Thursday, March 29, 2007

sorry darlings i´m playing catch-up...

Europe is dying of cancer and I am its bitch
espite the vigorous exercise gained by seeing Europe mostly on foot and at a cracking pace, my lung capacity is much diminished. Europeans smoke. Every man jack of them. And they take it seriously. Not only will they proudly flout ´no smoking´ signs where they do actually exist, but they will go to extreme life-shortening lengths to enjoy a puff. Yesterday, on the train from Salzburg to Vienna, three train conductors shut themselves in a glass box four feet by four feet and puffed away to their hearts content. It actually looked like the health warning ads. The one deepest in disappeared from view behind smoke. And of course when they had finished they opened the door and checked our tickets... in the non-smoking area.
Florence, Firenze, Italy generally, agreed with me greatly. Every little Tuscan town has its own little belltower and piazza and the way they dot the hills is so beautiful. I learned Italian as best as I could but the Italians weren´t as forgiving as the French. Can I just say Dad´s Italian came along beautifully. Once again, it was essentially English, but said with an amazingly embarrassing Joe Dolce-style ´shuddupaya face´ accent.
But if I can just say, it was strides ahead of yesterday´s effort... impersonating Sargeant Schultz from Hogan´s Heroes in the middle of Munich train station. The depth of my horror cannot completely be described in words.
We did a pretty good tour of northern Italy, taking in Milan, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Siena and Venice. I forgot to mention the other day, the marketing genius of the souvenir-makers in Pisa. Put everything from mugs to shot glasses... get this... on a lean. Then charge about €8 for it.
Venice was pretty, if you´re into expensive crumbling sewer-based towns. The train up through the mountains into Austria was spectacular and Salzburg is the prettiest lil place on God´s Earth. Although the people there seem to have a nasty spitting habit. Actually you get that anywhere in Europe. Spitting and smoking are EU sports. There are differences between the cultures though. Stand still long enough in Austria and the Austrians will let their dogs piss on you. Stand still long enough in Paris and the French will piss on you. Stand still long enough in London and the English will form an orderly queue behind you. No matter where you are, the Polish never stand still... just in case.
We popped to Angela Merkel´s Germany for the day. Quite austere and ugly (well we only saw Munich, I shouldn´t condemn the whole place on the basis of one town). Now I know I´m going to get busted for this so I apologise in advance to the people in my life who are
a) of German decent, or
b) have German lovers...
but Germanic features are just designed for a well-cut uniform. Seriously. The boys are beautiful.
So now I´m in Vienna. So incredibly beautiful. Those Hapsburg wallahs knew what they were doing. Visit Austria if you get the chance, it´s so pretty.
Next Prague and then home. So this´ll be my last email from abroad. But fear not... I have SO MUCH material that I´m considering an entire show of my own based on this holiday. At very least you´ll see some of it on stage at some point. I´ll keep you in the loop.
Love to all

Dario sempre in ritardo!
France was not all it was cracked up to be. It did not agree with me. Parisienne's I thought were lovely. Not the obnoxious people I had been promised. In fact I always found them ever understanding and paitent. Perhaps because I had cunningly learned just enough French to show that I had made an effort. "Pardon, mon Francais pa bien". It's not a great sentence but they love to hear it.

The Italians are less forgiving. However, I must say I love Italy. From the second we descended through the mountains (another 12 hours by train, btw) and ambled into Turino, I loved the place. Everyone had their knickers hanging out their verandah to dry. I kinda like that.

But as I say, they're not as forgiving with the language. The Americans, once again, only have themselves to blame for their failure on this front. Dad and I were standing at a train ticket window and the American in front of us wanders up the counter and in bold English exclaims. "We want to go skiing near the Mattahorn". Not only does the guy not speak English, but his sole purpose in the workplace is to sell train tickets. I'll spare you the charade that followed.

Today Dad and I went to Pisa. It's 1hr 15mins on the bus from Florence to Pisa. That's 1hr 15mins of the two Americans in front of us chewing gum at volume like two slack-jawed cattle with OCD. No one needs to hear chewing at volume in a confined space for that long. Close your freakin mouths. Duh.

