Here with the kids

Well, I have been in the UK a week with the boys now, and I am having a great time.   The amazing British weather has lived up to its world wide reputation and been absolute garbage one day and perfect the next…with a smattering of crap interspersed…you know…just to keep you on your toes.

I am driving the worlds smallest car that my brother was good enough to loan me and it has taken us to Swimming Lessons, Football matches and Sundown Adventure Land.   Sundown is a great place, a theme park for the under 10’s, which means you aren’t worrying about bigger kids upsetting or hurting your little ‘uns.   That said, I think it is some form of Chav Mecca…everywhere you turn, you are confronted with shellsuit wearing, 1 year old kid with earing having, obese parents that swear enough to offend a fleet of sailors (and trust me, I swear…a lot, so I know of what I speak).   All of them bowing down to the god of Burberry, ice cream and sweat.   It seriously makes me miss Frankfurt when I am surrounded by this.   Anyway, I wasn’t there to pray with the Chavs..I was there to have fun with my boys.

We took in attractions from Santas Sleigh Ride (in August….seriously) to The Robin Hood Ride and even ended up in Storybook village, where they have created little houses to represent some of the more popular kids bedtime stories…Jack and The Beanstalk was there, Goldilocks and the 3 bears and of course Rumpelstiltskin ( :-P CW)

The kids ate themselves silly with sweets, burgers, ice cream and drinks…made sure their Dad got soaked on the barrel ride and generally tore the place up.   They got to hug the Sundown Bears and went on everything that they wanted to…we even bought Grandad some clotted cream fudge…which was nice.   In an unusual manner, the weather held off until precisely the time that the boys were done and wanted to go home…meaning that we got absolutely drenched during the run to the car.

There was a birthday party for my nephew Josh the other day and, in true LaughingWolf Family tradition, we had a rain soaked barbecue…it was superb…all of the family were there and it was a great night to reconnect with my brothers and chat to everyone.   I don’t really do enough of that, so I should really make more of an effort in this department.

I took Zak to his swimming lesson and was incredibly proud of the boy-fish that was before me…he is even able to do the correct breathing methods and everything…if I am ever in need of a brick to be saved, from the bottom of the pool…I will definitely be asking Zak to stick his PJs on t0 go and fetch it.   On top of that, on Thursday I had the pleasure of watching Zak play football in his team for the first time.   He was fantastic, his team won 5-1 and he scored.   He also survived a tackle that would have gotten most professional footballers red-carded and probably banned.   I was cheering him on like a good ‘un and filming him of course.   I can’t wait to take him next week before I head back to Frankfurt.

Brandon was joining in with a training session for his age group too and he looks to be a proper, tough tackling midfielder in the making…I am really looking forward to seeing his first game in the future too.

Today the weather was, somewhat unsurprisingly, shite…so we decided to bankrupt me further at an indoor play area.   At least I was able to have a sit down and a coffee while the kids knackered themselves out. Saying that, it took me 2 hours to get 17 miles….17 MILES!!   You would think that a large indoor kids play area would be signposted right?   I mean, especially one that is hidden away in the back streets of Lincoln.   Nope, not a sign in sight.   To make matters worse, the road that the directions insisted I followed….no road sign that I could see.   I went past it and instantly realised that it would be the road I needed…especially as I then had to drive around 2 miles at 5 miles an hour just to be able to turn around…and then back (past the road I needed…roadworks you see) 3 miles at 5 miles an hour, just to turn around again and have another go.   Still, the kids loved it and spent most of their time on what can only be described as a vertical drop slide.

So now I am turning into the rain gambler, trying to duck and dive to avoid those pesky droplets of impending bankruptcy and find things that we can do that won’t require me to actually sell one of the kids.

Anyone going to Stansted next week?   Giz a lift!   I’ll be the broken man with a small carry on suitcase, a thumb out and a head full of hopes.   Don’t ask me for fuel money though, Play Zone will have taken the last of mine for a sachet of tomato sauce…bastards.

The Italian Job

Kraftwerk / Autobahn
Photo by 96dpi
Now I am not talking about Mini Coopers, gold heists and blowing the bladdy doors off.   I am talking about a short, 2100KM, drive from Frankfurt to Alassio and back.

Ah yes..a journey starting with amazing autobahns and ending in the land of Ferarri and Lamborghini.   The problem, though, was that a good portion of the journey was through the land of cuckoo clocks and toblerone…

Let me begin, as they say, at the beginning.   As I have written about before, it is not unknown to me to be the driver of a series of white vans from old abode to new abode for various people.   In this, at least, I find some consistency…at some point every few months, someone will pop up and ask me to help them move.   Like some kind of drug addict, I swear that each time will be the last…in reality I am just giving up until the next time.   Anyway, I digress.   Some time ago, GB asked if I would be willing to help him move from Frankfurt to Alassio in Italy..doing this would give me a couple of days chillaxing in Italy.

