at the time) songs. Right from the opening bars of “Look Back In Anger” I was completely hooked with the show. And, with other personal faves like “Breaking Glass” & “What In The World”, we were off to the races! Reviews around the time likened Bowie to a then modern Frank Sinatra. They weren’t half wrong either.

The final instalment is perhaps Bowie’s most disliked tour yet, I’ve never really found too much wrong with it. Perhaps because I never actually saw it in person and encountered the problems around sound and, ironically, vision that hampered the tour across Europe during the summer of 1987? At the time, it was Bowie’s most recent solo tour and I hung onto every note, every dance move and every visual stimulation it provided me with. I ended up renting this VHS tape so much that the owner of the video store gave me the shop copy because, apparently, nobody else was renting aside from me and some other lady.

The included rendition of “Time” for me, was worth the $2 rental fee each and every time and then some. In years to come, Madonna and Michael Jackson would both take elements of The Glass Spider tour for their own concert tours during the early 90’s before they both went a bit shite.

It’s funny how particular moments stick with you more than others. One day soon perhaps, I should share with you some of the seriously fucked up films I used to watch around the same time. You see, it wasn’t always about Bowie. Well, mostly it was but I did have other interests. Anyway, these three videos were better than what any teenage wet dream could have dished up…..

The Curious Case of Nottingham & The East Midlands Derby

Nottingham Forest is another English club that I’ve wanted to visit for some time now. Twice before, I have had plans to go but not made it so I was rather keen to make every post a winner this time around. After all, as a child, I had heard all about that Robin Hood fella and a footy club who had conquered Europe not once, but twice over consecutive years (around the same time when Villa were champions of Europe too!) with a manager called Brian Clough, one of my heroes!

I’d plucked a nice bed & breakfast just outside the city centre, managed to secure a match ticket after some correspondence with the club so I was all set for the East Midlands derby which, I can assure you, lived up to the hype. But first things first, how does one get to Nottingham? Well, for some strange reason, both the coach and the train took pretty much the same time so I saved a few bob and got the National Express from Victoria. It took around 3.5 hours and I spend most of that time with my head down for a kip. Arriving ahead of schedule, I made a bee line to Aldi and bosses some cheap food (a staple for a budget traveller like myself) and filled me boots for the first time in around 5 days since picking up food poisoning in Dortmund last week. Food equals bliss so I was happy to be eating again.

Following a quick check in to my B&B, I made the 30 minute stroll down to the City Ground with other supporters along the way conversing about tactics required to nick all three points. Some interesting ideas were floating about although, the legitimacy of some left a bit to be desired but hey, that’s footy fans for you ain’t it? The stroll down London Road is a pleasant one by the canal which leads to the Trent Bridge that covers, you guessed it, the River Trent which explains why the cricket ground next to the City Ground is called Trent Bridge also. Part of me feels like bringing a picnic blanket (weather permitting) and having a feed by the river outside the City Ground next time I visit.

The process for collecting my match ticket and getting inside was all too easy and once seated in the lower reaches of the Brian Clough Stand, I could feel the energy and atmosphere smacking me hard in the face from all corners of the ground. Being derby day, it was all a little hostile which is what I enjoy most about the English game. Also, being seated a matter of meters from the away supporters was a big plus! The banter between both sets of supporters was first class all day despite the match finishing goalless.

What I embraced most about the day was the distinct lack of selfie sticks and tour groups from far flung reaches such as America and Japan (common practice at Anfield, Stanford Bridge, Old Trafford and The Emirates) which allowed the locals to get stuck in. It’s a reminder of how British football was before Rupert Murdoch got his grubby mitts on the beautiful game in 1992. You could feel hard and crunching tackles, feel the deep rooted passion within the players and bounce of the energy from the crowd. Around me, there were plenty of dads and their lads which is always great to see at games. Fathers passing the batten onto their sons is an integral part of going the match which is being lost on the English game as clubs in the top flight price local supporters out of the game. Thankfully, the practise is alive and well at Forest and long may it continue.

There wasn’t much time to see a great deal of Nottingham which gives me an excuse to head back in the not too distant future. What I did see though, I very much liked. If you make the journey to Nottingham, ensure you visit the Brian Clough statue in the city and pay your respects to the greatest manager England never had! Now, what about that Robin Hood lad?

A Different Perspective On Liverpool

You know how there are some things in life you constantly think about doing? But, somehow, you just never get around to it? Well, that’s been my relationship with St John’s Beacon viewing tower in Liverpool for a long time. Until now that is.

I decided to take to journey up last Monday and what can I say about the experience? Simply stunning! Most of you know it as the Radio City Tower however, it’s official name upon opening in 1969 was St John’s Beacon. Originally, there was a revolving restaurant that ran up to 1979 when it was closed due to health and safety issues. A few years later, in 1983, it re-opened as “Buck Rogers”, a space themed cafe but closed down in 1994 due to a lack of business.

In 2000, St John’s Beacon was now rebranded Radio City Tower as the Liverpool based radio station made the permanent move that was announced some two years before.

The views from the observatory deck are spectacular. What you get is a 360 degree view of Liverpool and, on a clear and sunny day, you can easily see Wales in the distance. On any given day, you can see Anfield with the new main stand towering over but you may need to squint a little to catch a glimpse of Goodison Park across the way.

I now scratch my head as to why I didn’t take the journey up sooner? I’ll be going up again at least twice. Firstly to see things at night, and secondly, to catch the views on a clear and sunny day. At £5.50, the views are worth every penny!

When Easy Bus Became Not So Easy….

A few days ago now, I logged into easybus.com to book meself a ticket from Central London to Stansted Airport for my flight to Dortmund. Sure, I could have easily taken the express train and made the journey in short time but Easy Bus have always been cheap and done the job in just over an hour. Until now!

The price difference has always been a winner for me. Why pay £17 for the train when I can get the bus for £3.99!  That saving pays for my breakfast and then some and as you know when travelling on a budget, every little helps. The thing is, whilst the Easy Bus website still exists, they are now operated by Aero Bus Express Services. What’s more, the journey is now 2 full hours and you spend the first hour of the trip going to multiple pick up sites. They no longer operate the speedy and efficient mini vans but now full scale buses which slow things down a bit.

Reading online reviews, you would think that Easy Bus have become something akin to the Nazi party in the 21st Century. However, it is what it is. A cheap alternative to more expensive modes of transport. So, if you have lots of time on your hands like I did this morning, sit back, relax and try to enjoy the lengthy journey from London Victoria to Stansted Airport via many, many inner city stops. If that isn’t your cup of tea, then you are welcome to cough up a shit load more and jump on the train. As always, we consumers have a choice so choose wisely…..