From the blog that brought you Lisbon or Lisboff and Brno or Bryes comes Berlin or Berlout; your shoddy bible to what’s hot and what is not actually that hot in quite a few ways in Berlin. Which is in Germany.

Please keep reading. It does get slightly better.

The Berlin Wall: East Side Gallery

Paris has the Tower, Sydney has the Opera House, Essex has Lakeside Shopping Centre and Berlin has the Wall. Each landmark is iconic although only one offers free parking when you spend over £25 at Dixons, taking it to the next level. The biggest surviving section of the Berlin Wall is known as the East Side Gallery and looks about 1.3km long to me. It provides a surface for people to express joyous optimism at the fall of Communist oppression. Some take this opportunity less seriously than others.

He's actually bi.

I had imagined my visit to the Wall may be rather bleak but hadn’t counted on the brilliantly incongruous beach bar behind it, offering sand, deck chairs and ‘Essential Ibiza Megamix ’04’ on constant loop. The sun blazed so I decided to kick back with a bratwurst and a few beers in the name of democracy but please don’t label me a hero. As I drained my third Pilsner, something inside me (my bladder) told me it was time to make the ultimate political statement. I silkily grooved towards the Gents, accompanied by ‘Balearic House Beats ’02’ at which point things all went a bit Pete Tong. A woman of about 65 in a white doctor’s coat sat by the toilet door, presumably to provide medical assistance if required. Here was an excellent example of the professional opportunities afforded all ages and sexes in a free democracy. My proud reverie took a knock when I noticed she was carrying a bowl that said ‘Toilet ¢50’. I was no longer convinced she was a doctor. The bar had sold me drinks and now wanted to charge me to function bodily the CAPITALIST PIGS! It may not be fashionable but I did begin to wonder if we should pop the wall back up again? I was going to argue my case with the fake physician but sensed she was less Dr Hilary Jones and more Dr Harold Shipman so just paid up instead.

Verdict: Berlin – A fascinating piece of history. Just remember to go before you visit.

Mauerpark Bearpit Karaoke

I joined a large crowd at the stone amphitheatre in Mauerpark to watch Bearpit Karaoke – a Sunday tradition in Berlin. The sun shone, the atmosphere was joyous and what the warblers lacked in talent they more than made up for in misplaced confidence. I could sense the audience were waiting for that Susan Boyle moment when a contestant not looking the part unexpectedly go an’ put it down. That moment arrived when a dishevelled homeless man shuffled onstage clutching a bunch of plastic bags. With a wild shock of shaggy grey hair and the unmistakable waft of urine, Susan Boyle has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic and this tramp may have been hoping to emulate her. Sorry SuBo.

The spectators were one big collective goosebump as the first stirring bars to ‘My Way’ began. Our hero of no fixed abode raised the microphone to his beard, took a deep breath and began to sing beautifully in German. The pitch was perfect although the Germanic intonation did mercilessly bully air molecules into teary submission. It seems every German song I listen to sounds like a list of orders to follow. As this was the first German song I have ever heard that may justifiably be described as a wild generalisation.

As the final note soared skywards, half the crowd were on their feet. 70% of the audience were standing when he started so this could be seen as something of a rebuke. You really can’t put a price on a magical moment like this so when the organiser came around collecting money I pretended not to notice.

Verdict: Berlin – Scores an unprecedented 46.7 out of 52 on the unnecessarily complicated Gadabout fun scale.

Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights is an annual celebration of illumination with events across the city. I chose to attend the main opening gala at Potsdamer Platz as I calculated this would be the most visually spectacular. My hunch was confirmed when I arrived to find a man on stage dressed in a leotard, spinning two glow sticks.

Robbie Williams denies feeling humiliated by new role on Take That tour.

He was replaced after just 49 minutes by a host with an evangelical zeal that made me feel a teeny bit sleepy. He spent close to an hour introducing various sponsors with an excitement that I’m afraid may have been artificially manufactured.  “Let’s hear it for Michael Richter, Junior Vice President in Charge of European Sales at Vodafone Germany! Yeah! Make some noise people!! COME ON!!!”