So Pisa was awesome and the whole experience was enhanced by an Italian tour guide who was as camp a a row of tents at a John Inman (RIP) look-a-like convention. "Please follow this way... now Puccini had a lovely body... of work such as Turandot e Madama Butterfly..." and he would wander alone with his umbrella in the air so we could all see him, using it to add a valuable pivot to his mince. It was hilarious.

One of our group (lets call him Dario) was disabled in some way. I'm not sure if he'd had a stroke or what his situation was but he had a gimp hand and walked slowly with one stiff leg. The walk from the leaning tower to our bus was quite long and he and his wife were trailing behind and the group hadn't noticed (it was cold, we were running for the bus). So she came running after yelling "wait". Everyone turned around and (another) American said, "oh it's him. Why did she bring him out if he can't walk". I would have put the ferrule of my umbrella through the back of her knee to see how well she coped with it, but it was still lodged in the jaw of another American. Why are the Americans trying to ruin this holiday? (Btw, ritardo means late).

Florence, it has to be said, is gorgeous. Tomorrow we're tackling the famous bits... the doumo and Uffizi. The we're heading to Rome for the day on Thursday. I have to reiterate, I love Italy. I feel really at home here. Only I look kinda woggy, apparently, and they are surprised when I speak only English and then want to know what my grandparents think of me not speaking their language. Otherwise I love it here.

Love to all.
Dan xxx

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The French hqve q different keyboqrd1

I dont hqve ti,e to try qnd type properly so youre going to hqve to reqd qround the interesting spelling. LOL sorry everyone.
From where I last left off we headed back to London via York. On the night of my birthday I went to the Lily Allen concert at the Hammersmith Apollo. It was brilliant. It was the only time in the whole day that actually felt like my birthday but it was brilliant. Unforgettable and the perfect thing to do on my birthday.
Two days around London was great for exploring and last night we went to Equus with Daniel Radcliffe, Richard Griffiths and Jenny Agutter. Awesome in the extreme.
Tonight I am in Paris. Everyone else in the world gets from London to Paris in a few hours, but no, not the Hatches. We took the ferry, didnt we? Even Hilter marched in quicker than us. It took us 12hrs from leaving one hotel to getting to thee next.
It went something like this:
8am, leave hotel. Walk to tube, tqke tube, get off tube, walk to train station, get on train to Dover, get off train, get on bus to ferry, wait at port, take bus to ferry, get on ferry, ferry crosses channel, get off ferry, learn french, get on bus to train station, get off bus, get on train, ride train, chqnge trqins, ride train, get off train in Paris, walk to hotel.
Our hotel is next to a brothel. In fact it is surrounded by brothels. And sex cinemas and live shows, etc. The hotel is very dodgy and I think the beds are left over from one of the brothels. If I dont co,e ho,e with crotch pheasants Ill be surprised. The room has two french doors to re,ind us where we are and the second one i can open should i desire the whole of paris to watch me piss. The bloke in the hotel roo, across the rue looks up for it.
Dad is grasping French beautifully. French, his way, sounds remqrkqbly like English only said more slowly and much louder.
"do you speak english?"
"WE. ARE. TRYING. TO. FIND..." etc, you get the picture.
The French, bless them, are terribly patient and helpful.
This keyboqrd is reqlly giving ,e the shits so im going to go. Much love, Dan xxx

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Japanese-style tour of Britain

G'day everybody (observing the tradition that as an Aussie in the UK I must suddenly become more Ocker than I ever was at home).

Still in awe of this wonderful island. After our quick circuit of Westminster (that's all we did, but it's okay, we're back in London mid-week) Dad and I jumped on a tour bus with heap of Americans, Indians, Americans, Pakistanis, Americans, Germans, Americans. Did I mention we have Americans on the bus? I don't think there are that many of them, actually, they're just more... obvious... than the rest of us. Remember the Americans, they'll become important later.

Anyway, the bus departed and our first stop was a wander around Hampton Court Palace. Now we didn't go in. We walked outside around the gardens and admired the architecture. I've never been a fan of that Japanese-style "everybody off the bus, snap-take-a-photo, everbody back on the bus" kind of tourism... but it was about this point I realised I was about to get six days of it.

