PLANES, TRAINS AND EXPENSIVE AUTOMOBILES

PLANES, TRAINS AND EXPENSIVE AUTOMOBILES

 

So here begins my travel story.

My story about my travels.

My travelling story.

Basically a story that I think will be interesting because I’m traveling to lots of different places in a short amount of time.

Because I ballsed up and had to buy a last minute ticket to my friend’s wedding in Italy, and the only way there that didn’t cost a kidney was via lots of different places.

So I thought that if I wrote about it, and made it out to be some sort of adventure, I’d be less inclined to hate myself for putting myself through this.

Perhaps if I include pictures and gifs I can keep you somewhat entertained throughout. We all know a story without pictures is no fun at all, and if I do have any expertise, it is in wasting hours of my life looking at these bloody things.

 

 

I had planned to fly stand by, and save a bunch of cash, but as I neared my departure date it became clear that too many other cheapskates had bothered their contacts at United, and the chances of me getting on the plane was slim to none. 

I was expecting the worst,  and it was pretty bad. A direct flight to Italy was going to cost a little over two kidneys, so I just tried to find the cheapest flight to any city in Europe.

Turns out, on this particular day, it’s Zurich.  And for only 300 dollars.

What a deal.

It has a stop over in Düsseldorf I see, maybe I can fly to Milan from there?

No dice – this is what is called hidden city flying and apparently airlines hate it more than a carry on bag that is half a kg over the limit. I would also have to use the same airline, and judging by how many times I had to apologise for even daring to ask the question to the airline representative I spoke to on the phone, it was not going to work out. I’m far too British to upset even an airline.

Indeed.

 

 

CHAPTER 1 – GETTING MY SKINNY FAT ARSE THERE

 

LAX – NYC

 

Well bugger me senseless and call me Susan. The son of a particularly famous politician, who is most certainly not on my Christmas card list, is on my plane. What an absurd start to this adventure. Walking through the first class section and their merry band of smug arses is usually an ordeal but today was even more uncomfortable. My contact was brief, and he did have the courtesy to hide one of his major crimes to humanity and dip his head. However, it only thrust one of the others in my direction. The slimy hair was unapologetically gleaning. I don’t know what the hell he puts on it but…oh maybe that is it. Hell. Would explain some things.

Just got to hope the collective will of the world isn’t strong enough today to send this plane headfirst into a mountain.

Free wifi allows me to check a stock, which I wanted to buy that morning but didn’t have the funds for, go up 250% in 40 minutes. I should add that I like to gamble my money away by giving it to the arses in the first class seats as they pump and dump their “businesses” via the stock market. I’ve been hoping that one of my lousy stocks was going to rise from the ashes and put some dollars in my pocket. So far, no luck. I will be checking and praying constantly throughout this ordeal – I mean traveling adventure.

 

 

 

NYC – DUS

 

After shedding a couple of tears, and saying goodbye to the girlfriend I’m punching way above my weight with, I begin the transatlantic part of the journey. 

I’m flying with Eurowings. Yes, that is a real airline. And yes, it’s so cheap they don’t give you a ‘meal’ unless you want to spend 30 extra euros and judging from what they usually give you on planes, I’d rather eat the euros. In coins.

I know in this day and age talking about national stereotypes is highly taboo. Even if they are positive and blatantly obvious, like the Brits being emotional open, having great teeth and being experts in bed. But I can’t help it… I adore this whole German efficiency trait. It’s even more glorious when you’re relying on them to cart you across the sea in a tin can. Everything about this flight right now screams we are reliable, efficient and excellent cuddlers. Even the baby that is two seats away from me has astonishingly not uttered a note of displeasure since we left. He gets it too.

 

I’ve landed in Düsseldorf. The ease of the flight has reduced my anxiety to a healthy level of defcon 4 and it has given me the exuberance to ask about skipping the Zurich flight and getting to Milan now. To my absolute delight these guys here are ok with playing ball. To hell to the woman on the phone. I will send flowers.

I’ve bought the ticket on my phone – $150. Which is about what I would have spent on a happy meal in McDonalds in Zurich apparently. I know this goes against my whole travelling to lots of places and suffering thing but I’m sure I can make up for it later on. Hang in there.

