SWAN VALLEY GOURMET … WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?

The Facebook promo looked very inviting – a lush bucolic Swan Valley setting along with the offer of a Friday night special – $15.00 Fish and Chips and a $5.00 glass of beer. The Swan Valley Gourmet seemed worth a visit. We booked online, requesting an outside table and the affirmative booking response was very prompt. All good, we were looking forward to it – we rather enjoy finding little gems of cafés to visit.

So early Friday evening, we drove out to the café. The entrance is via a gravel road and it was obvious there was on-going construction work, with a relatively new home on the left, the road turns right, going past a typical farm dam, with, as you’d expect, a low water level at this time of the year. I did for a second, wonder if that was the rather lovely dam scene in the promo shot, but decided it wasn’t. 100 metres along the track and we arrived at a large three story shed, the area facing us was shambolic, so we figured the entrance was around the other side. It wasn’t, that turned out to be the parking area, which looked for all the world like any lay-down area at a farm or mine site. It was a tired and dispirited view, even a grey BMW car stood forlorn next to the shed, its grill filled with old cobwebs. But hey, parking is parking, it could only get better.

We walked around to the front, where there was a nice green lawn leading down to the dam. As we walked along the veranda, there were a couple of tables with chairs adjacent to the entrance door, both with Reserved tags on them, it did look as the tables had just been dumped there, with no attempt at decoration or neatness, but hey, we loved the wonderful, chaotic Café Mueller (now sadly closed), so quirkiness is no barrier for us, we rather like it.

We entered through the fly screen door, to be confronted by an interior that looked like  the early stages of a theatre café stage set, or a second hand furniture store. At the counter in front of us, the lady asked our name, confirmed our booking and said, “You’re on Table 53.” We had no idea of their numbering system, so we confirmed that we’d booked to sit outside. “No. Can’t do that, neighbours.”

“Oh, we did specify.”

“No, sorry, nobody’s sitting outside, you’re on Table 53. Where’s Table 53?” she called out. Another staff member replied that it had been moved and was on the other side of pillar to our left. She ushered us to the table, gave us the menus and explained there was free iced water on a table.

By now we were both wishing we’d gone somewhere else, but they did seem like nice people, we reasoned they were probably just starting up and that no doubt the food would make up for the chaos and dishevelled shed. We looked at the menu and couldn’t quite work out what to get, so we waited for the waitress to return. She didn’t, but it gave us plenty of time to look around. It really was a shambles, with utterly no attempt at décor or fittings, even a few small flowers in vases on the tables would have given the place a lift. There were other people there, looking as taken aback as we were, a young couple with two little kids arrived and they’d obviously been expecting an outside table.

After five minutes or so, one of  the staff members and I must stress, they were all lovely people, although stress is probably the operative word, came over, telling us we had to order at the counter. OK. After a very pleasant discussions with the guy at the till, we decided on a Seafood Basket at $20.00, extra chips for $5.00, a Side Salad for $5.00 and with much encouragement – “Our bread is the best, freshly baked, you have to have some!” We also ordered Bread and Butter at $2.00. The inquiry re Tartare Sauce saw another .50c added to the bill, a glass of Uber Beer was $5.00 and a glass of local white Sav Blanc, $10.00, all up the bill was $47.50. While we were ordering, there was utter confusion amongst all the staff, seemingly around everything, as they all politely questioned each other, alternating between frowns and distracted smiles in our direction. I became convinced it was their first night. Anyhow, we sat down and waited.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute the meal took a long time to deliver, it didn’t, all good there, however while we were waiting, we popped out to the loos. We figured it wasn’t around the car park side, so went to the other side of the shed, sure enough, in what looked like an abandoned cottage, with stuff piled up on the veranda against the building sides, were the Ladies and Gents. Rustic and clean is the best description. My only other comment would be about the placement of the men’s urinal – there was a boy’s urinal as well, but whoever placed the men’s on the wall, was obviously a seven foot basketballer! It really is true – size doesn’t matter, but bloody hell, height does!

Back to our table and dinner is served.

We looked at it, then looked at each other. It looked for all the world, like pre-packaged seafood from a supermarket. There was only one piece of fish in the Seafood Basket and the chip servings were small, not only that, this was not the first dip in hot oil for the chips, most of them were dry and a number were shrivelling, but this was saved and made edible by the appreciated supply of a homemade relish / sauce (at no charge). The small bowl of salad wasn’t just tired, it was exhausted – limp, sinking in resignation upon itself and the over-supply of balsamic vinegar. The bread? The two slices had actually been buttered! And I’m really sorry to say, whoever is doing the baking has got the basics nailed, but there is a long way to go before a premium sourdough appears. The whole food scenario reminded me of roadhouses at the end of the day in small towns back in the 1970s.

We looked at each other and wondered whether to just leave it and go, but decided we’d paid almost $50.00, so we’d eat. Now the food wasn’t awful, it was quite edible, but the portions were small, there was no presentation, the food was tired and very ordinary. It was strangely depressing, we felt we’d wandered into somebody’s barn, where they were knocking up a quick meal for the workers at the end of a hard day.

We left, with the usual polite salutations and drove off stunned. We often dine at our local, the Rose and Crown, for the same money, we get far fresher food, far bigger portions and a large selection of drinks in a fabulous outdoor setting, or we can amble along to Alfred’s Kitchen, (it’s all about the crowd there, not the surroundings), for a great deal and great fresh food. None of what we’d experienced made any sense, except on the basis that it must have been a first night.

In summary. The staff are lovely people, very stressed, but polite and smiling, however it’s blindingly obvious nobody has extensive experience running a café or restaurant – at least I hope they don’t! It would be absurdly simple to tidy up the parking area – put up a fence to block the shambles, put up half a dozen large pots with trees or flowers and if they want to continue a rustic home style theme, put up some quaint, funny sayings along the path.

The front door / veranda presentation is a joke, you really can’t advertise the place in the way they do and then present guests with what they walk through. The same applies to the interior, c’mon, either you’re having a lend of people, or you really don’t know what to do.

And that most important of ingredients for a café – food – if you’re offering supermarket grade food, you can’t charge the prices you are and you simply can’t call yourself a gourmet establishment! What were you thinking? You’ve opened way too early, I’d hate to see your endeavour fail, but it will if you don’t get some expert help.

Greg Ross

Play Up, Play Up and Play the Game … of Cricket Reflecting Our Society

OK news media, enough of the shock and horror about the cricket cheats. It turns out these fine young men took ball tampering to new heights – sandpaper for fucks sake and now we’re getting reports the same blokes had been under suspicion for the last couple of years! The word serial springs to mind.

However it’s over, I’m not sure what good was supposed to come out of the airport interviews yesterday, although a cynic would say it was a great marketing method of switching anger to sympathy – bloody clever. In effect, their actions are on a par with people doctoring resumes, or plagiarising – the fall from grace is swift and necessary.