"WOW! What a great time we're all having!!" I'll be the judge of that my friend.

It was the sort of build up more usually associated with plaque but eventually the main show did begin. A giant white mask hung over Potsdamer Platz and appeared to come to life as talking faces were projected onto its surface. This was genuinely innovative, creative and very impressive so when the 30ft face boomed “lets begin the show” the entire audience held its breath. A tall building next to the face lit up in pink which changed to green then back to pink morphing to green before returning to pink and finally green. A spotlight shone from the top floor onto the stage where the man in a leotard strolled back on while juggling glowing balls. The audience let out its breath and we all disappeared faster than dirt in a Cillit Bang commercial.

Verdict: Berlout – I know the world economy is in serious trouble as I like to keep up with the news. However, if governments refuse to splurge large amounts of tax payers’ money on one-off events to create a short spectacle I might quite like then I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get out of it.

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Au revoir Paris und guten Tag Berlin. We have moved into an apartment in Prenzlauer Berg near the centre of the German capital. Our flat comes very well equipped, lacking only a supportive work chair for Susie who has the occasional twinge of back pain. Chair shortage isn’t a problem for me as I tend to work in a coquettishly horizontal position with a laptop sunk into the forgiving surface of my abdominals. You are being lavished with this exclusive insight into our working styles / furniture situation as it sets up a true tale of Twilight Zone-like impossibility that rips apart reality like an otter with a fish (N.B: this analogy needs work).

A few days after moving in, I was exploring the local ‘hood when I spied a sturdy looking office chair discarded in a pile of rubbish outside a flower shop. I popped in to ask if it was ok for me to take. The guy behind the counter said something like “nein, nein, du kannst nicht, nein, nein” which I took to mean “yes my friend, you may have the chair with my blessing but please remember to mention me in your blog”.

It was easy to carry initially but after lugging it the half mile home my arms were fizzing noisily with lactic acid. As I reached the front door and gratefully put the chair down I noticed it had wheels and could have been rolled back. Good job I’m pretty as I’m clearly not the ripest apfel in the strudel.

When Susie returned later that day I told her she had a present and asked her to guess what it might be. Her whole face lit up and I immediately regretted initiating this game.

“Is it that new Nikon 50mm camera lens I told you about? Is it? Is it?”

“No.”

“Is it the amazing necklace we saw in that vintage boutique? Oh my God!

“Incorrect”

“Ooohhhh is it…”

“I’m going to have to stop you there Suzzles. It’s a battered old chair I found in some rubbish.”

Susie still seemed pleased and immediately took her gift for a spin, happily announcing it was nowhere near as painful as the chair she had been using and was simply mildly uncomfortable. Result! I took the opportunity to point out this was an early Christmas present so best not to expect anything later in the year.

Photographic evidence that Susie has received her Christmas present in case it is forgotten on the 25th December and I face a barrage of tears and recriminations once again.

We are sub-letting the place from a very pleasant chap called Georg who popped around about a week later. As soon as he walked in his eye(s) was immediately drawn to Susie’s new work throne and asked where we had got it. I recounted the tale above but increased the distance I’d carried it to a mile to seem more manly. “This is my chair” he said, placing both hands proprietarily on the arm rest like an otter with a fish. At first I thought he meant the chair had automatically become his property as it was in his flat. I was worried he might continue this process with my other belongs ie. “this is my laptop, this is my suitcase, this is my collection of Littlewoods lingerie catalogues from 1986 to 1993” (I’m looking after them for a friend incidentally). However, he said he recognised the chair as it had three photocopies of conch shells taped to the back. I honestly didn’t dream all this.

You won't find a photo of three photocopies of conch shells sellotaped to the back of a chair at any rival location independent travel blogs so think on.

From here on in the weird-ometer really hit cross-eyed velocity. Georg explained that he had owned the chair for a number of years while living in this flat and had taken it along with his other belongings when he left. He moved to a much smaller flat in Neukölln which is on the other side of Berlin and stored the chair and several other items in the basement of his new apartment building. A few days later he went back to the basement only to discover it had been broken into and his furniture had been stolen. It appeared that somehow the chair had made its way back to Prenzlauer Berg and ended up discarded in the street where I found it and brought it back to the flat it had originally started out in.