Bugger, I’ve been sent two email confirmations. I had to refresh the screen when I was buying the ticket so I must have paid twice. The people at the counter say I have to call the ticketing number and of course I can’t use my phone because even though I was sensible and brought a UK sim card (that allows me to use my phone cheaply anywhere in Europe, that is until Brexit rams it idiotic spanner in the works) I can’t open the damn iphone without a paperclip. Where can I get a paperclip?!

I’m about to board but Alec Guinness has popped into my head. “Use the Skype, Will.” I’ve just called the airline up. They see what I’ve done but have not charged me twice. I have no idea what my Grandfather was going on about, I bloody love you Germany.

 

 

 

DUS – MIL

 

I’m looking at the mountains below and chuckling. Alternate reality Will who is getting the bus from Zurich to Milan tomorrow is really not going to enjoy going round those corners. He doesn’t have the stomach for all that.

As this flight is gloriously uneventful, it gives me a chance to mention why I’m in this financial straitjacket. And by that I mean, why I’m currently only better off than 99% of the world rather than the 99.8% I’ve been told I should be at. How can someone so white, middle class and pompously privileged not be doing well in this society that is horrendously rigged in his favour? Well, it takes some effort I tell you.

1)  I devoted myself to something that I wasn’t very good at. Well, more to the point, didn’t have the personality for. I decided at the age of 7 to be an actor and though I trained as hard as my idle bones could handle, I just could never get the hang of this self-promotion thing, which sadly is all too important in this selfie stick era. It’s too alien to me as a person and that coupled with having to cope with a school disco level of rejection on a regular basis, and an actor’s work visa that is criminally restrictive (no theatre FFS), I decided to drop it in favour of hiding behind a microphone. Voice acting is actually a lot of fun and I get to do most my work in clothes that I like wearing the most. My pajamas.

2) I also picked a career that like to pay you X amount of months after you do the job. I’ve managed to talk my way into a couple of nice voice gigs and it seems paying me isn’t very high on anyone’s to do list. Companies have far more important things on their minds, like how to be witty on twitter.

3) The deposit on my last place in LA has yet to be returned to me. I lent on the curtain and the whole curtain rod ripped off, taking quite a bit of the wall with it. I youtube’d how to plaster large holes and went to town with some spackling I bought at a DIY store. I guess the inspection didn’t go well as she isn’t answering my emails.

 

Making a hole in the shape of a sea horse was fully intentional.

 

4) My tax guy, who has still not filed my taxes even though is has been fully paid to do so, is also not responding to my emails. Or calls. His answering machine has been full for two weeks now, so I can’t even leave him a threatening Liam Neeson style voice message. (edit: according to google he’s now been charged with a felony. I emailed the prosecution lawyer to see if it has anything to do with being naughty with our taxes but, alas, no response. Oh shit.)

5) I have funnelled all my savings into stocks and mostly volatile ones. It seems a number of the companies I’ve invested in are run by some particularly shady individuals, who would gladly sell their grandmothers if there was a market for them. I have now started a twitter account to share my thoughts with these charming people.

And, also to be an absolute pain.

 

 

MIL – COMO

 

Apparently, you have to validate your ticket before getting on the trains in Italy, otherwise you get charged the price of the ticket again.

Nice lesson to learn.

You can also face up to a 200 euro fine for this fragrant transgression, which I seemingly evaded, so I guess that makes me the winner here. Things are looking up. 

I have to change trains at a dusty, remote station, which allows me the chance to run and find a nearby cafe with a friendly owner willing to part ways with his password for the cost of a small cappuccino, so I hop on and message my friend, who is waiting for me patiently at the station in Como. 

However, as I approach Como, I realise that there are two stations and I’m going to the wrong one. I desperately pretend I’m not repressed for a minute and pluck up the courage to ask a nearby passenger for something thin enough to open my damn iphone. He has a key ring which he’s ok with me unwinding and though it doesn’t fit in the hole, I do a great job of cutting my finger with it.

There might be something to this whole law of attraction thing because the only name it goes by these days is, “this bloody phone”. And, well, here it is. Covered in my blood.

I have to say, Apple have done a sterling job of only allowing their phones to be used for a year before they fall apart. My home button stopped functioning a long time ago, it doesn’t charge unless I spend 40 minutes fiddling with the cable and no one ever returns my calls. You know what, I’m glad Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay have permanently sullied the company’s name by calling their daughter Apple.

 

COMO

 

When I eventually reach Como and, rather importantly, some free wifi, I’m able to share my location and be discovered. I’m no longer alone, and finally able to rely on others to make poor decisions. Which has seemingly already happened.