I'm going to get the order all mixed up of where we went, I'm sure, but all you really need to know is I'm back in Edinburgh and got here (with the help of a tour guide with the narrative voice of Ricky Gervais) via:

Stone Henge - omigod, how amazing. There's something history isn't telling us about this place that we really should know. Someone call Michael Sharma or David Starkey, I want a decent freaking explanation for this. Of course the American had an explanation for it.

Bath - Jane Austen country. Home of the old Roman baths. This looks even gayer than it sounds. If the Romans weren't buggering each other senseless here then I'm the Virgin Queen. Found a water fountain erected in 1861, which tickled my fancy a bit. The main Bath was being cleaned at the time and kinda stunk like a sewer. The American would have built it with a filter.

Stratford Upon Avon - Apparently my mother's family used to holiday here when she was a kid. Which sounds ritzier than it is, given she grew-up in a village about 45minutes away if slow horse, heavily-laden. It was just amazing to see Shakespeare's birthplace. Although I should warn, anyone expecting placenta stains will be greatly disappointed. The entire town has become a sort of Shakespeare theme park, which I think is a bit tacky. It's best demonstrated by the toy shop called "Much Ado About Toys". I'm serious. I took a photo. It was here the Most Annoying American Fuckwit of The Century had a photo taken beside a sculpture of Shakespeare's favourite character archetype, the fool. He didn't see the irony and certainly didn't read the quote from As You Like It about a fool thinking he is a wiseman and the wiseman knowing he is a fool.

Chester - I really think this stop was just a conveniently located city for an overnight stay, but I have to say I fell in love with this place, with its old Roman fortifications and original Tudor architecture. It was that kind of stereotypical septred isle set in a silver sea stuff I was looking for. Looking at real estate here. I understand why the Cheshire cat is smiling.

The Lake District - Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth knew what they were talking about. This is just divine. My favourite place so far. So ridiculously beautiful. Stone fences everywhere, even on ludicrously steep hills.

Birmingham - only drove through it. We didn't stop in case the coach was over-run by highwaymen or we all breathed in too much of the air here. May actually be the ugliest place in England outside of Camilla's night dress.

Gretna Green - ah, the famous smithy where people ran away to get married back in the 18-somethings. This is the best example I've seen in Britain of how not to preserve your history but of how to successfully become a multi-millionaire. The place is now essentially a massive gift shop and food hall and you actually have to reeeeeally look to find the smithy. Couples still get married here, they have a reception centre attached. Apparently it's very romantic... if you're tied to the idea of getting married in the middle of a massive K-Mart.

So back in Edinburgh and looking to head out for my Friday night. Loving the UK sincerely. Especially seeing as I experienced snow for the first time in my life today.

Hope everybody back home is well and thanks to everyone who sent messages. It's great to know what's going on and how everyone is. Sorry I can't reply to you all. It's surprisingly hard to get news from home here. Turn on the TV and I can tell you anything you want to know about horse liveries in Gloucestershire, but could I find out who had died in the Garuda crash? No. (I know now, btw... thanks to The Times).

Much love. Sorry for prattling.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm in London. I can die happy now.

