Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday, August 25th, 2008:
Helsingborg to Glasgow
to Montreal to London

What I think:

I just got back last Thursday night after a two-week trip. The main purpose of the journey was to attend a 26th-year high school reunion in Montreal, but I had been incessantly nagged by a friend to visit her in Glasgow for the past few years so, since I had to fly via London anyway (no direct flights to Montreal from Copenhagen), I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a detour up to Glasgow, as I had never been, and was pretty much passing by, and boy-oh-boy this was a long sentence (*stops for breath*).

My girlfriend and I got on the ferry from Helsingborg to Helsingör (that's Elsinore, home of Hamlet's castle, for all you Shakespeare buffs) with our backpacks, went up to the sun deck, sat down and started eating the sandwiches we'd bought. So far so good.

Then there was this bloody wasp buzzing around. I waited for it to land on the table and swatted it with a napkin. Got him. Or did I? Nope. There was a bit of a gap between my fingers, and the little bugger crawled out, stung me, and flew away. Great start to the holiday (US/CAN: vacation).

I couldn't remember if I'd ever been stung by a wasp before, so I became very conscious of all sensations; waiting to go into anaphylactic shock or something. As it turned out it just, well, stung. And burned a bit. And it cost me most of my sandwich, as I'd freaked out and frantically swatted the air with both hands, flinging bits of cheese and lettuce everywhere. Oh what fun. My girlfriend laughed sympathetically, a talent which I believe only she possesses.

By the time we got to Helsingör and boarded the train to Kastrup (Copenhagen airport), any pain I felt had all but disappeared; it was just a bit uncomfortable.

To get to Glasgow, we had to fly from Copenhagen to London Stansted, then board another flight. All in all, it was nicely uneventful; no major delays, and a pretty seamless transfer between flights.

We got to Glasgow fairly late, and were collected by my friend and her boyfriend. When we got to her place, we sat up chatting and drinking beer until about two in the morning before going to sleep on a comfy sofa-bed.

Over the next couple of days, my friend, the perfect hostess, guided us around Glasgow. Between the 4,693 shops my girlfriend visited, we saw some pretty interesting buildings. We also saw restaurants with some pretty interesting claims.

One would expect to see places claiming to have "the best":
... but there were also some other, rather different, claims.
This one was reassuring:
... and we admired the honesty of this one:
I mean, everyone has a bad day from time to time, right?

We saw a type of busker that you probably wouldn't see very many of outside of Scotland:On the Friday night, we went out to a restaurant owned by a friend of our hostess. He had a nice smile, and an even nicer t-shirt:Then we went to a couple of pubs until closing, headed back, and went to bed.

The next day, we were going to see Glasgow's impressive Necropolis (a fancy word for an extravagant graveyard). On the way, I went into a shop to buy a lottery ticket; something I do when I visit the UK - you never know, right? (I didn't win, by the way.) When I came out, girlfriend and hostess were admiring the window display of this rather ordinary little shop:We thought that the amount of care and effort that went into this was quite charming, in an endearingly silly way.

We then paid a visit to an old house:
Inside, there were old things. There were also a couple of musicians dressed in costumes of the period. But we caught them during their lunch break. It was quite amusing to see people from the 15th Century munching away on hot dogs.

There was also an old pub (the Crystal Bell, Gallowgate):
The Necropolis was indeed very impressive. Have a look here ->

Here's a statue of some bloke called Charles Tennant:
He was an industrialist and chemist, who apparently discovered bleaching powder. Wannabe blondes the world over owe him their gratitude.

We also visited Glasgow's Cathedral, which was very grand, and walked past the university.

At one point, I saw a sign that I just had to pose next to, being a Base myself.After that, we went back to my hostess's place, where she started to prepare a nice roast chicken dinner for our final evening.

We managed to distract ourselves for a while by messing around with a wig belonging to Morag, a long-lost mannequin. Here's me looking oh-so-groovy, don't you think?The beer and wine were flowing, so it wasn't long before we started humiliating her cats as well. Inspired by the I Can Has Cheezburger? phenomenon, we took a few photos and made up silly captions:OK, so this type of humour is not to everyone's liking, but we found it hilarious.
Nothing like beer, wine and guffawing at silly cat pics to get the party going, eh?

Our hostess had also dug up some old photos.
Here's one of us from 1982:
We decided to try to recreate the moment, as best we could. After much direction from girlfriend - and several tries (we love the age of digital photography), here's what we came up with:After a lovely meal, it was soon off to sleep, as we had to catch a plane to London Gatwick at stupid-o'clock in the morning.

Once again, the flight from Glasgow and the transfer to the Montreal-bound plane were pretty smooth. There was a delay of over an hour, but that's pretty much what I expect these days. Bastard airlines.

So we got to Montreal a bit later than expected on Sunday evening, but my mother and brother were at the airport to meet us. Cool...

The plan was to stay at my parents' place on the West Island on Sunday night, then go to our friends' place in Verdun ("Dr Trinidad" & fellow blogger Maggie's - closer to downtown) the following day, as my friend Terence (of The Vestibules and On The Spot Improv) was going on holiday on the following day, and Monday night was the only chance we'd get to see him.

It was also a good opportunity to celebrate Dr Trinidad's birthday, which had taken place over the weekend. The waitress had kindly taped a birthday candle to the side of a pint glass for him. Bless.