The airbnb my friend has booked is a convenient hour and half walk up a steep hill from the centre of Como, where will be doing all of the wedding activities. Switzerland is, no lie, closer to the centre of town than the bunk bed that awaits me. Sure, there are buses every blue moon or so, but they seem to be as reliable as a wireless printer. Thankfully there are a couple of taxis to service the entire principality, so we do have something to throw most my travel budget at.

This map, though exceedingly basic, took forever to make. I hope you appreciate it.

 

It appears the cost of a taxi here varies greatly.

Italian friend staying with us – 12 euros.

Those who don’t speak a lick of Italian – 30 euros.

I have to give credit to the driver as I was watching the meter like a hawk and he pressed the add a euro to these stupid foreigners button anytime I blinked. He was good. His face showed no remorse either. He must have been a politician in a past life. Or perhaps he is currently one, and the whole screwing over the public thing during regular work hours just isn’t satisfying enough.

 

 

To clear up any confusion, the driver’s hand looked nothing like this.

CHAPTER 2. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION.”

(I feel like this quote was coined by someone that never drove in LA during rush hour.)

 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL DAY 

 

Up to this point, most of my thoughts on this trip have been spent on a seeming irrelevance to most of you.

Football/Soccer/that absurd game that doesn’t have 100 commercial breaks.

Liverpool football club is a major part of the rollercoaster I’m strapped to and we have somehow blasted our way to the final of the biggest game in world football (World Cup be damned).

I have been a plastic scouser since a young lad, when my dreams were a bit more extravagant than a please just get me through today, and yes, nothing says fragile personality more than relying on 11 overpaid men in shorts to give one emotional satisfaction but so be it. Today is the day. And I’m feeling almost relaxed. Most likely because I’ve spent the last month telling myself we don’t stand a chance against the richest and most successful club in the world: Real Madrid, who were notoriously bankrolled by Franco and I’m pretty sure Satan himself (or herself).

 

(3 ghastly hours later)

 

Well, that didn’t go according to plan, unless the plan was for everything that could go wrong to go wrong. I don’t think I need to say much here. Our German goalkeeper made some of the worst errors ever concocted in a football match, let alone in a professional game, and strongly pissed all over my ‘they’re efficient’ chips.

There’s always one isn’t there.

 

No comment.

 

I actually feel pity for him, and some concern over the backlash he’s going to get, rather than any anger. The anger is solely directed to a certain Madrid player, called Sergio Ramos, who broke the wonderful Mo Salah’s shoulder. Ending his season, and ours, and most likely Egypt’s hopes at the world cup, with a judo move that [insert famous judo person] would have been proud of.

(edit: he apparently also concussed our hapless goalkeeper with a rather sly forearm smash which might have contributed to his child disowning performance. Germany, I’m sorry for doubting you.)

I don’t think he needed reminding, but I felt it was worth tweeting to him about it.

 

 

I may have had a few shots of Limoncello before writing this.

 

Special mention should go to the lady from the wedding party who showed up wasted at the bar in the final few minutes to tell me it’s just a game, and that having cancer is far worse.

 

 

THE WEDDING DAY

 

It was finally here.

The day of the wedding.

After months of deliberating as to whether it was a sensible thing to go half way round the world for a friend’s wedding, when the budget is on shoestring status, and having had my voicemail, in which I tested the waters for a possible no show not just rebuffed but apparently saved and replayed whenever the bride and groom felt like they needed a laugh (really can’t remember exactly what I said but I guess my despair wrapped in politeness didn’t elicit the response I was after), it was time to dust off my suit and get my face on (the I’m friendly and like social events one).

The groom, a particularly thoughtful fella, had booked a bus for those who had previously driven in Italy and thought, no thanks I’d rather eat my own foot than go through that hell again. Which was quite a few of us it seems.

His faith in the ability of my friends and I making the bus meant that we were given a departure time so premature the bus driver would probably still be at home enjoying his breakfast, and having his second argument of the day with his mother about when he’s finally going to move out.

We however knew that missing this bus was not really a suitable option, especially considering the millions of miles we had already travelled by this point and so we ignored our natural inclinations and showed up early. We expertly google mapped our way to the pick up spot, on the outskirts of Como, and began waiting patiently for the bus to arrive.

