Thursday, June 30, 2005

A quick post about Belgium

"Even for someone tolerant like Herman De Croo, that's going a bit far". And if I had to meet a gathering of religious politicians — muslim or otherwise — I too would need to be able to get drunk.

A personal favour from the TSA

Those nice people from the Transport Security Agency did me a favour when they inspected my bags before the Washington to Columbus flight. They found one of my birthday presents from my mother and unwrapped it for me. They did leave the book, Michael Palin's Himalaya and the ripped up wrapping paper in the bag though.

What was particularly interesting from my point of view is that they didn't unwrap the three other presents, one birthday and two Christmas (my mother likes to plan ahead), in the bag. Apparently it was only the book that the deemed posed a threat.

While I was browsing the TSA's website, I discovered this page containing a smattering of the written recognition TSA screeners and staff have received for a job well done. You can find a similar level of recognition for the previous five months if you look in the archive section. In the words of Eric Idle, "Say no more!"

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Featuring a guitar, a girl, a plane and a rainstorm


I made it back to Columbus, more or less in one piece. There was a while, when I was sat on a plane on the tarmac of Washington's Dulles airport for five hours (due to the thunder-ing and lightning-ing, that it didn't look like I was going to make it home last night. But I did. And I managed to do it without strangling the incredibly offensive woman who was wishing the flight crew dead using almost every swear word known to America. Now, I'm normally all in favour of excessive swearing, but not when it's used in a spiteful and malicious way, then it just becomes petty and pathetic. Still with any luck karma will kick in sometime soon, we can but hope.

When I got home to my apartment, which I will be vacating at the end of July (oh, the joy of apartment hunting), I discovered that I now have a dinner table. Some of my friends, who were taking care of my plants and things, discovered this table that was about to be thrown away and appropriated it for my flat. It's rather odd to come home and discover that you've got more furniture then you had when you left. Sadly a similar trick did not occur for my bank balance.

Finally, I'll end on a confession: I lied. A pretty girl, carrying a guitar on her back, walked (well more strutted) up to me asked me a question and I lied. I don't know why I lied, but I lied. It wasn't a tricky question or a personal question, but still I lied. Maybe a career in politics beckons for me...

(By the way the answer should have been, "Far too much for what it is" or "Fourteen ninety-five" if you happen to be the pretty girl with the guitar.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Praise for American bureaucracy

I take back everything nasty I've ever said about American bureaucratic institutions. Well everything that is except for the stuff that was true or deserved, or both, which was, sadly, most of it. Those lovely people at the US Embassy in London have given me back my passport, they even went so far as to stick a visa in the passport for me. There is quite a stark contrast between the washed and unwashed visas, the old one really looks quite shabby. Comparing the two I'm amazed they didn't tell me to take a hike and get a new passport.

So there we go all it takes is a ten day holiday in London (during which I was working most days, sadly) and about £80, or $145, to get oneself a shiny, well more matte really, new visa so one can return home to Ohio. Before I do return, there is just enough time for me to spend the weekend in Geneva. I'm quite looking forward to going back there and maybe having a spot to eat at l'Aviation or La Meyrinoise (the owners of which used to run the infamous Pizza D'Oro).

On the subject of Geneva, this Swiss map site is fantastic. If you click on Gastronomy it even shows you the locations of the restaurants. It's like Google Maps only better, and for Switzerland. I also find it rather amusing that the world stops at the Swiss-French border according to the map.

In other news, because I'm stupid I bought a new English phone this week. I'm even stupid enough to do it three hours before I was meant to be getting a text message from a friend telling me when she'd be meeting me for a coffee. Fortunately the phone decided to start working about half an hour before she sent me the message. So, I'm now the proud (?) owner of a swanky little camera-phone phone. I feel such a ponce.

In yet more news, I've got to work out where City Airport is and how I can get there before 8:00am on Friday. I've resolved not to throw up on the way to the airport this time. I think this is possibly a resolution I can keep.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Didn't I do well...

