It’s been quite a long while since I’ve posted anything here. It's strange because when I didn’t know what I was doing with myself and was generally at a fairly low ebb, I felt like I had lots to write about. Now I’m much happier and while I still don’t know where exactly it is that I’m going, I’ve at least realised that the map I was holding was upside down.
At the tail end of my time in Italy, I was pretty much floundering and as much as I loved my time there and the people who I shared it with, I could happily cut out the last year or so and put it down as a loss. Life doesn’t let us do this, so it’s something that will inform whatever’s next. Having traded in a beautiful country steeped in history and culture for a country which essentially resembles a construction site, it might seem surprising that I’m more content now, but people are strange and so is life. It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife. Or maybe not.
So, yeah, Kuwait. I really like it; I have a job that I enjoy, have a cat and have managed to bewitch a female with my otherworldly charms. Again, people are strange :)
I’d written most of this post when I’d just got back too, which was nice (I’ve now been back for a week and a half). As part of having a real job I get paid (paid!) holidays. Most of you might take this for granted, but for the first time in close to ten years I’ve not had to spend summer working while others bugger off to more exotic climes. So, what did I do with my time off? Scotland, of course. One of my chums got married so went back for that and after existing for two weeks on a diet that consisted almost exclusively of Guinness and roll-ups, headed off for a few days to Vienna.
Full disclosure: I didn’t know anything about Austria before going and going there was based on:
-> 50% a desire to go somewhere different, and
-> 50% hoping I wouldn’t be impressed by it so that in future, if asked I could say: “Vienna? It means nothing to me.”
Turns out it’s rather nice. There are two realisations that came to me in the my days there though. 1) In the UK we don’t appreciate free entrance to museums as much as we should, definitely maybe because as a nation we don’t go to them because they’re full of old shit and we might have to read something on a TV screen, or God forbid, written on a wall. After all our granddads didn’t fight Hitler so that we had to read. That’s what he would have wanted - he was famously keen on literature and would often have bonfires so that the people could flick through their favourite book of an evening. That’s right, isn’t it?
2) Paying 50 cents to spend a penny is galling and while I guess running local bureaucracy is a loss-maker, damn it it seems like they’ll get rich or die trying.
Anyway, Vienna. It all got off to a bit of a damp squib. For two weeks in Scotland there had barely been a drop of rain, so of course it hosed down for my first 36 hours in Austria. Not to be put off, I slept and punctuated my dozing with lunch in the historic Cafe Central. It was all rather opulent and tasty to boot, despite having to queue in the rain for twenty minutes just to get in. Cold celery soup with apples and walnuts might look like sick but is actually dead good. Follow that with cheese dumplings on an onion and mushroom sauce and you have one sleepy Michael, so my first full day came to a close with a couple of pints and an early night. I know how to live.
The second of my three-day Viennese whirl had me up with the larks, if larks wake up after nine. The weather was much better so I was determined to do some seeing of sights. It turns out that if by sights you mean loads of beautiful old buildings, statues and churches, then you can fill your boots. By the end of the day said boots had steam coming off of them because an app on my phone told me I’d walked seventeen kilometres.
The day hadn't started all that promisingly after I’d been burned for €7,80 for a double espresso.
You. Are. Having. A. Giraffe.
Not to be dismayed, my next port of call was the Freud musemum. “A heavy way to start the day, ja? Vy don’t you lie down and tell me vy you vanted to come here so much?”
“Well, for one you don’t need that hackneyed accent, man at the ticket counter, and I don’t want to lie down on your couch. Actually, the main reason I’d come was for this.” Annoyingly, they didn’t have it in stock. Before I had made this discovery there was a big long queue and I only really wanted to go to the gift shop. Although I’m a shy and retiring type, had my mum been there she would have led me to the front so I could have gone directly to waste some coin. Why did she pop into my head there?
That wrapped up the morning, and in the afternoon I walked a lot more and defied death. Tell me more about the walking? I hear you stifle through a yawn. Thanks to some top notch learning of gross motor skills that I’d done at an age that meant I was firmly at a similar developmental stage as my peers, I strode around Vienna looking at stuff and trying not get run down by one of the many bicycle ninjas who had apparently been sent to snuff me out like a candle.
As anyone who knows me well will attest, I relish living life to the full. Pushing boundaries of gravity and common sense could well be a rather long-winded middle name of mine, had my parents not taken the safer option of Thomas. With this screaming and clawing at the back of my mind like a terrified child I boldly stepped onto the Weiner Riesenrad (Viennese Ferris Wheel) and relaxed into allowing nineteenth century technology and engineering hoist me 200 feet into the air. Lo and behold, it was actually pretty pleasant and at no point did it feel like the wooden box I was trapped in would crumble and plummet to the unforgiving ground way beneath me.
Another trip to the street food restaurant round the corner from where I was staying and a few pints with my Airbnb host followed, setting me up nicely for my last day.
I’d been told that I had to go and see the Spanish horses in the Hofburg palace so dutifully did so. They do a show at the weekends but this was a Friday and my last day, so I spent an hour watching them train which mostly consisted of them prancing, trotting and side stepping around. Very calming and pretty but an hour of equine exercise was enough for me.
The only piece of classical music I have on my computer is the Blue Danube and so it felt fitting (not to mention easy) to take a cruise looping up a canal and then along the Danube to round off my trip. It felt most relaxing and civilised to pootle along the river, taking photos of stuff and generally relaxing and reflecting. Most of my photos were graffiti-based because of the density of work that’s along the canal, which wasn’t really what I was expecting but was pretty interesting nonetheless.
And that was about all she wrote for Vienna. I came back to Kuwait for a couple of days to check the cat was still ok and then went away again, this time to Sri Lanka for 10 days. Arriving fashionably late at the party as I’m prone to do (before being asked through a closed front door who had told me about the party), I’ve joined Instagram and while it’s highly unlikely I’ll use it much, I’ll stick some Sri Lankan photos up on that later on. My username’s themichaelnimmo if you’re interested.