Other wedding attendees, who had spied our sharply dressed attire and decided we were one of them, slowly began to join us. Hands were shaken and instantly forgotten names exchanged.

After a good while of painfully sober introductory chatter, people slowly begun to utter some concerns about where this bus was, as we were now running a little behind.

When anxiety hit a level of defcon 2 and reached the point of “shit, are we even going to make this wedding?” some bright spark walked around the corner and discovered a bus, with a driver who was utterly bemused by a lack of people on board.

It wasn’t a time to point fingers and lay blame. We were going to make it. Maybe cutting it a little fine, but there wasn’t going to be a kick in the balls from the groom for ruining the biggest day of his life (he’s a Juventus fan and was too young to appreciate their victorious Champions League run in 1996).

However, it was legitimately the bus drivers first day on the job and he hadn’t come across a gear system like this before. At one point we stopped for full ten minutes while he tried to get it back into first gear. From then on he didn’t want to come to a halt again, so he became Sandra Bullock for the rest of the way there. Red lights were managed perfectly. And by perfectly, I mean completely ignored.

 

Actual footage of our journey.

 

Eventually we reached our destination.

Just not the right destination.

We were dropped off at a cemetery no less, and a good mile or so from the venue. The bus driver was refusing to go any further as he felt the road was too narrow.

Judging from my experiences so far, he must be the only person in this country who has been daunted by such a dilemma.

 

Some light pre-wedding imagery.

 

At this point the ceremony has been delayed 45 minutes as the bus held pretty well much the entire wedding party, sans the sensible few who had rented a car. Taxis it had to be. What fun.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a collection of family members and rental car drivers who were red in the face and hot under the collar. It was a gloriously sunny day and there had been no shade for these punctual lot to sit under for the past hour. We tried to stem the tide of hatred towards us with apologetic facial grimaces and overly elaborate silent sorries, and found our seats.

The ceremony could finally begin.

It must have been the sound guy’s first day on the job too. He was obviously trying his best, but we crackled and popped our way through the proceedings. The speeches were lovely though. A lot wasn’t in english but judging by the tears of people who had learnt more than just sodding one language, they went down very well.

It was also a quick ceremony. None of this let’s spend an hour singing hymns and listening to creepy vicars talk about love. It was delightful, poignant and….err…efficient.

 

 

 

Weddings are a time for reflection. A time to evaluate one’s life choices. Or lack thereof. And then channel all that disappointment into drinking yourselves stupid. Which is what most of us did.

I’m far too old to take any pride in how much I might have drunk last night so I’m not going to detail it. But it was a lot, and it varied tremendously. If there are any hangover Gods out there, please let yourselves be known and what animal/child I have to sacrifice in your honour. I shall do your bidding.

Things I remember..

  • Knocking over someone’s child by accidentally elbowing his head as I excitedly greeted a friend. He didn’t cry, to my astonishment, which I can’t thank the heavens enough for. Nothing declares you’re a shitty human more to a group of people than making a little child cry. Even if it’s a life lesson he needs to learn (stay away from the drunkards).
The beautiful bride and groom, and a child now terrified of adults.
  • Responding to someone telling me they were gay with an over-zealous fist pump and a cry to the heavens of how much I adore gay men. It sounded like a great thing to share in my head but it of course it came across as incredibly patronising. I did apologise later in the evening but couldn’t help myself and got back into it again.
  • An album from a band that played every night for a number of years at the show Sleep No More, where I worked for a very long time, was the brides choice for the music. Post Modern Jukebox. I love them to bits and greatly enjoyed my time there, but memories of making cocktails to non tipping tourists certainly added fuel to the drink to forget protocol.
  • Reaching an unsettling place of being too drunk to properly move my limbs but too paranoid not to dance. There’s a time and a place to be a miserable sod, and miss out on the collective fun by sitting on the sidelines, but a wedding is certainly not one.
  • Finding a bakery that was strangely open at 3am and eating a lot of pizza and chocolate croissants. I thought this would prevent a hangover. I was wrong.

I have tried hair of the dog (an aperol spritz that made things worse), throwing up, deep breaths, and some charcoal tablets my friend has given me (edit: sometimes it’s worth listening to people. I ignored his advice to only have one and took 5 of them. It’s legitimately been over half a week and I still haven’t felt any urge to do a number 2) and nothing has improved things. My train ride later should be interesting.

