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Just to let you, the Internet, know: the friend who once gave me the aforementioned anger management book is coming to Vienna. So is the Eurovision Song Contest 2015, starring the famously Bearded Lady Conchita Wurst. All three things are strangely connected.

I am a tad apprehensive about the first as we have not spoken properly for a number of years. However, I have missed her less abrasive side so am also looking forward to reacquainting myself with her and catching up. She is bringing husband, son, and two spare tickets for the third dress rehearsal before the big show where Australia for the first (and last?) time is to enter as part of Europe. If you can work out the geography of that one, let me know.

It is an historical as well as hysterical event. And I will be there. I will probably remember where I was at that particular moment for the rest of my life.

On a different note, I have bought a deodorant that boasted that it would combat the odour of sweat. It seems to do the exact opposite. Unless that is the secret: it is gently pre-scented with the smell of sweat, in order to combat more effectively the odour of sweat. Because that makes sense when you’re really drunk.

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Back to black

Yeah. Having one of those black days. Really hope the colour changes soon.

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Depression as a lifelong companion

Depression is like Malaria. Once you have it, it just stays, like an extremely unwelcome mosquito.

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Washing with wine

I just accidentally washed parts of the kitchen floor with white wine. I only thank my lucky stars that this is Austria and not Norway. There, this sort of thing is tantamount to treason and punishable with twenty years hard labour and one hundred lashes administered in a public square. There, alcohol must only be spilled through the mouth and nose after a detour via the stomach.

Pluto was very eager to help me mop up the spillage, though. I am now the happy owner of a partially cleaner kitchen floor and a drunk puppy.

Well. I guess that sums up my Monday.

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The house project

A while ago I sold my flat in Edinburgh, finally admitting to myself that a return to Scotland is off the cards. Of course, the sale sent me into a depression – most major things like that do. Be it a good move or a bad move – here comes DEPRESSION. Ho hum. Could set my watch by that.

Once all was done, however, I did not want to waste the money on ice-cream, so in agreement with Thomas we started looking for a weekend place to enhance our life. And lo and behold, we found one. In a small place called Guttenbrunn. Don’t know where that is? No surprises there – it took me a while to convince Google maps that it existed too.

The property is a sprawling – or rather loooooooooong – nature reserve for spiders, flies, ants, grass snakes, mice, deer (NOW we’re talking!) and comprises a small house built in the 1920s with a wine cellar, a courtyard (Innenhof in German), 50 steps up to a garden on several levels about ten metres higher up, and then a forest/outback/bush area for about 100 metres uphill. Until you are almost in the Czech Republic. Which you can see from up there.

When we saw it it looked absolutely lovely. Apart from the rather bold choice of colour for the courtyard – a sort of red-pink-orange. Similar to that sickly colour the smoked salmon producers dye their smoked salmon because its natural colour isn’t salmony enough. Inside it was all-white, with light laminate floors in the rooms, and light tiles in the entrance area and bathroom. It all looked like plain sailing to change what needed change to suit our taste.

Then we got it, without any furniture, and we experienced instant sea-sickness. In one room the drop from one end to the other was nearly ten centimetres, in the living room it was simply wavy. One night spent there in December also left me so bone frozen in spite of keeping a fire going all night in the enormous wood stove that I was shivering all day and forcing Hades to sit inside my jacket as a small live hot-water bottle. He didn’t mind, but it left me unable to do much.

The bone-chilling cold was a result of the entire place being damp. Most of the other problems we have slowly come to realize are a result of the previous owners generally cutting corners when doing the place up. They did it after the principle of oh-let’s-just-cover-the-rot-in-polystyrene-plasterboard-laminate-and-paint.

Did you know that it’s not possible to put a picture up on a wall with a polystyrene finish?

We quickly realised that the floors would require work. And when we stripped back the floors of the ten centimetre-drop room, we found so many sins it’s not even funny (and it explains the low ceilings), and now we’re left with a room which looks as if we’re digging a secret tunnel into the Czech Republic.

The living room.. oh man.

The bedroom…

Then we started on the walls.

Can I cry now?

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You see that colour? It has to go. It looks orange here, but it depends on the light. From orange to red to pink. Oh, and that bird feeder fell apart when I tried to pick it up.

Heading for the Czech Republic

Heading for the Czech Republic

Only the floors, right? We Shall Only Fix The Floors - right? The walls are Just Fine. Right?

Only the floors, right? We Shall Only Fix The Floors – right? The walls are Just Fine. Right?

Nooooooooooo! But look at those old walls - first paint, then roll on the pattern. I rather like that. The amount of polystyrene we found was impressive, though.

Nooooooooooo! But look at those old walls – first paint, then roll on the pattern. I rather like that. The amount of polystyrene we found was impressive, though.

