This blog is speaking to me in Finnish now, which is a bit of a pain but good practice for me. Oh well, here’s that Report.
Chucky, Janica and Clyde
Full of hope, Janica and I set out on a chilly morning from Helsinki. I was to receive my first rude shock no more than a few hours later as we wandered through Amsterdam, where I discovered that Burger King doesn’t seem to be limited to America and Australia, but is apparently widespread in all countries except damn Finland. Janica promised me I could get a Whopper on the way home, if there weren’t any Burger Kings in Scotland.
It was about this point in the morning when the British authorities thwarted a brilliant plan to blow up a series of planes flying to America, using soft drinks and chapsticks and stuff. I can only assume MacGuyver has been recruited by the Axis of Evil. Anyway, the upshot of it was that when we arrived in Glasgow airport there was nobody inside but cops, and the usual airport arrivals gate crowd were all waiting outside on the street for their friends and loved ones to arrive. We, of course, had none of the above, so caught a bus into the centre of Glasgow where we caught our first dose of bagpipes. And our first dose of Burger King: Whoppers and an amazing meat-laden thing called a Rodeo Triple were duly consumed.
From there it was only a short walk and a short taxi ride to our palace, generously provided by the Hindle Estate. Giant place, a sort of crescent apartment with a huge living room full of antique-looking furniture, a bathroom with bizarre electric shower-thingy, and a kitchen. This was the only drawback, really – there were no meals provided. Janica and I decided it was time to go looking for food supplies. It had been a long time since that Whopper.
After a bit of lostness and wandering, we found some shops and bought a few bags of stuff. I was amazed at the breadth of options available to the lover of baked beans in this country, and purchased myself a can of tikka flavoured beans for breakfast, to go with the chicken tikka sauce we purchased for dinner. We were also impressed at the shelves of wine one could choose from right there in the supermarket. Anyway, rolling along. We went back to our palace, cooked up a mess of curry, watched DVDs, ate cheese and crackers (you can’t get real cheese in Finland, or at least you can but it costs a fortune from a special shop) and drank wine long into the night.
Day Two, and Mum and Dad Hindle were supposed to be arriving from Australia via Heathrow airport. We stayed tuned to the news reports to see just how likely that was to happen. Since we’d received no word, we went for another long exploratory walk, checking out the University of Glasgow and the Hunterian Museum (where I tasted an Irn Bru for the first and last time), and going to the shops again. This time I purchased a soft drink called Lilt which was quite nice, and also a pot noodle, just because I wanted to know whether it was really inedible. I’ve seen them on Red Dwarf, but I still find it hard to believe such evil food exists in instant noodle form – I haven’t tried it yet, but will keep you informed.
(Note: It was bad. I was amazed, but there you go.)
During this exploratory hike, I would have liked to get a photograph of myself standing ankle-deep in the Clyde river, but the chance never came up. It could have had a great caption: “Chucky in Clyde for once”. You’re just going to have to imagine it.
(Note: Clyde is the name of an imaginary friend I have on the alt.fan.robert-jordan newsgroup. He is a duck that lives up my bottom. You really don’t want to hear about this.)
Amazingly, my parents arrived without much fuss, and settled into their room. Theirs was smaller and less palatial than ours, but still pretty damn palatial. Anyway, after that I’m not sure what we did. Did we go for another walk and have a pub dinner at The Rock pub? Pies and chips and stuff? Yeah, that sounds about right. I was astonished to find that there were two different types of Guinness – Guinness, and Guinness Extra Cold. I thought “Duff Extra Cold” was a joke on The Simpsons, but there it was. It was cold, I’ll give it that. And the pie and chips were great.
Now, what am I missing? Was this Thursday? No, Day One was Thursday. Must have been. So Day Three was Saturday.
