...any friction betwixt...

You know when you take a shit straight after a shower, and you can't wipe your arse properly because there doesn't seem to be any friction betwixt your hand and the paper?

No, it must just be me then... well, I find it really annoying, and felt the urge to share it with you. Watch this space for future toilet-related annoyances, folks!

Mourning a Legend

I heard the sad news today that we have lost a great character, a true master of his art and one of the most loved and respected athletes of our time. He was a man not often associated with losing, but by the end of the ultimate battle, I think we could all see it coming. Rest In Peace, Pat "Mr Miyagi" Morita...

And in other news, yellow 59 year old, George Best, possibly scared to death by the extension of British licencing laws, has finally gone to the great working men´s club in the sky...

The Argentine Royal Family

I was reading a national magazine poll over lunch yesterdat, and came across some worrying statistics, most notably that this gross Bride of Wildenstein-alike, Susana Gimenez, is considered the most sexy Argentine alive...

So if she is the queen of Argentina, and this is the king...

.. maybe I could come to accept that Charles and Camilla aren{t so bad after all.

Creamfields Buenos Aires

Bloody hell, I can{t sleep that was so good. It{s 11am and it feels like Ivan Smagghe is still playing his set, live in my brain... I will update properly when I regain my senses (note to parents.. don{t worry, I am just a bit knackered, no cause for concern x).

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I decided to leave Montevideo,and head for the nearby colonial landmark of Colonia de Sacramento, a popular day trip from Buenos Aires or Montevideo. When I arrived, I discovered that the only boat going to Buenos Aires that evening was in four hours time, so I paid up and did a quick tour of the city. It is one of those charming little places where the hippy artesans congregate, and the restaurants charge double. Four hours was more than enough to see the old town on foot, snoop around a crafts market with no intention of buying any thing and pay through the nose for passable ravioli, warm beer and sunstroke in the absence of decent shading.

The slow boat across the River Plate was a three journey made all the more tolerable by the presence of Batman pinball, Wonder Boy, Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition (I lost to fucking Zangief! Two spinning pile drivers in one round! It reminded me of the time I asked my Finnish au pair, Netta, to take a photograph of me pulling off the hardest of all moves some time in the 90s. Unfortunately the picture didn`t come out too well, but I know I did it, and nobody can take that away from me! I met some nice chaps on the boat, including two French guys and a Peruvian girl. We had quite an amusing conversation in which I spoke English with the Peruvian and Spanish with the French guys, although they also spoke some English and I filled a few gaps with very basic French!

Arriving back in Buenos Aires, the nostalgia hit me like a rush of exhaust fumes up the nose. It feels good to be back, although a little sad to be without Raquel in the city we first met... Arriving to find Dario and my new English flatmate, Jenny, asleep, the prospects of a relaxing night to settle back into the city were good... Unsurprisingly though I awoke the next day at 1pm after a heavy night in a new nightclub called Bahrain, and a ratherlate night. I suppose that is BA for you, which is why I intend to enjoy my time here while it lasts, but jump ship as soon as possible for the benefit of my health!

I would love to go into a nice little Lonely Planet description of how the area we live in is a beautiful, bohemian district and the like, but some incredibly loud roadworks just outside are testing my patience so, "that`s enough from me".

The Full Monte-Video

Once again I took an over night bus to save myself hostel fees, and once again I didn[t manage a wink of sleep (Well maybe a few, but nowhere near 40!). I arrived at the Red Hostel in Montevideo nice and early in the morning of Monday, a bit shattered, but eager to go out and explore the city on foot. The capital of Uruguay is a small, compact city of about 1.5m inhabitants, and nicely situated on the banks of the River Plate which brings in a refreshing breeze. I walked around the city all day trying to get my bearings, and to get a sense of the city. One thing became clear immediately. Uruguayans are incredibly friendly people, very peaceful and laid back. They like to stroll around the streets, sit in doorways, in parks or on public squares chatting away, and invariably drinking from a gourd of mate tea. I am familiar with the custom of drinking the herby concoction from my time in Buenos Aires- the custom is to sip the water from the metal straw, and then refill and pass the gourd to the next person. But Uruguayans take the practise to an almost ludicrous level. They literally walk around the streets, all day long with a thermos flask and gourd in hand, taking a constant fix. I am told the drink has a mild stimulant similar to but weaker than caffeine, called mateine. Perhaps the substance is more addictive than people seem to be aware of! My only concern is what they should do if they accidentally nudge a valuable vase from a shelf, or witness a hapless Mother dropping her baby with no free hands? I suppose they helplessly watch the event unfold before their eyes, shrug their shoulders and then go on sipping at their precious herb.