Two and half hours of waiting in various queues, both physical and electronic, and I didn't use any naughty words. I'm awfully proud of myself. I'm also awfully proud of my recently laundered (bastard Lovejoy) passport, which passed its embassy test with flying colours.

I'm less pleased with the fact that now for the first time in my life my fingerprints have been taken. I wonder what they do with them? I do hope they take better care of them than they did with my name and nationality (which led to the whole Philadelphia debacle), I wouldn't want to arrive in Washington in 10 days and find out I'm a serial killer or a terrorist. (Assuming that I do get my passport back next week that is.)

Should all be fun...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Proof positive that beer makes you smarter

Yesterday I did something that I almost never do. I actually finished the cryptic crossword in the Telegraph (I very nearly called it the Torygraph, but didn't want to cheapen my achievement). So far today I've only managed to get six clues.

The reason, I believe, is that I got drunk last night. You see the crossword was only half-finished when I left the bar at closing time last night, so I got it out and tried to fill in a few more clues on the tube ride home. I was so very engrossed (probably due to the fact that I was rather drunk) that I nearly forgot to change trains at Liverpool Street. And I was in such an intense state of concentration at Leytonstone that I, sort of, neglected to get off the tube and had to walk home from Snaresbrook.

Anyhow, between last nights drunken scrawlings and this mornings hungover scratchings I somehow managed to complete the crossword. I was ever so proud of myself.

(Incidentally things did change on the lunch front today, the Lower Refectory managed to be out of both chicken and bacon. This was not the sort of change I was looking for.)

Oh, and I accidentally applied for another bank account and credit card this afternoon. Okay, I intentionally applied for the bank account but the credit card was accidental. How am I supposed to refuse them if they offer me one? While I was at the Nationwide branch there was an old lady waiting for a taxi to take her home. One of the staff came over and offered her a cup of tea, warmed the cockles of my heart it did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My old man said follow the van...

Did I mention that I'm back in London, luxuriating in the opulence of UCL once more. They've put walls up where there didn't used to be walls and doors where there didn't used to be doors (some of which lead to buildings where there didn't used to be buildings). It's a little odd to be back and getting coffee downstairs at Gordon's, instead of down at the Brenen's in the architecture building.

Sadly, the lower refectory has been out of chicken the last couple of days so I've had to make do with turkey and bacon baguettes. With any luck this will change in the not too distant future.

Still it's nice to be back, hard to believe that it was something like nine or ten years ago that I first came here as a fresh-faced, wide-eyed little undergraduate (okay, I was probably never a little undergraduate).

I have at least managed to have a Sunday roast (at a carvery out near my grandmother's) and a bottle of St. Peter's Lemon and Ginger Ale (at their London pub the Jerusalem Tavern, which was very nice and nooky). I still haven't had a curry or a beer in the Enismore arms or a number of other things that I promised myself I'd do.

It's odd being back in London. I think I forget how much I like this town when I'm away for so long. Somehow I don't imagine I'll feel quite the same level of fondness when I leave Columbus, although who knows when that may be.

Oh well, it's almost time for a beer. But then again isn't it always?

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More people I love...

Largely as a result of this weeks issue from those lovable misanthropes at The Friday Thing I'm here to declare my love for Christopher Hitchens and Timothy Shortell. Not wishing to sound like a great big leftist Guardian-reading poofter but I think I want to marry them and have their little God-hating babies (I appreciate that biology and other issues make this plan somewhat impractical).

First up we have Christopher Hitchens with:
I can't stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity or who is a person of faith. I mean, that to me is horrible repulsive thing.

And then (from a few years back) we have Timothy Shortell with:
On a personal level, religiosity is merely annoying - like pop music or reality television. This immaturity represents a significant social problem, however, because religious adherents fail to recognize their limitations. So, in the name of their faith, these moral retards are running around pointing fingers and doing real harm to others. One only has to read the newspaper to see the results of their handiwork. They discriminate, exclude and belittle. They make a virtue of closed-mindedness and virulent ignorance. They are an ugly, violent lot.

