Happy Easter everyone! For me, every year the the time-old debate comes round: have Cadbury’s Creme Eggs got smaller, or have I got bigger? Thankfully, the answer is in the below clip, thanks to the intrepid investigative techniques of Conan O’Brien’s assistant…
assistant - wibbler.com
Last time I visited Switzerland, you may remember, I was waxing lyrical about the sheer amount of brothels. Not the wonderful cheese, the spectacular mountains, the glorious Swiss chocolate – but brothels.
And now, at the risk of being utterly stereotypical, I shall discuss at length the quality of Swiss beer. No, actually, first I shall let you in on my trip. And then discuss at length the beer.
It was a trip that had been put off since early January, and my experience of Switzerland before had made me eager to sample more. This time, three of my colleagues were on the plane with me for the three-day jaunt – Ian, John and Dean, who hails from Ireland and had come via a Westlife concert – don’t ask. Ian, John and I managed to meet – almost by accident – at Heathrow Terminal 4 on Sunday afternoon, and after checking in with the first check-in assistant I’ve ever witnessed with a personality, we headed for the bar.
Finding the bar was tricky though, and we split up to search. An excited call from John later, and we were in the Duty Free shop, trying 3 different types of vodka cocktails for free. “You’re meant to buy the bottles afterwards” came the distant call from the waitress as we hurried into the distance, our stomachs warmed considerably courtesy of Smirnoff.
Boarding the plane, Ian remarked that my lack of furry coat may be a problem in Switzerland. “No,” I retorted, “they’re closer to the equator than we are. If anything it’ll be warmer.” My ill-thought logic was woefully off-piste, as confirmed by the helpful captain as we looked over the frozen landscape a couple of hours later. “Best get your woolies on,” he cheerily advised, “it’s minus 7 degree centigrade down there.” Christ, I muttered.
We landed remarkably smoothly despite the Siberian conditions outside, and sidled off the plane in awe at the landscape. Switzerland is reknowned for its beautiful scenery and towering mountain landscapes, but I was blown away. Time was not on our side though – it was getting dark and there was a 1 hour train journey ahead of us. Switzerland’s transport system is legendary (at least in my eyes), and after momentary directional confusion, we found the train and reclined in leather-clad luxury for the smoothest ride I’ve ever experienced.
The hotel, just 100 metres from the station, was a pleasant surprise too. Decked out in classy glass and red leather sofas, mirrored ceilings and a glorious bar, it was manna from heaven at 10.30pm on a cold night. We dumped our bags, met Dean, tested the bar, and then slept. Slept well.
The following three days were a mix of training, evening drinking, laughing, resplendent restaurants and a battle for sleep. My colleagues, I discovered, were genuinely amusing, and I laughed until I cried at least three times a day. There were many hundreds of comical moments – from Dean’s initial greeting as he met us in the bar (as he passed the bar with his travel bags, we misheard “two secs” as “group sex”, a greeting that will forever be repeated on future meetings) to Ian’s “petit peu/petit pois” confusion and Dean’s description of the Irish traffic light system (“orange means put your foot down, red means you’re good for two more cars). I was struggling to stop giggling for most of the trip. The main company bod over in Germany, a large Bavarian man called Herbert, was a drinker beyond compare, and we managed to stay up until 2am every day, sampling the Swiss beer like there was no tomorrow.
Ah yes, the Swiss beer. Now, Dean had informed me of a little known fact at our first meeting about the difference between beer in the UK and Ireland and beer in the rest of Europe. According the gospel of Dean, there is a chemical in the UK beer that is banned in European beer. This chemical, I was informed, causes hangovers, in some complicated way I was unable to fully grasp. “Surely not,” I replied, “I’ve never heard that before”. So, in true British style, we decided to test it out. Nine pints of lager and a good sleep later and Dean’s theory was proved correct – we woke a little sleepy but otherwise completely fine.
And there, my friends, is the secret to the drinking skills of other Europeans. The drink because their beer is actually tasty and because they don’t get hangovers. There are all sorts of questions that arise from this, not least why we have that darned chemical in the first place, but we were content to test the theory every night for three days. On the last day we toured Zurich city centre, and discovered an odd mixture of lapdancing clubs and many, many clothes shops. Its architecture is very like Milan, if you’ve ever been, and I’m eager to visit again, despite their extortionate taxis.
So, another trip to Switzerland finished. Safe to say I was in need of a rest, and slept for most of the next two days. Now I’m back in the land of the living, and eagerly awaiting the next excuse to visit…
The plan was going better than I had hoped. I surged off the M25 slip road and coasted into 6th gear, sweeping past the slow-moving lorry as the rain pattered more and more urgently on the windscreen.
