Monday, October 30, 2006


"Are you carrying anything for anyone other than yourself, madam?"


1 book West Indian cookery (soft-back, recipes include jerk seasoning and Guiness punch)
1 large box Yorkshire Tea
1 large block Irish extra-strong cheddar (store-brand)
1 packet organic bacon (no moral objections to carrying products of animals that died happy, it appears)
20 security key fobs
1 box "Celebrations" chocolates
3 trashy magazines and a "Hello" to lend an aura of respectability to the proceedings.
1 book piano nocturnes (Chopin)
30 concert programmes (with peak performance stapling effect)
3 half-tubes toothpaste (sorry, oh bearer of the collective suitcase, but I don't want to check my bag)
1 gentleman's disposable razor in plastic bag (ditto)
1 nearly used tube shaving gel, "Jill Monroe" brand (sorry, oh bearer of the painfully bulging suitcase, but the zipper on my bag is broken)
1 box sausage rolls (mini)
1 jar Thai red curry paste (large, extra-hot)
4 rolls toilet tissue (extra-large, extra-soft, extra pillows - this last person is a forward planner)

Courier fees:
Percentage chocolate and first dibs on the caramels
Bottle fizzy water
Discourse on leopard print as a fashion choice
Mug tea
Bowl pea soup with mint
One W.Indian veggie dish containing ackee and cooked to perfection for dinner
Explanation of the meaning of the word "jerk"
Three filthy Czech phrases, with context-appropriate translation
Begruding gratitude of IT dept.

And miraculously, my luggage was no. 2 off the carousel twice in one day. I am the champion. I can be bought.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New words for old.

Loanwords came up in the comments in my last post on things orthographic. I've mentioned the impact of Czech words on English once or twice, but have somewhat neglected the reverse process. And of course, what with English being the devious language-invading hydra that it is, there are a quite a few of them.

Despite the howls of outrage from language purists, English loanwords are no bad thing for the anglophone language learner. For one thing, it's always helpful to have bits and pieces of vocabulary that sound the same as words you know, but with a funny accent. It gives you something to say in those loooong, awkward pauses. And besides, the borrowing language often takes its revenge and shoves a few false friends in a learnerly direction.

Czech has four main groups of verbs that conjugate in similar ways, depending on the ending of the infintive (leaving out exceptions group here). The third group are verbs that end -ovat, and tend to be formed from nouns. Foreign imports tend to find their way into this category, which means that for nonce, my favorite activities in Czechland are the following. (At least as far as Mrs. Jana and our agonising Monday-morning, "What did you do this weekend?" conversation is concerned.):

luxovat (think Electrolux and hoovers)

(May have messed up some diacritics, but the accent on a vowel is meant to make it long.)

I like the "x" ones best. Long may they live. And may I humbly offer the following words at a modest rate of interest to the Czech language:

blingovat: to ornament oneself in a roccoco fashion
hardhatovat: to protect oneself from the consequences of defenestration
alfalfovat: to forage for green leafy vegetables in the supermarket
eskimovat: to buy flannel bedlinen
muffinovat: to over-indulge in palačinky - Czech pancakes
navelovat: to use one's higher consciousness to contemplate the texture of an orange

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This is probably going to scupper something, and I'll return on Sunday night to a white-out, but we've been having lovely weather lately. Chilly mornings that make me contemplate gloves, and lovely clear days. Even the rain on the weekend was the warm gentle stuff of early autumn.

All of which perturbs me somewhat, because my original notions of Czechland were that it was a land-locked country, forever prey to the chilly claw and howling maw of Icy Winter. A bit like many think of Canada, akshully, so I should've known better. But since I made my first foray here in April I've been experiencing ye olde Bohemian spring/summer. Which has been lovely.

In fact, the closest point of reference I have is a trip here late last November when the snow lay thick on the ground. Although it wasn't exactly bikini weather, it wasn't particularly bad either. But when I mentioned this at the time, one of my colleagues commented, "Ah no. It's not so cold this week, but last week it was minus 15."


So with this in mind, I've been making shopping lists to help me see out the season in fine style. When you start looking, it's amazing what you can find in the fine fabric that is known as flannel. Woollens have never seemed so wonderful. Fear makes manolos (not that I wear them, but I'm all alliteration crazy today) out of mukluks. Now, where did I leave my thermal nose-guard?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


A book meme

Cheating slightly on my content rules, but this came through via email, and dammit, it's relevent. Anyhow, it's sneaking under the wire because I won't tag anyone, but if anyone would care to be tagged then they're more than welcome to post here, there or anywhere. Or just sing along.