Day Three was the day of the World Pipe Band Championships. We caught a taxi into Glasgow Green. Our driver was a semi-coherent Scot (as usual), hilarious and very pleasant in spite of the fact that he was nearly impossible to understand and had a variety of unfashionable attitudes about “darkies” and “eesians”, which I believe is the Scottish word for people of Asiatic origin. He also didn’t like bagpipes. “Ach, what’re ye gooen theer fer?” he demanded when we said we wanted to go to Glasgow Green. “Theer’s all thoose fookin’ peeps an’ shet gooen’ on theer tadee.”
We mostly just smiled and nodded through his fifteen-minute diatribe. Actually, it’s amusing how often we’d ask for directions or a ride to a place, only to be asked “Ach, what’re ye gooen theer fer?”. I don’t know if the Scots have really grasped the idea of tourism.
Anyway, the Pipe Band Championships were grand, although Australia didn’t exactly cover itself in glory and Finland was woefully under-represented. The winners were a bunch from Canada, as I recall, and a big Russian dude smashed a world record for throwing a 56-pound kettle backwards over a pole. Previous record 17 feet 4 inches, new record 19 feet. And he only stopped there, I think, because the pole didn’t go any higher. Fish and chips, salt and vinegar, and deep-fried haggis hot dogs were consumed, but I’m ashamed to say there was no alcohol purchased. We left sometime during the awards ceremony.
On our way home, it is worth mentioning that we walked part of the way with a local woman and her staggeringly drunk husband. She hailed a cab for us, and in the course of our conversation with her she actually said “och aye”. For real. So, to celebrate we stopped in at a weird little restaurant with a bizarre bathroom. The waitress there seemed cheerful but tired, and when there was a scuffle between one of the patrons and a nearby parking inspector she explained what had happened with such an outrageous Scottish accent we were once again reduced to smiling and nodding.
Then it was back to the palace to meet Org, who arrived at the end of his crazy long drive from Salisbury and dropped in directly. We had a gab for a couple of hours and then he left – no alcohol or foolishness, we were really quite civilised. Of course, it was useful to have Org along because he’d quit smoking and drinking, so we didn’t need to tank him up and he was capable of driving.
What happened the next day? Oh yes, we met up with Org again, and he gave us an excessive amount of gifts, including a lot of “Little Britain” material. What an awful man. I’m sure we did something else that day, but all I can remember is driving out to the airport to pick up Laurence, using Org’s state-of-the-art satellite navigation system which spoke numerous languages. Janica helped with the Swedish, but the majority of the problem lay in the fact that Org tended to disregard the machine’s advice, and just drive anywhere.
Oh, I just remembered what we did for the first part of the day. We went with Mum and Dad Hindle on the sightseeing bus, all around Glasgow with earphones telling us what we were driving past. We also dropped in at the Glasgow Cathedral and saw the tomb of St. Mungo (related, I’m sure, to the one in Harry Potter) and the Blackadder Aisle, whatever that was.
So anyway, we picked up Laurence from the airport, after I ingeniously identified him by talking on Org’s phone and asking him what he was wearing (as you have to do, when talking to somebody on the phone. I even breathed heavily for him). Who would have thought there would be two people wearing a red jacket and black pants right next to each other? Org’s phone, by the way, was very hip and modern, with video capacity and shit. In fact, they all had great phones, cameras and toys with names like Tomtom and stuff. Janica and I, from the home of the mobile phone, had our enormous antique phones and our camera with actual film inside it, and we felt great cultural shame that we could only exorcise by showing them our fu*king enormous hotel room and then gloating. Anyway, we found Laurence in the end, and then sat-navved our way the f*ck out of there. Cops all over the place at Glasgow airport, still looking suspiciously at anything that might contain liquid – and if there’s one thing you can say about Org, it is that he looks like he might contain liquid.
We cruised back into Glasgow and found Mark. Both of our Londoner colleagues had made the trip, by plane and train respectively, without too much drama. Mark took the train, of course, because his flight got fuc*ed by Tommy Terrorist … but apart from that, no drama.