I walked along The Rambla by the river, and soaked in the pleasing rays of a beautiful pre-summer[s day. The thoroughfare is marked out for joggers, and apparently I walked three miles in each direction on top of the several more miles I must have covered walking up and down the main road in the city. I visited the park, saw the main historic plazas and just tried to enjoy the tranquility of solidarity. I was asked the time by a local despite clearly not wearing a wristwatch, and it turned out to be a mere pretence for conversation. My new friend, Dani, spoke passable English and told me his girlfriend was in the British navy. He also went on to inform me that marijuana was legal in Uruguay (which I have yet to confirm, but, find hard to believe) although he certainly wasn[t overtly trying to sell me any, and he invited me to watch the big game with him (apparently River Plate were in town for a Copa libertadores game, but I wasn[t up to facing a crowd of Argentine hooligans without any sleep, least of all on my own). He also invited me for a drink in the large bar at the end of the road which he claimed to be his Father[s. I have no idea if he was trying to hustle any thing out of me, but if was he was certainly the most erudite hustler I have ever met!

I ate dinner in a nice, cheap pizzeria where the pizza normally comes in the Italian style, without any cheese on the top. I ordered the peperoni and found it to be absolutely delicious. The secret[s in the tomato sauce I[d say! The pizza with a bottle of water cost me the princely sum of one English pound, although the waiter did his best to overcharge me by 50p. The elderly couple beside me, Uruguay dwelling, Argentine 7-day aventists and proficient English speakers, informed me that this was far from the norm in this country. They went on to echo the conviction that Uruguayan[s are generally some of the kindest most genuine people you will come across, and in my limited experience I would be inclined to agree. It[s the small details like not accelerating when you try to cross the road in front of them, and not hollering and pestering in the street that make the difference.

Today was more of the same as I explored the historic Old City and the international port on foot. The city has the familiar bread and butter Spanish architecture of Buenos Aires, or Barcelona, but without much of the beautiful originality of a Gaudi building or the neoclassical Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. The old city is supposed to come alive in the night but, writing on a tranquil Tuesday, I am noit sure if I will be around to apply the acid test myself. The pleasures of the day, in common with the previous one, were tepid and at best pleasant. I gave the Museum of Modern Art a try, but they were closed, ironically enough, for painting. One does, however, get a sense from the streets themselves that there is an inherent artistic streak to Montevideo, and a rampant liberalism. The virile political conscience, that capitalism ironed out long ago on our own shores, makes itself known on every corner. The only culture I have exposed myself to in my short tenure though is the personal one, the culture of the people. As the sun set on my last night in Montevideo, I watched a children[s football match on a seaside gravel pitch. It was nice way to draw the curtains on my second night, and there was even a flash of genius to behold in the smallest boy on the field. In a country that has won two world cups, and at the centre of a triumvirate of nations who have won nine, the same inate feathery ball control, deceptive swivels of the hips and audacious flair is as ingrained in the Uruguayan as much as the agricultural heritage, and penchant for mate.

Maybe it is the brashnes and immediacy of Uruguay[s neighbours that contribute to making the experience that much more exciting and edgy though. Uruguay is a great place to take a break and recharge your batteries. It would be a place conducive to reflection, and the formation of verse. It would be a wonderful place to raise a family. But exciting, it would seem, is one thing that Uruguay certainly is not. There is some thing about the place I have already come to love, and I am in the right place at the right time in terms of the weather and the current tendency towards contemplation. I am looking forward to strolling in the UNESCO protected cobbled streets of Colonia tomorrow. But Montevideos unruly older brother is calling my name from across the River Plate, and the lure of spending time with an old best friend, Buenos Aires if you hadn[t guessed, is too great.

Bowling for Turpentine

If there are any aspiring Sigmund Freud´s out there, please feel free to explain a strange dream I had the other night to me....

I was in Brazil, I think, and quite possibly with Raquel or Purdy or some one else, but certainly one other person. We were in a big car park outdoors, and for some reason there was a tenpin bowling alley there. I bowled the ball down the lane, and when it returned down the chute, there was nothing to prevent it from rolling straight out at the bottom and off towards the main road behind us. The ball rolled straight into the traffic and miraculously missed any kind of impact with any thing, which made us very relieved... until we noticed the ball rolled up a hill and started to come back towards us. Again the ball missed damaging any thing or any one n the road, and it kept on rolling right past us again until it met the kerb, and bounced into a lower level where there was a car outside some kind of garage. The ball hit the car, and it exploded spectacularly!.. Nervously peering over the edge, we noticed that the explosion had also killed a nearby pedestrian. An onlooker noticed what happened, and before long a huge crowd had gathered inthe street around the inciden, with us in the middle. I didn´t want to be blamed for the tragic accident, and tried to escape undetected, but the initial onlooker pointed me out to the crowd, and before long every body was telling us we would go to jail for this for negligence, manslaughter or worse. A lawyer appeared and started to throw the book at us... I guess the dream kind of petered out there...