It’s also very easy to understand other cricketing nations coming in hard, Australia has always brazenly displayed a ‘holier than thou’ arrogance to other teams, the old saying comes to the fore – ‘can dish it out, but can’t take it’. Be that as it may, it’s now time to leave these blokes alone, to get their lives back together and resurrect what is possible over time and I do think Cricket Australia does have a duty to give them support – they encouraged the culture that claimed them.

The Cameron guy looked like a decent bloke to me, everyone makes mistakes and I can see where peer pressure would be intense to a newcomer, although the reports of established behaviour are disturbing – a question mark remains. The Smith captain cove always came across as a bit of an arrogant sneering prick, I can’t quite feel terribly sad. Warner always struck me as an arrogant thug arsehole. I’d have hated to have had him in any team / sport I followed’ I don’t give a fuck what happens to him. As for Lehmann the coach – we’ve all come across them – boorish thick bogans, Dumbo will survive, too thick not to.

The good thing is, that finally, hopefully, we won’t have cricket and players, rammed down our throats as some sort of heroic endeavour with its appointed heroes saving our souls. Thankfully, the Howard era of pushing cricketers to be Australians of the Year are fading, it was such bullshit! People payed millions then put on a pedestal for doing themselves a favour? It’s time for us all to grow up – cricket, rugby league, cycling etc. are all great sports, but they’re not bastions of decency and fair play, let alone sportsmanship – whatever that may mean these days.

I do think these events point to a greater malaise in our society – all nations. We’ve grown accustomed to lies from all sources we deal with – the non- answers and bare faced lies from politicians – the absolute lie of Weapons of Mass Destruction by that trio of warmongering fuckwit dickheads – Bush, Howard and Blair, the arrogant bovver boy bullshit from the likes of Barnaby Joyce, the brutal lowest common denominator racism and hatred of Hanson as she claws onto power, the “this is all about me” bullshit  ‘anyway the wind blows of Xenophon, the brutality of far right religious Christian politicians, demonising anyone not white, especially Muslims. Jesus wept (that’s appropriate for Good Friday) – the far right are now openly canvassing to put white people in danger ahead of black people in danger!  The utter disregard for objective reporting and blunt social conditioning enforced by the Murdoch empire, the entitlement of a Dastyari, a Bishop, a union official clawing out a safe Labor seat, the lie of Turnbull, too enveloped by power to be himself, the slimy teflon of  the poll driven Shorten, the list is sadly, almost endless. These people are blatantly in it for themselves and whatever team they’re batting for. Nobody accepts responsibility and the umpire’s call is battled out in every court possible – witness the hideous Perth City Council fiasco.

Religion? Bishops, Rabbis, Mullahs and Popes sitting in their cesspits of holiness, protecting paedophile priests in some hideous religious rendition of suffer little children. Catholicism with its entrenched misogyny, worshipping Mary for being a virgin, above other women and worse, rewriting history, presenting Jesus as fair haired and blue eyed. For Christ’s sake, he was a Middle Eastern Jew; he would have looked almost exactly the same as many of the refugees trying to get to reach the sanctuary of Europe and Australia by boat.

Then there’s big business – the blatant lies from telcos, the refusal to deal with people, the hiding behind online forms, the bullshit bait advertising, the lies of Volkswagen in terms of its bullshit diesel emissions – they didn’t give a flying fuck about pollution and consider this, the German Lower Saxony government owns 25% of Volkswagen!  The shocking treatment of people needing assistance from  staff at Centrelink, the abuse of employees through non-payment of entitlements, the theft of superannuation funds by the stealth of fees and bullshit insurances that will never be paid,  again the list is endless.

We have become inured to it all, not only do we not believe anything anymore, we now accept, even laugh about it and take haven in our own tribes. Nazi fascism is on the rise – we’re at a point where the neo Nazis have so confidently crawled out of the sewers, they’re getting seats in governments, they’re confident enough to raise Nazi flags, or versions of that most shocking of emblems. They and their goon supporters call peace loving people who want to look after the Earth and her inhabitants, ‘Fascist Lefties,’ betraying their complete misunderstanding of the word.

We used to have the best, bluntest, most fearless press in the world, but sadly the media barons have retrenched them, turning most of those still in full time employment into contracted hacks working under threat of redundancy if they don’t follow the owner’s editorial guide. And follow they do. The media barons have almost succeeded in their destruction of the ABC and the BBC, with politicians only too willing to shut down fearless criticism. Do we seriously think the likes of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, or Google, or Amazon will give us all the news, not to mention look after our best interests?

Why should we expect our cricketers to be different? The enormously tragic truth is they reflect our society – selfish, thuggish, prepared to sacrifice principles for a win or even just a point. Us.

Greg Ross

 

ROGER WATERS Sublime US + THEM Perth Arena Concert.

Roger Waters US + Them Concert

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I’m in my mid to late 60s and like many Baby Boomers, I suspect I’ll still be in an armchair, zimmer frame beside me, malt whisky in hand, drifting away to the sounds  of Cream, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd in twenty years time. The concerts will no doubt have finished, but the legends will dance forever on DVDs, perhaps even laser light shows.

For those of us who lived, loved, laughed, smoked and somehow made it alive through the 60s and 70s, these are poignant times – we’ve lost the towering giants, Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, illness such as arthritis is beginning to make performing difficult for other giants – Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond’s had to stop. Individual band members such as John Lodge from the Moody Blues and Rick Wright from Pink Floyd have passed away, voices are starting to go and magnificent artists such as Elton John are calling ‘Closing Time’ on touring. The Stones? None of us know – I think it’s voodoo,  but hell, they’re still wonderful.

The message being, if you love this music, buy a concert ticket! Go now my brothers and sisters, it’s later than you think! All of which is a very long introduction to writing about Roger Waters US + THEM concert and of course, Roger Waters himself.

“Which one’s Pink?” None of them and all of them, nor was there a Floyd, but dear God, was there ever a Pink Floyd! 1965 – Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters and Richard Wright, with David Gilmour joining in 1967. When Syd’s dreadful mental health problems forced his departure in early 1968, bass guitarist Roger Waters became the main lyricist and is often referred to as Pink Floyd’s conceptual leader – think THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ANIMALS, THE WALL.

Unfortunately tensions between band members became such, that Roger Waters left in 1985. Since then, David Gilmour has continued to tour as Pink Floyd and Waters as Roger Waters, both groups playing the same back catalogue. There’s a lot more to the history, including a one off reunion in 2005, however this tale is of Waters.

Waters has long been touted as grumpy, difficult and a pain, he’s also a renowned activist and in the past has been so vehemently anti Israel, one could be forgiven for labelling him as anti Semite, all of which had kept him off my must-see list, as much as I loved his music, all of which amounted to nothing, when I found I would be home in Perth when he was touring his US + THEM concert – would the chance to see him ever come about again? I bought tickets, though my wife was even more hesitant than me re the Jewish animosity (we’re not Jewish, indeed my wife is German) – we don’t not support Palestine, rather we see both sides, but enough of the politics.