I glanced fearfully at what I now thought of as the ‘demon chair’ and it glowered malevolently back. The odds of this convoluted series of impossible coincidences occurring as they did must be something like 2-1 and I began to feel quite giddy. I desperately needed to sit down but wasn’t going to risk ‘Satan’s seat’ as I value my soul too highly.

To try and make sense of the situation I marked all known locations of the chair...

...however, as I traced the route it had taken, the mystery just seemed to deepen.

I have concluded that there is no point looking for a rational explanation. I like to think the chair has an obsessional lust for our landlord and used evil magic to find a way back to him. But then I am of course quite, quite drunk.


The Musee de la Magie is a fascinating collection of shimmering wonders or airless, overpriced tat cave depending on your grip on reality. It only took me five minutes to complete a full circuit; it would have been two but most exhibits were hogged by young children. This forced me to wait for an opportune moment to use my strength advantage and muscle the toddlers aside.

The standout attraction was a blue shirt once worn by self-appointed ladies man, David Copperfield. I carefully compared the shirt with a photo of him wearing it to make sure I was truly witness to the original. As my laser focus turned to cuff stitching, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the crushing futility of my task and began to wonder if the material was heavy enough to suffocate myself with.

"Chicks dig me and I don't blame them" claims Copperfield while exposing himself.

I was saved from an early yet fairly sexy death by a voice behind me. “Allons il est sur le point de commencer”. I turned to find a man with a waist circumference that perfectly matched his height, making him spherical and the most interesting spectacle there. He had the broken nose and non-neck of an East End bouncer and had presumably been hired to step in if a six year old decided to get a bit tasty. He repeated the show was about to start and ushered me and others down a thin corridor. The majority ignored him, leaving me and a middle-aged couple from England, squashed together by the theatre entrance.

The male half of the couple looked like he’d be familiar with the intricacies of the UK motorway system so I silently dubbed him ‘Clive’. To have done so out loud may have seemed presumptuous. As the minutes clumped past there was no sign of the show starting so I muttered an excuse about checking the Copperfield shirt for stains and wandered off. The Clives continued to patiently indulge the English fetish for forming an orderly line despite no one else joining in.

“Allons il est sur le point de commencer”. The baby bouncer returned after about 25 minutes and the crowd were now desperate for entertainment. This created a tourist tidal wave which forced the Clives to the far end of the corridor and the back of the queue. The walls were draped with a richly purple curtain and as the injustice of the situation gripped Clive, his face became practically invisible against the fabric. He complained with textbook English indignation to nobody in particular and masterfully avoided actual confrontation. It’s impossible to say if he looked angry or disappointed when I slunk past as catching his eye was out of the question. Fortunately, they did manage to grab the last few seats and were conveniently placed for me to keep a close watch on their movements which definitely isn’t weird. Clive punctuated his moaning with hand movements as expressive as any Italian traffic policeman and was clearly enjoying himself for the first time that afternoon. Mrs Clive was happy to maintain a distant, half-smiley, vacant air, making a mockery of those who claim Valium is a bad thing.

The lights dimmed and the magician skipped on stage with a bright, bright smile and dead, dead eyes. As he ran through his act I made a mental note to ask my parents to check the loft as I’m pretty sure he’d stolen all the tricks from a Paul Daniels magic set I got for Christmas in 1981. If the set is missing then I’m afraid this becomes a matter for the police. Before leaving, I decided to use the museum’s bodily function facilities to ensure maximum value for money. I didn’t even really need to go but I can be quite devil-may-care sometimes. As I psyched my bladder up to performance levels, I noticed the Clives had taken the opportunity to relax on a red leather banquette in a chill-out room outside the toilet. I gave them a ‘don’t blame you for relaxing on a red leather banquette’ nod as I went towards what turned out to be a single cubicle. A chap opened the cubicle door just as I got there and left without even pretending to wash his hands like the rest of us.