150 kg worth of old wood stove being carried up half of the stairs to the garden by one grown man and two computer-raised teenagers. There were some truly scary moments there.

150 kg worth of old wood stove being carried up half of the stairs to the garden by one grown man and two computer-raised teenagers. Note the unhealthy bend in one teenager’s back. There were some truly scary moments there. Poorly concentrated pup in foreground.

Am I due another depression?

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Here’s Hades after the castration. The message was that he was not allowed to lick the wound, play with other dogs, should take it easy over the weekend… Total failure on all parts. We tried the collar to stop him licking. Well, it stopped him licking, but also stopped him moving like a normal dog. He was completely flummoxed by the collar. So we only made him wear it for a couple of hours, in which time his misery plunged to such depths the floor could barely take the weight of it. So as much fun as it was to film his new pattern of movement, our soft middles decided to “keep an eye on him” instead. The not playing with other dogs part was the next instruction to be breached. Within hours the two little lunatics were turning the flat into a danger zone in their usual style.

Luckily, it seems to have made little difference to the healing of the tiny wound. All one can now see of the op is the empty sack – and I must admit I am a little puzzled as to why the vet left the sack. As some sort of vengeance? “You shall be carrying an inside-out pocket between your legs for all eternity as a reminder of what you have lost!” Thomas suggested we could get it filled with replacement balls to boost his self confidence should he ever need it. My reaction was, as usual, to remind him that Hades is a dog, not a human, and that balls don’t carry the same symbolic meaning to them.

Thomas did not fill mama’s glass with wine after that comment.

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Pluto!

Pluto was added to the household at the beginning of June. The situation was as follows: Mischa “the Rock” Gundersveen bored Hades to distraction, his younger brother from the second litter had been rehomed unsuccessfully and been returned with the message that he had howled non-stop for 18 hours. Something which was too much for the new owner with her 40 years of experience with dogs. Well, we can’t boast the same, but we took Pluto in on trial and it took the wee chap all of a couple of days to settle in, without the use of howling, and – HERE HE IS!

Hades is no longer bored shitless, Mischa is a lot happier as Hades has all but stopped biting his ears (and he seems to like Pluto), and the little one has completely melted Thomas’ heart – they are just SO CUTE!

However, Hades is going through a period of re-adjustment. Not being entirely sure of his position as one of three dogs, he started attacking anything and anyone who came within three feet of me. This included the staff at restaurants, and as this leads to mama not getting her wine he was castrated last week. Yes, Hades lost his balls to mama’s wine. This is known as PRIORITIES. This one was a no-brainer.

We’re still struggling with Hades’ deafness. I’m hopeful that once his hormone levels level out (pun totally intended) he will calm down enough to be a little more trainable. At the moment we are working on how to walk on the lead, that is, without pulling to the front and left, almost lying flat on the pavement scrabbling with his claws to get THERE where there might be other dogs he can play with – or attack – whichever comes first.

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Things that make me cry

When I was three I fell in love with ballet. I blame Coppelia.

For my sixth birthday, I got the LP with the music. I wore a purple leotard with a small purple tutu for my ballet classes. I got my first pointe shoes.

I was in pain. I was always in pain. It was part of the deal. I didn’t know the difference between good pain and bad pain.

I had scoliosis. I had a fracture in my neck. I had a fractured tail-bone. I had two developing spinal prolapses. I never managed to become the dancer I wanted to be.

I still cry with bitterness. And I’ve never found a passion to cover my love of ballet.

Yeah. It’s one of those days.

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Hades’ screaming has been worse than ever lately. Today he topped himself. He screamed and howled at the neighbours, at the bin collectors, at everybody on the street, screamed his way around the park – and then managed to make it EVEN WORSE when he saw a dog, not just across the road but across two roads – about 200 metres ahead of us. He did his best to fling himself into the road in order to catch up with the unidentified dog. I should have let him. Perhaps he would have been run over by a lorry. When a girl with a timid little Dachshund came around the corner she nearly collected the little dog in her arms for protection and ran – only when she realised it was “just” Hades did she relax, and Hades flung himself at the poor wee thing, ears as rigid as flagpoles, eyes crazily open, whimpering and snorting as if his short term survival depended on this greeting.

As soon as we carried on, though, he went back to screaming, howling and barking because he had not managed to catch up with THAT OTHER dog. And as we waited on a green light he had yet another meltdown, screaming down an area the equivalent of Texas, causing all sensible people in the vicinity to send me angry looks of “why are you torturing the poor thing” to “get your fucking dog to shut the fuck up” as we walked the pedestrian crossing of shame. All because of this small poodle at the tram stop.