Here's a rather scary shot of us goodfellas from the night:
Since we didn't have too much time in Montreal this time round, the girlfriend and I decided to do a few touristy things. She'd never been to the Olympic Stadium, so we thought we'd pay a visit.We took the cable car to the top of the tower and got a nice view of Montreal's skyline - even though it was a bit far off.

We'd planned to grab a beer at one of my favourite bar/clubs, Foufounes Électriques...
... but it was a bit early, and they were working on a mural on the outside wall, so it was closed.So we continued along Ste Catherine Street.

We liked the name of this sex shop:
... but we didn't bother going inside; we can make our own romance, even after 96 weeks together (it's true!).

A couple of nights later, I was walking to the train station to head back downtown, and spotted this estate agent's sign:Did you know that in 2007, Cowboyd was "#29 out of 3,001 REMAX agents in all of Quebec" ? And that his son "JAMES" is now an agent too? Well, his helpful website tells us so.

Although I can't quite work out why he felt the need to name his son all in capitals and with quotation marks. I wonder what "JAMES" 's birth certificate looks like.

And here's the luxury property he's selling now:
Truly everyone's image of a dream home, to be sure.

On the Friday, we were walking around in Old Montreal, and spotted the Amphi-Bus stand. It's basically a bus/boat, which drives around Old Montreal (with a guided tour) then goes out onto the St Lawrence River. We couldn't resist. Even at the costly price of $32 CAN each (which is about, oh, around $450 US these days, I guess), it had to be done.

It was actually quite fun, although it started raining just as we were about to hit the water... But at least it was covered; the other vehicle was an open-topped thing. Suckers.

Actually, it's worth mentioning that we were extremely lucky, weather-wise, during our stay. There were some fierce storms, but we always seemed to be sheltered whenever they hit - and they never lasted very long.

The big high school reunion thing was nice. It was a fairly informal affair, mainly scraped together by people hooking up through facebook. Quite fun. I guess there were about 50 people there. Some people had changed quite dramatically, but many had hardly changed much at all.

Here are some mandatory photos... Ladies first:
... and here are some chaps I'm very reluctant to call "gentlemen":
It was held at a restaurant/bar called Babaloo on the West Island, right next to a bar/nightclub called Bourbon Street West . If you do check out their websites, they both have cheesy music (just to warn you).

After the meal, many of us went next door to continue with the festivities. There was a band there called Hit Parade. They were really good (technically), but they played all the stuff you thought (and hoped) that you would eventually forget. Thanks guys.No, actually it was quite good.

So, all in all, Montreal was a great time.

Next stop: London.
We arrived at Gatwick pretty much on time (around 10-ish on Tuesday morning). Our London hostess was out of town, so we stopped by at our host's (her friend/tenant's) workplace in Highbury & Islington to pick up the keys. Then we took a cab straight to the house in Harringay, and had a nap for a few hours.

We were only in London for a couple of days, but I wanted to see as many people as possible during our stay. So we went to eat at a local restaurant/bar (The Garden Ladder) owned by some friends, as I knew there would be some of my old friends there. Sure enough, there were. It was nice.

Then we went to a pub which is run by another friend, where we met up with a few more people, including one of my hosts (who's also one of my bestest friends in London). A good evening.

During the walk back to the house, girlfriend was impressed with how neatly the fruit and veg were stacked at this particular shop.
Nice, innit?

The next day, we went to Brick Lane, as I wanted to get some cheap Doc Martens at a shop just off there, and the girlfriend wanted to go to Rough Trade records. We walked around a bit there, I had a few pints at a pub while she went to some retro clothes shop, and we headed to a Wagamama (Japanese restaurant) in the West End.

We'd arranged to meet up with a couple of other friends, including Roland - the guy who likes stripes - at the new Intrepid Fox in Soho. It was an OK place, but nothing like the original one.

After a while, we found it a bit loud in there - just not conducive to chatting - so Roland suggested that we go to the Pillars of Hercules pub. It was a good choice.

There was a guy there called DeeJay Wheelie Bag. This guy:
He has to be seen to be believed. Check out his website ->
He plays old 45's of all kinds of strange and unusual music; mostly "Authentic RnB, Rockabilly and Jamaican Ska" from his "original shopping trolley sound system". Another good night.

The next day, we had planned to go to Camden, but we slept in until after 1:00 p.m. (oops) and just had enough time to go for breakfast before heading off to Stansted.

We got to Copenhagen after 9:00 p.m., took the train and ferry to Helsingborg, stopped at 7-11 for milk, and cabbed it home. Phew.

We spent the weekend recovering, and now it back to work for both of us. I've also got some gigs coming up next weekend, so it's going to be quite hectic.

I'm playing with Suckerbucket on Thursday night at some kind of IKEA party - as well as doing a couple of duet songs with Twisted Systems (the other IKEA band).

Then CSI: Helsingborg return to Bjuv to play at their festival there on Friday night. We're returning to Bjuv on Saturday night to play at a restaurant/bar between 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. We'll be doing five sets, but bringing CD's to play between them.

Estate agents should not be allowed to wear cowboy hats, and the Swedish government must ensure that this never happens here.

That's what I think.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008:
Doggy do's and don't's
in Helsingborg

What I think:

Well, it's been two whole years since I've written about dog poop in Helsingborg

It's time for an update.

I was walking to the Charles Dickens pub before a band rehearsal the other day, and saw this amazing thing on the pavement (US/CAN: sidewalk):
Glömt nåt? is Swedish for "Forgotten something?" 

I thought that this was very well done, but I would have preferred to get a photo of a dog pooping on the representation of poop. Now that would have been classy.

That's what I think.