My urethra proceeded to kick serious ass (not in an anatomical sense) and after a successful flush I was back in the chill-out room. Oddly, the Clives were now standing and staring at me. Mrs Clive’s look was more venom than Valium and the blood vessels in Clive’s face had invented a colour I am going to name ‘frenzied puce’. With a queasy thunk I realised we were in less of a ‘chill-out’ room and more of a ‘queuing for the toilet’ room. It seemed I had rubbed the Clives’ collective nose in their decision to play by the rules one again. Confident this was not the time for recriminations, I glided towards the exit with as much dignity as a man still doing up his flies can muster.


Tour de Farce

22Aug11

To many, the Tour de France is the shining pinnacle of athletic achievement and engrossing drama. To me, it’s a bunch of doped up strangers on bicycles going up a big hill. If they found a way to incorporate cricket (at the time of writing they have not) this would be the most pointlessly boring sport ever invented. Apart from ladies football. Joke! I’m a big fan.

That being said, statistics show that any contest is 0.06% more interesting when viewed in the flesh so I could not pass up the opportunity to cheer on my cycling heroes as they dashed to the finish at the Champs-Elysées. A huge crowd lined the avenue and I found myself blocked by a sea of middle-aged men in neon lycra. Fortunately, my blood had been re-oxygenated and my quivering buttock (the left) had received an undetectable testosterone shot, giving me the edge to get to the front. I’m being blackly satirical.

The organisers had laid on a carnival procession to keep the waiting fans entertained. This consisted of cars branded in corporate sponsorship being driven slowly past by waving, smiling people who would occasionally beep a horn to raise thrill tingles to a dangerous zenith. In itself this wasn’t much of a spectacle although the excited crowd of middle-aged men in neon lycra did lend an unexpected Gay Pride energy.

Eventually, even this stopped and we were left to stare at an empty street. I found myself feeling wistfully nostalgic for the logo bedecked grey Honda Civic that had being looping past for the previous 87 minutes.

This photo of the back of my head as I gaze blankly at a thin tree doesn't even come close to capturing the excitement I felt. Ok, it comes very close.

While waiting, I collected photographic proof that in Paris you are never more than one metre from a Frenchman slathering cheese on a baguette.

There was no indication of when the be-wheeled combatants would arrive so Susie asked the man next to us if he knew what time it would finish. He replied that technically it already was finished as the winner had been settled yesterday. This was the first I’d heard but it didn’t stop me catching his eye to give him a look that said ‘honestly mate, women and their lack of sporting knowledge!’. It’s not easy to convey that with a facial expression but I’m pretty sure I nailed it.

In actual fact, Susie is something of an expert as she had previously watched the Tour de France back in 1980 when she was about a year old.

Gadabout Fact No. 347: Susie was born in Bordeaux and lived there until she was two. This means I have a French girlfriend, making me suavely sophisticated despite all evidence to the contrary.

Susie watching the Tour de France in 1980...

...and again in 2011. Evidence of an unhealthy obsession with the world's premiere cycling event?

We had been standing in the same spot for over two and a half hours when the BMX Bandits finally charged over the horizon and flashed by in a screaming blur of acid colours. In a display of world class endurance and almost superhuman stamina we stayed there for three more minutes before having a lovely sit down to eat a packet of chocolate Tim Tams.

As it actually happened...

...as it should have happened to make waiting for two and a half hours worthwhile.

For those of you who regularly visit this blog for your roundup of world sporting reportage I can confirm that Cadel Evans won (no, me neither).


Paris Match

03Aug11

Bonjour mon petit lapin. We have hit the dusty gadabout track again and are in Paris, France, Europe. Now, it would be all too easy for me to raise crassly cheap laughs by dredging up hackneyed French stereotypes so that will hopefully make writing this blog much more straightforward. We will be here for at least a few months but originally jetted in from glamorous London Luton Airport (which definitely is in London) for my brother Paul’s wedding to his girlfriend Cristina.

Susie and I made our way to the Town Hall where Paul and Cristina were to be joined in a legally binding contract of amour by the Mayor himself. Judging by his general demeanor on the day, I would guess His Honor may be no stranger to the hip flask.