Total number of books owned:

Absolutely no idea. Vast numbers. Reinforced floor demanding quantities. Unfortunately they aren't all in the same place, or even the same country. It boils down to:

40 smallish boxes (bigger than a breadbin, smaller than a teachest) in storage,
Carrier bag at one relative's. I think it's a supermarket one.
Shoe box at another's. Male relative, size 13 feet.
15 or so boxes in another's attic.
(none of these people know about each other…)

Two shelves here.

All this, despite my occasional ruthless periods when I cut a swathe through the paperbacks like the barbarian hordes of old. I'm slowly coming round to the notion of eventually retiring to a house constructed entirely of used novels. I'll probably tile the roof with old category fiction.

Last book bought:

These days, I buy in bulk when I get to a bookstore that sells in a language I can read. Some of them can see me coming from miles away and rub their hands in glee - I suspect it's the wild-eyed stare or something. Anyhow, I'm in a dark and grisly mood at the moment, so last trip's haul included:

Petty Treason Madeleine E. Robins
Triptych Karen Slaughter
Break no Bones Kathy Reichs
About three Lindsay Davis (glomming)
Sacred Pain Ariel Glucklich (have read it, but it was in the sale rack so couldn't resist - yes, he needs an umlaut, but the yesterday's post exhausted my supply of diacritics)
The Magic Circle of Rudolf II Peter Marshall
The Surgeon of Crowthorne Simon Winchester - the OED, murder and insanity. What's not to love?

Last book read:

That's not on the above list? Uhh… There's a half-read Angela Knight floating around the flat that I just haven't been able to finish. Not what I fancy right now. I've usually got a fiction and a non-fiction on the go. Just finished off Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea (Charles Seife)

Five books you remember:

I think I'll do ones I haven't mentioned before here.

So, in some kind of chronological order of encounter.

Anne of Green Gables I was so obsessed with this series as a child that I used Mum's rouge and red felt-tip markers to try to make my hair red. Haven't read it in years, because I'm worried the magic won't be there.

Pigs Have Wings. Actually, I want to say everything by P.G. Wodehouse. This just floated to the surface of my brain 'cos it has pigs in it and is the most recent one I've picked up. Perfect comfort reads, with added glamour factoid: he was published by Mills & Boon. Really. Him and Georgette Heyer and Jack London were all stablemates.

Good Omens is responsible for the first time I ever managed to clear a space on a train through uncontrollable insane laughter. Although the mildly goth outfit and aura of teenage angst probably helped. I think I own about three copies in varying states of decay because I have to read it annually.

The Age of Extremes. I could have picked a tonne of stuff in this area, but it's all pretty much Hobsbawm's fault. Well, him and the poison dwarf, aka sixth form history teacher. In a major moment of intense geek-girl squeeing excitement, I actually got to touch the man's hand (Hobsbawm's, not the dwarf's) a couple of years ago. Since it took place during a ceremony thingy, I didn't have the chance to actually say anything to him except a choked-up "Thank you". All told, this may have been for the better, since impartial-yet-caring witnesses noted that I was pretty well incoherent. Nonetheless, there is Actual Photographic Evidence of me holding the hand of Eric J. Hobsbawm. Oh, and he said a nice thing too. I did wash the limb eventually.

The Strange Hours Travelers Keep (August Kleinzahler). This was a present from someone I didn't know very well who magically managed to get it exactly right. Just fantastically good poetry, words, ideas. Love it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


(heh heh heh hehehehe)

Think about it. I have. On long journeys up escalators. In supermarket queues. While addressing postcards. Whither the "Cz"? I mean, the Czechs don't do it - they invented a handy little hook called a haček (rhymes with hatchet) to do the job. They speak Čestina in the Česka Republika, děkujuverymuch.

Their European neighbours aren't too bothered about creating extreme orthographic weirdness despite the sound not being a standard in some of their languages. They just cobble together a few random consonants and leave it at that. Thus "Tchèque", "Checa", "Ceca", "Tschechien" (Okay, maybe the Germans...). Or they fake it as best they can with exotic-sounding versions like: "Tsekki" "Tjecken" and "Txekiar".