The only bright spark is that my suffering is mine and mine alone. Unlike my friend, who pushed it too far last night and vomited over himself and quite a lot of the bus on the drive back from the wedding. Schadenfreude flowed happily through my veins when this happened but he’s now feeling right as rain. Lucky guy.

My rule of thumb with booze is that if you go to bed with it, you’re married to it.

No parting ways now. This isn’t Vegas, and you ain’t Britney bitch. Sadly.

CHAPTER 3. “WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER. BY OURSELVES.”

 

 

COMO – MIL – FLORENCE

 

After 4 days of being social and being as ‘on it’ as I can physically and mentally muster on very little sleep, I’m back to listening to just the one judgmental voice. And this train has AC and leather seats. Kinky bliss.

Travelling on one’s own may appear to be lonely, isolating and rather tedious, but as miserable sod I embrace it with open arms. No worrying about others and their expectations. No concerns about if you’ve just offended their delicate sensitivities with another poorly timed joke. No paranoia that the look they just gave you had anything to do with what you did last summer. It’s all good.

Yes, experiences are best shared but now we can whip out the phone, press record and ram your pic of the sunset down the throats of all those people you don’t really know on facebook. Then you get the added bonus of an afternoon spent wondering why that pic only got 12 likes, when the irritatingly successful Johnathon Jones got over a hundred with his clearly inferior sunset pic, and concluding that it was certainly down to his motivational quote being a touch more motivational.

 

I should go for a run.

 

 

FLORENCE

 

“What on earth do you think you’re doing in Florence?”, I can hear you say.

“The wedding is over. You said you’re on a budget and I know for sure you’ve got a massive FOMO about auditions. Don’t you know there’s probably a hundred David Attenborough sound a like jobs being cast right now, and this time maybe you wont lose out to Jim “I’m already rich enough and shouldn’t be doing these” Carrey?”

Well yes, quite. But it turns out my parents are staying with friends not too far from Florence and there is a bed free in a few days, and they’ve made it very clear to me I’m a terrible son if I don’t spend some time with them. I’m also particularly fine with being in my 30’s and having relatives pay for all my meals.

So three days in Florence it is.

It’s lovely here. Though I’m not sure if there are any Italians left in the city. It’s chock a block with people like me. Miserable tourists. And we are all hating the fact that the rest of us are here.

 

I’ve just spent an hour trying to figure out how to fix the AC unit in my airbnb, that has gone tits up. It’s flashing green lights and according to people on line, these are the blinking lights of despair and broken dreams. Apparently if you give the unit too many commands at one time the motherboard can fry. What is Mitsubishi even doing building these things? Stick to your own back yard of cars and ecstasy pills.

I decide to abandon any attempt to make things worse, by opening the unit up, to go find some food. A creperie nearby has decent reviews? Oh heck yes.

With a pocket full of anti acid pills ready for action, I get to the place and the lady behind the counter asks me if I have a reservation.

A reservation? No I don’t. This is a creperie, and there’s only four people in here. I’ll just wait 60 seconds whilst you make it.

Nope. Fully booked. You need a reservation. Tomorrow is possible.

Damn you fellow tourists for sharing my uncouth tastebuds and penchant for well reviewed places that utilise nutella.

 

I satiate my disappointment with a chocolate hazelnut gelato. It’s pretty decent but after having a few morsels it inevitably drips onto my leg and my sparkling white shorts. The next few minutes are spent calming my mind down that 1) people know that if you shit yourself, it’s not going to show up on the front of the shorts and 2) the only one’s looking down at that area are pervs, and who cares what they think. It’s not an orgy.

The litany of mishaps continue when I get home as I manage to pull off the door handle to the front door of my apartment. It never looked all that stable, as the owner had hammered in some hooks to keep it in place, and it evidently his fixing skills are on par with mine. Thankfully the door hadn’t completely shut so I wasn’t locked in.

I put on my DIY cap once again and did another 5/10 job. It did mean I had to leave the door slightly ajar for the night, as I had a train to catch the following morning and the fear of not making that was a touch greater than the fear of someone walking in and take my suitcase of dirty clothes.

 

Upon reflection, this is a 7/10 job. I’m too tough on myself.

 

Before I leave Florence it would be very ungracious of me not to even mention the artwork. I didn’t have the desire to suffer any of the exceedingly long queues so no selfies with David’s genitals, but I did explore some of the parks with their glorious array of statues, and they were stunning.