The views of arrowed captions do not necessarily reflect those of the author or About a Gadabout Ltd.

High on love and secondhand whiskey fumes, the newly married couple made their exit through the traditional corridor of guests while being showered with rice; the most romantic of all the wholegrains. Frustratingly, it began to rain viciously just as they stepped outside forcing an immediate return through the guest gangway. Once again they faced a rice deluge although as they were now briskly walking inside, this resembled an ironic protest at incompetent government ministers for Third World Aid. I joined in anyway as I had a quarter bag left and seemed a shame to waste it.

Having bravely endured two uncooked rice peltings, the happy couple cheerfully compared scratched retina while the rest of the party jumped into taxis and headed for the restaurant reception. I have since learned that Parisian taxi drivers dislike passengers sitting in the front. Unaware of this delightful idiosyncrasy at the time, I blithely settled myself in next to the driver. To discourage this kind of naughty informality my seat had been folded forward at a virtually 90 degree angle which left my forehead resting daintily on the faux walnut dashboard. No amount of fumbling with levers or doe-eyed pleading with the driver made any difference. Fortunately it was a short journey and before you could say ‘permanent spinal damage’ we were there.

Our group were the first to arrive and as we were early the free drink bonanza had yet to begin. Through a series of complicated misunderstandings and a fatal lapse in concentration, I found myself standing at the bar buying a round of drinks. Hoegaarden seemed a popular choice overall but the two children in the party turned out to be complete lightweights, announcing that Belgian ale ‘wasn’t the tipple for them’. As they were unsure what to order, my mum helpfully suggested they have a Perrier each. As you know, I believe money is no object when it comes to our young people so when a nonchalant glance at the menu revealed that two small bottles would cost me €20 I felt nothing but a warm contentment. However, I did choose to quietly tweak the drink specifics to tap water as this was a golden opportunity for the youngsters to pretend their l’eau came from a gurgling mountain stream; thus strengthening their lateral thinking and giving them an edge in the potentially competitive job market of around 2019.

I was pleased to see the barman provide complimentary snacks to go with the drinks. If he had thrown in the deeds to a small property in Provence that round would have been a bargain. We were asked to take our drink and nibblets into the garden as the seating area was still being prepared. This sounds idyllic but the downpour meant eating food outdoors was no picnic.

Fortunately the rain eased off and the sun emerged as Paul and Cristina swishly arrived. While watching them pose for photos I was unable to spot any trace of the rice which had so comprehensively covered them earlier. I noted the vegetarian option for the main meal was risotto. Coincidence?

Celebrations continued into the teeny-tiny hours of the morning and there was just time to catch some ZZZZzzzzzzz’s (youth slang to widen readership demographic) before we were up and and gathered by the Seine for a River Boat tour. I spied one aqua-craft that I hoped wasn’t ours.

'River Boat Tour owner at complete loss to explain failure of business just three weeks after launch' claims made up news report. Celine Dion was unavailable for comment.

The rain continued to lash down during the cruise but did I let a few drops of rain spoil my fun? Yes. Yes I did. But in some ways the weekend wasn’t just about me. Paul and Cristina also had a part to play and I would genuinely like to thank them for an extremely enjoyable and special (in a good way) two days.

I’d also like to say sorry for that risotto joke.

Get a room you perverts.


Czech Us Out

29Jun11

Our new Gadabout home is the Czech Republic as the pun-erific title suggests. To be more specific we are in Brno (pronounced Brno) which is the eager to please, sandy haired young sibling to Prague’s swaggering, heavily tattooed older brother.

We have been renting an apartment near the erotically named Cabbage Market in the city centre for a month now. This has allowed me to compile a list of local events and activities which have been split into categories – Brno or Bryes. Those of you thinking this is a lazy rehash of my recent Lisbon or Lisboff idea are completely mistaken although I haven’t time to explain why just at the moment.

Freedom Square

Freedom Square is at the throbbing heart muscle of Brno. It is a bubbling melting jug of classic architecture and glossy modernity (well, late-90’s anyway). Upon first arrival I couldn’t help noticing that the good people of Brno had seen fit to erect a giant, gleaming black phallus in the centre of the Square, presumably while drunk. I don’t really have any more to say on the subject but am hoping key words in the previous sentence will boost search engine traffic to this blog.