Though we were seated at the rear of the floor, the view was excellent and as it turned out, the multi media meant we were in the thick of things. But first, my only complaint and I plan to take it further. I have no idea why you would pay hundreds of dollars for a concert ticket and then constantly get up to buy beer, then go the loo, then buy more beer. It drove us mad, your view was constantly blocked by fuckwits who can’t go an hour without a bloody beer! I have struck this once before, at a Leonard Cohen concert in Dublin – perhaps it’s the Irish ancestry coming to the fore – we’re basically alcoholics. The problem is very easily solved. Everyone is allowed to buy a drink (beer, water, wine etc) before the show and bring it in, plus there is an interval to do the same. Perth Arena, CLOSE THE BLOODY BARS WHILST THE SHOWS ARE ON! Simple! It is disrespectful to the artist. Certainly people will still need to go the loo, that’s fine, but a constant stream of people going to and fro is off the planet. If you can walk out of Roger Waters playing WISH YOU WERE HERE to buy a beer, you’re not a fan, you’re just a fuckwit boozer with no appreciation for musicianship, melody or lyrics, the songs mean nothing to you, other than a drunk memory from the past. Rant over.

There’s no point in trawling through every song, we all know them, stand outs just kept happening one after the other. However ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL was something else. It came on early in the first set, I’d wondered what he’d do to freshen it up – we’ve all seen the cartoon imagery a thousand times. My mouth and I suspect those of most other people at the concert, except those out buying beer, is still open in stunned disbelief. As the band got under way, people came out on stage dressed in Guantanamo Bay orange hooded suits, facing the crowd, dancing in front of the band, suddenly their hood were removed, to reveal kids of all ages, singing, “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall!” As if that wasn’t gob smacking enough, towards the end of the anthem, the kids climbed out of their prison suits to reveal they were all wearing t-shirts reading RESIST!. In light of what’s going on in the US with kids taking the lead against guns and violence, it was one of the most powerful visual images I have ever seen. At the end of the song, Roger Waters explained that although they’d been using kids as they toured around the show around the World, they’d never done it quite like this, he added they’d only met the kids (Variety Youth Choir) at 5.30pm that night and he couldn’t believe how good they were and it was. He laid his arm over his heart and the big screens showed he had tears in his eyes. He had me, my wife and our friends, lock, stock and barrel.

After interval, Waters deeply anti war message asserted itself as the theme of every anthem. It was powerful and I have never witnessed any singer prepared to take a political stand as openly and forcefully he has. Brave, powerful and so decent, you just wanted to shake his hand and yell out, “YES!”

Battersea Power Station and the Pig! (from ANIMALS), are both synonymous with anything Pink Floyd,  and they featured in this show, like you wouldn’t believe! The audience became aware a long web of machinery was lowering above them, stretching back from the front of the stage, to the rear of the auditorium. Once lowered, screens began to rise and from three or four boxes, chimneys extended, puffing out smoke. Suddenly projectors threw the image of the power station walls onto the screens, you were literally there, sitting beside the brick walls of the power station, utterly surreal. Somehow, it didn’t interfere with the band, it all just became one, then the PIG did fly! But this time, there were no wires and, as Pig was inside, no danger of flying away to shut down Perth airspace!, the pig was radio controlled, flying effortlessly around the room.

Waters got vicious. Nope, not about Israel, President Trump. Whilst other despots featured now and then, as the band segued into PIGS, Trump’s image was everywhere. Trump Tweets flashed up on the screen, they were on Pig. Waters ended the segment yelling “Trump is a fucking idiot!” The auditorium rose as one, hands thrust into the air, they agreed. RESIST!  sprayed across the screens.

Sudden darkness, then lasers formed THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON triangle, at the same time, they also began to form the prism effect, bringing yet another massive cheer from the crowd – we didn’t need a guitar, we all knew what was coming, but we didn’t know Waters had a radio controlled Moon. Just as Pig had flown over us, the Moon floated over us, at times hovering over the stage, in front of the laser triangle / pyramid. You didn’t need a joint, or even a wine, this was out of the world, sublime is the correct word and the band! The sound WAS Floyd, just brilliant musicianship and vocals, all you could do was stand and cheer as each anthem finished.

Half an hour overtime, Waters finished a beautiful song PART OF ME DIED (not one of his) lamenting lost love, tender, tears, then there was only one song he could possibly do. The sensation was that of bordering on the edge of sexual climax, you knew it was coming.

“Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there?”

Two hands on the massive back screen slowly came together, as COMFORTABLY NUMB pealed, soared and soaked across the auditorium into every soul. The beer drinker procession slowed to just three or four people. The hands disintegrated, the human cost of war splashed across the screen, COMFORTABLY NUMB took on a resonance that hopefully will stick with us all. Ticker tape began to fall from the ceiling, as we reached out to take them, we realised they read RESIST!  Waters put down his bass guitar and unfurled an Aboriginal flag. Tears in his eyes and his hand once more tapping his heart, he told us the Australian and New Zealand audiences had been the best, “.. just something else!”

I believe him. I have had the fortune to witness one of the greatest events – rock concert just doesn’t do it justice, I’ve ever witnessed. I loved it, I loved the music, I loved the message and I love the bloke. My wife Ann was just shaking her head, “OMG! Wow, incredible!” I looked at my boofy mate, I don’t think he’ll mind my saying I saw his tears – they were rolling down my cheeks as well. His wife, a well respected Opera singer in her own right, said, “I am awe struck – the band, the presentation, him, the sound, just brilliant!”

You bloody bet!

Courtesy of The West Australian, here’s the Set List:

Set 1

Speak to Me

Breathe

One of These Days

Time

Breathe (Reprise)

The great Gig In The Sky

Welcome to the Machine

Deja Vu

The Last refugee

Picture That

Wish You Were Here

The Happiest Days of Our Lives

Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 and 3)

Set 2

Dogs

Pigs (Three Different ones)

Money

Us and Them

Smell the Roses

Brain Damage

Eclipse

Encore

Wait for Her

Oceans Apart

Part of Me Died

Comfortably Numbe

Greg Ross

Sexual Predators and Their Accusers

In light of the recent spate of allegations of sexual harassment, it appears our justice system is not offering avenues of support and resolution to either the accusers, or the accused. It’s appalling to read that many women feel they hit a brick wall when complaining about behaviour.

We are also witnessing what may prove to be appalling cases of wrongly accused people loosing reputations and careers without any recourse to the justice system or the right to a presumption of innocence, waking to find themselves named and shamed on the front pages of newspapers across the country. In the case of Geoffrey Rush, a journalist went trawling to try and find any gossip about any actor.

I suggest that governments in Australia move as soon as possible to make any complaint of sexual harassment immediately reportable to a specially established court by an employer and the accused, with substantial fines for non reporting.