My favourite was surely this fella, who I’m thinking is the God of kebabs getting caught a little worse for wear on a sea turtle taxi. I hope the turtle charged him the tourist rate as that looks as much fun as carrying a drunk Donald Trump lookalike on your back.

 

Clearly NSFW. My apologies.

 

FLORENCE – MONTEVARCHI

 

On the train to the little town of Montevarchi, I inform the airbnb host about the door with a message saying that I had a wonderful stay and I will give 5 stars for sure, in the hope that a nice review will quell any attempt to charge me for any damages. The AC unit I will claim ignorance to but the door I had to come clean about as it was barely hanging on.

I’m somewhat afraid of staying anywhere now, least of all a place that is owned by my friends of my parents. All these things I’ve broken lately, have all been when I’m stone cold sober so I can’t even chalk it up to drunken idiocy. It’s, as David Niven would have pointed out in his wonderfully charming way, “just rotten luck, old chum.”

 

This gives me an excuse to include a Pink Panther gif.

 

CHAPTER 4. “VILLA BENE BENE BENE/ GOOD THINGS DONT HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE.”

 

Here endeth the lesson.

I could mention the plethora of ants, mosquitos, spiders and hornets larger my fist.

The pungent smell of sulphur that emits when you turn on the tap/faucet.

I could mention the things that have been broken – key to front door, a couple of plates, the dishwasher and a milk frother (all amazingly during times I had an alibi).

But all this does is highlight the simple fact that I’m in Italian countryside, in a villa that draws water from its own well and that has a flipping milk frother.

I’m even making friends here. I’ve not lived in a place with a garden for a very long time so perhaps I’m behind on the times, but when did these things come into use?! Robotic lawn mowers that come and go on a schedule of their own desire, and when a little tired return home to charge up to face another day. I must have spent half my waking hours watching this thing. It’s quite something to behold.

 

 

I’m sorry, this was meant to be a tale of humblebragging pitfalls and light hearted disasters. This place just doesn’t fit with the narrative.

That said, I’m living in the city of prepubescent dreams these days, and it just isn’t legal to have an ending that isn’t bright, happy and redemptive. So maybe this is ok and I don’t need to start apologising profusely for leading you down a garden path that doesn’t end at a cliff edge.

It does offer me an opportunity to go on a slight different journey, for when the outside world is all fine and dandy, I enjoy it for a brief second and then I realise there is a whole other battle still to be fought inside the old noggin. So in I go.

Here in the villa, I’m the youngest by a good epoch. The mental age of my acquaintances has risen from 13 years of age to a good 83. And this is way of out my comfort zone. I find myself sitting up right at meals, pretending to use a napkin and hoping that someone mentions a film from the 50’s that I have watched, so I can at least appear to be somewhat informed of the important things in life.

As I’ve now lived in the United States of What on Earth is Going On for 14 years now, whenever I return to a British social setting I’m very much afforded an outsider perspective. It does feel like I’m His Royal Highness David Attenborough in the undergrowth peeking out and being mesmerised by this merry dance of strange and peculiar, but very amiable, mammals we call Brits. If anything they are hilarious to listen to.

 

During the day they are completely and utterly fixated by the swimming pool (oh yes, there is one here I’m ashamed to admit) and one’s interactions with it.

 

“Have you been for a swim yet? Oh, you absolutely have to pop in.”

“Well, I dipped my toe in for a bit.”

“How about you, Geoffrey?”

“I did a few laps earlier. Bloody marvellous.”

“Well done. It’s a little bit chilly but wonderfully refreshing.”

“Quite.”

 

When the sun goes down and the pool chat is unfortunately no longer an option, they move onto more serious matters. Wine, wars and Lidl. (Lidl for those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of an introduction is a german (I know) supermarket that holds deals so good one is compelled to utter its name at every social gathering henceforth, regardless of occasion and whether there’s someone within earshot or not.)

There’s also a tremendous amount of nostalgia being shared around, and I don’t blame them at all for it. Their lives back then sounds truly lovely.

“I bought a 2 bedroom flat just off Sloane Square in 1971 for three months wages, half a bag of peanuts and a mars bar (they were much bigger back then).

Can’t tell you what it’s worth now (I can hazard a guess. Lots.)”