Writing a caption for this photo that doesn't resort to smutty innuendo is very, very, very hard.

There is always some sort of event happening in the Square – vintage car shows, masked parades, and on one occasion a spectacular (if overlong) performance art extravaganza called The Game. The whole show felt like the arm waving bit before a magician puts the lady in a box but I am reliably informed that it was also a savage indictment of the greedily irresponsible financial industry.

A chastening attack on immoral finance practices through interpretative dance. If that doesn't shame the investment bankers then I don't know what will.

Verdict: Lisbon, sorry I mean Bryes

The Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt lies deep in the bowels (smirk) of Brno and is home to the mummified remains of 18th century monks and dignitaries. It consists of five interlocking stone chambers decorated in a Baroque style that Laurence Llewlyn Bowen would describe as “quite nice”. I had mistakenly assumed that visitors would be eased in to the whole ‘corpse horror’ element slowly, the macabre quotient rising with each chamber and ending with a lovely comforting hug from the lady that sells the tickets. Not so.

As I took the final steps down to the first vault, my eye was quickly drawn to a large, richly dark and hammer-thumpingly solid coffin. I gingerly peered in as having just paid CZK65 to enter it seemed silly not to. I think I was half-expecting a Scooby-Doo style cartoon skeleton. Unnervingly, what I actually saw was an extremely dead body belonging to a specific human being. The ash coloured vellum skin was still shockingly clad in the remains of a Rococo shirt and crumbling toes poked through pointed boots. It was all just so last season darling.

Is it wrong that this photo is completely turning me on right now?

I ventured further into the crypt, reading the histories of the permanent residents as I went. One casket held the body of a woman who died over 300 years ago. She drew my attention as her limbs were not posed in the serene style of her crypt-mates. Terrifyingly, experts theorise she was buried alive. They suspect this as she has a jolly peeved look on her face.

Too soon?

Each chamber revealed further morbidly fascinating details and the kind of chilling link with the past I have never experienced before or since (although it was only yesterday). Even as I dictate these words for my androgynous, gimp assistant to type I can feel an icy shiver travel all the way from the base of my spine to very slightly above the base of my spine.

Verdict: Bryes

Elvis Live

I have been an Elvis fan for as long as I can remember. While my 13 year old peers were ripping their jeans to emulate Bros, I was fashioning my white Karate trousers into the flared stage pant of a late period Presley. This won me the joyous admiration of classmates who celebrated any sign of ‘individual eccentricity’ in the non-judgmental manner that gangs of Essex teenagers are famous for.

My long-standing hero worship meant I was rather excited to see posters all over Brno advertising an event called Elvis Live. In anticipation, my lip began to curl, my leg started to twitch and my hips set to swivelin’. Susie thought I was having a Stroke.

The poster indicated that Elvis was to be played by a big-boned Japanese woman. It's what 'The King' would have wanted.

The location for Elvis Live was the Galerie Vankovka and I arrived expecting to find a plush art space of polished wood and white walls. In fact the Galerie Vankovka is a large, busy shopping mall. Exhibits of rhinestone jumpsuits and guitars were displayed in glass cases along the main thoroughfare. I couldn’t help feeling that the slightly crass surroundings detracted from the glamorous mystique of Elvis Aaron Presley. In fairness he did rather start that process himself by straining to death on the toilet.

As far as I could gather from the information available in Czech, the main event was to be an evening performance by an Elvis impersonator. I scampered along to the stage at the appointed time to discover that the ‘performer’ was actually a man with a beard (and it was a nice beard to give him credit) sitting behind a computer playing Elvis songs.

As a spectacle this was a distant second to the Elvis: '68 Comeback Special.

The small crowd expressed their fevered devotion in grim, glassy eyed silence. With hindsight, throwing my underwear and fainting feels like an overreaction.