But these languages use the same clusters of letters (aka digraphs, trigraphs and assorted multigraphs if you're in a pedantic mood) for similar sounds in other words, even if they're loaned ones. Whereas Czech? Well, there's "Czech" and ermm… "czech", and ermmm… "Czerny". If you're of a musical bent. And he was Viennese of Bohemian origins. Well, they did think about these things differently back in the day. After that exhaustive list, we're pretty much left with "Czar". Which you say "Tsar". As in "Twinkle, twinkle, little Tsar." (Hahahhhaaahhaaahahaha)

But if it's not from the Czech, and it's not from some weird English historical thingy, what is it? According to various online dictionaries it's actually 19th century from the Polish. Unfortunately, I don't have handy access to the OED, so no citations or anything. But why Polish?

Digging a bit, things actually get more interesting. Since it kicked off around the 10th century, Czech's pretty much always been usually written in Roman letters, rather than Cyrillic, but is full of sounds (aka phones) that don't exist in Latin. So after getting annoyed with just writing the letter closest to the sound they wanted, people invented clusters of letters to represent these sounds. Like English does with "th". But whereas English uses "h" to indicate that the preceding letter should be softened, it seems that Czechs used the letter "z" to do the same job. Hungarian and Polish still do this, which accounts for those eye-popping words that seem to twist their tongue in the face of human physiognomy.

Buuuuttt… then along came a man called Jan Hus. (Sounds like "house" and "moose" in a really bad fake Scots accent). In between sermons, rabble-rousing, reading Wyclif and generally making a nuisance of himself to the Holy See, he apparently found time to pen the stirring work, De orthographia Bohemica. Well, it's at least attributed to him, and since he was immolated (nice word, nasty death) at Council of Constance in 1415 he hasn't been in a position to confirm or deny things for quite some time. In it, he proposed a system of diacritics (little dots and slashes above letters) that would almost completely replace diagraphs. From now on Czech, sorry, Ċech (he left the "ch" in) schoolchildren would no more cower 'neath the tyranny of silly spelling rules. Well, that was the plan, anyhow.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The hostest with the moshtest

When in a foreign country, if offered mysterious liquid in an unlabelled, re-used, green plastic soda bottle, the normal response is as follows:
"What is it?" sniffing dubiously at plastic cup.
"It's good. Drink some!" genial offer from smiling host.
"But what is it?" more dubious sniffing.
"It's healthy. Very good for you."

These are danger words. Any drink touted as "healthy" by locals usually is only so in the sense of "healthy" competition. As in Darwinian competition. As in, if you can drink 2 litres of this liquid without undergoing immediate and dramatic liver meltdown, and retain the ability to bear children (some places, I think they make visitors drink this sort of thing in an icy stream) you are a survivor of the fittest.

So this sort of offer at quarter past nine in the morning is bound to make the gooseflesh rise. Especially as the liquid is the sort of murky brown that I last saw while ambling through South Bohemia's peaty swamps.

"Drink! Drink!"
"Ahh… It's quite early and I haven't finished my tea yet."
"No. It's healthy. You must drink." Three beaming faces watch the cup in my hand assiduously. I attempt to discern any trace of guile or deviousness in their eyes. There is none. This makes me more nervous.

I sniff. I sip. "Oh! It's apple juice." Knees go weak with relief.

"It is not apple juice. It is mošt!"
"Yes, yes. Mošt! It is just the apples, prrrressed." Mirek demonstrates the prrrressing of an invisible bushel of apples between his hands.
"But not apple juice."
"No. It is just the apples. Nothing else."

Petr likewise squishes some invisible apples. "Mirek's friend makes it. We take apples to his factory and he presses them."
Mirek adds, "Yes. They press many fruits. His parents make the alcohol."
"Ah, I see. But this isn't alcohol."

"No. It is not. It is mošt." Before, uh…" Jacek pauses. No one really talks about "before" here. "Before... In that time, we could not buy apple juice in the boxes in the shop. So we took the apples and pressed them. Now, this is not so common."
"I see. Why so?"
"The apple juice in boxes is different. It lasts longer but is full of, full of… chemical things."
"Yes, preservatives. Mošt, you must drink quickly. But it has better flavour. Very healthy." Mirek and Petr nod in agreement and we all take a sip of healthy, short-life mošt.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Maybe it's just that the tea's so bad...

Last night I unsuccessfully attempted to mime (in Czech), "Please kind sir, I beg you, do not froth the milk before putting it into my tea… Pleeeeaaasssee…. Noooooooooo!!!!!!"

