The new Twin Peaks

IMG_2564.JPGHere is a shot I took of “The Great Northern” back in 2010 


It was a slow, but very transfixing experience. (I remember warning Conan that it would be slow.)

Nothing was intensely bizarre, or frustratingly oblique — except for that scene in Space. And everything seemed to be flowing towards something. It had a narrative!

It also had plenty of nods to the fans and quite a few laughs. But I got the distinct impression these first episodes won’t have the beautiful re-watchability as the 90s TP had. But of course this wasn’t a reboot of Twin Peaks — it wasn’t a brand new soap opera or an “Invitation to Love.” This was a big, bad “What Happened Next.”

The credits were incredible. As much as drone-filmography have a bad rap, they really do get some amazing vistas and the shot over the falls was just incredible. Like what a poetic death-plunge would look like. Very symbolic. And yep – I was ready to dive right in.



So I was due to watch this all at Bri and Tim’s place. Also coming were Conan, Susan and Ben (And Laura eventually). Just barely north of beer-o’clock.

I arrived super-early having tried to engage everyone I could about the momentousness of today: a) the guy in the boozer — no idea. b) The woman at the donut stand — completely oblivious. And the taxi driver tried his best as I piled into the cab with all my bits. But again, no hint of any idea what Twin Peaks was. Sigh.

As I came in Bri was putting the finishing touches on her cherry pie. But there was music in the air and soon Conan swaggered in with an equal sense of nervous expectation. Tim was doing exercise and the dog Arrow was so cute he had a way of getting onto the balcony by magic. (The dog door in another room was later revealed to me.)

Susan arrived with wine and then Ben with cigarettes. We watched the last episode of season 2 and then a little mashup before Bri suddenly announced it had dropped a few minutes early. I was so nervous it took me a while to relax enough to actually sit down. I noticed Susan spent the majority of the 4 hours of viewing on the edge of her spot on the couch, leaning as close as she could to the screen. (Bri and Tim have a projector so we got to see it almost cinematically).

There was silence in the room for the first 50 minutes. It was all business. The ground rules had been laid before. No chit-chat, but laughing and crying and gasping were acceptable. And there was all of that. Including the tears at Margaret — the Log Lady’s final scenes. (Heartbreaking). Bri lost it apparently. She had tubes going into her nose and we all know they were totally legit.

Then we had an accidental break at 50 mins and we could all grab some air, use the facilities, get some more refreshments and do a tiny debrief. It had been pretty intense up to that point. We all agreed it was compelling. But we needed more!

Steadily the party got looser and I got in trouble for talking (see below). Conan kept looking at me with that “eek!” look in his eye and any time there was a “Blue Rose” mention — Bri and I had a little nod at each other. (That was the name of our trivia team at GOMA and BLACK [BEAR] LODGE).

Conan gripped my thigh quite a few times at intense moments. I jgnored it and just kept sinking another beverage. I got quite wasted by the end and started talking about how the cosmic background radiation has a cold spot and that was evidence of another universe with just might be connected to the black lodge. Ugh.

Luckily it was time for episode 4 and I was forced to shut up.



That’s where things really clicked. Apparently they (Showtime I imagine) were only going to “drop” the first 3 episodes on May 22, but it seemed they realised that would be a mistake and they needed a lighter, funnier, more traditional episode to keep us all keen.

By this stage the whole world was trying to hit this stream and Stan kept freezing or going low-res or pausing for buffering. It was almost imperceptible if it wasn’t for the spinning “loading icon” at the centre of the screen. We got used to it and decided to plough on.

What made this episode was it had a great deal of old characters. Heaps of Good Cooper just coming to sense with the real world. Then more Hawk and “Sheriff Truman.” (Is this the real Truman re-cast by Robert Forster or is it Truman’s brother?) In Ep1 one was “sick” and the other was “fishing” according to Lucy. And this one was the one “fishing”. I think Bobby calls him “Frank”. Just before he says: “I gotta take a leak so bad my back teeth are floating!”

So I think we have that issue sorted. LOL. Then we get Wally (Michael Cera) confirming that. Sick Truman was his godfather. Wally is paying his respects. But also saying goodbye. (I think he will be back.) He talks about Lewis and Clark. (Just like in the Secret History book by Mark Frost).

The biggest laugh of the afternoon came when Wally is trying so hard to be profound: “My shadow is always with me. Sometimes ahead, Sometimes behind. Sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. Except on cloudy days…or at night.”