I was asked to drive a 7.5 tonner (4M tall…we will get to this later) and was happy to do so as, let’s face it, 90% of the journey would be motorway…and that’s pretty easy to do.   The plan was simple, we would get started at 06:30 on the Monday away by 11:00, head through the Gottard   Tunnel in Switzerland, and be in Alassio by 22:00.   Nuff said.

As has often been recited “The best laid plans of mice and men ‘aft gan aglen”.   CW and I were intent on going to bed early on the Sunday night, to allow me the slumber that the journey would undoubtedly require.   Washing was washed, tumbles were dried and everything was on track for a 21:00 sack hitting…until I realised that we needed towels…and the towels (of course) needed washing.   Cue getting to bed for 02:00 after waiting for the washing machine and tumble dryer to complete one cycle.   The plan to get up at 05:00 to get ready…well…failed.   We managed to get out of bed at 06:20, just before GB arrived to collect us.

A rapid wash and dress later and we were on our way to collect the van.   The rest of the morning went pretty much to plan, and we got on the road at around 11:15.   So far, so ordinary.   Not long before we set off, GB informs me that there has been a small plan change.   A train from Goppenstein (I shit ye not) in Switzerland has been discovered that will save us around 300KM, and therefore GB a load of cash on the rental.   Fine with me, says I and we begin to wend our merry way to Italy.

GB and ‘er indoors start the wonderful process of cleaning the old apartment, with the intention of catching us up later.   They do indeed catch us up and our mini-convoy heads to the Germany/Switzerland border.   ‘er indoors (who speaks German and understands Swiss) goes to the various offices to get the paperwork sorted, GB gets shouted at by the Swiss border patrol woman for parking in the wrong place and I try and play chicken with trucks considerably larger than mine by going the wrong way along a one way system.   Eventually we get parked, and ‘er indoors is still running between the German and Swiss authorities.   Each time being told that she needs a slightly different form.   Over 2 hours later, we believe that everything is in order and drive to the gate that gives us our entry to Switzerland.   At this point, the gate monkey (possibly gate Silverback Gorilla) tells us that we, in fact, don’t have the correct paperwork..and that we better hurry as the offices close in 5 minutes.   After a minor meltdown that followed the suggestion of “Why don’t you go through France”, a kindly soul (on his way home) tells her to just let us through as, and I quote, “The Italians will turn them back, so they will be back”.


Still, we head into Switzerland and head for the train…the motorways start getting narrower by the minute and eventually we arrive at the serpentine mountain roads of Switzerland.   I am immediately struck by the beauty of nightmare that is; getting a 7.5 tonne truck up the side of a mountain around bends that would cause slalom skiers to head off the to lodge for a shot of something strong and numbing.   Still, CW was getting an amazing view of the scenery as I wrestle the truck up and around the (seemingly) never ending twists and turns.   She was ooing and aahing all over the place, exclaiming “Isn’t it amazing…Dave, have a look at that view”….my response was “Yup, the tarmac is bloody lovely….trying not to kill us all dear”..Had I chosen to look at this wonderful view, I am pretty sure that it would have ended up with a rapid descent and a rather close up and personal “view” of the mountains.

Eventually though, I see a sign that tells us we are around 5KM from the train.   Unfortunately, a few hundred meters beyond said sign, another sign appears…this one says “Low Bridge – Max 3.7M”..those of you paying attention will remember that the truck is 4M tall….letting the tires down is not going to help…I rapidly take another road and pull over.   GB and ‘er indoors head off to see if there is another route to the train and I am able to take in the beauty of the area for a short while.

Around 15 minutes later, GB arrives back carrying a sheet of paper from the train…that says the maximum height is 3.5M…so taking the bloody wheels off wouldn’t help us at this point.   Left with no other choice, we go back down the frickin’ serpentine roads and head off on the very long journey back to the route that we originally said we would follow.   Imagine our collective joy, as we pull into the Swiss/Italian border at 03:00…to discover that we need to go through customs….which doesn’t open until 05:00.   No cafes, no comfort…no real chance of sleep, but we try.   CW basically gives up sleep to make sure I get some sleep…a very sweet gesture and in no way suggestive that I may actually kill us all if I don’t rest..honest :-P

We get through Swiss customs relatively easily and are then met by Italian customs.   Now, ‘er indoors is actually Italian, so we theorise that she will definitely be able to get us through.   The Italian customs guys look suitably imposing and authoritarian..’er indoors is explaining the nightmare we had at Swiss customs and for a little while it looks like we might get turned back.   They look in the back of the truck and proceed to inform us that the problem is that they can’t see inside the boxes….who knew that everything was transported in clear PVC boxes these days…not us, that’s for sure (/sarcasm).   Their point made about how unorthodox this is, and how we should have done it differently etc etc…they let us through.   GB and I do a Smokey and the Bandit and “Put the pedal to the metal” to get the hell outta there, before someone changed their mind.

