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2008-09-27 13:17

It's the end of the world as we know it, and we wish to register a complaint

1. Frenchy-French dinners

A Beeboid rounds up a collection of anecdotes and two(2) empirical facts: bankrupcies in the French restaurant sector are up, and bookings are substantially down. Since it is the nature of anecdotes to be more quotable, we shall quote one(1) from a restaurateur:

"Nowadays people take a carafe of house wine instead of ordering a bottle, and the vast majority order the set menu instead of a la carte," he says.

We, for one, have always done just this, and not just in France. We hope we haven't provoked any crises anywhere else.

2. Ferry bad news

The Newcastle-Bergen line is no more:

DFDS Seaways' decision to cancel the Newcastle-Bergen ferry - a route, which has operated in one form or another for well over a century - was the culmination of a decade of cutbacks. Once you could sail from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Bergen, Oslo, Stavanger, Haugesund, Kristiansand, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Esbjerg and Ijmuiden. Now only the Dutch route remains open and how much longer that will last is also in doubt.

We never took it, and now it looks like we never will. Bah!

2008-09-27 13:17


2008-09-23 16:46

On the impossibility of disliking Italy

1. We have admitted to being reluctant to be here in the first place, and the many vicissitudes of Stupid Old Airlines meant that we were booked to stay here 48 hours longer than was appropriate, so we've had nothing to do all dag todag, and we'll pick up where we left off tomorrow.

2. In which time to date we have wandered around the old town a bit - vair nice, visited the medieval museum, where the fifty-something attendant was most displeased that we had failed to purchase a (free) ticket from the unmarked ticket office before intruding on his solitude. We got an (unfree) audio guide to go with it, but he still felt the need to trail us through the various rooms in just the way that post-Soviet museum babushkas always do.

Incidentally, are audio-guides always rubbish? This one kept telling us who was represented (in sculptures, etc), who did the representing, and how (in some cases) the representing was achieved. In all, the collected answers to questions we did not have were exemplary, but that was all there was. We took our considerable time anyway, just to annoy the attendents.

3. We also popped to the Allegedly International Bookshop, and once we'd figured out that International didn't just mean Engleesh and that there was a rather good selection of Frenchy-French books hidden downstairs we decided we liked it after all. They had a better selection than we were able to find in obscure little towns in the Champagne region of France herself, and we spent all our leftover birthdag moneys and then some.

4. Our Varied Reader may perhaps have heard that the food in Italy tends towards the good. Our experience, unremarkably, bears that out. But having had two lots of Big Fancy Italian Dinner, we are in the mood for something else, and that something is the something we miss perhaps more than any other culinary something in out adopted homeland - the sheepkebap. Chicken shoarma/shawarma is not an acceptable substitute. There is in fact no acceptable substitute, and we are almost drooling at the thought of it.

5. For lunch we had a pizza slice from a shoplet in the endless balustrades (which everyone always seems to be walking along at Italian Speed, which is about a third of Northern European Speed and probably considered stationary in New York). The pizzasliceguy took it in his stride that we seemed to speak no Italian, and smiled when we remembered to say "grazie".

6. And in two trips to the supermarkt down the street we have scored yet more Dylan Dog comics, a bunch of cheap and nasty biers - since we are not subsidised to the tune of minibars - and some souvenir coffee. In the morning, it was full of doddery old ladies telling each other (we conjecture) how expensive the ham has got; in the evening there was a smaller and more diverse crowd but the cashiers had enough to say (largely to each other) for all of us and them some.

7. In a bit we are going to see if we can figure out how to buy a stamp for our postcard, which if we recall correctly is best done at a tobacconistes. In the meantime, we have Mr Jacques Le Goffe, medievaliste extraordinaire, and a bier for company. Could be worse, we concede.

2008-09-22 15:04

In praise of US-internationalisme

The US-international keyboard - for it is it! - is a fine thing and also the default for Dutch computers that aren't this one. (Bah!)

Additionally, it turns out that we can after all type 's if we feel like it, and let's face it sometimes we do. Also our old freind is restored to us. It was a happy time when we discovered that, for sure.

2008-09-22 14:50

Oh look, a shiny thing

Those Asus eee pcs are persuasively supernifty, to our mind. And since all internet radios seem to be unsatisfactory in one way or, especially, another and given that they are also about the same price, we're now tempted to plug a micro-pc into the aux socket of Big Stereo and have done with it.

2008-09-22 13:53

Talking about Science in Bologna

We are attending a working meeting of telescope types in Red Bologna - nicknamed for its many buildings and its political tendencies.

Science types, if you've ever wondered and we concede that you may not, are almost entirely unlike characters out of David Lodge's allegedly hilarious novels of academic life, which may also explain why said novels fail to amuse us.

And these dags we are more reluctant than ever to travel: we already live in Abroad, so it is not exotic to visit it and we really ought to be attending to the many whims of little Boris van 't Blad today.

Still, the food is good and it looks like we can keep our presentation brief, informal and inoffensive. Also, the food is good. And we still haven't given up hope of scoring a Dylan Dog comics.

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