Then Sheriff Truman walks away and does a quick shake of the head.

Bobby says that Cooper was the last to see his dad Major Briggs. But of course this insinuates that Bad Cooper killed Major Briggs and covered it up in a fire.

And we get some Naomi Watts. Our Naomi Watts. Brilliant.

Oh god Lucy and Andy are just the same and it is bloody, bloody incredible. And Ched is a dick! Go have a word with your pine-cone douchecanoe.

Mike puts it down saying that Good Cooper was tricked and that now one of them must die. Battle lines are drawn. Good vs Evil.

Cooper looks at his reflection again and it seems like he is beginning to know he is real again. Cooper has a great thumbs up with “Sonny Jim.” Coffee can save him!

Tammy is going to be a real force in the next episodes.

I really suspect that the body (without a head) in the Ruth Davenport crime scene is actually Major Briggs. EEK.

And who is the woman that Rosenfield and Cole need to talk to to expose the fake Cooper? Cannot wait.





There were so many threads. Here are the few I can just about note down:

1) Dr Jacobi and his mission to paint several shovels in gold.

2) Ben and Jerry had a welcome joust early on. It seemed these eccentric characters had turned out in their old age (25 years later) just like they would have IRL.

3) Bad Cooper (And Darya + Ray + Jack’s conspiracy) [and Otis and clan]

3.1) Bad Cooper and his link to the death of Ruth Davenport (Obviously he had Bill Hasting’s wife [“Phyllis”] under his spell).

3.2) Bad Cooper’s plan about NOT getting pulled back into Black Lodge. (And what Gia Carides’ “Hannah” has to do with that). See pt 10.

3.3) Bad Cooper vs Agent Rosenfield and Gordon Cole. (And what role with Agent Tamara/Tammy [Chrysta Bell] play?)

4) Who is the “rest” of Ruth Davenport’s “body”? (And who is that “burnt man” in the jail cell next to Bill Hasting that promptly evaporates?)

5) Hawk and the clue that Margaret (Log Lady) left. Plus all the other stuff linked to the Sherrif’s office.

6) The clues the giant gave Cooper in scene 1: “4.3.0.”, “Linda and Richard”, “Two birds with one stone”

7) What’s the deal with the “Billionaire” with his glass box. And who/what was released just before that ripped Tracey and Sam to shreds. (In the credits it lists “Carel Struyckenn – ??????”)

8) Mr Todd (and Roger) in Las Vegas. Someone makes Mr Todd do bad things.

9) James! and his motorcycle accident. His link with Shelly? And then there’s Balthazar Getty (“Red”) and his connection. Also in that scene (according to the credits) is a new Renault: “Jean-Michel Renault” played by Walter Olkewicz who played “Jarques” back in 90s TP. More interesting than intriguing.

10) The THIRD “Cooper”? oh boy. His name is “Dougie Jones”. And he had the ring. It seems that Bad Cooper can’t be in the real world at the same time as Good Cooper. Someone had to go back to the Lodge so that the real Cooper could come back. (Was he the bad Cooper’s decoy? — this is Susan’s theory). Like the ring made him appear to be the Bad Cooper the Lodge wanted back. (Aside: Loved how Bad Cooper vomited cream corn.) ‘Something is wrong,” Mike says in the episode before. And then, “Someone manufactured you.” So I think there is no real third Cooper — just something Bad Cooper tricked the Black Lodge with. But then there is this gold ball that keeps coming up. We shall see. I think Susan is spot on perfectly right here. (Oh and what is the deal with the assassins trying to kill “Dougie” (Trick Cooper).


And finally:

10) Good Cooper! Cooper was pretty much the only thing I really paid attention to in the original series. And although his storyline here is really frustrating — by episode 4 it seems he is getting somewhere. Someone who has spent 25 years in the Black Lodge is going to behave a little (I mean “LOT”) weird in the real world. I do need to mention that that bit in space with the woman whose eyes have grown over is silly! But maybe beautifully silly?


Loved how they had genuine bands playing at the Roadhouse at the end of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th episodes. (Au Revoir Simone!) But otherwise music is quite sparse. There appeared to be a Trent Reznor song during Bad Cooper’s drive through the woods to Otis’ house. But it took until over 7 minutes into episode two (apart from credits) for any of Angelo’s original score to get an airing. And even then it was painfully brief.