Verdict: Brno thankyou. Brno thankyouverymuch


Lagos Goss(ip)

20May11

After three months, it was with a heavy heart and lightly muscled calves that we bid farewell to Lisbon. Before heading to our next official Gadabout destination we decided to treat ourselves to a mini-holiday in Lagos. This was not the warring hell-pit in Nigeria (fully booked) but rather the Lagos on the Portuguese coast.

My brain sponge had conjured images of happily toothless fish wives crisping up under a blazing sun. However, as the train pulled in we were met with grey, torrential rain fizz. I summoned all of my stoic British resolve and lustily vowed to give it another five minutes before sinking into a funk and wishing we’d never come.

That evening we donned waterproofs and ventured out to a restaurant called No Patio. It turned out to be a candlelit food treat. The only slight disappointment was my pudding – a glutinous wobble-tower of oddly tasteless splunge (this is not a verbatim menu description). Susie reminded me that at least it hadn’t cost much. She should try telling that to my thighs.

No Patio

'No Patio'. Misleadingly it did have a patio but as the food was so delicious I decided not to take the matter further with senior waiting staff.

The next morning we awoke to bright, kissable sunshine. It seemed my relentless positivity had finally paid off. We strolled to the beach where I immediately stripped to my aquamarine modesty trunks and built a comfy Sand Chair. I have been instructed to point out that the Sand Chair was invented by a Miss Susie Harrison about four years ago. Now that the legal formalities are out of the way I am free to provide photographic illustration and a handy guide in case you’re ever in the vicinity of a large expanse of sand and wish to sit in a slightly propped up position.

Sand Chair

1. Dig hole. 2. Put towel over hole. 3. Sit in hole. 4. If Susie is nearby, agree that she invented the Sand Chair even though you are secretly convinced you did.

I always expect my fellow beach dwellers to copy my throne sculpture in a frenzy of admiration. That did not happen on this occasion. It has yet to happen on any occasion.

Shooting on the video for my new album of power ballads is interrupted by an invasion of groupies.

That evening we dined alfresco at a tapas place called Meu Limao. This turned out to be a big mistake. I am still too weak from hunger to describe events in detail but it involved insanely long waits, wrong orders, rudeness, cold food and teeny tiny portions.

Increasingly disgruntled murmuring from other diners made it clear that we were not the only ones growing irritated. The Fawlty Towers-esque approach to service meant that table neighbours began comparing notes which created a jovial camaraderie in the face of dining adversity. As I took a sip of cold beer and nibbled on a mini-sausage, I realised that this must have been exactly what it was like during the Blitz.

After a while the situation was far from funny (as this blog post demonstrates) and I decided to go inside and cancel the rest of our order. I expected to find harassed staff buzzing around but not a single waiter or waitress was in sight. Officially irked, I went looking for the kitchen to stop the order at the source. I plunged through swing doors to find a large kitchen inhabited by two teenage girls wearing what looked to be showercaps. They weren’t actually showering although that would have added some much needed spice to this paragraph.

As I advanced towards young Delia and Nigella, they backed away with a look of horror not seen since Christopher Lee hung up his cape. Their surreptitious shuffle towards the steak knives was interrupted by a voice from behind me.

“Can I help you?”

I spun around to find a woman of close to 6ft looming over me dressed head to toe in black. Her smoothly impassive face gleamed whitely like plastic garden furniture. If I had known that canceling our order would involve a dangerous confrontation with the vampiric Queen of the Undead I would have sent Susie.

There was just enough time to make a furtive sign of the cross before explaining the situation. She responded with a stare so icy my nipples instantly sliced my t-shirt to shreds. Through gritted (possibly fanged) teeth she eventually replied “I apologise for that” while somehow making it sound exactly like “it’s your fault”.

So that's two plates of raw garlic and a large bottle of holy water for the table. Any dips with that guys?

“Tapas is not meant to come all at once” she patronised. This raised my officially irked status to completely pissed off (sorry mum) and a vein began throbbing wildly in my neck. This seemed to distract her so I took the opportunity to explain I understood the concept of tapas and it did not involve bringing cold food we hadn’t ordered at 40 minute intervals.

There was a long pause before she finally said “I apologise for that” somehow making it sound exactly like “your weirdly sharp nipples revolt me”.



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