Such a court would be bound by absolute privacy, as would all parties. The parties would be required to attend and the magistrate (s) – a panel of three might be the way to go – would then determine whether there was enough evidence to dismiss the complaint, warrant a trial, or perhaps mediate a mutually agreeable settlement.

If a trial was established as necessary, at that point and only at that point, would the names of the parties involved be made public, any prior publication by the media, or on social media would also incur substantial penalties.

As a society, we cannot allow situations to develop where predators can act without consequence as a result of power or position, nor can we allow the destruction of peoples reputations, careers and lives on unproven hearsay.
Greg Ross

“The half Nigger …” A German Judge and AfD member of the German Parliament 2018

IMG_20180103_183959“The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention, you can’t explain his behaviour any other way.”  Jens Maier MdB (German MP) 2 January 2018.

As we watch our democratic countries retreat into right wing white facism, under leaders –  well, they’re not leaders in the true meaning of the word, rather elected facists, offering nothing but fear and hate, people such as Trump, Turnbull, Netanyahu and we haven’t even touched on the Saudis and African Dictators – the one beacon of decency and democracy, has been Germany, under the ultra conservative Anglea Merkel. Yet even her conservatism has not been enough to to stop the election of extreme right parties and their members.

The most virulent of Germany’s ultra – right parties, is AfD, with its power base in the old Eastern Germany. The region has become a boiling point for old time East Germans and their progeny, who to their annoyance, discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was no free meal ticket, they were expected, by the rest of Germany, to work hard and diligently, with no guarantees of wealth and riches.

East Germany had, before the fall of the Wall, become a two – tier society – the Haves – members of the elite, wanting for nothing, very powerful (and dangerous) within the communist regime and the Have Nots – apartments provided and do-nothing jobs where it was rare for people to put in a hard day’s night. Western culture and work ethic was a shock to them..

When your work ethic is minimal and your expectation is one of the State looking after you from the cradle to the grave, a modern democracy such as Germany is not satisfactory, and naturally, somebody must be held to blame, but who?

Ah, migrants, refugees, Muslims – preferably one and the same. Even better if the interlopers don’t have German as their Mother Tongue. The situation has become truly terrible, in that outrageous claims are being made against migrant people and refugees, in the expectation that white Germans doing it tough, will understand where exactly the problem stems from.

On Tuesday 2nd of January 2018,, things reached a new low. Jens Maier is not only a sitting AfD member of the German parliament, he is also a judge! He reacted,via Twitter, to a TV interview with Boris Becker’s son. I’ve posted his Tweet at the start of this article, but for non German speakers, here is the translation of what he wrote:

“The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention, you can’t explain his behaviour any other way.”  May I just print that again!

“The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention, you can’t explain his behaviour any other way.”  

This is not Memphis USA in 1955, it is Germany in 2018! It is an elected German member of Parliament, talking about the son of one of Germany’s most famous sportsman, tennis great, Boris Becker.

The Tweet has since been deleted and the Judge is now saying it wasn’t him, it was a staff member. Oh, dear, sorry about that Judge,  but mate, Australian’s are notorious for calling bullshit when we hear it, see it, or in this case, read it. Unfortunately inn Australia, we are seeing the on-going demonisation of Muslims and anybody not white, we are very. very close to this sort of hideous behaviour.

In the 1930s, Germans sat mute whilst the Nazi Party demonised Jews, Gypsies and anybody not Ayrian looking, thinking they were at least safe. It wasn’t so, anybody not agreeing with Nazi agenda was an enemy of the state. Post war Germany thought it had destroyed these people. The country now reels in shock that their kind is on the rise, worse, increasingly popular.

At the same time, the hideous President  of the United States openly chastises black people and stands virtually mute on the white supremacists who whole heartedly support him, all the time, seeking to appoint white supremacists to the courts and his inner sanctum. In Australia, the current government daily demonises Africans, Muslims, Kiwis and so on. Oh? It won’t happen in Australia? How many times have you seen posts screaming about Kiwis or the Irish taking all the FIFO jobs in Australia? The Australian public no longer understands that being a migrant is not cause for suspicion and being a refugee is not illegal, such has been the success of the LNP’s propaganda machine.

We are just a step away from Australian politicians feeling comfortable enough to say “The little half nigger simply seems to have been given too little attention …” 

Ask Germans about their history, if you think you’re safe, you’re not, a government set on a cleansing agenda of white supremacy will come for you and your family before too long. The rot is in, the Jens Maier’s of our world are crawling out of the sewers with their poison and hate. They are in their way, no different to the evil Isis and al qaedas, in fact their racist  and intolerant statements provide food for the agendas of radical Muslim groups.

We are all human, our cultures are often different, but we are one, we cannot let this filth and ignorant hatred divide and ruin what can still be a beautiful world.

Greg Ross

Germany – The Essential How to Survive Guide for Visitors

In post Christmas reflective mode – code for the second glass of red wine by 4.00pm on a lazy kinda Friday, deep in the heart of North Rhine-Westphalia – I feel, after several years of regular visits, I am well positioned to offer advice to the unsuspecting Aussie or Kiwi visitor; as follows.