Perhaps it was the lack of white facepaint and stripy jumper, but it didn’t work. Paper cup of tea arrived at the end of the station with a lovely frothy head that would do a cappuccino, or even a Belgian-style serving of lager proud. I wept. It always seems to be the way. You spend time in a place where good coffee is steam-pressed by a million precision-engineered geysers, and the tea just goes wonky. If the tea is perfectly brewed nectar of the gods, then the coffee is made by someone running warm tap water over a few clumps of petrified instant coffee and shaking it about in a polystyrene cup.*

All of which leaves me, a tea-drinker at heart who has a fondness for really good coffee, somewhat bemused. I mean, why go to the coffee place and order tea? That's just asking for trouble. But sometimes, I just gotta dice with the gods. Live on the edge. Oh yeah, baby.

So given the deep and abiding excitement of my life, is it any wonder that I enjoy the odd spot of evil-villain(ess) excitement in my reading material? Possibly not. Nevertheless, I've never really had character identification as one of my top ten reading requirements. When I encounter this sort of bad dudette, I don't gush, "Ooh how thrilling! Secretly I have always wanted to claw out my enemies' hearts but lack both courage and pointy fingernails. At last, I can vicariously satisfy this thrill within the confines of a novel!"

Of course, I'm not going to deny the odd fantasy about bashing people's heads in after a stressful day. But it's a big step from that to thinking, "Aha! I have at long last discovered my soulmate, the one person in this crazy, mixed-up world who can truly understand me!" As I said, I don't actually like her. But compared to the witchy-washy heroine who's out to defeat the Mega-Evil That Lurks 'Neath The City, the villainess has more internal conflict, more personal growth and more tension. Could it be that a lifeless heroine makes the scary lady come alive by comparison?

*leaving out places Middle East in this, because there both tea and coffee are good, but neither taste the way I usually expect.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

In an effort to do my bit to reduce my guilt over the effects of my recent zooming about in flying machines I've gone and forked out a load of cash to make my year (so far) carbon neutral. Observe my shiny green halo. *ting!*

But all the effort to decide whether I'd get someone to plant a small woodland glen, or just sponsor a wildfowl whanging windfarm has exhausted me. I am thus inspired to reach back into the dawn of time (or around October last year) and haul out a very old rant that I never got around to finishing or posting anywhere handy. These things happen. It never got posted because it was too damn long.

Paddling about in the primordial soup that is my "drafts" folder hasn't really helped much in the length department. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if it had grown. So I'm going to chop it up into manageable bits, edit them a tad and then post them up in chunks. Genius plan to keep blog entries up in a busy week, methinks. And now, without further ado, I bring you, the unholy tapeworm that is:

I don't like you much, but your friend's kinda hot… Part 1

(It's all about books, and it's long - be warned)

I've just finished reading a book. Shock. Horror. Was okay. Again, falling off seat with astonishment. Hero and heroine both suitably imbued with purportedly likeable qualities? Check. Lively action scenes? Check. Good dash of healthy animal spirits (no, not the Keynsian ones)? Check. Fiendishly evil villain? Che--.

Ahhh, well here's the rub: I didn't like the villain(ess) - too tame. I didn't even love the villain(ess) - she's a bad guy, right? But I loved her scenes. Don't get me wrong, I'd run off screaming into the night barefoot over broken glass at the possibility of an real-life encounter, however unlikely, cos y'know she was baaad. And scary. And a people-eating human-possessing monster from the depths of the underworld with claws, scales and freaky glowy eyes. So I doubt she'd be overly impressed by my fascination with her inner demons if she stumbled over me cowering in a darkened alley. She'd likely eat me for being annoying.

But dammit, she was interesting. She had internal conflicts a-go-go. Best of all, while she was eeeeeviiilllll, she was interesting eeevvvillllll. She wasn't some two-dimensional monster stalking the pages like a badly-produced publicity bookmark. Yes that's right, kids. A character I'm pretty confident I do not like, but still want to read about. It's not such a big step. After all, I read about real-life bad guys all the time. Others do as well. So what's the appeal?

(to be continued)

Monday, October 16, 2006

More cheese

Some Czech-related news. Czechs in the news in fact. Not just the country, which seems to have become the location for all manner of conferences (it was in Prague that they decided a couple of months ago that Pluto was no longer a planet). The new Miss. World has been crowned, and she (for it is still a she) is a Czech student by the name of Tat'ana Kucharova. Apparently she likes sports, her pets and "listening to music with a nice melody". It seems her favorite food is chicken, rather than the traditional Czech dish of fried cheese with tartar sauce and some potatoes. Which probably helped her no end in her quest for world beauty domination.

