travel back in time

Thursday 26th May 2005, Madrid, Spain

Spring is here at last!!

Once again I find myself sitting at my window, looking out over a bustling little Madrid backstreet. I got back from France yesterday morning at 4:00am, and although it was a most successful and mostly enjoyable two weeks north of the border, it has never felt better to be home. Madrid is bathing in spring sunshine and the daytime temperatures are reminding me that summer is just around the corner. The winter duvet has been packed away, and my shorts and sandals have come out from storage. Ah.....

View from Parque Retiro, central Madrid

When I can drag myself away from the computer and the huge backlog of emails that I'm trying to catch up on, you'll find me in Parque Retiro, a massive park in central Madrid, putting the final touches to the manuscript for "Of Walls and Men". After the weekend, it will be on its way to the publisher in Tennessee, and a couple of weeks after that, will be winging its way all over the world to an anxiously waiting audience.

View from Parque Retiro, central Madrid

But what about France? Well, it's a beautiful part of the country where I was working, in the Pyrenees just near the towering peak of Canigou. Unfortunately, I spent my waking hours working indoors, so wasn't able to appreciate the natural beauty of the area as much as I could have. But I didn manage to snap a couple of photos from the car window on the way to my boss' home...

My job this time was to plasterboard the walls of three of the upstairs rooms. The bare stone walls didn't provide a suitable surface to plasterboard over, so first a steel framework had to be constructed to attach the plasterboard to. You can see some 'before and after' photos of my recent work here.

But thankfully it wasn't all work and no play this time. I broke away from work for a few days to visit my brother and his family in Marseille, and to catch up with my old mate Matt, and his lovely new bride Isobel. I first met Matt in 1994, when we were both living and working at the Kensington Plaza Hotel in London. He's a Brisbane boy like me, and we stayed in close contact when we later both found ourselves back in Australia. You'll even see his face pop up in some of the Australia photos on my 'about me' page. (He's the hairy one in the spa bath!) Now, eleven years later, Matt and Isobel were honeymooning through Italy and France, and thanks to the modern wonder of email, we were able to co-ordinate to meet in Marseille. I booked us an apartment near the beach, and the three of us spent an enjoyable evening drinking wine and eating cheese, catching up on each other's news from the last two years. (next week will be 23 months since I left Australia!)


I'll leave you with some cracking examples of Australian humour (and don't forget there's more funny stuff, and two slide shows of funny photos on the index page of this website!)

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet," which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems, document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by Qantas's pilots and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers. By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

(P= The problem logged by the pilot.) (S= The solution and action taken by mechanics .)

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget

The questions below about Australia, are from potential visitors. They were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humour.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? ( UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross. Can you help? (USA)
A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first