Some of Tim's (as I hope he doesn't mind me calling him) colleagues at the City University of New York were so keen on finger-pointing, discriminating, excluding and belittling that he felt unable to take up the position as head of the sociology department. Here's his response to the whole situation.

It's nice to know I'm not alone in my dislike of religion and the religious. (Incidentally, if you follow the link to the Guradian article with Christopher Hitchens you'll have a chance to read his exchange with a woman who didn't like the fact that he was allowed to smoke on stage, while she wasn't allowed to smoke in the audience. Very amusing.)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why I love cricket... (or maybe why I like Matthew Hoggard)

I can't really think of many other sports where you'd get the degree of honesty that Matthew Hoggard shows in his column for the Times (I first read the quote on's Mediawatch).
It was a strange Test match against Bangladesh at Chester-le-Street last week. I won the man-of-the-match award, despite bowling like a trollop for much of the game. And then I found out that I was the leading wicket-taker in the series, even though everyone else had bowled a lot better than me. I think it was a case of the Bangladeshis struggling to lay a bat on the other bowlers and, as I wasn’t bowling as well, they were able to get the edges off me.

A photo of me in the shower...

Here's a photo of the showe in my Delphi hotel room. You may think that it looks a little strange, and you'd be correct.
Empty Shower
'Cos here is a photo of me standing in said shower. Most (if not all) of you will be pleased to see that I am fully clothed in the picture.
Ryan in Shower
My question is who exactly is this shower designed for? Do they actually have hobbits in Greece? Or are they all amazing contortionists?

Sadly I am neither a hobbit nor an amazing contortionist, so taking a shower is bloody tricky.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In which buildings sneak up on the author and unsavoury events occur at Piccadilly Circus

So, here I am in Greece. I'm typing this from the backseat of the coach that is taken us from Athens airport to Delphi. And no the coach doesn't have wireless, I'm just typing out the draft text in the bus. (Well actually I finished this in my hotel room the following night.)

Can you guess what was the first thing I saw after we left Athens airport? No? It was a bloody Ikea. Now I know I've shopped at Ikea in Switzerland, London and Pittsburgh, but does it have to be absolutely everywhere I go? The second thing I saw, well the second thing I saw that was noteworthy, was a big poster featuring a girl's bikini clad bottom. The caption next to her bottom read "Some things were meant to be together". Apparently it's an advert for shandy, but what the heck is it supposed to mean?

This weekend was the first time I've been in London for over 18 months. 18 months is a very long time. I arrived at Heathrow at something like 10 o'clock in the evening and, after successfully navigating passport control with my Lovejoy damaged passport (which has now gotten me into Greece as well), took the Heathrow Express to Paddington. Being as I got to Paddington at five to eleven there was really only one course of action: go upstairs to the Fuller's bar and have my first English hand pumped beer for far too long. It was lovely (it was some Cornish beer whose name I've since misplaced).I felt it was a very appropriate way to mark my return to home soil.

On Saturday I nearly died on 3 or 4 separate occasions (on Sunday I just felt like I was going to do... but we'll come to that later). The cause of my near death experiences were buildings. You know how it is, you're walking down the street — a street you've walked down many, many times before — you turn the corner, or cross the road, and suddenly there's a ruddy great big building where there didn't used to be. Now you may be different, but what I do when I'm surprised (by say a building sneaking up on me like that) is to stop. It turns out that stopping in the middle of the road in London is not, generally, the best course of action. I imagine that there are a couple of bus and taxi drivers that were a little bit perplexed as to why I stopped in front of their moving vehicles. Fortunately, I survived my day of sneak building attacks.

I found a couple of places that I'd never been before during my Saturday wanders. One of the places was the only bowling green in the City of London, not that I play bowls or particularly care about bowls, but it is always nice to find the little green oases in the city. The other place I found, more through luck than judgement if I'm honest, was the Jerusalem Tavern. The Jerusalem Tavern is the London pub of St. Peter's Brewery. Sadly it's closed on the weekends, but now that I now where it is I will have to pay it a visit next week when I'm back.