Interestingly, last month Warsaw's conservative administration altered a poster advertising the contest with a discreet white scarf after deciding it was too racy since it depicted a mermaid with an artistic "wardrobe malfunction". Fortunately, Ms. Kucharova and her fellow candidates appear to have avoided that hazard. No one ended up in Narnia or anything.

In another beauty competition mercifully unlikely to feature a "wardrobe malfunction" but still featuring persons of Czech origin, posters are up everywhere for elections to the senate. Now I only have the foggiest idea of Czech electoral procedures, so I'm not going to dwell on these here. In brief, things are a bit iffy, constitution-wise. But frankly, looking at these characters' faces on the way to work doesn't give me huge faith in the imminent future.

None of them really look as if they like animals very much at all, even the one chap who resembles an aerodynamic stoat with a little grey moustache. There's another truly terrifying woman who greets me with a manic grin and hugely-shadowed eyes from the lamp-post by the metro entrance. And then there are also a couple of other likely lads who look as if they enjoy regular tasty snacks of fried cheese with extra sauce much more than Ms. Kucharova.

Of course, many would argue that elections are fought on policies, not potato consumption. But funnily enough there aren't many actual words on these posters.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bok, Bok

So much more than a mis-spelling of "Book, Book"

It is a truth universally accepted that a family during the festive season must be in want of good telly. Fortunately, the folks at Shaw (Canadian digital provider) have come up with the ultimate solution for Thanksgiving (which is today if you're in Canah-diah): Turkey TV. All day long, lucky lucky Canadians celebrating the holiday can tune in and watch a turkey being roasted. Live. (Just the filming, not the turkey, one hopes) With occasional basting. There is even the roasting of vegetables and the stoking of fires. Most festive indeed.

Moi? I got to watch the little plane move slowly over a digital map of England, the North Sea, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Rep. Not a golden brown roasted parsnip in sight. Not even a baguette, since the gastronomes on the incoming flight from Milano had scoffed the lot. I was offered a "snak-pak" as a substitute, but refrained on the grounds that the spelling would give me indigestion.

But I am thankful. Mainly and rather selfishly, I'm thankful that I don't have to get on another plane for four whole days. Even a floatplane. I'm on bended knees with gratitude that for the last couple of trips I've come out good well hunting in the charter flight/cheap airline seating roulette, and ended up at one end of a row graced by an unoccupied middle seat and a non-psychopathic neighbour with progressive ideas about hygiene at the far end (now I've gone and done it…) Then there's the business of the rediscovered, unsquished mocha brownie extravaganza at the bottom of my carry-on bag. And of course, I'm also thankful for the usual: family, friends, sentience, fruit, opposable thumbs, the recent dvd release of season 2 of Green Wing.

So happy thanksgiving to those who celebrate it today, even if your turkey is only virtual (and by that, of course I don't mean turkey twizzlers). And happy advance thanksgiving planning to those south of the 49th parallel who have to wait another month(?) but may even be looking up pumpkin pie recipes as I type. In case anyone's wondering, I'll be having eggs tonight. But I might decorate them with a drumstick-shaped splodge of hot sauce.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Le Wibble

Well the plan was to dodge the jet-lag bullet by going and coming back so fast that my pineal gland barely noticed anything funny going on with the big yellow thing hovering in the big blue thing. Unfortunately, it appears to possess a rudimentary cunning and the sea of clouds shown in the plane's "flightcam" (position: forward) bestirred it to hideous action. I'm currently wrestling against the urge to sleep… sleepp….slleeppzzzz…

wha? sorry?

Oh yeah…my only aid the mighty coffee and the mightier still chocolate. But even these valiant weapons are beginning to flag, and I seem to be stuck in a mid-Atlantic time zone, perhaps one just off the coast of St. Helena.

A fascinating, witty and brilliant post came to me in one of those lucid dreams: the sleep-deprived kind that seem so real while sitting in a micro-chair four thousand or so feet above the Atlantic swells and distinguished only from its neighbours by a peculiar lump at mid-hamstring level. Unfortunately I've forgotten it. All I can remember wondering is how far I would actually have travelled across the surface of the earth if I bounded forward a couple of feet down the aisle towards the drinks trolley.