This brings us to Italy and, to be honest, we were all feeling rather good.   We stopped at the motorway services that the 60’s forgot and carried on.   The mountain tunnels in Italy were mucho fun though…3 lanes where no other country would put more than 2…narrow tunnels that the truck could barely get under and lunatic truck drivers vying for “King of the Tunnel” bragging rights.   We came out of them just about unscathed, except for Luca requiring a change of underwear when a weaving (and possibly drunk) Italian truck moved just enough into my lane to cause the wing mirror to hit the side of our truck like a frickin’ bomb going off.

We arrived in Alassio at 11:15..a mere 24 hours after we set off and a mere 29 hours awake.   Fortunately, GB had arranged for people to unload the van and get everything in the apartment…so CW and I went to the cabin on the mountainside and promptly collapsed until around 19:00.

We spent an evening and a day in Alassio.   What a place, absolutely idyllic…in the evening we went for a meal and then wandered around the town.   As we were heading for the cabin, the strains of music could be heard around the corner and we went to check it out.   What we discovered was an Italian choir singing When The Saints Go Marching In…although what they were actually singing was “Oh whhen tha sayns go marching eeeen”..which was nice.

The journey home was fairly uneventful, but I have to say that the German motorways are by far the best in Europe…I have never been so happy to cross a border in my whole life.

So there you have it, my latest White Van Man experience.   I will definitely be visiting GB and ‘er indoors in Alassio again, but I won’t be driving a 7.5 tonner to do it…Easyjet anyone?

The Birthday Post That Never Was

Photo by Mr Jaded
Now, I haven’t written anything in quite some time (as has been repeatedly pointed out to me) and a lot of you may be forgiven for thinking that it is sheer laziness on my part.   Under normal circumstances, you would be right…and frankly, up until quite recently, I believed this myself.

Then I discovered old age, something that I had recently been blissfully unaware of.   Now, I am not trying to say that 36 is enough to qualify for a bus pass and the right to shout at kids that aren’t yours, along with a tendency to tell stories that noone wants to hear or, even worse, have already heard before….ah shit!

You would think that I would be used to it by now, time marches steadily on and in some ways I was given advanced warning, a “preview” if you will of what it will be like for me.   I started going bald many years ago, so long ago that I forget.   Which reminds me, I have had a pretty crappy memory my whole life.   Additionally, due to repetitively eating ill advised things (such as fists), I have a number of missing teeth.

Oh, and before you ladies get all excited by my description of myself…I am already taken….sorry.

With this in mind, you would think that I would be positively welcoming old age, so I would at least have an excuse for some (if not all) of these failings.   If you do, in fact, think that…you would be wrong….very very wrong.

My 36th birthday passed with a little whimper..which was exactly how I wanted it…although it was also the leaving party for the inimitable MK and KH, and my name was put on the board at the Anglo…which was nice and got me many free drinks :D

I don’t feel 36…not that I know how 36 should feel…I still love messing around on my computer and playing the odd game…I love a few beers and a laugh and can’t resist watching Spongebob with the kids (part of me always sulks when they want to turn it over).   Is that 36?   Probably not.   I have a bad ankle, a bad back (occasionally), very little hair and too much belly…does that sound 36?   More like 50…as a certain CW keeps telling me.   Oh, and I seem to have early onset senility…now now, don’t get jealous.   If you eat all your greens and work hard at school…you can grow up just like me.

I have to say though, CW made me a fantastic birthday cake and then decided that it would be amazingly funny to actually put 36 candles on there…I genuinely thought that the bloody kitchen was on fire.   The cats thought it was bonfire night and legged it under the bed to wait out the inevitable explosion of fireworks.   Then we legged it to the bar to see in my birthday properly with SCK and a beer.   I got my flight to see Zak and Brandon paid for and a digital photo frame, which means you can actually walk around my flat without falling into photo frames now.   On top of that, the amazing friends I have chipped in with cash to allow me to spend it all on on the boys.   I even got a new router…pretty impressive birthday now that I come to think of it.

On a side note, and this could well be construed as me getting old…I feel I need to mention Facebook again.   In the past I have been guilty of using it too much and putting all sorts of asinine garbage on my status etc…but does the world really need to know that your boyfriend is amazing in bed?   I mean, are you pimping him out and want to up the possible price.   What happened to “So?   How is he?” being responded to with a knowing grin and a twinkle in your eye?   Do I need to be told that he can’t move because you tired him out?   No…I frickin’ don’t.   I am pleased for you, although you are forgetting the serious damage that you are doing to the battery industry…and now your neighbours can’t sleep because you have moved from that repetitive, sleep inducing, buzzing to screams of “Yes, yes yes”…answer the frickin’ question properly.

Oh, and stop telling unfunny jokes.

Hmm 36 and already sounding like Victor Meldrew…

I don’t belIEVE it!