  • On arrival, you’ll find German customs and police officers more relaxed than their Aussie equivalents, it’s quite possible to get a smile, sometimes even a joke out of them! Don’t try it in Holland, their customs / border police are very serious – a smile could see you ushered into a side room! All of which segues into the fact that Germans do have a great sense of humour, you just have to wait for them to relax. Once they feel order has been established, a nervous smile appears.
  • Meeting a German , especially men, for the first time in Germany, can be disconcerting. Yes, it is exactly as they do it in the movies – they sort of come to attention, their heels click together and almost salute, but then catch themselves and offer their hand, as they bow their heads slightly. Do not laugh!
  • After a while, you too will find yourself clicking your heels together and bowing.
  • Wine, beer, schnapps and malt whiskey can be bought very cheaply at almost every shop, including service stations.
  • You don’t need a car, except perhaps in Baden Baden, or a little village (should you be running or hiding from somebody).
  • Do not buy Duty Free Malt Whiskey at the airport of departure, or your airport of arrival (in Oz or NZ), buy the bottle at a German supermarket, you’ll save AUS $30.00 or $40.00 – in Kiwi terms, a day’s wages!
  • There are no trucks, (except a few with special permits), on the roads on Sundays. Travelling by car? Firstly why? Secondly, if it’s long distance, go on the Sunday.
  • The train system is great, although not infallible, don’t forget to stamp (validate) your ticket in the machine! Beware, advised platform numbers can change in an instant! Ask for help! Day or two, or three or week long passes are the go, as they apply to both trains and buses and are good value.
  • There are four classes of trains – ICE (Inter Capital Express), IC (Inter Capital – not express), Regional – they’re the double storied red and grey trains and Local – often in colours of the region they operate in. All trains have toilets and they’re free … if they work!
  • Although DB display carriage plans at the stations, nobody apparently tells whoever assembles the trains that there is a prearranged order, therefore at every station, people run up and down the platform desperately trying to find where on earth their carriage is. Be prepared for the mad chaotic scramble.
  • You can buy your ticket on the local train, which is fine, as long as you read German. There’s a trick to make your fare cheaper – the queue to buy a ticket from the machine is usually long and if you keep putting yourself at the end of the queue, you’ll have gone through so many stations, your fare will be cheaper. You might even reach your destination before you’ve reached the machine! You can pick the students travelling!
  • Flixbus coaches are a very cheap alternative to moving around, but remember you get what you pay for! Arrival and departure times change constantly without warning, drivers usually speak no English, announcements are all in German and it’s very chaotic. Often the wrong destinations are on the windscreen and so on.
  • You might think you’re clever standing at the front of the queue at the coach front door, however the bus driver will get out, ignore you, light a cigarette (all Flixbus drivers smoke like chimneys) and go to the luggage compartment at the rear of the bus, where he’ll check the tickets of those with luggage and they get on the bus, finding seats first!
  • Flixbus drivers spend every possible minute on the phone, often they have two phones. They do not stop talking on the phone even when checking tickets and certainly not if a passenger has a question.
  • Fliixbus drivers do not help with luggage, you put it on and take it off!
  • Beware, at stops, people scramble around to get their bags, sometimes putting somebody else’s bag on the pavement to get to theirs, but forgetting to put the other bag back on board. The bus drives off and nobody has any idea where your bag might have been dropped.
  • A lot of Muslim families use Flixbus and it can be entertaining watching Muslim women and men panic if it looks like a man is going to sit beside one of the ladies. You’ll witness more seat swapping than in the back seat days of drive in movies.
  • Every bus will be have several aggressive non Muslim young woman taking up two seats with their handbags beside them.
  • Bakeries and Nordsee cafes are great cheap places to eat and very importantly, only the big hotels and department stores take credit cards, everyone else takes cash. Also nobody pay passes credit cards, it’s all code numbers and signatures.
  • Take a shopping bag – Germans do not do plastic bags.
  • If it’s clothes you need (see underpants below), the only place to shop is C & A – the department store complex is in every German city and town – excellent quality, fashionable and very well priced, often cheap – see underpants below!
  • You’ll be given a receipt for everything, even a €1.00 lolly.
  • Uber does exist in some cities, but taxis hold sway and they are not cheap!
  • You will need your credit card to hand to the train guard along with your ticket and quite possibly your passport.
  • ID is King in Germany – we had to hand over our passports at the Baden Baden Casino and we were then issued with ID cards with all our details on them.
  • Get used to the sound of gunfire. The Germans are great hunters, everywhere you go, in any forest, close to roads, villages and anything else, there will always be hunters firing away at deer, boar, pigeons etc.
  • Take lots of underwear – the Germans don’t usually have dryers and things in winter take a long while to dry, consequently, Germans have more underwear than anybody else on the planet. If you’re there for four weeks, take four weeks of underwear along.
  • Germans don’t have laundromats all around the cities and towns and you won’t usually find laundry facilities at hotels.
  • The Germans don’t do sheets (top and bottom) as we Aussies and Kiwis do, they have bettlaken – doonas which inevitably are too short to cover your feet all night.
  • Germans are very relaxed about sex and nudity.
  • Germans, like the English, have very small shower stalls – a bigger person has to crab in sideways and will often end up in hospital with damaged elbows (wounded on the shower sides.
  • Don’t use soap in the shower – if you drop it, there is no room to bend over and pick it up, use shower gel.
  • Germans, unlike the English, do have really good strong, hot showers.
  • Germans do have fabulous oil – fired central heating – thank God!
  • Don’t laugh at the thought of Long Johns – in winter they are essential!
  • Long Johns are worn over underpants, they’re not a substitute!
  • Going to the loo is expensive and a bloody pain in winter – no, I’m not referring to constipation! – all the layers of clothing that must be removed to get anywhere! If you are a customer at a cafe, the loo is free, but if not, or you’re at a station etc, you’ll pay anywhere up to €1.00 – taking the piss in Germany ain’t cheap!
  • More bad news re loos – disconcerting really! Most loos have an attendant, who not only keeps the joint clean, but also seems to want to help you with the task and often it’s a woman. All becomes clear when you spot the saucer with small change in it. Leave 10c, or run!
  • Shops are not open on Sundays.
  • Germany is divided by religion! Protestant to the north and Catholic to the south.
  • You’ll hear the appealing sound of church bells pealing quite often – North and South.
  • Germans are not keen on electric blankets! Their birth rate should be a lot higher than what it is!
  • Germans love hot water bottles, which may explain why their birth rate is not higher.
  • German supermarkets sell everything, from food to clothes – you can get anything you want at them and really good food, (whether fresh, pre-packaged or frozen), is cheap and universally high quality.
  • Every town, village and city will have professional beggars – they’re inevitably Eastern Europeans working in gangs, with well practised cripple movements.
  • There isn’t a Muslim problem.
  • There is a problem with Russian and Romanian gangs.
  • There is a problem with Neo – Nazis, mostly in east German cities.
  • On escalators, stand to the right. People will want to stride past you and will become very aggressive if you’re blocking them!
  • Berliners take no prisoners, in queues, on escalators, or on the sidewalk.
  • Remember the golden rule – There must be order!
  • Germans will yell at you if you ignore the Don’t Walk sign and jaywalk. Crowds of them on either side of the street will very loudly berate you for not obeying the signs. As long as there isn’t a policeman in sight, it’s worth doing, just to hear and see the reaction.
  • Germans ignore the order rule when queuing, in the manner (well, no manners really) of Chinese ladies at a shop sale,  queuing is not particularly a concept they understand. Survival of the fittest is the rule – watch everyone around you for a sudden move!
  • Germans react with shock if you are annoyed and say something like “Fuck this for a joke!” – (see survival of the fittest in Queuing above). It is, rest assured, a guaranteed method of getting the full, unnerved attention of whoever annoyed you.
  • Germans eat huge breakfasts of fruit juice, cold meats, tomatoes, cucumber, fish and rolls with coffee and or tea.
  • A German cannot go without the aforesaid breakfast.
  • Germans cannot walk past a bakery, if more than 35 minutes has passed since they had a meal.
  • Germans generally don’t do large dinners – lunch and or breakfast are their big meals.
  • Do not refer to dinner as tea, a German will become very concerned and confused.
  • Germans do recycling in a very big way. Every house has several bins, all of them too small and all of them designated for certain waste product, even the cities, town centres and stations have rubbish bins divided into separate sections. Indeed, so do the trains. Don’t get it wrong! (see jaywalking above).
  • Germans like to go walking, hiking and push bike riding. It’s important to understand that weather conditions have absolutely no bearing on this! To a German, it’s perfectly normal to go for a three or four hour walk – probably calling into three bakeries and a restaurant, all while a force 7 gale is unfolding.
  • Dogs are allowed everywhere, including trains. Cafes, hotels and restaurants all have dog water bowls around and often there is a dog food menu!
  • When Germans first meet you, they will be reserved. Don’t be offended, this is because they suspect you are English. When they discover you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, suddenly you are best friends.
  • The above paragraph does not apply during Oktoberfest – the mere hint that you are an Aussie, a Kiwi, a Pom, Scottish, or Irish will rightly bring down a cloud of suspicious resignation.
  • Most Germans speak English, a lot better than most Aussies or Kiwis speak German.
  • The above paragraph does not apply when in the old East Germany – anyone born twenty years or more before the Wall went down, speaks only fluent German and Russian.
  • East Germans can seem aggressive – some are still annoyed that when the Wall went down, they didn’t get free BMWs and Mercedes and were expected to work six days a week – see neo Nazis above.
  • Germans, like many countries, have several different dialects. In general, Northern Germans are easy to understand, but the further south you travel, the harder it gets. By the time you get to Bavaria, sign language will be your only hope and if you hop across the border to Switzerland, you’re in no man’s land – think a pissed Scotsman, or a sober Irishman.
  • Drinking in the streets and in trains is fine – however Aussies and Kiwis really shouldn’t do this, if they’re binge drinking yobbos.
  • The sign on a train windows featuring a bottle with a line through it, doesn’t mean No Drinking, it means Don’t throw the empty bottle out the Window! Which of course does mean there must be some German yobbos! Which segues into Soccer.
  • In the same way Rugby is the national religion of NZ, Soccer is Germany’s religion, perhaps even above the church!
  • And one last thing – Germans are not Austrians! This is like accusing an Aussie of being a Kiwi, or vice versa!