Laurence was staying in the same palace Janica and I were, so we dropped back there and got him checked in. Then it was off to Weatherspoons for beer, burgers, beer, haggis and beer. And packets of mayonnaise for Mark’s God damn chips, although I didn’t watch him eating so I don’t know if he used it or not. I just gave him the sachet and then ate with my eyes closed for the next half-hour. Whether that was a good idea with monkeys at the table, I’m not sure.
(Note: “Monkeys” is our pet name for ourselves, ever since the other newsgroups labelled our newsgroup “the monkeyhouse” for some reason.)
Beer was consumed. And Red Bull for Org, who was still not drinking and generously gave away the beers that came with his meal. Or, perhaps more accurately, meals, since he ordered the two for the price of one deal and then ate both meals with gusto, putting my modest eating efforts to shame. 5000 calories a day, and a great deal of some sort of exercise, I’m not sure. Org expounded on this at great length throughout the evening, but I’m afraid it didn’t quite sink in. He also slapped his belly a number of times and told us to ignore the wobbling that this caused, because that wasn’t the point. And anyway, that wasn’t real wobbling. Plus, he did something absolutely unspeakable in toilet booth number three.
I was laughed at and abused for drinking Stella Artois, so after that I just meekly drank whatever the London guys bought. Buggered if I remember what those were, except one of them was called Princess Something Or Other. I handed around my ever-present Minttu-flask, and got the fairly standard remark that it tasted like toothpaste. There was some discussion of Contro and what a giant wimping-out renegger he was, and how we were going to come to Manchester and hunt him down in person next time. There was also some discussion of Debs, but there were only five of us and that’s just not enough people to cover such a large subject matter. Org also explained at great length the difference between comedy and tragedy and the great theatrical traditions thereof, all of which (like anything else you care to name) were invented and perfected by the Greeks. I was boundlessly impressed by his ability to talk utter and ceaseless shit without the assistance of alcohol. It’s a f*ckin’ gift.
Org departed for his return journey at about midnight, and we took this final opportunity to get home for free. We left Mark near his hotel, and let the satellite navigation system lead us back to the palace via a petrol station. While at the petrol station I most certainly did not play around with the on-board computer and mess up Org’s CD stack. It was some other dude who just wandered past and leaned in through the window and pressed random bits of the screen and then ran off.
Org dropped us home at an altogether civilised hour and departed on his epic journey back to Salisbury, and an eight o’clock start to his work week. We laughed loudly in sympathy as we went to bed. “That poor Greek mother*ucker,” we said. Actually, that was Laurence. No, it was.
The next day, Janica, Laurence and I caught a bus back into town after a leisurely morning and breakfast, and met Mark who had been up and walking around town for several hours, the poor sap. Any taxi driver in the city would have been able to tell him there was nothing to see.
Janica was our tour guide for the rest of Day Five (I think I was up to Day Five, wasn’t I?), and our destination was Bothwell Castle.
We took a bus into and then past the middle of nowhere, and began seeing promising signs (“Welcome tae Bothwell”; “Bothwell Castle Golf Course”; “Noo Leavin’ Bothwell”) before a helpful local on the bus told us we should have gotten off about five miles back. We walked back the way we’d come, and another helpful local gave us directions. Actually, to be more precise he told us we were miles off, and that he’d explain how to get to Bothwell Castle as we walked with him back to his nursing home. Seriously. Oh, and he also asked, “Ach, what’re ye gooen theer fer?”.
So eventually we found it, and lo, it was a f*ck-off big castle. And we looked around it and climbed up the stairs and Janica got in for half price because the guy in the office felt bad about not being allowed to accept a student concession card from a non-member of the Historical Whatever, so let her in as a child. We repaid the gentleman by purchasing a number of quality souvenirs from his gift shop, including a can of haggis. We stopped at a pub (Angels?) for a late and well-earned lunch, much to the relief of Mark who had breakfasted several hours earlier than the rest of us and then spent the intervening time walking around while we were sitting on our asses.
