Murphy’s Law #1 – The first 48 hours of my holiday

We have all heard it and as the age old adage of Murphy goes “what can go wrong, will go wrong”. On top of this there is even the amendment “if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, then the thing that will go wrong will be the one that will do the most damage”. And then there is the other variation of where everything just goes wrong with the first of course being “the worst”. So with that in mind, let the story of my first 48 hours of holiday begin (that bitch Karma is totally not getting a Christmas card this year).

Getting to the Airport

I had a 2.30pm flight. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes according to Maps for me to to get to the airport. So I left home at 11am….

After hustling to try and get a ticket for 20 mins and getting the train to Luton I sat with a truckload of other impatient and cranky passengers whilst getting the entertainment of the year. This flamboyant gay guy covered in glitter proceeded to give everybody on the train an entire run down of his last night and pretty much his life whilst on the phone to his friends. Majority of people however couldn’t suppress their historical laughter as he proceeded to inform everybody that the other night he went out and did 14 shots of sambuca, blacked out and woke up with 23 Daim bars from Tesco. At this point I was optimistic and getting geared up for a good holiday.

Then the shit started to hit the fan… traffic was so bad on the highway that it took 45 minutes for a bus that would normally take 6 to ferry everyone to the airport. It is 1.30 pm. I have an hour until departure. I am full blown flipping my nut at this stage….

Checking In

Because Wizz Air are a disorganized cluster fuck of an operation, when I tried to check in online 2 days earlier it told me I couldn’t and needed to call customer service. So I called customer service. They told me to go and check in at the counter and it would be free.

So as I get to the airport there is a line bigger than Goliath and I was like “fuck this” and pushed through priority queue. I managed to get seen fairly quickly on the proviso I had no checked luggage because their conveyor system had shat itself and left everyone unable to check in.

It was at this time I was told that I was a “standby” passenger for the plane as they had overbooked it. Fury! I booked this flight 2 months in advance to attend a dental appointment the next day. I was getting on a flight one way or another or heads were going to roll. Their massive screw up lead me to this situation so they could fix it.

Standing By

While “standing by” I met a guy who was also on standby. He was graciously nonchalant about the situation because his boss was having a flip out. If he didn’t get back to the Formula One in Budapest to move a piece of equipment that only he was authorized to move by midnight the company would be fined 50,000 pounds. The guy says it serves his boss right for booking a cheap shit flight with 15 people on standby at the last minute.

Thankfully there was space and we got on the plane. But this wasn’t the last of the stand by… we sat there. Then sat there some more. Then I had a nap. Sat there some more. Read 75 pages of my book. And then sat there some more. After about an hour and a half of sitting on the tarmac going nowhere we were informed that the passenger manifest did not add the same as the number of people on board. So they had to figure out who the passenger was and then find their luggage. At some point a guy got irate on the plane and the cops had to be called to come and get him. The kids were even more off the show running up and down the aisles and hanging from the rafters like a pack of monkeys. One even tried to eat the apple core I put on the floor earlier because there was no bin. So shit was getting crazy and I had another nap and read some more….

5pm rolls around. We have been on a plane grounded for 2 and a half hours when Wizz Air tell us that they will be kindly making food and drink available for purchase. Riotous carnage then ensued and within five minutes we were allowed a free “snack or drink”. By the time I got to the end of the queue that whole thing had gone out the window and people were just taking whatever. I wound up with a sandwich, snickers bar and an orange juice. Eventually at 6pm, things got sorted and after 3 and a half hours of being on the tarmac we took off with a mass eruption of applause from everyone on board.

Touchdown

9pm Budapest time… finally arrived. Four hours behind schedule. Made my way to the hostel.

Midnight Snack

After checking into the hostel I had a chat to few people and went to bed. Dentist in the morning and I was just relieved to get there. It was hot, the window was open and I set about trying to sleep. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being gnawed at however and figured if it was on my toes it was probably mosquitoes. Within 3 hours my suspicions were confirmed and I caught a bed bug between my fingers and killed it. I took it out to reception and put it on the guys desk.

“I’m allergic and I can’t stay in there or any room where this is a risk” I told him. I took residence upstairs far away from any room with my stuff and slept (I use the term sleep loosely here) in the beanbag on the floor.

The following day he tells me that what I put on his desk wasn’t a bed bug and that my 9 glorious welts must be from a spider or a mosquito. I got angry. “I put that bug on your desk and you are going to make me out a liar?” He says “but I looked online and the bites don’t show up for a day or so”.

