Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Happy little Vegemites...

... and whirling dervishes have something in common, they both make me feel like toast.

Orright that's got the bad joke out of the way... sheesh I'm BUSY.  Getting ready for two trips away, one this Saturday, for a week.  To Cairns, with friends.  To be warm and snorkel and see lots of budgies and nature stuff and spend monies and be relaxed and go 'huh??' when the locals say it is too cold to swim when the water is only 25 degrees.  We south coast NSW types are made of sterner stuff when it comes to sea.  If it doesn't burn with cold, freeze our knees into giant goosebumps and make us regret ever getting out of bed, it doesn't count.

I think Cairns is gonna be great.  I went there two years ago, at much this time of Canberra winter, and it was lovely, balmy, so green while we were in severe drought.  Mind you half of Innisfail and the hinterland had just been mown down by a cyclone, so you have to keep your purrspective.  This time, instead of just friend and myself, we are taking her bloke and my M along.  We're staying in an apartment rather than with family, and we'll have our own car.  I think what we finally end up doing, as group decisions and individual choices, will be very interesting.   And maybe this time friend and I won't need to spend the entire trip home in stunned silence after a rather intense and overwhelming amount of the family factor!

My week so far has been spent getting ready for a much longer trip, to Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Korea. We leave for this trip only three weeks after we return from Cairns, so there's a need to get little things done, like passports and visas and accommodation bookings and convincing the specialist tour advisors that when we say 'First Class rail overnight' we don't mean 24 hours on a clapped-out pre-Iron Curtain bus with no seats and a soused driver.  Yeah, yeah, call us picky.  But at my time of life (older than you think) I prefer to know in advance I won't be spending endless hours standing up with nothing but a hat-rack full of chickens to hold onto.  I likes my comforts.  I likes my hotels with lifts, bathrooms on the same floor, doors which stay closed, and beds which don't mysteriously part in the middle in the night, as the bottom sheet loses what ever force it had to keep two single beds on castors together.  Hotels which don't have a corridor full of over-excited Romanian schoolgirls intent on slamming every door seventeen times before 2am.  Hotels where you go and stay and the everyday comforts of western civilisation are yours for the price.

We discovered on our previous long European trip that small things CAN'T be taken for granted, like lifts, or porters in railway stations, or even (once) booked seats in first class on a train.  That train was overfull of people going to the next city for the next World Cup soccer game, and there wasn't no way they was gonna give up a seat booked to a mere Aussie bleeder in sensible shoes and Prada purrfume.  Nup.  We hung on, swaying and cursing, for an hour and a half, until the slimey limeys and wanker yanks got OFF.  I emoted.

But what am I really talking about here?  The power of small things, to make or break a day, or the difference between essentially comfortable and essentially miserable (try no hook for the shower spray, so you can't have a shower without drenching the entire bathroom, soaking the towels, sending floods onto the carpet, and endangering your dicky knee on the slippery floor).  When Il Sardonico, the night manager in our Roman hotel, greeted us by demanding to know how much we'd paid the taxi driver and then laughing at us for getting ripped off (reading my post earlier on said driver, you'll realise we were still astonished we made it to the hotel alive!).  Like, hey dude, a mere hello would do!  Mind you we relented later when we met Ms Charming Roman day-shift manager, who spoke to us about the hotel cats, "Tritticano and-a his wife".  Awww..

Small things have taken up all my brain space, breathing space, and most of my desk (dammit, most of my study) for days.  I have listed, tracked, hunted, deleted, dealt with and despaired of eleventy tiny things.  I feel most achievable, I really do.  I also know that if I don't do this in excruciating detail now, I'll spend  the first three weeks of the trip saying, regularly and triumphantly:" I KNOW WHAT I FORGOT!" and I will drive M mad.  I will also drive myself mad trying to shop for whatever these critical items are, because the law of international shopping in strange cities is that whenever you go to find nail polish remover, it will be hard to find, miles away, unidentifiable in Swedish form, four times the going price for diamond dust, and available about 50 metres away in the other direction with a huge sign on it in English saying ON SALE.

Another small thing is the delight of a Strawberrynet parcel which arrived yesterday containing a new purrfume.  So the scent trail for today is "Aigner Woman" by Etienne Aigner in Leather.  Mmm, leather....

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