The Cactus Blossoms are the band in ep3.



I am thoroughly convinced that Laura is going to get out of the black lodge and kick ass in the real world. She says to Cooper, “I am dead. Yet I live”. Then she gets sucked into some vortex and disappears.

From what I knew at the time I was 15 talking to girls who were totally into TP, Laura’s story really affected them. She was almost an “everywoman” to certain people. A woman in trouble and everyone knew it — like Bobby screams at the funeral.

While I identified with Cooper, plenty of women saw Laura as just as much. She had insights into what it was like to be a girl. I read Laura’s diary and someone said to me she almost felt I shouldn’t be reading that because it contained secrets only girls should know. Laura hit nerves. I just saw her screams and how she could instil terror in me. But she was much more than that.

While we were watching EP2 when “contemporary” Laura (2017 Sheryl Lee) appeared I instinctively predicted what was about to be said I got a very firm, “Shut up!” from Susan. I imagine this scene, although pretty predictable to me, was truly important to her. And then Bri said after all 4 episodes were watched: “There needs to be more Laura.”

It’s a thing. Laura NEEDS to come back just for closure or just because it will make a supreme difference to many, many people. (Me included!)



Fuck yeah.

It was amazing and if everything goes to shit from here I will know that at the very least I had an amazing time on Monday with great mates and it was a total experience. Genuinely one of the best days of my life.

And upon the second viewing I am even more excited for what’s to come.

It won’t be as magical as the original, but it will have a different kind of magic.


If “The man from another place” (the actor Michael) refuses to get on board, he can be replaced by a talking brain-tree with and some lightning effects. Genius.

A 30ish year old Kyle MacLachlan made up to look 20 years older (in 1990s TP) looks older than the nearing 60 Kyle in 2017 Twin Peaks. Just saying.

That was Ronette in the “Space Scene”. (Credited as “American Girl”)

Bobby Briggs is a police officer. God that was a perfect arc. Major Briggs was such a special character and Bobby was such an antithesis — but you just knew they were always on the same page. (Briggs had that dream he told Bobby about in ep8).

Chocolate Bunnies get a shout-out! (“It’s NOT about the bunny…Is it about the bunny? No, It’s not about the bunny,” Hawk says.

Michael Cera is just perfect. Bri had predicted this and it just makes so much sense. And it looks like he might be a Bookhouse Boy – or trying to be one. The look of supreme “proudness” on Andy and Lucy’s face is priceless.

The moose head gets a new day in the sun!




A review of “ROGUE ONE”

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.36.29 pm.pngAnother scene that #Didn’t happen


I didn’t expect to watch another 12:05 viewing of a movie — and not by myself — something I would have found so utterly pathetic when I was a 12 year old. Which is perhaps the average age of the initial target audience of this movie. (I realise the studio is also expecting a lot of coin from people like me).

But the excitement just overwhelmed me. It was a Wednesday night and I had nothing better to do, and I had arranged that Thursday off on the ‘morrow so I could watch it at a more respectable hour. (It turned out I had to go to work — but that is another story.)

So it was fun and exciting to get to have a nap at 8pm, then snap up an hour later in a daze and stumble for an hour over to Southbank and mix it up with my fellow nerds. They were an eclectic bunch — in nerd terms. There were coolsies that wouldn’t look out of place at a Laneway Fest. And then there were the gender-ambiguous overweight people in big black tent-like clothing — channeling the Comic-book-guy from the Simpsons.

It was mostly dudes.

Everyone was well behaved. Although a group of lads kept grappling randoms and saying, “Did you know Darth Vader is Luke’s father?” Like it was the funniest joke ever. Douchecanoes.


a) A review
a.1) A note on “Mendo”
b) The Elephant
c) FAN-SERVICE — What I cringed about
d) FAN-SERVICE — What I thought worked
e) Why the TRAILERS are so different (or “What I thought the movie might have been )



First of all I want to say I enjoyed it. As a major Star Wars fan it is certainly entertaining — but it’s not as good as episodes 4, 5 (my fave), 6 or 7. (I don’t acknowledge the prequels.)

Secondly, it had a major feature which I found quite distracting — and something I thought was a dangerous precedent in film-making. (I’ll cover that later).

It’s a lush movie. Visually very diverse and all the settings are amazing. I recognised Iceland immediately. A cheap setting for an alien world without any set-dressing or CGI.

