The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Archive for September, 2008

My Aching Back

Posted by Exile on September 27, 2008

I suppose I should know better at my age, but one can’t help getting into the spirit of things. The company I work for has had a few problems in the past with staff and personnel not feeling as though they “belong”. This has led to some pretty quick comings and goings and a high turnover of folk on the floor. This picture is changing now. I am relatively new to the company but I have assembled a good team for the evening shift. I have a new boss, he’s the latest addition, but I like this guy. He’s a no nonsense type too. A new economical type bean counter and a new country manager have also joined the team. All this since January this year.

So it was a good idea to do something on a social level to sort of knock everyone into place and have a bit of fun. We did this yesterday. My mob started early for a change to get our stuff done and the whole place shut down at four in the afternoon. The grill came out and the beef went into the oven. We started with a good old barbeque and beer and then had a chance to sit down together for a while and chat. Which was nice. Then it was off to the main event. Bowling? No. Go-karting? No. OK, paintball? No. None of the above. We went curling.

imageCurling was invented in Scotland hundreds of years ago before the Scots had discovered sex, drugs and rock and roll or golf. Well, they had the rocks, they could roll them, but the sex and drugs was a no-no and golf wasn’t invented yet. So they just hurled rocks at each other for entertainment. Then they discovered the concept of a target to throw things at and curling was born. Put the whole show on ice and you have a recipe for a good giggle, broken bones and good deal of jibing and poking of fun. The idea is to push a forty pound piece of polished granite down a forty yard long stretch of ice and have them stop on a target area no bigger than a toilet seat. Or so it seemed. You have to wear special shoes. One shoe has a teflon sole. This makes standing up and walking impossible as one foot is rendered totally useless and all friction is gone, so you get a thing that looks like a padded crutch to support yourself with although this is really to be used as an instrument to polish the ice, as if it wasn’t slippery enough to start with. Then you divide up into teams of four and hurl great rocks at each others rocks until only one rock is the winner, being nearest the centre of the aforementioned target. Note, the said rock nearest to the middle is often a source of contention and discussion. At least, it is when you play against me and my rock is in the target area.

Sounds easy. And fundamentally stupid. But all good, nearly clean, fun. As it happens, a few of the competitors left the field early. One of our group did the proverbial “both feet in the air – fall down on your head” trick and had to retire nearly dead. This frightened a few others off. One or two wouldn’t venture out onto the ice from the get-go but stood on the sidelines and gave hearty encouragement to the others of us that were out there defying gravity and certain death. Some took pictures. I look forward to seeing them.

The problem is, that being in my middle fifties and hardly as supple or flexible as I was last year (!), I am aching all over today from having had to fight the uncontrollable slithering that otherwise had threatened to end my life or, at very best, caused involuntary fits of biblically epileptic proportions as my arms and legs windmilled about in an effort to hold my balance. The stick thing which we used as a crutch or ice polisher brush thingy (why didn’t it have a name?) wasn’t much use as a support on the ice but it was great for poking the opposition in the moment of their executing what may have been the winning shot. I suppose one could call it a “curling weapon” but I daresay professional curlers would find that too offensive. I am supportive of the idea of introducing weapons to sports! You’ve already heard of a football club, so let’s get literal.

I digress. Sorry.

The evening was, by my estimation, a victory for social outings. I can recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried to curl. Loads of fun and possibly a sport I would consider if I had the physical condition to match the aftermath!

The result? It was draw. No. Really. It was a draw. Honours were even at the end of four rounds. 6-6.

Look out. Crazy old fat guy on the ice.. The world just got a tad more unsafe people. Be afraid. Especially if you curl.

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First, We Take Manhattan

Posted by Exile on September 6, 2008

OK, that would have been nice, but it didn’t happen. We took Berlin though and had a great time in the biggest building site in all of Europe. I thought they were busy in Warsaw, but Berlin is recreating itself at an alarming rate.

Why were we in Berlin? Well, it was my father-in-law’s birthday treat. We can’t think of anything he needs, so buying a present is a bit of a chore, but an experience lasts forever. Last year it was London. This year, Berlin. We had a marvelous time.

We walked the length of Kurfürstendamm several times, saw the Reichstag, Brandenburg gate, Unter Den Linden, Tiergarten, Checkpoint Charlie, The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church (or, what’s left of it after the RAF had virtually flattened it), Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all and sailed on the Spree, which snakes it’s way through the entire city centre.  We took the tour bus, traveled on the underground railway and generally enjoyed ourselves at every available watering hole we could find. Bratwürst, Currywürst, Wienerschnitzel and all other things good, washed down with lashings of Berliner Kindl beer. We shopped, which means that my good lady and her father went into shops while I stood outside and watched the street life. I hate shopping but what can one do? One tags along. At least I got to buy a little extra tobacco for the cellar and got to smoke my pipe in peace while I waited for them to gather souvenirs and homecoming presents for Mother-in-Law, who refuses to leave the homestead, choosing to remain firmly planted in her armchair in Denmark. She’s entitled to, she’s 82 years old. Bless her.

Checkpoint CharlieThe hotel was good. Not exactly the Hilton, but comfortable and the staff were terrific. We were only minutes from the centre of town. It’s called the Hotel Savigny and is on the Brandenburgerische Str. No. 21. I can recommend it. The lift is a superb piece of antique engineering that opens by hand, rattles and clanks like nobody’s business and moves at a sedate speed on it’s vertical travels. I have no idea how old it was, but it was a joy to be able to see all the brass mechanical bits whirring and rotating as the thing moves.

I was not impressed by Schönefeld Airport. Tempelhof is closed to commercial airlines now. The historic airport carries only aircraft with up to twelve passengers. Private stuff and so on. Hard to think, it once fed the entire western side of the city. Berlin desperately needs a new airport, or at least, a complete rebuild of one of them. The terminal is badly in need of a facelift and a bit more room.

This was my second real visit to Berlin and probably won’t be my last. It’s interesting to watch a city renew itself. I think I’ll go back in about ten years. Maybe some of the giant cranes will be gone by then. Who knows?

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