There are a couple of water fountains outside a church (the name of which I've temporally forgotten) on Piccadilly that were built in the late 1800's. They're in memory of someone or other and when I used to walk passed them on the way home from University I'd quite often stop and have a drink. Today they're broken and full of rubbish. I think this is terribly sad. If I ever get a large amount of spare cash (unlikely I confess) I think I'll try and start a water fountain restoration project. I hate all the non-working water fountains in London, it seems such a waste.

I ate Harrod's biltong... it was yummy.

I saw 13 Cromwell Road, my old student home. It looked as run down and beat up as ever. Somebody needs to buy it and treat it nice. Or they could just give me the money and I'd do it.

One of the things I saw while I was in the pub on Saturday (this was a pub in South Kennsington next to the swanky historic car showroom) was a three legged dog. It wasn't even a small dog either, it was a great big brute of dog who happened to be missing one of his front legs. All things considered he got around pretty well for himself. Still it made me smile. Which, come to think about it, is odd as one legged (or one armed) people don't generally amuse me (unless of course they're playing the drums, but that's just messed up).

On Saturday night I went out with some of my old UCL/MINOS friends. We started at the Head of Steam (who no longer stock St. Peter's beer, but are otherwise still okay), were really quite bad at the pub Monopoly fruit machine in the Marlborough Arms, got very drunk and ended up in a dodgy Spanish joint on Hanway Street (which by the way is one of my favourite seedy avenues in London). Outside the dodgy Spanish place I had a dispute, verbal not physical, with a hot dog vendor. It was, for me at least, very amusing. But then again I was drunk.

Remarkably I managed, without trauma or great diversion, to catch the night bus home to my Grandmother's. I was really quite proud of myself, particularly as my last night bus experience involved a five mile jog without a coat in January. I got there at 3:30, I only mention the time because I had to get up at 7 o'clock and leave for the airport.

Needless to say I was feeling a little the worse for wear on Sunday morning. I got up, had a shower, packed my bags, drank a cup of tea and headed out on my Odyssey (notice the Greek link) to Heathrow. It started off well enough, just as I left a bus arrived so I got a lift to the tube station. At Leytonstone I got on the Central line and headed to Holborn. There I changed on to the Piccadilly line. Unfortunately, the Piccadilly line did not agree with me. You see I was very hungover and it was very bumpy. (Somebody should really sort out that tube line.) At Piccadilly Circus I had to get off the Heathrow-bound train because I thought I was going to be sick. Unfortunately, I was right. I made it as far as the eastbound platform (after all you don't want to be sick on your own platform), but then I threw-up. In retrospect there are many worse places to be sick than the secluded end of a tube station early on Sunday morning. By the time I'd finished being sick and had a few minutes to settle myself, a large man with a bucket and a mop was standing behind me inquiring, "Have you finished?" I told him I certainly had and it was all his and I was terribly sorry, then I walked to the Westbound platform and got on the next train (I had to change later to get on a Heathrow train but thought it best I make myself scarce as quickly as possible). Seriously though where else can you make a mess and have somebody come and clean it mere minutes later? Still, not my finest moment.

So there we go three legged dogs, sneaky buildings, promised future philanthropy, biltong, Ikea and Ryan humiliating himself. Not bad for a weekend.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The end of an era...

So, apparently, today is the anniversary of the end of white rule in Rhodesia. Within six months Zimbabwe-Rhodesia was no more as the parliament voted itself out of office (some cynics amongst you may well suggest that it's the only decent thing a parliament can do). Two months later Mugabe makes his triumphant return, and the a month after that he's prime minister. All this happened before I was three.

Pushing people forward simply because of their colour, irrespective of merit, would be most unfortunate and would of course lead to disaster.
-- Ian Smith, 1979

We will not seize land from anyone who has a use for it. Farmers who are able to be productive and prove useful to society will find us co-operative.
-- Robert Mugabe, 1980

I'm sure these people have more to say about Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe, then I ever could... after all I was only two. It's all a bit sobering to read how very polarised people's views of these men and those times are.