The post may have had something to do with float planes. Or parrots. I'm not entirely sure. And to be fair, it was probably less unmitigated genius and more along the lines of "Wha-fooo. Flrrrr... Parrot heehee means the life of the sailor. Oh my. Mmmm... Flffrry pillow. Wsfrgt my head stugg nunder armwrest?" But in the finest spirit of blogger, it's entirely unrecoverable. So instead I should probably reveal that I did end up taking a float plane (couldn't find the helicopter terminal), but the parrot was a completely different conversation altogether.

I probably shouldn't be operating this heavy machinery.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Extra! Extra!

Exciting new book-related novelty discovered yesterday!

Airport duty-free normally holds very little appeal to me. I'm not one for perfume, booze or fags. The clothes shops are all a tad upmarket for my scruffy tastes, and full of scary assistants that wear too much make-up and give my very disreputable carry-on luggage their most professional scornful glare. I've taken up the habit of not buying top ten bestsellers in regular bookshops because they're the only ones that ever seem to appeal in the better airport bookshops. The worse ones are where Sidney Sheldon books go to die.

However yesterday, as I hauled my appallingly-to-a-shop-assistant-non-Burberry-clad self up to the departure gate while chatting to rpc via mobile, I was compelled to interrupt the flow of our conversation.

"Oh my god, it's a book vending machine. In the airport."
"I see," says rpc, being his usual supportive self. "Tell me about it." (or words to that effect - maybe I just imagined those ones, but they're true to the spirit of the man and I have hardcore jet lag).
"Well, it's a vending machine. But with books in it, not chocolate. They're covered in clingfilm wrappers and everything."

Pause while I reverently stare at the glass case of a red metal box. I note the books are not the same price as chocolate, but are not apparently over-priced either. Downside is the lack of ability to read back-blurb or browse. Upside is that I can imagine these mushrooming all over the country, in motorway service stations, train stations, left luggage offices, work breakrooms and so forth. Imagine someone wandering into a service station thinking, "Ooo. I'll just get a packet of mints. But look, a book vending-machine. Perhaps I'll pick up a paperback too."

"So what sort of boks are there, then?" (more support from rpc, who understands these things).
"Ermm... the usual. Dan Brown in the top row, the latest Jodi Picoult, Zadie Smith, Kellerman and No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency a Harry Potter, some colouring books, a few Sidney Sheldon..." Reverential silence as I realise that I've already read the books that appeal to me. "Maybe a colouring book. I could do with some felt-tips on the long flight." Not sleeping for 24 hours does put me in the mood for colouring.
"Yes. Well you'll have to blog about it."

Can't help feeling that like the German cigarette vending machines on the street (I'd only ever seen them safely indoors in pubs/clubs before) it's the novelty, rather than the content that appeals.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A bit about the ???

Frankly, I wish it could be more exciting than it's turned out. "???" looks mysterious and cool. It has potential. (Like the Riddler, but without the stupid leotard... Err..., lets just skip lightly over that analogy.) The truth, as always, turns out to be far more mundane. Without going into one of those subjects that dare not speak its name, namely wErk, I was originally shipped out for a mere summer season in luverly Praha. Apparently it was because this is where they keep the enormous cold war technology brain sucking machines of the James Bond (Roger Moore) era, and they wanted to extract every particle of information from my grey matter prior to my departure. AKA training. In fact, brain hoovers would have been more entertaining.

Originally the plan was to then find another job October-time elsewhere, but I've now accepted a new job here so hip-hip-hooray for the lovely landlord and Mrs.Jana is chortling all the way to the bank as I sign on for another term.

So the "???" regarding location in the short-term can now be removed from my profile, when I get around to it. Luckily, to keep things interesting, the nature of the whole thing means I have a tonne of other things to sort out that I'd previously put off until the end of the year. The intention was to deal with them when I had more time. Now I have less of that commodity than before and have to do everything from a foreign country too. Roll on November.

Consequently, the "???"s have been let loose to frolic all through my life. Which is both good and bad, and leads me to my latest dilemma. This week I have to whizz off to God's Own Country for family reasons. 'twill be an occasion on the sadder side of life, but had thought to cheer myself up at the end and brace myself for jetlag hell and hideous charter-flight-return-induced-dvt by adding to my small-but-perfectly-formed list of more unusual methods of transport I have used. The float plane has been done before but I wouldn't object to a repeat, especially if I can do it from a different harbour. But in the course of my research, I have discovered that there's also the possibility of the never-before-experienced helicopter ride... oooo???