I am sure it must be some thing to do with being a stranger, alone in a foreign place, and quite often finding myself trying to make myself understood to crowds of Brazilians... The most notable thing about the dream was how graphic it was, and how it seemed to follow a logical plot!

Nao Acredito!!!

Oh, I forgot to mention the two teenage girls who literally jumped around and screamed when told I was English, and posed for several photos with me... One of them told me they loved me, but it was a little early in our relationship for me to reciprocate! It´s nice to be a novelty some times I suppose!

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As much as I would like to go to sleep right now, I haven´t updated for a few days, so I will do my best to engage my oxygen deprived neurons, and write some thing of interest about the last few days...

I arrived in Porto Alegre on Friday to stay with my friend Andre, and we went for a brief walk around the city centre to get my bearings. We went into the shopping centre where his office is located, and I noticed some body having his photograph taken with several hysterical girls- It was one of Brasil´s biggest musicians, a politically conscious rapper called Gabriel O Pensador. I think he was in town to sign a book he wrote in the Porto Alegre book fair, the largest in Latin America apparently.

When the excitement died down, and I had caught up on a few hours sleep with a long siesta, it was time to make our way to the German immigrant town of Igrejinha for one of the largest Oktoberfests in the world. The entire town participates in the festival, and the population triples for the party with 40 percent of the proceeds reinvested in the following year´s festivities, and 60 percent going towards local amenities such as hospitals and roads. The sourroundings, very characterisitic of the "serra" area of south Brasil, were lush, green and extremely picturesque. We stayed with Andre´s cousins and they, along with just about every body else I met in Igrejinha, were extremely friendly, hospitable and genuinely interested to meet a "gringo".

As you are probably aware, the raison détre ofan oktoberfest in to drink a hideous amount of beer and dance around to cheesy music.... It´s for this very reason that i really can´t be fucked to write any more, so i am going to summarise the event in a few key words....

Beer... Beer... Beer... squash, squeeze, push... Ivete Sangalo (one of those pneumatic stereotypically Latin divas who could shatter the Louvre with her larynx!)... hormonal teenagers... staggering fat drunk men... beer... beer... beer... attempted Portuguese conversations.... beer... beer... You get the picture!

Actually, it was a lot more fun that it sounds. I feared a bit of a nightmare scenario in which I would be surrounded by violence and vomit, but the people I met were extremely nice and they seemed to enjoy my enthusiastic recantations of a few key words and songs. I felt like a bit of a performing seal at times, juggling a ball on my noise and jumping through hoops for fish, but it was the different kind of fun that I was looking for from the weekend, adn I am glad I went...

Incidentally, we went on the Saturday as well after a day long barbecue with an unlimited supply of, you guessed it, beer (I had never tried Nova Schin before, and will probably not be able to stomach it again), and barbecued meat Gaucho style, which is reknowned as the best in Brazil. Incidentally, the smells that emanate froma group of men subsiting solely on meat and beer for a weekend are some thing nobody should ever be exposed to!

So, as the weekend draws to a close, I am now back in Porto Alegre, and alone again. I have surveyed the damage, and although I am extremely overtired, groggy and mentally drained, it shouldn´t be any thing lasting, and by the time I arrive in Montevideo tomorrow morning, I should be fresh as a daisy again. Uruguay should be a peaceful diversion on my way back to the melee of Buenos Aires!
  • Current Music
    Cheesy Brazilian carnaval tunes ad nauseum!!!

Goodbye Floripa

Today is my last day in Florianapolis, and in the continuing absence of any sun, I have spent my time lurking around the centre of town with a couple of new friends with the common goal of simply killing time. Florianapolis is famous for it´s incredible beaches and beautiful women, so visiting here when the sun is not shining is akin to visiting Venice during a drought- there isn´t much point. We spent an enjoyable 8 minutes or so in a small weapons museum, which had a delightful collection of guns and swords throughout the ages. The two soldiers and a stray dog who were on guard seemed a little excessive as they evidently receive about 52 tourists a year, if the entry log is any thing to go by.

Fact of the day: Smith, of Smith and Wesson fame´s first name is Oscar!

Florianapolis is like a hibernatory creature that lies dormant for the winter and only awakes in the summer. For that very reason, I will try to return on my way back to Rio in December, when things should really have started hotting up. It is hard enough finding some where to eat or have a drink at the moment to be quite honest!

I´m heading to Porto Alegre tonight for the madness of the oktoberfest weekend. I´m expecting cheesiness, hostility, claustrophobia, merriment, vomit and nausea in equal measure. Should be fun! As for my generous host, Andre, he could be a psychopathic cannibal killer for all I know, but I´ll take my chances for a free place to stay and some body to show me around.