“Not if you’re allergic” I told him. But at this point I had to go to the dentist.

Dentist

You know you are having a really shit day when the most positive aspect of your day is the fact that you only needed 2 fillings when you assumed you would need up to 6. With a half dead mouth, an incapacity to smile and a slightly happier wallet that I anticipated, I got on my bike back to the hostel to go fight with the manager.

Captive Passport Negotiations

 Upon my departure of the hostel in the morning, the staff told me that I had to pay 2 nights accommodation or no passport. I had ‘slept’ there one night. And refused to pay the second. Apparently I need to give them 24 hours notice. And I am like “not when I am in an antihistamine-induced half-coma because of your establishment.

Despite having physically presenting them a bug, I had to deal with the manager berating me like I was a child who knew nothing. “Do you even know what bed bugs look like?” I said to him “Yes. I have dealt with them up to 15 times now and I know what they look like and how my body responds to them.”. He told me he was going to have to “respectfully disagree with me” in his condescending arsehole tone and then gave me my passport back without me paying a cent. After getting my hands back on my passport I told him I didn’t appreciate being spoken down to and called a liar and that regardless of whether he “respectfully disagrees” it is in his best interests to do something about it and then I left.

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The current state of a portion of my lower back

I then spent a good hour wandering around trying to find somewhere to stay that wasn’t full. And I did. For one night at least. But I still have to move the next night. I now lie here in my gloriously bed bug free bed (I hope) tired, covered in giant welts and cortisone cream still shaking and unable to sleep from my allergic reaction and hoping that the rest of my Balkan’s Adventure doesn’t keep this tone. If it does I might have to hang up the travel shoes for good and become a hermit.

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10 Steps To Doing Life Like That Awesome Dude Charles Darwin

My friend and I trekked on bus and train to get to the far reaches of the town of Downe, UK. The historical importance of this place is that it was home to Charles Darwin and was the place where he not only sat and wrote his famous book ‘On The Origin Of Species’, but where he did a load of investigations for the book and where he raised his family. What I did not expect was just how much of a freakin’ awesome dude Darwin was in his life. So here is some shit I learned about that Darwin guy and why we should all be doing life like Darwin. Here are the steps to immortality and awesomeness:

  1. Get born into a rich family

So the key thing you need to do is get born rich. Both of his grandfathers were incredible in their own rights. On the paternal side there was Erasmus Darwin who also wrote his own theories about how all life is linked and was no doubt and inspiration to Charles. As a doctor and investor, he was also loaded.

On the other side of the family was the Wedgewood’s. These guys were super loaded from making the famous Wedgewood pottery. Rock and roll, a life of luxury and not having to work for a living all set to go!

2.    Become a gigantic obsessive compulsive fruit loop.

Of my favourite stories of Down House is of Darwin in his youth collecting beetles. Being the obsessive compulsive guy he was, he was hunting beetles in the back yard and found 3 new species he didn’t have. One for the left hand. One for the right. And oh shit! What am I going to do with the third one??? I know! I’ll put the one in my hand in my mouth, pick up the new one and we’re all good. Except we are not. Because the beetle in my mouth just did a very acrid shit in my mouth and I had to spit it out and lost all my other beetles in the process…. oops.

We shall then rinse (mouth and process) and repeat obsessive collector behaviour some more because it is fun and what will see us to becoming lodged in history for all of eternity.

3.    Drop out of the most prestigious university in the country

Darwin originally started attending university in Scotland for medicine. And flunked. Then he went to the famous Cambridge University to study to be a vicar. Not having  a keen interest in study and basically not really giving too much of a shit, he dropped out of that too. Dad was pissed, obviously, but you know, these things happen.

4.    Get your uncle to convince your dad to foot the bill for your gap year sailing the world

When Darwin dropped out, he was all ‘what am I going to do now?’ Then along came the opportunity to go on the HMS Beagle as a companion to the captain so he didn’t get so lonely and top himself like the last captain. By doing this he paved the way for the millions of teens in this century by deciding on taking a few ‘gap years’. And like all children on a gap year, they go to their parents with hand out and say ‘can I have some money? I’ll pay you back’. And Darwin’s dad says ‘hells to the no! You shall not go!’

So of course he then goes and gets good ole Uncle Jo and he is all ‘let me deal with Dad’ and all of a sudden Charles is allowed to go on his round the world sailing trip and Dad pays for it. And off he sails into the sunset to go chill out with turtles and all kinds of fun plants and animals to make discoveries and to do all those things that people did on 19th century gap years.