Of course, nostalgia is rosy cheeked and unashamedly forgiving of strife. When we dive back, we dare not shatter its warm illusions with any mention of unsavoury matters, most notably the racial and gender divides (I’ll have to give economic divides a pass, as we’re unforgivably in worse shape now). The eye of Sauron the Sentimental does not light up those areas. So a lot gets skipped over during middle-class story time, when we’re encouraged to sit back and envy their journeys through life.

Perhaps the youth of tomorrow will be the same and resent the fact they weren’t lucky enough to be born in the 80’s and 90’s when everything was cheap, life was more simple and the lawn mower robots hadn’t taken over, but I’d be very surprised if it’s as fervent as the ire we direct to the baby boomers. Those lucky sods.

They witnessed the greatest and speediest advancements in human history, and from their rememberings had a bloody amazing time during it. The music, cultural and sexual revolution of 60’s and 70’s is surely going to be the time travellers first pick for thrill inducement. Well, certainly at least for the white males amongst them.

Now the world is getting a bit shit, they’re like, alright time to bugger off. Good luck and good night.

(That said if there isn’t a Lidl in the afterlife, they’ll be back.)

Ok, that’s enough of any heaviness. This story is meant to be a fun romp and not an awkward one stand that ends with both parties faking orgasms.

 

 

I feel like it’s time to wind this down anyway. Surely everyone has given up reading by this point so it’s just me talking to myself and well, that should be reserved for my later years. It’s been a lot of fun this trip and i’m glad I was encouraged to document it a little.

The next part of my journey, for those who are passionate about the dollars spent, will appreciate the cheapness of the home legs.

PISA – LONDON – Ryan air (heaven help me) – $62.

LONDON – NYC – Primera Air – $200.

Which is astonishingly cheap. The taxes cost more than that, so I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. I never bothered reading the fine print, so perhaps I”m helping out with the washing up. That is if anyone has been stupid enough to buy the meal option. (edit: this company has now gone under. Coincidentally 2 days after I bought another flight with them. RIP Primera “how are they making money” Air).

CHAPTER 5. “WAIT, THERE’S MORE? DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY THAT WAS IT? OH GOODNESS, PLEASE NO!”

 

I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing else to do with my time right now and telling people I’m writing gets me out of doing things.

 

See you do get to see another Princess Bride gif, so there is that.

 

When I got to England the train I was meant to catch was cancelled, along with all the others, due to some signal failing at its job to actually signal. Thankfully my friend has a profession that pays him in money, and he requested an uber which was gloriously generous enough but it also showed me something truly remarkable.

His uber rating.

It was 3.9.

Which for those unaccustomed to uber and it’s customer rating system might think is a pretty decent score (it’s out of 5).

It isn’t.

Hitler’s would have been higher.

Drivers generally wont go near anyone with a rating lower than 4.5 (which I admit I fell briefly below, before I moved to LA and stopped drinking so much tequila), so it explained why we had been waiting for over half an hour for someone to pick us up.

When an uber finally did arrive, our driver admitted he hadn’t checked and would have cancelled if he had seen his rating. He did offer my now particularly sullen pal a crumb of comfort, by saying he had come across one person a year ago who had a worse rating, but he couldn’t confirm if they had a history of genocidal tendencies.

Have to say, I’m a big fan of this whole let’s turn the tables and rate the customer thing. Yes, it’s a little black mirror-ish and yes, it might have made me far too self-aware of my actions in the backseat of an uber (“Goddamnit it Will, you’re laughing too hard at his jokes. Don’t mess this up. It’s been a hard, long road to get back above 4.6 again. Just relax. And stop talking about fucking Lidl”) but people being shits to service industry folk deserve some comeuppance.

And by comeuppance, I mean just a healthy amount of psychological torment from the knowledge that even though people are being paid money to talk to you, they’re still finding it intolerable.

 

 

Perhaps the woman who took a crap on the floor at a fast-food restaurant in Canada recently, and started hurling it at the poor guy working behind the counter, would have thought twice about that if she knew she was going to ruin her excellent customer rating (which perks include use of the restaurants finest toilet paper)?

Who knows, but it’s something worth considering.

Speaking of shit news…

On the morning of my flight back to NYC, I was trying to record an audition for a job that would have catapulted me to the glorious heights of E list stardom, but the duvet I was hiding under wasn’t doing much to hold back the ‘are you really fucking serious, you’re doing construction now?’ noises from the apartment above, so I decided the best course of action was to wait for it to pass (it didn’t) and check my phone.

