Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ding Dong! The Bastard's gone!

I followed the election crouched around my laptop with 3 other Aussie expats, all desperately hoping my somewhat shaky broadband connection held up to streaming ABC 702. It was only 10am here when the first results came in, and even four days later I am still bursting with satisfaction that I got hear Howard concede live.

I thought Kevin Rudd's speech was utterly pedestrian. I know it was a careful pitch to first time ALP voters, but come on! There are people, exhausted true believers, who had worked so hard and waited so long for Saturday night and it belonged to them. It was the swing voters in marginal seats who delivered the election, but wasn't it the people who hung in doggedly through eleven horrible years of howard-beazley-crean-latham, who get up at 5am to set up the booths and stuff envelopes, who held the party together?

Most of the coverage on Howard's legacy talks about Workchoices, and that and the housing crunch probably cost him the election. But I haven't much talk of the biggest victims of the Howard years - Cornelia Rau, David Hicks, Shayan Bedraie and all the others who suffered because the Howard government found it politically convenient to exploit the worst in the Australian polity.

Mungo MacCallum has an excellent piece in Crikey reminding us all what we lost here.

For more than eleven years, John Howard led us on a voyage driven by greed and fear, into parochialism and paranoia, selfishness and racism, bigotry and corruption, and other dark places in the Australian psyche where we never should have gone. It was a mean and ugly trip, and it will take us all a long time to recover.

It's been called a humiliating defeat, but it's easy to imagine that Howard is packing up the Lodge whistling My Way, for not having handed over to Peter Costello. In refusing to hand over to a whining weasel like Costello he might have screwed the Liberal party for the next ten years, but it must seem preferable to have prevented Mr "It's my turn now" from any place in the history books.

The ABC must be already celebrating. This story is relevant, but there's a healthy amount sneering in their choice of clip (the link is an mp3). It certainly gave me a thril. Investigate that Richard Alston!

Monday, October 8, 2007

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I've got an ohrwurm (ear worm). That's what they say in Germany when you have a song in your head. I watched Hillary and Jackie on the weekend and now I have Elgar's Cello concerto in E minor rolling in my head.

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We are having a last little summer. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live here, but Sunday reminded me. I had been out late the night before, to Cologne, to a tiny, smoky bar, and didn't get to bed till 6am. My flatmate woke me at midday and we wandered over the Rhine to have coffee in the Old town. They had run out of bread, so we couldn't have breakfast, went on to another cafe.

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Then our lazy afternoon journey took us to the Hofgarten in front of the grand university buildings, before leading us back to the Rhine again. There was a Boules tournament in progress, and a huge spreading Plane tree in the centre of the beer garden. My flatmate tried to be too clever with his Berlin drink names and accidentally ended up with half beer, half fanta. It was disgusting.

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There is an old man who regularly comes up to people at the beer garden and in outdoor cafes. He always wears a suit and offers to draw your picture, very quickly, for just 3 euros. If none at the table want a portrait, he argues quite fiercely.

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I couldn't do this at home.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I am still in Bonn. I went to Dresden, then I came back, moved into a flat with three German people, started working in the radio section and went on a little trip to Amsterdam. Home internet is now officially buggered, owing to a faulty router we think.

I am sitting in my office now, which I have to myself because I am on the late shift, and watching CNN. I have finished a story on paedophile priests and watching Dubya address the UN General Assembly. In the main office an energetic discussion is taking place on Burma v. Myanmar - what is it called? The BBC says Burma, but the German Foreign Ministry says Myanmar.

I quite like the late shift (4pm till midnight). It is very quiet and you are often sent home early, and paid extra for working late. The 7am shift is hell - rush, rush, rush and some urgent thing to report on for 9am and I never get away on time.

I have a secret, a good one. I hope I can share it soon - until then, a giant head from Münster Platz in Bonn.

Giant head in Münster Platz

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Well, I've been away. But I'm back now - proper post coming soon. In the meantime, Amsterdam.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Slack blogger! I've taken some pictures though.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jesus Wept! I receive a visit from the departmental secretary, whose spies have informed her that I have rebooked my flight without letting her or the company travel office know. The travel service says I have to pay 90 euros to change the date.

What can I say? I am an adult, it is my ticket and the Emirates are doing the flying and they said it was fine, and mentioned no charge. Clearly I have not followed correct procedure and there it much shaking of heads.

It is this kind of thing that makes people I work with say “Oh, that is so fucking German!” Germans are exceptionally well organised, but they do like their forms and their processes.

After further consultation, it seems I do have to pay the travel service 90 euros for doing nothing, but my blood pressure was up and it was only 11am.

I have lunch with another Australian intern, recently arrived, who is also trapped in a nasty German paperwork vortex. She can’t get paid until she has a visa and bank account, but she can’t get a visa until she had registered with the town hall and got a health insurance card and despite applying for all these things it is taking time. In the meantime she is bring her lunch (cabbage and carrots) and feeling rather unmotivated at work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

No, no news. Well, there is some, but it has only lead to more uncertainty so I will save it for later.

In the interim, I do some person admin. Having previously been assured that my very expensive ticket is fully flexible by the Emirates call centre in Calcutta some time ago, I call them again to change my return flight. I don’t actually have a return date in mind, but I know I don’t want to go home next Tuesday, which is when the booking is currently for, so I need to change it.

I call the Australian call centre number, which puts me through to India.

A very, very quiet, far-away voice answers.

“I can hardly hear you,” I say.


“I want to change my flight date,” and I give the booking reference.

Long Silence.

“This is not possible. Your ticket expires on the first of August. You need to go home on Tuesday if you want to use this ticket”

“WHAT? I called before and was told it was fully flexible”

“This ticket expires on the first of August.”

“Well, why was I told it was flexible when I called before?”

Long Silence.

Extremely bored tone. “This is what it says. Your ticket expires on the first of August.”

I throw myself full throttle into middle-class strop mode. [I learnt how to do this from watching my mother, who is excellent at it. One day when I have time I will tell the fabulous story of unsatisfactory dishwasher installation.]

Me, firmly, “I want to speak to someone else in your office about this.”

Long Silence.

Bored with a hint of snide now. “Well, if you hang up your phone, then call this number again, you will probably get another staff member taking your call.”

Long Silence.

I do not think my call was being recorded for quality and coaching purposes

I hang up, then freak out about having to pack up and leave in 6 days. Then I call the Frankfurt office of Emirates. Such is my state of nerves that I just start speaking in English. A nice man in reservations with perfect English confirms that my ticket is indeed fully flexible and rebooks it for me, for October.