Then it was back on the bus (after an obligatory screw-up or two involving us trying to get on the wrong bus line, and then missing our actual bus because we were inside buying cokes when it trundled past) and into town for a bit more wandering around before we decided to eat and drink even more. I’m fuc*ed if I can even remember the name of the place we ended up, but it was a sort of slightly cheaper version of Weatherspoons, with much the same food deals and menu. We found a seat and commenced guzzling pints of Old Speckled Hen. Except for Janica, of course, who had something much classier, like wine.
We received quite a rude shock by the time we decided we were sufficiently hungry to eat something, however, because food service ended at half-past eight and somehow it had gotten around to being nine o’clock already. We whimpered about this for a while, then guzzled more pints of Old Speckled Hen. We had to switch beers, and have a bit of a laugh, at about ten thirty when Mark came back from the bar and reported that they’d run out of Old Speckled Hen. The Londoners switched to some other beer, and I switched to weird girly colourful vodka drinks. Janica switched from wine to sour apple schnapps. Laurence became extremely talkative under the influence of alcohol, but inexcusably failed to let any incriminating comments or tidbits slip that I might later use as blackmail fodder.
I think we rolled out of there at about closing time, and wandered around the midnight streets of Glasgow looking for food. We finally found a kebab-pizza-fish-n-chips shop that was serving, and it was conveniently close to a taxi rank. I can’t recall what the others got, but mine was a pie and chips, and when the guy asked if I wanted salt and vinegar I said “yes”, so I got salt and vinegar not only all over my chips, but all over my pie as well. Maybe it was the beer talking, but that was some good pie. Then what happened? We said buh bye to Mark, and got a taxi home. Yeah, that’ll do.
Next day, we were up at the crack of God damn dawn and off to Edinburgh on the train. We caught a taxi back into town with Laurence and my parents – yes, he was privileged to spend some time in the company of the Hindle Elders. They had been curious about our strange “internet friends” for some time, asking such questions as “where are they from?”, “how do you know them?” and “what is an Org?”. Their verdict on Laurence was that he “seemed a nice bloke”, which shows just how much the f*ck they know about anything.
We left Laurence at the train station where he had a few hours to kill before heading out to the airport and his ride home. Which he managed, evidently, without any difficulty. We went to Edinburgh and checked out another *uck-off big castle and we also walked up and down the Royal Mile for most of the day and picked up some nice souvenirs. There were a lot of wanky artists wanking around on the streets, pretending to be statues and stuff. Some sort of Fringe Festival thing was going on.
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was awesome, and I was relieved to find out that it really didn’t feature a bunch of army guys showing everybody their tats. I have to give pointless and not-really-appropriate props to Satters the New Zealander and Herb the American Swiss guy at this point, if either of you have read this far – the New Zealand Army Band and the Top Secret Swiss Drumming Band shat all over the other acts, although the massed pipes and drums were impressive and the crowd out of Chile got points for effort. I don’t know why it had to end on an Elton John musical number, but it might be something to do with gay pride in the army.
Got the train back to Glasgow by midnight, and just had time to pack our shit and get four hours’ sleep before Janica and I dashed off to the airport. We very nearly didn’t manage to fit all our stuff into our bags, since we’d been sort of depending on being able to take a bit more hand luggage with us. Although they had relaxed the rules a bit by the time we left, there were still limitations on the amount of stuff we could take, and security was still ludicrous. And in spite of this, they managed to leave our luggage behind and so we had to go back to Helsinki airport at midnight and pick it up. Fortunately, the cheese we’d packed was still good, and the haggis was, if not good, then at least no more evil than it had been originally and at least it was still in its can. Mum and Dad Hindle came into Helsinki at about the same time, with horror stories of having their lipstick and lip balm taken off them – as you know, a Hindle without lip-care products is no Hindle at all – and we managed to keep them entertained for the next couple of days before they sodded off to Canada for some reason.
And now I’m heading back to work Monday morning. The holiday is officially over. I’m sort of looking forward to a bit of a rest, and the office will no doubt provide that.
Stand by for photos.