I decided to chance it. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we went away right now for the weekend?” I remarked nonchalantly.
“Yes, it would,” Michelle agreed, looking confusingly at the big navigation screen in front of her, “but we’re going to Paul’s barbeque – he wouldn’t be too happy!”
A mischievous grin spread across my face. “He won’t know.”
“Because we’re not going to Paul’s.”
And so it was that for the first time in three and a half years I had managed to put the wind up Michelle, as it were. For the only time in memory, I have been able to keep something a secret from her for a month and a half, and I was proud. As I detailed the lengths I had gone to, and how everyone knew but her, my mind strayed to poor Paul and his girlfriend Liz. Paul and I had planned this event for the last month, only for Paul to have to pull out at the last moment. Never mind – we were off for a lazy weekend hotel stay in Bath, and nothing could stop us.
There is a curious certainty about travelling west of London – that the closer you get to Wales, the more rain you’ll find. This was our 3rd visit to Dorian House in the heart of Bath and my ninth visit to that area of the country – and without exception every trip has been marred by storms, wind and rain. Undaunted, we ploughed on.
We arrived at nine in the evening, and immediately set about ordering a taxi to the nearest Indian. The Eastern Eye, an enormous place in an old Roman banqueting hall, calmed our troubled stomachs and thoughts turned to the next couple of days. Paul, an event manager through and through, had been phoning and emailing regularly over the last few weeks with thoughts on what we should do – a trip to the zoo, and Comedy Walk around Bath, the obligatory visit to the Roman Baths – but without him there was little motivation to move outside our comfort zone. We settled on rising late the next morning, and shopping until the early evening.
And we stuck well to our plan. The exasperated phonecall from the hotel manager at 11am – “we really need to clean your room now, if you wouldn’t mind” – made me think that it was as good a time as any to haul my great carcass out of bed. Feeling energetic, we walked the 1 mile into town, stopping off on route to marvel at new “Japanese-style” apartments overlooking the whole of Bath – “just ?200,000 for a one bedroom home, sir” the saleman informed us, apparently without batting an eyelid. As we landed on familiar High Street territory, The Gadget Shop jumped out at us.
One hour later, having discussed at length with a female assistant the merits of a huge, phallic-shaped vibrating massager – “it gets into all your nooks and crannies” – we emerged with 3 items. One was the massager, and the other two…. well, they’ll be kept secret until the next party. But lunch was looming and after Michelle was attacked by a couple of friendly crows we found the appropriately-named Yum Yum Thai.
By then it was three o’clock and we were waning. Stocking up with edible goodies from Marks and Spencer sounded like a good plan and half an hour later we were at the checkout, about to hail a bus home. The bus came, we clambered aboard with multiple bags, and let the good man drive us up the hill.
And that, pretty much, was that. The hotel was as good as ever, Bath was as enjoyable as ever, and next time, god dammit, Paul and Liz are coming with us. You hear?
Oh the joys of just going about your daily business. A friend at work was discussing, as you do, how her local Tescos are always changing the “female hygiene” aisle. She beckoned an assistant the other day, asked where the hell the tampon section was, to which the assistant replied, pointing over to the corner of the supermarket, “Well, just for effect, it’s now subtly positioned between the two meat sections…”
There’s nothing better than arriving at a pub, buying a drink and winning a prize. Well, there probably is, but not for the purpose of this story. You see, Nick, Michelle and I got a winning ticket with a bottle of Archers last night, and won a camera, which was nice. What was even nicer was the picture the Archers ‘crew’ (wicked, nice one, sorted) took of us, specially for the Archers website! Expect our grinning mugs on the Archers website in days…
I must just mention the walk home from the pub too. We stopped at a service station to get some food, and Nick spied a tasty-looking pasty on the shelf. Bringing it eagerly to the counter, he produced his wallet. The assistant looked bemused. He looked at Nick, looked and the small pasty, and then back to Nick again. Long moments passed, and the oligatory tumbleweed skitted idly past. “Are you aware,” said the assistant in utter astonishment, “that the pasty is ?2.29?” Nick tried slurring something back, but failed. So I piped up, “Christ Almighty, that’s a lot”, which rather neatly summed up the entire shop’s feelings. “Yes”, replied the assistant. “Yes, well, I’d like to buy it” replied Nick, to the astonishment of everyone, before turning to me and muttering, “Haven’t got ?2.29 on you, have you mate?”
So, I bought the most expensive pasty you could ever wish to set eyes upon, and didn’t even get a bite. Well done me.