It’s a fabulous country, with fabulous people, armed with the above information, you should survive!

Cheers

Greg

The LNP’s Demonization of Retirees

As with many older people across Australia, I’ve had enough of the sustained and deliberate attack on retired workers by this Federal LNP government. Self – funded retirees have been screwed over with superannuation changes and now pensioners are being vilified and demeaned as recalcitrant beggars.

I’m a month or so off 67 years, apart from one very brief period, I have never claimed anything off either the State or Federal governments, not even for failed investment, or business decisions and I’m still working, (an 84hr week), like many of my peers. I’ve just done a very quick rough calculation of my working life in Australia, since arriving in 1975; my total taxation payments are somewhere around $900,000.

What has been deliberately ‘forgotten’ in this campaign of demonization, is that the pension on retirement, was and is, a social contract – you worked all your life, as long as you were fit and able, payed your taxes and there would be a basic, but liveable weekly pension when you could no longer work.

Yes, there have been (and always will be), a very small percentage who have gamed the system and you could add to that moaning self – funded retired investors who made stupid greedy investment mistakes, expecting 30% returns etc, then cried poor and demanded governments helped them – that is, the rest of us taxpayers. Now we can add taxi industry investors, who are demanding similar compensation as the travelling public has a better option. Governments pander to these greedy, self-righteous whingers, but smash retired working people! If you’ve been scammed – go to court, if you’ve made a bad business decision, get a bloody job like the rest of us!

There is something decidedly evil in Morrison and his mob ‘educating’ younger voters to the LNP reality that retirees are a burden and takers. Oh yes, it’s clever, especially to a generation that’s very self – entitled and self – important, but it’s not factually correct. To younger generations, I’m shocked, saddened and bloody annoyed that education up to completion of your apprenticeship or first degree (University, not Mason!) is no longer free and you are burdened with education debt, it’s not what I worked for, or hoped I’d voted against. However what you’ve had so far, my peers and I worked bloody hard to provide. You were too young to understand, but the social contract has always been that the adults provide for the young and in turn, the young become adults and eventually provide for the old.

Canberra moaning about the burden of pensions is a nonsense, the reality is Australia has the most conservative and tightest pension scheme of any in the civilised world – one really can’t refer to the United States as civilised in terms of looking after its citizens. Most First World countries provide a pension based on working life earnings, rather than the very basic, continually means tested system Australian has. We are not headed for the brink of financial disaster with a pillaging horde of greedy baby boomers grasping every dollar from younger workers, you are being fed a right wing propaganda lie.

Certainly there is a developing issue with the inevitable increasing cost of health care, in terms of people living longer, however that is being compensated for by increasing the age of retirement, plus the fact that many people are working long past any official retirement age.

What we desperately need in Australia, is leadership, something we haven’t had at a federal level for some years. As a nation, somebody should have had the courage to have stood up and explained that what we needed and expected was going to cost x and therefore as a nation, we would need to contribute y in the form of taxation, other nations, notably in Europe, have long taken this approach.  We’ve also been led badly astray by both the LNP and Labor, in allowing business to flagrantly flout, bend and evade reasonable taxation. Corporate welfare has become big business in Australia, we’ve now reached a stage where one extremely wealthy, foreign – owned media organisation is waging war with Australia’s publicly owned national broadcaster, whilst at the same time accepting multi – million dollar handouts from the federal government. Worse, that same media organisation now has the temerity and hide to single out welfare recipients and pensioners as drains on our nation? The irony!

Apparently we have an opposition party – Labor, where are they in this vicious attack on retired people? What great fighting words have you or I heard from Labor politicians? Yep, as the old saying goes, ‘Three tenths of fuck all!’

Unlike Turnbull, Abetz, Morrison, Cash, Shorten, Plibersek, Di Natale and the rest of them – Liberal, Labor, Greens et al, I will not retire with an exorbitant salary, including free air travel etc. Like many of my Baby Boomer peers, I’ve had enough.

Some years ago, there was a Grey Party, it never really got anywhere, but I think the time is now right, for a similar party to be organised and run candidates at the next Federal election, I suspect it could even be crowd funded. If you’re 50+, whatever your political leaning, this government and by their telling silence, the Labor and Greens will, by propaganda and stealth legislation, do to retired people, what they’ve done to refugees.

I for one would put my hand up.

Greg Ross

 

Qatar Business is all Class

Qatar Airlines Business Class

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I’ve been a Qatar Airways fan for some years now, their planes are inevitably new, or almost new, I can fit my ample ageing frame in an economy class aisle seat quite comfortably for the 11hr stint from Perth to Doha. I also happen to prefer the individual air vents on 777s – the 380s don’t seem to have them, although the 380 wins hands down in terms of silence. I also like the mix of nationalities amongst Qatar Airlines pilots and their cabin crews, not to mention the announcements in Arabic – I found it delightfully exotic, it reminds me I am travelling. Speaking of their cabin crews, I love them, they’re relaxed, friendly and genuine, an attitude not easy to sustain for ten or so hours serving 300 people in economy. My only small complaint would be that Qatar don’t appear to have a large movie library, but then that may be operator error – I don’t find the finger touch screens particularly intuitive, or easy to operate.

So it was one evening in early December, I found myself in the economy class queue, as we presented passports and boarding passes to the staff at the boarding gate. “Mr Gregory Ross?”