5.    Make a pros and cons list about marriage

Everybody gets to that point in their life where they don’t know what to do with themselves next. When Darwin finished his massive gap year, he came home and contemplated getting married. He couldn’t decide what to do. And so he made a massive pros and cons list that is still to this day displayed in his house and decided that the pros won out. Then he married his cousin, Emma Wedgewood. Unlike loads of very unromantic and excessively ‘civil’ marriages of Victorian England, these two seemed to love each other and actually spent time with each other hanging out and doing stuff like playing backgammon. Way to be awesome to your wife, Darwin. More men should take a leaf from your book. Except for the whole marrying your cousin bit.

6.    Move to the countryside cause its cheap and pop out a few kids

Because it was cheaper than inner city London and still is, it is advisable to do it like Darwin and move to the country and get a big property with lots of space to chill out in. Then you can have a garden to investigate plants and worms. You can also pop out a few kids with your significant other and let them have fun running around the lawn and helping you out with your investigations.

7.    Be the most awesome and fun Dad in the world

To be the most awesome Dad in the world like Darwin, you have to spend some time with your kids doing stuff.  It is also advisable to build a massive wooden slide that you can use to slide down the staircase on the inside of the house. You need not be one of these stiff upper lip Victorian types who shows no affection. It is advisable to show affection and love to your kids and play with them outside and then you too can be like Darwin.

8.     Hang out with worms

Cause all of the most coolest and humble people in the world love a good worm. His last research projects were on the humble worm and their contribution to the ecosystem and processing nutrients. Not at all afraid to get his hands dirty! What a guy!

9.     Write an awesome book

After twenty years in the making of a theory, you will then receive another scientists work in the mail for observation, freak the hell out when you realize that is the same theory as yours and then go into total meltdown. You will then spend a year summarizing your findings and release a book that will be shunned by the entire Catholic Church that you were supposed to become a vicar in and only truly appreciated for your genius by half of the scientific community. Well at least for now.

10.     Become a scientific icon and get buried with famous people

After all of the years of ridiculousness and hoo-haa, you will eventually become very sick at a ripe old age with heart disease and pass away in the company of family. Then because you are so awesome, people will not allow your wishes to be buried at home to be fulfilled but instead they will petition to have you buried in Westminster Abbey with that good old bloke Isaac Newton so you can be scientific tomb buddies for all eternity.

So there you have it! Ten steps to being the most awesome dude ever like Darwin. I am pretty sure that he is up there with my most favourite of scientific heroes. Its a shame that more people can’t be as smart and kind as Darwin. If the world was full of Darwin’s, I think it would be pretty damn awesome!

 

 

 

 

 

Shit I Learned In Cambridge

Of course being a scientist lends to me being a total nerdball when heading to the land of Cambridge. And being the grand educational facility that it is, I obviously learned a bit of shit.

Nobel Prize Winners

  • The first bit of shit I learned is that there have been 90 Nobel Prize winners that have come from Cambridge. They boast more than Oxford so they win that grand rivalry, and these are more interesting to me because majority of them are in science related fields.
  • One such Nobel Prize was won by Watson who discovered the double helix formation of DNA in the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge and then headed on down to the Eagle Pub to tell everyone about his discovery. We of course went in here to have a drink where all the great minds of science got smashed since the 1500’s. This pub is also full of RAF names, stickers and photos from those that went to serve in World War 2.
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The plaque on the wall outside The Eagle Pub declaring this is the place where Watson first announced his discovery of DNA double helix

  • Other Nobel Prize winners to come out of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge are Lord Rutherford for his work on the radioactive decay, Lord Rayleigh for the discovery of Argon and a whole bunch of physicists. Of course, I love the chemists more because that is what I trained to do, but the brains that have passed through these buildings are unsurpassed.
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Outside the Physical Laboratory at Cavendish. Where all the action takes place.

