Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A poo machine and staring into the abyss

Hello all.
The past two weekends have seen my travels get back on track, even if it is only for the short term.
As for the rest of my time it has been the usual work, football and drinking, so no need for an update on that, except to say that I am still not getting on with the referees over here.
In my last match I received a couple of verbal assaults on the senses and an eventual booking for my attitude towards the ref. I was also informed after the match that some spectators thought that “it was about time that the he got booked as he has been mouthing off all game”.
My response is if they can’t control a match to the standard expected in England, then don’t do it at all!
Apart from that, I am still really enjoying playing the beautiful game, which I am determined not to ever call soccer!!!

Since my last post it has also been the birthdays of my mother, Suzy ‘The Suze’ Lambert, and my little sis, Beck ‘I can’t really call this a job can I?’ Lambert.
Once again, Happy Birthday to you both.
Beck, was that the best card ever, or what?

Did you know that on your birthday Skype declares your age for everyone to see with a sentence of ‘such and such is xx today!’
The Suze was not best pleased about this when I called her.
Don’t worry mum, you don’t look a day over retirement age.

Anyway, back to my past two weekends.

Weekend 1: Tasmania

I flew over to Tasmania on the Friday evening after work and landed at about 8pm after a very easy 1 hour flight.
I was met at the airport by my uncle John, who looked exactly the same at the last time I saw him 10 years previously, except for a few more grey hairs.
I mentioned previously that he owns an ice cream factory in Hobart that supplies ice cream to most of Tasmania and is currently breaking through into mainland Australia. If I had forgotten there was no getting away from this fact when I saw his car.
The number plate is ‘ICREAM’.
Yes it looks like ICE CREAM but to me it also tells me about his and every other bloke’s private habits!
I am not sure what he really thought about that.

From the airport we went into the centre of Hobart, to the Salamanca area of the city for some food.
Salamanca is one of the main restaurant and bar areas of Hobart and is based around the harbour. The architecture really gives off the impression of an old English town apart from the fact that it is on completely the opposite side of the world.
After eating a very, very good steak we retired to my uncle’s ‘humble’ abode for a few more drinks and a catch up.

I awoke early the next morning to a stunning view over the gardens of my uncle’s crib and down to the ocean on a sunny but seriously chilly Tasmanian Saturday.
John’s house is pretty sweet. It looks a combination of a church and a colonial style house from the past. The ceilings are high, the rooms are spacious, and the sun shining through the many stained glass windows gives the interior a feel of being inside a rainbow, which is quite disorientating when it’s early and you have had a few drinks the night before.
The gardens are also lovely, a nice lawn (I am English, so by default I love a lawn of grass), an area where a combination of fruit trees geow and a converted stone barn which gives extra living quarters. With the view of the ocean beyond, it makes for an amazing setting.

After watching some of the breaking news about the Norway attacks we ventured back down to Salamanca to take in the Saturday market and to get some breakfast.
In the bright sunshine and 0 degree morning, the harbour looked very picturesque apart from a vintage crane from yesteryear sitting by the dockside. Imagine my surprise when John showed me the plaque on the side of it that said it was all the way from Leicester, our home city!

After breakfast John took us on a road trip through the Tasmanian countryside to a little, and I mean little, village in the middle on nowhere. The village was called Campania and is allegedly the birthplace of my great grandfather and is as far back as we can trace the origins of our Lamberts.
I found it quite special to be there to pay homage to the ancestors. I had the obligatory photo taken under the Campania sign.
As we left I started to hum a song that it still in my head today and is driving me crazy. To the tune of Peter Andre’s classic ‘Insania’, ‘do do do do doooo, do do do do doooo, it’s Campania!’

From there we headed back to Hobart through another small town called Richmond. Richmond is the sight of a famous sandstone bridge that was built by the convicts and was completed in 1825.
There’s nothing to say that after the completion of this bridge that it was then that the ancestors settled in Campania!! Who knows?
Richmond also houses one of my uncle’s best ice cream customers. He wanted to have a little look in the shop so we went in and I was there to witness him buy his first ever ice cream from his own company. I got a lemon and lime scoop with a cornet.
This was turning out to be a great day!

Once back in Hobart we went to check out one of the top footy teams who were playing. We timed our arrival perfectly, a goal straight away and then the final whistle 2 minutes later.

I then got my tour of the Valhalla Ice Cream factory.
As we entered through the minature door, my uncle sang ‘come with me and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination’.
He didn’t really, but I so wish he had.
Listening to my uncle explain what goes on, what the business was like when he bought it, what investment he has had to make and where the business is now, left me a little awe struck. This is all the more impressive as even though he is a very successful business man he specialises in fashion and clothing, not making bloody ice cream. But then a business is a business I guess.
I have to admit that when he showed me around the freezer I could not take my eyes off of the door. It was baltic in there and I have seen too many films where it all ends badly in these situations.
The only disappointments about the tour were:
• no raspberry sauce waterfall,
• no trip on a flake canoe down a mint choc chip river,
• no ever lasting screwball ice cream, no fizzy lifting ice cream sodas,
• but worst of all, no Umpa Lumpas.
Still, as Charlie Bucket’s mother sang, ‘Cheer up Lamby…..’