“Yes,” I hesitantly replied, as the young lady tore up my boarding pass, “Is there a problem?”

“Not at all”, she smiled, “You’ve been upgraded to Business, have a lovely flight” and she handed me a new boarding pass.

I had indeed been upgraded – an aisle seat at the front of the Business Class section no less!  I stowed my backpack – it is a Bugatti backpack, so it matched the decor – and sat down to take stock of my good fortune and Qatar’s favour.

The seats are a wonder to behold, it needs five minutes to understand exactly what they are capable of – sliding footrests, everything adjustable and laying down to become very, very comfortable beds, just superb. Half way through my seat learning curve, David arrived, arms laden with the best looking Business Class toiletry bag I’ve seen, (tan leather), the prerequisite blankets, pillows, pyjamas, slippers and noise cancelling earphones, plus dining and drinks menus. I needed all the leg room just to spread out the assorted gifts!  A couple of minutes later, he returned, enquiring as to whether I would like a champagne. Here it needs be understood we had not left the terminal, the doors were still open. I went for an orange juice – I’m not a champers drinker and for some reason, red wine wasn’t available until the aircraft had taken off.

I was aware we were in take-off mode, but the quietness and ambience of the Business Class section was such that the American guy beside me and I were almost oblivious to the fact, as we introduced ourselves with that small talk one does. It was then I became aware of the physical distance between us, it’s elegant enough for individual ‘space’ not to be intruded upon, very clever design. There are only six seats across the width of the cabin.

We turned north over Gages Road and as the lights along the coast line became fewer and fewer, David returned with what turned out to be a  glorious Bordeaux red, a table cloth, glass and cutlery. He laid at the table cloth and accoutrements, proffered the bottle and asked “Would you like to try this Sir?” I hadn’t had to ask, he’d remembered my request before take-off. As I savoured the wine – well, I think my eyes misted over with the aroma and sensational taste – he laid out canapés and asked my preferences for dining.

Suffice to say, the food was exquisite, I shan’t detail every dish, however the a la carte dining experience was available throughout the flight and the quality, in terms of presentation and taste did not diminish. I ordered a ‘Traditional Arab breakfast’ and was stunned how fresh the ingredients were. It would be remiss of me not to write of the beverage list – I’m a malt whiskey and red wine cove, Qatar had let me loose in Paradise! I will not forget the 2011 Bordeaux Cabernet Merlot – David ensured it was never far from my wanton glass throughout the flight.

Qatar already offer a stunningly god service from Perth to Europe – the stopovers in Doha are incredibly short, if you choose not to stay in Doha for some sightseeing, something we must find the time to do. I regularly use the Perth to Amsterdam route and the entire flight time, including an hour and half stopover at Doha, is less than 20 hours! Previously I’ve always travelled economy – the days of a company paying for me to travel business class are long gone. Qatar’s Economy Class is amazingly good value – I always book an aisle seat and although I’m not tall, I have long legs, yet the leg room is quite acceptable.  I am hoping Qatar will introduce Premium Economy out of Perth, but if you are able to afford the extra cost (around AUS$5,300.00 return), Business Class on Qatar is the ONLY way to travel. I have thought for some time that Qatar Airways are the World’s best airline, now I’ve been privileged enough to experience Qatar Business Class, I know they are. It’s a great airline, with fabulous aircraft and equally important, wonderful staff.

PS: If you’re an A380 fan, the whisper is Qatar are introducing them on the Perth – Europe route early in 2018.

Greg Ross.

 

Travelling With the Great Unwashed on DB

 

IMG_20171206_143120 IMG_20171209_095539Travelling with the great unwashed can be both novel and grist for a novel and just as a full Moon does seem to bring out interesting people, (or perhaps that should be ‘interesting behaviour’), so too can travel on public transport. Indeed, we experienced several moments of lunacy the other day, whilst travelling by train from Northern Germany to Southern Germany.

Mind you, our first taste of stupidity, was with DB’s (Deutsche Bahn’s) internal carriage make-over – some idiot has decided glass panels placed between rear and forward facing seats is a good idea, but of course, anyone who travels on DB IC (and ICE) trains knows luggage space for large suitcases is very limited, consequently the space between those seats is ideal for a couple of big suitcases. The glass panel very successfully stops that! To make matters worse, on IC trains, the luggage racks (for larger cases) at the end of each carriage, are quite small. Yes, it’s possible to lift large suitcases onto the overhead luggage racks, however many travellers are elderly and they simply can’t manage it, not to mention that sitting underneath some poor bastard trying to hoist a 20kg+ suitcase over your head, is not conducive to relaxing. Luggage issues feature a couple of times in this tale, but before we write of passengers, we still must dwell upon DB.

As every German rail traveller knows, DB have changed their scheduling, yes, the geeks have tweaked the system, taking into account every possible permutation of speed and distance. Brilliant! Except they’ve totally forgotten to include the time it takes to alight from one train, walk (read run!) to another platform, then board the other train. The new scheduling allows, with several connections, about four minutes changeover time! And if that’s not enough to catch you out, the stations create traps to baffle even Einstein! We got off one train at Platform 11, knowing we had five minutes to get to Platform 16. The lift had a queue a mile long, so down the stairs we went. At the bottom, looking left and right to see which way the platform numbering went, we couldn’t see Platform 16. Scratching our heads, panicking about time, trying to see why platform 16 wasn’t next to 15, we suddenly saw that platform 16 was actually on the same platform as 11. Yes, we could have got out of our train and walked four metres across to the next one!

Back up the stairs. Thankfully, in what has become usual practice for DB, the train was late, which brings us to carriage numbering and placement. When one books a seat, you’re allocated the seat and carriage, for example Seats 21, 22, Carriage 209. The stations then have a carriage diagram (“Wagenstandsanzeiger”) on display and platforms are also alphabetically listed, so you can see what position your carriage will stop at, for example 209 at C position on the platform. Brilliant! Except that nobody ever seems to tell whoever assembles DB trains that somebody else has made a diagram, consequently every station in Germany has passengers dragging and pushing suitcases, running up and down platforms trying to find their carriage. I have long held the theory that the German rail network has grown so big, it’s reached a critical mass and is now beyond ordered (now there’s a word to make any German stand to attention) control.

So we climb aboard. There are two small open suitcase compartments either side of the entry door, BUT there is a belligerent looking frumpy teenage girl leaning against the left compartment and another one, crouched on the floor level of the right hand compartment. There are bags on the shelves, the stupid bitch is crouching in the only available luggage space. I smile nicely and ask her to move. She points up at the top shelves (already loaded with luggage) and goes back to her book! Dumbfounded, I look across to where her chubby mate is leaning, to see if there is any space behind her. She doesn’t move, just looks at me with a sour look. I fight back a fleeting impulse to smack its insolent mouth, then turn back to Crouching Tart. “Would you mind moving, I need to put these suitcases in there.”

“Put them up there!” Crouching Tart orders me, pointing to the top shelf.