Cambridge Shenanigans

  • With the amazing minds of the world gathering here, there had to be some kind of mischief during the downtime. Favourite past times of many of the students here involved free climbing buildings. At one point during Christmas some unknown pranksters decided that scaling the famous church at King’s College and placing Santa hats on the spires would be funny. This was accepted as being comical. The following week when they decided to put a fluorescent orange traffic cone on the spire instead it was not well received by the college. So after putting all of the scaffolding up to safely take the traffic cone down, the pranksters of course rescaled the building and moved the traffic cone from where it was to the other end of the building that didn’t have scaffolding. Lol!
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The church at King’s College with the spires that have been home to Santa hats and traffic cones

  • As impressive as this was, I think my favourite shenanigan involved the statue of King Henry VIII at the entrance of Trinity College. He used to have a golden sceptre in his hand…. then of course somebody free climbed the building and replaced the sceptre with a wooden chair leg. Nobody found the sceptre. The chair leg is still there. At some point somebody took the chair leg but there was such an outcry to have the chair leg put back that they replaced it a couple of days later.
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King Henry VIII holding his wooden chair leg

  • Another feat of the minds of physics was achieved when they managed to put a car on top of the Senate building in the middle of the night with pulley systems. The engine was removed first so that the load wasn’t as great, but still a pretty impressive achievement. This somewhat reminds me of some kids in my brothers year level at school mounting their MDT teacher’s car on a stump next to the school parking lot. Maybe they weren’t worked hard enough. Too much time on their hands……

Getting Exam Results and Graduating

  • It is unfortunate for the slackers, but all of the results for Cambridge University students are put on display in a whole bunch of showcases for the entire public to see. Even worse than that is in mathematics, whose faculty decided that they would publicly read out exam results in front of everybody and bestow a massive wooden spoon upon the worst grade holder for them to carry for the entirety of the year. Ouch.
  • And with all of the amazing parties that they have at the end of it all, there comes, with great engineering, the float down the river. But instead of using the punting boats, they have to make their own from cardboard boxes. I would imagine that some of them would have had quite a good shellacking.
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Normal people attempting ‘punting’ down the river. This is where the cardboard boxes go too.

Trinity College Awesomeness

  • The most incredible mind to attend at Trinity College was Sir Isaac Newton. While his gravitational ideas were actually conceived of somewhere else, it is said that the tree currently outside of the college is planted with a seed from the apple tree that led Newton to his theories.
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RAF memorabilia on the walls of the Eagle Pub

  • And of course then there is Prince Charles. Who attended Trinity College with his two bodyguards. Upon completion of his courses, his bodyguards requested to sit the exams too as they had sat through all of the lectures. Apparently they both got better grades than Charles. Rumour. But hilarious.

Well, that is all from Cambridge! Til next time I learn some more shit!

 

 

 

Making A Mess Of Life

About every six months or so I find myself in a position where I am grossly unhappy with certain aspects of my life and my relationships with people begin to falter as I fall deeper and deeper into the hole. I start behaving more and more like an arsehole. Then right as I feel like I am about to bury myself I decide “Fuck it, had enough of this shit, I’m moving!”. For the first time in a very long time I am now finding that I am having to find ways of resolving particular situations that don’t involve booking a plane ticket to somewhere else. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. Because not only do I not know where to start with fixing anything, it is hard to know which battles are lost and which are worth fighting for. Which ones you can turn around and change, and which ones you should just walk away from.

As work and home become equal contenders in the category of “places I really don’t want to be or have to deal with right now”, one must sit back and decide “Do I stick it out? Or do I change the things I am unhappy with?” Better yet, “What is it that I can actually change that may make my life a little easier?”

The first I discovered is my attitude. My attitude sucks right now. I will be the first to admit it. And as things get worse, my attitude gets worse. At some point, this cycle needs to be broken. Some say meditation helps, however I think I would find myself in the same position as my friend a couple of years ago yelling at the meditation man “Stop telling me to calm the fuck down! I am calm! If you tell me to be calm one more time I will ram your head through the wall!” The only ways I can think of right now are 1. Retreating into myself for a while and not having contact or conversations with people to avoid said situations until they blow over and are forgotten about or 2. Manning the fuck up and accepting responsibility for my shit behaviour in the hope that the people I am dealing with aren’t petty grudge holders. From my dealings with many, I find grudge holding to be huge. Which is quite sad because those that hold grudges are generally more miserable than those that aren’t.

Then as I go into fixing messes head first, because that is how I deal with everything I remember something that my Dad told me after his many years of life experience. In his wisdom he once told me ‘2 days. Everything is usually better after 2 days. So if you can just hold on for that 2 days and work through it, then you will be just fine’. And right he is. In those 2 days proceeding the point where I hit perceived rock bottom, I managed to claw my way out of it. As I always do.

Despite the fact that I still have this nagging urge to go somewhere else, I am now realizing that it is my choice to enjoy the right now where I am until then. It is my choice in how I respond to other people. It is my choice of how I let others treat me. And mostly, it is my own choice how it is that I manage my attitude. Because 100% of life is about how you tackle what it is that life throws your way, shitty curveballs and all. So game on, bring it!