After leaving the factory in the great glass ICREAM car we headed back to my uncle’s neighbourhood of Blackman’s Bay for a beer down by the beach.
After that, we got our gladrags on and went back to Salamanca to hit the town Lambert stylee.
I think John enjoyed his night out. He certainly drank like he did.
We spent most of our night in an Irish Bar, live music, good company and I don’t know about him, but I was smashed.
We headed home in the wee early hours and of course I chose the taxi with the crazy driver.
All I remember from the ride home was him telling me thatt he was former SAS and he could kill 6 men easily with his bare hands. The way he said it was so blasé, just sitting back in the chair and declaring “yeah, I was former SAS me”, “I can kill a man easy you know”.
You can easily kill a man because you are one of the fattest (not to mention ginger) men I have ever seen. Sit on them or eat them, you will kill them!

I awoke on Sunday in a very drunken state. John was up and about hammering a door – which wasn’t a welcome sound.
It was a sad start to the day as I found out that my hair doppelganger Winehouse had died.
Peace out to the Wino.

First order of the day was to get a fry up. We went to another beachside café and ate heartily. There I met some of John’s friends, including one guy who owns a 40ft yacht that they all go out on now and again and spend the day eating and drinking. I reckon that I will be returning in the summertime to have a day out on that!
The guy was also telling us about how his son was going to lose his virginity today and he wasn’t sure if he should drop some condoms around, just to be safe.
Apparently she was gagging for it!
I just ate my extra sausage, which I swapped with the mushrooms because I do not like them, and listened.

Sensing that I still wasn’t quite with it, John drove us up to the top of Mount Wellington. Wellington rises 1,271 metres above Hobart, which it built into its foothills. As it was another clear day the views were spectacular.
From up here you could see the shape of the land around the south of Tasmania, the waterways leading up into Hobart, the snowy capped mountains off to the north and oceans to the south.
I found it quite mesmerising knowing that the next land mass south of where I stood was Antarctica, the bottom of the world.
There was a lot of snow up there too, so much so that someone had built an igloo!

The only other thing worth mentioning about the mountain was that my stomach was in a bad way from the night before. We were in the observatory looking at the sights and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I am sorry to say that I had to let one go and it even shocked me.
I quickly moved away from the spot and left John where he was. All of sudden he looked up at me, with a look of pain on his face and asked if that was me. I couldn’t stop laughing at this point as he suggested that we get out of this room, and we left the other visitors to it.
As we drove down the mountain he told me to warn him if that was going to happen again that he could stop the car and I get out. This would ensure that we didn’t drive over the edge!

Our final sightseeing stop of this weekend was to MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art.
MONA is the largest private museum in the world and was built by some local mutli-millionaire professional gambler for $100m.
Apparently, the museum contains all of his own collection and he has so much that the exhibits change every 6 months.
The place is set in his own vineyard, has a shuttle boat that runs to and from Hobart, and is built into the rock, so you enter from the ceiling.
It also has an outdoor grass area that has a stage for concerts and Mick Jagger performed there for the grand opening.
It is an amazing place. As you enter, entry is free; you are given an i-phone which is your tour guide. So simple, yet so effective.
So to the exhibits, which were a wide ranging collection of oddities, artistic pieces and historical artifacts. My highlights were:
• A huge machine that drops water down from above to form words within the falling drops
• A wall containing 20 screens, each containing an individual dancing in silence before launching into the singing of Madonna’s greatest hits all at the same time
• A sarcophagus set in a private room that you have to walk over stepping stones to get to. Next to the sarcophagus is a replica of it where the image slowly clears to give you an x-ray of the skeleton of the Egyptian inside
Now the odd stuff:
• A video wall that showed various artistic visions of nudity – including one guy squatting over the camera and doing a poo!
• A painting of a 2 Aussie guys naked. One has his own castrated penis tied to his leg, the other is bloody and is being rimmed by a kangaroo – I have a photo of this to prove it
• A wall containing about 200 plaster casts of various vaginas – some of them were an absolute mess! Some needed a trim, some needed a trim in another way, and the one that was at an angle, well I think she is beyond help
• A machine that mimics the digestive system – it feeds at one end, goes through a series of pipes and processes and then does a poo at the back end. I couldn’t stay too long and study it as the smell in the room was horrendous

And that was my trip to Tasmania. It was a brilliantly diverse weekend and I will definitely be going back.
I have been invited back during the summer, which I would like to do, as I didn’t really see much of the rest of the island, which is supposed to be incredible.
Thanks a lot John, top weekend.

Weekend 2: Skiing at Mount Hotham

My second trip to the snow this Australian ski season saw me venture to Mount Hotham, one of Australia’s best ski resorts.
Myself, Arancha and Nadia (the sexy twins that I met in Nepal) drove up on the Thursday night to meet Natalie and her beau Stuey who had already travelled up earlier in the day.
Not much to say about the journey there except that when you are out in the countryside in Aus the stars just blow you away and we also had to stop halfway up the mountain to fit the wheel chains to the car as the ice was slip, slip, slippery!