After scrolling past a bunch of apologetic texts from a friend that earned a careful response (“No need to apologise. Cocaine turns everyone into a twat.”) I saw the news that one of the few people in the public eye that I looked up to and felt in absolute awe of had taken his life.

Anthony Bourdain was a titan of humanity, intelligence and wonder. He was a breath of fresh air in this superficially saturated world, and his travel through life was immensely fun to be a spectator of. His raw delivery and sensitivity were incredibly inspiring; he was someone that didn’t seem to give a damn and just said what he felt. A characteristic I greatly admire from non shitty human beings.

Another one whose footprints in the sand will be achingly hard to see washed away.

 

 

It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” – Anthony Bourdain.

 

Ok, over and out.

 

Until the next time, friends.

 

ROLL CREDITS….

 

 

 

 

(Marvel style we’re not done with you yet…)

THINGS I’VE LEARNED ON THIS TRIP

I have a love hate relationship with fellow tourists. I hate it when I’m around them, and I love it when I’m not.

If the only phrase you know in Italian is “bello bambino” (translation: “beautiful child”. I learnt it when I visited Italy as a kid. I peaked at 7 years old), best not share that fact with the locals unless you want some very odd looks.

Whatever seat I’m assigned to on a plane, there will be a crying baby within a couple of feet. I get it universe, you don’t want me to have children. Let’s move on.

Lidl in Italy has the best deals around.

 

“Did you enjoy the flight?”

CHAPTER 6. “OKAY, I GUESS THE FINAL LEG WAS A LITTLE STRANGE TOO.”

 

 

NYC – LA

 

I’ve learned that hidden city flying makes you feel a pretty decent array of emotions. Mostly not fun ones.

You’re turning the airport experience, which is already bad enough as it is, and dialing it up a couple of notches.

Notches your uninsured heart and arse would prefer not to go.

If they force you to check your carry on bag, then you’re in all sorts of trouble. You certainly can pull a hissy fit and demand it back, but if you’re British then your DNA most likely does not offer this option so you just have to silently accept your fate.

If they don’t, then you’re golden. You’ve just saved yourself a bunch of cash and gained a modicum of triumph for beating the system. That is unless you have some weird emotional makeup that welcomes this activity with lashings of guilt.

Guilt which drives you to message the airline declaring that you have suddenly fallen ill, and that making the second leg isn’t a good idea until a doctor in LA gives you the go ahead. And then updating them saying you’re still in the waiting room but hoping to make an evening flight.

And then calling them because they haven’t returned your messages and being put on hold for thirty minutes, until you finally stop and think that maybe, just maybe, they don’t care.

Unlike the British politician, sitting pretty in the upper-class section on my flight, who cared so much about me and my relationship with Europe that he valiantly fought for Brexit. What a hero.

Having almost walked into it, I can verify that Michael Gove’s face doesn’t just look like one, it actually is a smacked arse.

Experts are the worst.

 

I bet he didn’t bother to let the airline know that he was skipping the second leg.

 

 

LA

 

I’m back to where I started.

Back to the dreams.

Back to being around the beautiful people and sticking out like a pasty white thumb.

Back to strange places.

Back to…oh wait, there is something new.

I’m renting a room in a new neighbourhood.

And this time the host is much more present. And likes to share her thoughts.

And who feels it’s important to direct my delightfully polite introductory conversation, over a jet lagged 7 a.m. breakfast, towards immigration control.

And feels I should be warned that the Mexicans doing construction nearby might well be tempted to rob me.

And who doesn’t want the kitchen sink to be wet after I’ve washed and dried up my cereal bowl. Because Frank Sinatra’s mother told her off for it once and it stuck.

Ah, balls.

 

So much the journey ending here.

This story though I’ll put a fork in.

It’s worth noting that, rather fittingly, her house is situated right by a cliff edge.

–  (This is in reference to my earlier mention of stories that end dramatically, not me suggesting I’m thinking about pushing her off it. Not at all. What kind of person do you think I am?

She’s over 80, and certainly wouldn’t join me in a walk to there anyway.

Well, unless I rip up bits of racist paraphernalia and use them as a breadcrumb trail I suppose.

But that’s awful. I’m not the type to even entertain such a thing.

Plus it’s far too windy over there. She’d be scuttling about all over the place trying to pick them up. And I’d just get fined and become known as a fascist litterer.)

 

I guess it’s a good thing everyone stopped reading on page one.