Arrived in Edinburgh Saturday morning to discover the world is grey and austere in the northern hemisphere, possibly because it's so cold no one could be bothered staying in the blizzard long enough to add a lick of paint.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city and I like it a lot. The higgeldy-piggeldy buildings along the Royal Mile and through Old Town were just a delight and it was great to see the contrast of the rather planned and upright Georgian New Town. I remember Mum's Dad comes from the higgeldy-piggeldy side of town... which probably explains why he's such a headcase.
So Dad and I went to the Castle and Holyroodhouse and all those sorts of things before catching a bus up to the Highlands for a day.
This is the most beautiful countryside imaginable and as someone who's been to more than his share of ceilidhs, it was amazing to see the sites where famous battles such as Glencoe took place. We saw Loch Ness but the wrong end to meet Lindsay's Mum. Nevermind, back in Edi in a few days and will meet her then, finger's crossed.
Train down to London this morning. 4hrs40mins on a train filled with school children who I could have happily murdered. Dunblane on a train. It was nearly a reality.
Got to London and dumped our stuff at the hotel and walked down to the Thames Embankment. Dad was chucking a shitty at his camera, which had stopped working and even the sight of the Tower of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament as we rounded a bend in St James' Park wouldn't put a smile on his dial. I was so excited I was peeing myself. Any of you who have known me for years know how big a deal seeing this amazing building is for me. I was stoked. We wandered around the features of a monopoly board most of the day and I avoided making jokes about polishing Nelson's Column. Tempting though it was. We went for a wander around Westminster Abbey and I have to say, I was awe struck. Not just a magnificent building but it also has tombs and memorials to some of the most amazing figures in history. Being a huge fan of Elizabeth the First, seeing her tomb was a thrill. But this was nothing to walking around the chapel or whatever they call it where all the writers and poets were honoured. Shakepeare, Dickens, Austen, Hardy, Trollope... well the list goes on of course but omigod, there was a lump in my throat and I had to try not to cry. (Mainly because I would have lost my face to frost-bite when I got back outside if I had done so with damp cheeks).
The buses really are red. The phone boxes really are red. The police really wear bobby hats. The underground really does have that logo. London is everything you expect - and more. This appears an incredibly liveable city and I cannot wait to one day come back and spend quite a bit more time here. I'd love to work here. There seem to be plenty of newspapers - more than I knew of - so I don't think that will be too great a stretch of the imagination.
The only hardship is the time difference to home. There are so many times I would love to send text messages to different people, but I just don't get the chance because you're all tucked up in bed like good little lambs. I have about a four hour window of opportunity each day.
Well I've prattled on severely so I am going to head off. Tomorrow is Stone Henge and Bath and about six days in the countryside (including back up to Edinburgh) before back to London on the 12th for my birthday and Lily Allen at the Hammersmith Apollo!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Well there you go... one bittersweet adventure ends and a new adventure begins!

So there we go. I was technically among the winners. But the fact I will be in Europe for the final was taken into account by the judges (funnily enough) and I didn't go through. It's a kind of bittersweet feeling.

"A special mention to Dan Hatch who would have gone through but he can't make it to the final because he'll be in the UK".

Kinda makes me sound like a wanker when everyone has worked so hard and is taking the whole thing so seriously. It makes it look like I'm treating it flippantly.

I'm promise I'm not. I'm going to spend forever going "I wonder how I would have gone in the State Final". All I can really say is... BEST OF LUCK to my brilliant friends who also went through. Rather glad I'm not a judge. Oh yeah, and that I have had SO MUCH fun! It has been awesome.

Thanks to everyone for all the support. It's been great fun getting to know everyone and hopefully we'll all share a beautiful stage together again when I return at Easter.

I leave work in about 40 minutes (12pm) and then I'm off to the airport. Very excited. Edinburgh, here I come! (And London and Paris and Milan and Florence and Rome and Venice and Salsburg and Vienna and Prague... omigod... a little bit of wee just came out).

Big big love!


Thursday, March 01, 2007

This is ridiculous

I'm having one of those crazy days that didn't look too bad on paper, but in retrospect was probably not a good idea.

Tomorrow at this time I will be boarding a plane which will take me away for a month in the colder climes of Europe. As if packing, preparing the house, paying bills in advance, getting prescriptions up-to-date, gathering together tickets, photocopying documents, weighing baggage, deciding what to wear, preparing hand-over notes for my replacement at work, tying up all my loose ends and hiding the body weren't enough...

...tonight is the RAW Comedy Semi-Final.

While I might well not actually be performing any new material, I haven't actually had any rehearsal time and I haven't performed this stuff in a month. I've also tweaked it to keep it just fresh enough... and I haven't had a chance to time it. This could go badly. You'd think I would have been a little more prepared than this.

But not only have I been packing, etc, I've been doing all this on deadline for the newspaper.

And my eyes have developed this funny thing whereby my eyelids always feel like they are sliding to half mast. I'm not physically tired, but my eyes look slightly like I'm a dim-witted devotee of hacky-sack. You know the look I mean. Like I come from Denmark, WA.

I'm not actually getting to Denmark, EU, but while I'm overseas I'll be posting as often as is interesting. That's always assuming my eyes don't completely close over