We arrived at about 2am, so it was straight to bed to get some sleep before the ski action.

Friday morning saw me looking out of my window to see snow, snow and more snow. Over a metre of natural snowfall has been recorded so far this season on the mountain and it is one of the best seasons in years.
Our accommodation was based at the back of the best bar in Hotham, so this was ideal for breakfast and après ski beverages. The actual apartment itself was sweet as well. A 2 bedroom split level new build. All very plush.

We all got up, got ourselves sorted and headed over to the ski bus to take the 5 min ride into the centre of Hotham.
The conditions on both Friday and Saturday could not have been better. Clear blue skies, very sunny and great snow.
Hotham is a great resort, many different runs including some very challenging ones. The added bonus is that apart from the beginner and lower intermediate runs there is hardly anyone on them. At times over the weekend we found ourselves skiing on our own – bloody brilliant.

We all started off skiing / snow boarding together which was really good fun.
A little later on myself and Arancha went off on our own to tackle the advanced runs. In a previous post I stated what a good snowboarder Arancha is; she is fast and technically sound. I am fast and technically suicidal.
Both Nadia and Nat are technically good, but I do not think they will mind me saying that they are not as confident as Arancha, or as stupid as me.
So the rest of the day was spent on a number of black runs testing my nerve and thoroughly enjoying it.
I can’t say that I had any really bad falls on the first day, but Arancha was taken out hardcore by a fellow snowboarder. It is a good job that she recently invested in a helmet or else she would’ve been in trouble.
We managed to complete about 5 hours skiing on the Friday and I loved it. I will never tire of skiing down a mountain with those views. You feel like you are on the top of the world when you are stood there with the snowy peaks all around you, before launching yourself over the edge and down.

Obviously one of the best parts of skiing is the après ski. We all met up at about 4pm on the Friday and got on it.
The first bar was fine until the owner Dominic came to sit with us. He was nice enough, complimenting me on my hair (which was quite similar to his) and getting the shots in for us. However, he then got a little freaky and said he wanted to hug my hair and sleep top and tail with me so that we could then be cock to cock. No idea what that was all about? You have to at least get me drunk first my friend before you try it on.
The rest of the night was a boozy affair.

Saturday was a late start ski wise après le après ski of the night before. However, in terms of skiing, it was my best day technically. Like any sport, some days you are good, other days you just want to snap something in half through frustration.
Saturday was a good day. My skiing was sound and it all felt right. The only dark point was losing a race to Natalie.
I have no idea how I lost. I was ahead, I edged her out over towards the edge of the cliff and then she made some crazy maneuver and overtook me. From that point on we were on a relatively flat run and I couldn’t catch her.
I hold my head in shame, but to Natalie I say through gritted teeth, “Congrats Sister!”

Saturday also saw us all stick together for a fair while and follow Arancha – the mountain guide. Our guide took us off piste through trees and over mogul runs. I have to say that it was great fun and there is footage of me catching some air as I attempted a jump which I did manage to land!
To me it felt so high and the bang of the skis as I landed confirmed this. Watching it back on film I was broken to see that it was about 30cms off of the ground.
Myself and Arancha did still take the opportunity to get away and tackle some more of the demanding runs. I took a few falls, but the worst one was not actually falling but spinning 180 degrees and my legs splitting so wide that it felt as though I had torn my nut sack down the middle. Owwwww!

Saturday night was a quiet one so that we could rise early and get on the slopes for a good amount of time before we had to leave.

We awoke on Sunday to a whiteout ie. no visibility. I am not exaggerating when I say that we could only see about 5 metres in front of us.
As for the skiing, I loved it. It is very unnerving when someone sets off in front of you and within 2 seconds they have disappeared.
It’s even more unnerving when you are going down steep black runs with no idea if it is the right way and you have to just take it on faith that you are going the right way.
But most unnerving of all is leading your friends down the aptly named ‘Twilight Zone’ run and through the dense cloud realising that you are about to ski out into the abyss. On closer inspection it wasn’t quite a cliff edge, but a big enough drop to break me. It required a sharp left turn to get back on track.

However, I did take a very funny fall during my time in the cloudy wilderness. We were all going down a black run together and we slowed up to try and get our bearings. As I slowed to a halt I somehow managed to fall over onto my side and began to slide down the mountain. I would say that it was a good 30 seconds of sliding on my front, back, shoulders, doing 360’s, before I managed to dig my skis in and stop.
Arancha and Nadia found this hilarious.

By about 2:30pm it was time to leave the mountain and I had the honour driving us back down on the winding roads with zero visibility and back to Melbourne.

Overall, it was a fabulous weekend and I can’t wait to get onto the slopes again. I am thinking Canada.

So that’s all folks.
Next trip away is to Philip Island in about 4 weeks time to see the resident penguins.

Until then, cheerio and keep searching for those Valhalla golden tickets so you too can get the tour!