Friday, April 28, 2006

The Beautiful South

We sat stalled in the middle of the road, the darkening evening sky speckled with candlelight, the muted sounds of chanting forcing their way through the insistent whirr of the coach’s oppressive air conditioning. The coach was surrounded by impatient locals revving their engines, their little motorini fut-fut-futting away in anticipation.

After just over half an hour, the road was opened again and we were let through to continue our journey to the hotel. We weren’t stuck for too long, then. But half an hour seems like a helluva long time when you have a hungry, tired little girl in desperate need of a nappy change squirming in your lap. A quick meal, an early night, and the following morning we were all ready to start our holiday in earnest.

We spent the weekend just recharging: feasting, imbibing, and sleeping, enjoying the weather and each others company. After all, this was the most time I had spent with Buttercup since she was born, and I was making the most of it. By Easter Monday, all three of us were ready for exploration and adventure.

Going on holiday with a small child restricts your options somewhat, especially somewhere like Southern Italy, full of narrow roads, overzealous drivers, and variable terrain which makes moving around feel like a crazed run across a neverending assault course. As a result, we had to forgo the opportunity to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum, which was a shame, although we did decide to brave a day-trip across to the Amalfi Coast. We failed to take into account two things, though: the fact that on Easter Monday, the whole of Italy decides to go out for lunch, causing the roads to fill up very quickly with slow-moving traffic.

And the fact that we would be sitting in a large coach trying to navigate incredibly tight cliff-face roads with a huge number of hairpin bends. About 1,200 sheer-drop bends…

To be continued…

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Punch Playlist 27/04/06

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La Dolce Vita

I’ve been piecing together ruminations and reflections of my time in Italy, but this is going to sound like a dry recitation of events if I just sit here typing “and then, and then, and then…” So I’ll just hurl out a series of impressions of my time away, and slowly, slowly, the picture should come into focus.

I reckon that it takes a good three days to settle into a holiday, to finally shake off the kinks and tics of normal, regimented, day-to-day life, and I can remember the exact moment in Sorrento when that happened. I had just drained off the last swallow from my still icy bottle of Peroni, looked up, and framed against the crisp blue sky, there was Mount Vesuvius, resting peacefully itself, enjoying a well-deserved break from those pesky eruptions, just sitting there bathing in the calm, azure waters of the Mediterranean.

That was when I knew that I was on holiday.

I certainly didn’t feel like I was on holiday on the coach ride from Naples airport over to Sorrento. And it wasn’t just because Italian drivers are crazy, dangerous motherfuckers behind the wheel. My restive mood was partially down to the jarring sight of a piece of clumsy graffiti spray-painted onto a coastal wall. The words read: “WEMBLEY PUB”.

I was in a different damn time zone, and there were those words right up in my face, like my own personal Bad Wolf following me around.

Nevertheless, it was still a Good Friday. Which meant that we were racing against the sun to get to the hotel. You see, the Italians take their Easter seriously. And the moment of sunset on Good Friday is the moment that a swarm of black-hooded penitents choose to chant and walk through the streets in celebration. Which means all the roads close temporarily. For how long? For as long as it takes. Which would mean our coach wouldn’t be going anywhere.

Guess what? We couldn’t beat the sun…

To be continued…

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Punch Playlist 26/04/06

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Save The Internet

If you care even the slightest about anything you do online and the future of the Internet, and especially if you are based in the US, I strongly urge you to click on the link below:


Big Brother is watching you. The fucker.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Punch Playlist 24/04/06

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Many Happy Returns

“Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin’ my peers and puttin’ suckas in fear
Makin’ the tears rain down like a monsoon
Listen to the bass go boom”
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out

I have returned from the balmy embrace of Southern Italy, and I feel relaxed, rejuvenated, refreshed, rebooted and ready for battle.

My Impressions of Italy will follow later in the week, once I have made some time to decipher the scribblings in my notebook, and smashed enough words together to turn them into coherent sentences.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bonnie e Clyde all'italiana

It’s cold and it’s raining. Again.

There is absolutely nowhere near where I work to disappear for some kind of respite at lunchtime. Sometimes, I go to the local pub for a Red Bull. Usually, give me a drink and a book and I’m happy anywhere. Not here. I keep getting hassled by Chinamen carrying bulging black rubbish bags full of bootleg DVDs. And the pubs around here are two-tone shitholes, decked out in scuffed red and stained white, topped off with smeared mirrors partially obscured by football decals. The only thing that punctures the fug of smoke are the bronchial coughs riven with phlegm and blood that emanate from the toothless mouths propping up the bar.

Last Tuesday, outside where I work, a 53-year-old married father-of-two was hit by a 38-tonne articulated lorry. He was pronounced dead at the Royal London Hospital two hours later.

The other day, I saw two teenage boys shouting at the poor bastard behind the counter at the fried chicken place. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but every other word seemed to be “fuck”. The beleaguered till-jockey picked up a large metal pole and tried to scare them off. His arms were shaking. They weren’t convinced, but they slowly ambled away, throwing “fuck”s into the air behind them.

I’ve hardly seen my wife or daughter for weeks now. Get up early. Get home late. Just sleep and work and sleep and work and…

For a variety of not-particularly-interesting reasons, my social-life is virtually non-existent at the moment. The odd movie, an occasional beer, slivers of conversation, but it’s not enough.

I haven’t written anything worth a shit for too, too long.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying: I’m Burnt Out. The lack of frequent updates on this blog in the last couple of months bear testament to an absence of inspiration. I’m empty. The needle is in the red. I’m running on fumes.

At some point in the next 48 hours, I’m dropping offline for a week. Packing the family up, jumping on a plane, and heading for the welcoming climes of Sorrento. And I really, really need it. A chance to get recharged and reinvigorated.

No e-mail. No news feeds. No text messages. No phone calls. No intrusions. I’ll get a chance to recalibrate the level of Signal to Noise in my life.

Just food and fresh air, sleep and wine and, hopefully, laughter and play. I’ll stick a notebook in my bag and see if I can get the blood pumping again. Get the words swirling and the ideas dancing.

Which means I’ll be away for the Second Anniversary of the blog, but I’m sure you can blow out the candles in my absence. And make sure you save me a slice of cake.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Once I Caught A Fish Alive


Mrs. AKA: One…

Buttercup: Two, Free, Four, Five, Shix, Sheven, Eight, Nine, Eight, Ten

Pretty amazing stuff, eh? That’s my 19-month old daughter counting to ten for the first time. OK, so she said “eight” twice for some reason, but, come on, she’s only little…

I’m filled with a combination of glowing pride at my smart-as-a-whip little girl, who has been horribly sick all week, voiding herself messily from every orifice, yet still sharp enough to come out with this, and regret that I wasn’t there to see it myself. Working for a living sucks ass. Money may be important, but I keep on missing these milestones. And they're priceless.