“Mate, I don’t want to lift the fucking things up there!” She doesn’t give a flying fuck. Fat Tart pipes up, “There’s room here,” and grudgingly moves aside. I have to rearrange several other suitcases, while Fat Tart looks on, very annoyed that I’ve interrupted her. Finished, I look around to see there are quite a few empty seats spread around the carriage, I shake my head at the rude bitches and walk down to our seats. At the next station, more of the same, except German travellers are more polite than me, they hesitate looking at Crouching Tart and Fat Tart, but say nothing. Incredible and not a guard in sight to bring some order (there’s that word again!) to the stupidity of it all. Our carriage fills up as we leave the station, about five minutes later, a guard announces there are plenty of spare seats in the next carriage. Crouching Tart gets up, she and Fat Tart leave for the next carriage, but won’t look at me as I glare at them, hoping the train will suddenly stop. Order returns.

Another station. The girl beside me leaves and there is a spare seat. A young woman comes along, asks me if the seat is free, I smile and say “Yes.” She sits down, leaving what appears to be her friend standing beside her. Then she jumps up with a phone charging cord in her hand and starts looking for the 240 volt charging socket. I hadn’t been able to find one, so I’m hoping she’ll find it. She is all over the seat, exclaiming loudly in an Eastern European language, obviously annoyed that there doesn’t appear to be one, at one stage even lifting my arm to see if there’s one under it! She sits with her arms folded, looking rather annoyed, then turns to her friend and starts loudly haranguing her. People are looking startled, but she just gets louder, to the point where it’s impossible for Ann and I to have a conversation. The young girl sitting next to Ann has been trying to work on her laptop, but has given up, as I think has everyone around us. Eastern Europe is still shouting and telling off the other girl. I tap Eastern Europe on the shoulder. Dark cold eyes turn on me. “Shut up!” I said. Eighty pairs of eyes are suddenly on me. “What do you mean shut up?” Eastern Europe angrily says.

“Exactly that! By all means chat away, but there’s no need for all the bloody loud yelling!”

“You shut up!” She replies, then lets loose with a stream of German, which roughly translates into her assessment of me as a fucking arsehole. “Speak German!” she orders me, which is good coming from another foreigner. “I’m not German!” I smile coldly at her. I think it then occurred to her that I would not be playing by German rules in our short but lively relationship. She sat quietly, then a seat change occurred a few seats further down and another seat became available next to where her friend was by now sitting. Eastern Europe moved there, glowering at me now and then. Ann said she didn’t want to brand anybody, but neither girl had luggage and she suspected they were travelling for nefarious purposes – eg: luggage theft or pick pocketing. At that moment a lady ticket inspector entered the carriage. You have never seen two girls leave a carriage so quickly, yep they didn’t have tickets. Our ticket inspector watched them running with narrowed eyes and spoke into her two way radio. I sat there thinking that as young women seem to be so self-centred, aggressive and rude these days, perhaps DB could have a carriage for unruly young women, to let the rest of us travel in peace and comfort. They could scream, hiss and scratch each other’s eyes out without interference from civilised people.

Peace descended, we poured wine, opened cheese and chatted with the lovely girl next to us, who was on her way to Switzerland to spend the weekend with her boyfriend. Suddenly yelling started.

Three or four rows behind us, against the rear of the carriage, were seats for disabled people – room for wheel chairs etc. A disabled guy was sitting there taking two seats with a lady beside him. A rather overbearing German bloke came along and wanted to sit there, demanding the disabled guy fold his legs up and stop taking two seats. The disabled guy patiently explained that he couldn’t fold his legs and the lady with him politely added to the explanation, but to no avail, the agro bloke was having none of it, becoming louder and more aggressive with every second. I looked at Ann, thinking “I can’t let this disabled chap try to defend himself alone, I’ll have to step in.” Ann knew what I was thinking and said “No, leave it.” Just at that moment a conductor came along and very quickly sorted out the boorish pig.

All the while, we were travelling alongside the beautiful Rhine and I was wondering why people have to be such arseholes, when things are always relatively easy to sort out, or apply reason to, when it started again!

Another guy had entered our carriage and he was trying to find a place for his suitcase, in doing so, he was moving some other suitcases around to try and fit his in. Well the shit hit the fan.

A woman jumped on her high horse. He had moved her suitcase. No matter what he said, all very reasonably, she was having none of it. It was like being under the command of vitriolic female officer in Stalag 13, as she became more and more strident and offended. I looked around, there was really no issue, the suitcases were a bit of a jumble, as there were so many, but the corridor was still clear and everyone’s luggage was secure, however the woman wasn’t for turning. The argument got so loud and ludicrous, the conductor came back from the carriage next door. Like all of us, he’d had enough – ours was just one carriage, God knows how conductors cope if this nonsense is repeated carriage after carriage. Anyhow, in trying to reason, he sort of snapped and asked the poor bloke where he was getting off. The bloke told him. “Good,” said the conductor, “It’s the next stop, just take your case and wait by the door!” This was a bit unfair, as he wasn’t the trouble maker. Worse, the bloke’s stop was actually an hour away, which undoubtedly the conductor knew. However the two had certainly been separated and peace had once again descended … almost.

The agro German woman was by now so hyped up, she had another lady cornered and was regaling her with the whole tale. After literally almost four minutes, she stopped long enough for the other lady to explain she was English and spoke no German!

We’d had train travel by the time our train arrived at Freiburg, however a beautiful apartment awaited us, we settled in and went to the Christmas Markets, full of good cheer, unaware there was one last mad moment lying in wait for me. This time, DB were not involved.

The markets were crowded, too much so, just like Muenster and Dresden, just too many people, all you could do is shuffle along with the crowd, trying to pick your way through any space that briefly appeared; in these situations, we always find it better for Ann to follow behind me, as my old rugby player shoulders are broad enough to clear a path for her to follow in – please note, there is nothing misogynistic in this procession, just safe passage for Ann!

Of course, there are always those who will make a path in a crowd no matter what – as any shopper knows, beware of Asian ladies on a mission, they will cut you off at the pass, the counter, the door or, most importantly, at the sale item. Anyhow, in peripheral vision, I became aware of a large German bloke in his mid to late fifties, wearing a beige overcoat striding through everyone. He was heading diagonally across my path, scattering people around him, it was obvious he didn’t care who was in his road. I briefly saw his face, he was coldly sneering. By now he was on me and I mean ‘on me.’ He just pushed into me, quite deliberately and utterly unnecessarily. I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Yes, you know what’s coming – I can’t let arseholes get away with that sort of shit. So in the best Kiwi Rugby tradition, I pushed back, with considerable force – Kia Kaha. He didn’t expect it, stumbled, then somehow managed to get his balance back. Apparently he looked back at me and Ann tells me a young couple were smiling broadly, I strode on, however I do believe he probably stopped pushing people around, at least for that night.

And that dear people was a perhaps fitting finale to a rather tiring day’s travel with DB.

Greg Ross