Jeremy Irons and the Counter-Stench Forcefield

April 26, 2012

16 April 2012

It took a couple of days for London to blow me away.  I was in the most touristy area imaginable, down by the Thames, around Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, but some places can penetrate the shroud of crowds and postcards and souvenir stands.

I was struck for the first time by the scale of the city’s history.  Everywhere were grand buildings bearing the symbols of past eras, statues and flourishes that would stand as works of art in their own right but were instead serving as decorations, furthering the beauty of a whole.  In Australia, we have the poorer cousins of these monuments, and even they are the exception.  In London, they are everywhere, forming high walls of ornately worked stone, covering the horizon with grand spires and domes and arches.  No less ingenious modern skyscrapers pop up between them, reminding you that you are in a modern city, but one that has stood for hundreds of years. Read the rest of this entry »


The Thirty Six-Hour Day and the Elbow Rest Wars

April 19, 2012

Where we're going, it's probably preferable to have eyes...

14 April 2012

Six months off to go travelling around Europe.  We left armed only with four years worth of savings, our backpacks and a vague plan to see the countries around the Mediterranean.  It’s the first time M and I will have backpacked together, and probably our last chance to go on a big trip.  As well as dispelling my ignorance about vast chunks of the world, I’m hoping to do lots of reading and writing, so there’ll be more frequent posts about the places I visit, as well as the books I’m reading.

The flight from Melbourne to Singapore left at midnight, and I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to sleep for most of it without popping a valium.  We had a three hour stopover, which gave us a chance to stretch our legs and disentangle our spines.  If you have to be trapped in the strange, sleepless world of an airport for a few hours, you could do a lot worse than Changi Terminal 3.  There’s hawker-style food like satay and Hainese chicken rice, as well as all the usual chain stores and twenty-four hour shopping, if you’re into that sort of thing.  We took a shower, had a coffee and walked around the butterfly house.

There are even little touchscreens in the toilet so that you can provide feedback on their cleanliness and service.  I did a tour of the restrooms, giving the cleaners a little electronic pat on the back of a “very good” rating (not “excellent” – they need something to strive for), feeling benevolent and absolved of any obligation to leave a tip. Read the rest of this entry »