He kept up the hysterical screams ALL THE WAY HOME, THROUGH THE BUILDING, ACROSS THE INNER YARD, UP THE STAIRS AND ALL THE WAY TO THE BATHTUB. Oddly, he shut up while I showered off the pee he had peed all over himself in the course of this delightful walk.

Speaking of pee: Yesterday he managed to pee on two completely innocent and unsuspecting women in the dog zone. Sniffing around dogs and their owners, he suddenly cocked his leg and shot, as fast as Billy the Kid. And he did not just grace them with a little drizzle – he friggin’ drowned their legs and shoes. My apology that the dog is deaf seemed really lame at that point.

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The handy*

My shingles is rearing its ugly head, and as I lay contemplating cutting my left leg off to get rid of the ugly black pain pulsating through it I started thinking about my first mobile phone. Anything to get my thoughts off the offended limb.

It was an Ericsson. I’d been fighting off the inevitable for the longest time. Even gone through the phase of having a pager – a Benetton pager, really colourful, which could only be used to send numbers. So Kevin and I had a series of codes we sent each other of which we forgot all but one. But eventually, in early 1999, I gave in and went to the BT Cellnet shop on Princes Street in Edinburgh and got an Ericsson phone with a sim card  and a contract set up on direct debit (the Lifetime, which meant I only paid for the calls and nothing else) – a deal BT Cellnet (O2) later came to regret and terminated in the worst way possible, but that’s another story. I gave in because I discovered that my landlady was inadvertently costing me assistant work by answering the phone thus: “Who? No. SHE IS NOT HERE.” And hung up. Perhaps she was acting out some secret inner wish of getting rid of me.

I still remember my first mobile with a great deal of soppy sentimentality as it gave me the freedom to confidently say: This is my number – you can ALWAYS get hold on me on this. And the then contract was great as it gave me free handset upgrades at regular intervals, couriered to me wherever I was at the time. Ah – BT Cellnet, you were great! Such a shame you had to sell out and become the less than honest O2.

Like all other people who’ve had a mobile for a while, I’ve lost count of how many different handsets I’ve had. But there’s only one that I totally fell in love with on first sight. The Samsung Galaxy Beam. A little heavier and thicker than my then smartphone, it more than made up for it with the coolest gadget I’d ever seen – a beamer! But at the price it was put of my league and I decided to sit it out.

This is where adoring and amazing husband turns up and gets it for my birthday.

At first I was unable to insert my sim card. Turned out that some plonker (understatement of the year award goes to me) had forced a micro-sim card into the sim card slot, and then legged it. That was its first trip back to Samsung for repair.

It is at present on its second return to its roots. Though I was able to insert my sim card when I got it back, it took an unexpected amount of time for the phone to actually recognise that there was a sim card present. Once it did, however, I was willing to abandon my previous, trusty Sony Xperia to the inner recesses of my dusty desk drawer.

Oh, the fun I had! I put various little videos on it for use in my English classes and enjoyed the brief joy of the childish glamour of having a toy no one else had, showing it off with reckless abandon.

Initially it didn’t bother me too much that it kept losing the network. It didn’t really bother me that I had to restart it at least twice before it was able to reconnect. Then it started to bother me. Then bother no longer covered my feelings. Then I got damned close to putting the expensive toy on the nearest tram-line, there being an abundance of those here in Vienna making it possible to satisfy my need to murder on a whim. I took a little extra time to observe when the thing disconnected itself from the world. It seemed to be WHENEVER I ACTUALLY WANTED TO USE IT for something other than showing bits of video. Such as when I wanted to make a call, or when someone wanted to call me, or when I wanted to look up a number, or if I turned on the vibrate function, or… or if I put it in my inside pocket.

I have so far only been able to conclude that the thing is highly heat-sensitive and can’t deal with temperatures over 25°C.

This might explain why there have been sporadic reports of Samsungs suddenly bursting into flame. It seems to have a really low boiling point.

I’m glad I didn’t recycle the Sony. It’s back in action and hasn’t lost the network once. But… I miss my toy. And I’m truly disappointed at the short-lived fun. Because — because I don’t really believe Samsung will be able to fix it. They’re not even continuing the development of the beam phones from what I gather, and then they won’t even work out what they got wrong. I have a dreadful feeling I will get it back with the claim that they’ve fixed it, or that there’s nothing wrong and blahblah… and that it will still only be a fancy, hand-held beamer completely useless as a mobile phone.

And I will be left feeling misunderstood, like the kid with all the fancy toys but who nobody likes.

*This is what people in the German speaking world call their mobile phones. The funny part is that they display total surprise and incomprehension when told that “handy” is an adjective and not a noun in English, and that unless they explain what they mean when they tell you to call on their handy, they are simply leaving a trail of confused English speakers in their wake.

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