The characters don’t get developed much. I think Jyn was a little hard to truly care about. I found the droid K2-SO’s tragic end far more emotional. (He was obviously inspired by the robot in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky.) Long arms and tiny head. Always looking downtrodden. Plus maybe the Paranoid Android in the Hitchhiker’s Guide.



And the Baize and Chirru bromance was much more thematic. Cassian was almost interesting, but again a little unappealing.

Well before the movie came out, the nerds had guessed that the perfect-defect in the Death Star was purposely designed. And the trailers pretty much gave that plot point away with Galen Erso telling a baby Jyn that everything he did, he did to protect her. So that revelation was put down pretty early. There was no way the script writers could have avoided this obvious plot-gift. Someone on the inside was a Rebel at heart and had made this hideous planet-destroying-machine hopelessly weak.

Moving on.


Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.28.19 pm.png

Ben Mendohlson. What a bloody legend. Deadset legend.

He’s like the David Boon of acting. Boony being the very first deadset legend.

He’s like an enigma, wrapped up in a dirty, dweeby, wrinkly paper bag.

He’s like an older brother, or a shitty cousin that is sometimes your bestie, but is so mercurial he becomes a crazy psycho with no warning.

Whenever me and Dee see Mendo in super-acting-genius — we call it “Classic Mendo”. Others have different terms. Tony Martin calls it, “How Mendo is that?”. And seeing Mendo in Bloodlines was incredibly sublime. He was so, so, so good in that series.

And when he was cast in Rogue One I instantly thought, “Wow! Mendo is going to rip shit up as a Star Wars villain.” Holy shit! I was so excited.

But although there was a bit of “Classic Mendo”, sadly I think he was always a bit comprimised. Apart from the beginning, he never really got to rise in darkness. He had his lisp thing — “Classic Mendo”. He had at least two moments when he got to say something so evil and maniacal. “Classic”. He gets a cool cape. (Though Dee thought it looked plasticy). And he gets to be annoyed most of the time — but I don’t think he ever got to be truly scary or about to snap and lose it.

I guess any character that gets force-choked by Vader can never be treated seriously as a villain. If Vader cuts off your airway it means, “you’re a dickhead. And you’re expendable — to the plot.”

And Mendo’s doom is ultimately kinda pathetic. When he says, “Who are you?” it’s not what a true villain would care about when they were pointing a gun at their defeated (and seemingly doomed) pugnator. It’s like a confession that he was always out-played. I suspect Mendo had a far sinister role in the original movie (before the reshoots). But more on that later.


Apparently they announced over a year ago but I missed that memo. So they made a CGI version of Peter Cushing (who died over 20 years ago) rather than employ a real actor to play the role of Grand Moff Tarkin. Admittedly it was convincing so far as CGI goes. While watching I thought it might even fool someone who hadn’t seen Star Wars or hadn’t realised Cushing was long dead. It was definitely a grand achievement in the technology. Cool even.

But is it ethical?

How does a dead person get to control the appropriation of their likeness? (I know the character’s intellectual property belongs to someone else — and you can’t own your own image, be it a picture or a painting or a film of yourself.) [Although I think France has different laws about that.]

But what about the way you played that character? What about your voice or mannerisms — what you can uniquely bring to your performance? Isn’t that going to be forever connected with the original actor?

Another quite bizarre outcome is that “Rogue One” is now one of Peter Cushing’s films on his wikipedia page. Am I the only one who thinks this is weird? I haven’t dared to check IMDB. I don’t care if he was a big fan of the franchise. (Apparently he was). I don’t care that his family approved. (Apparently they gave it their blessing). I just wonder. I just wonder for the future.

And I am very, very nervous that they will do the same treatment to Sir Alec Guinness. I impurity certain he would turn in his grave if his likeness is used next. (Admittedly his voice is appropriated in The Force Awakens and I did not get up on my high-horse about that. I feel a bit conflicted about that.)



I can just imagine in the next decade some douche will release a film with a recreation of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or Elvis. If there’s money to be made — what’s stopping them?

They’ve done it to Audrey Hepburn. And in the 90s they did it Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong and James Cagney for a fucking Coke commercial for fuck’s sake. Ugh. [Note: these were not CGI but real footage mixed into new scenes – but essentially their image in a very new context].

So I will say to the actors of today — make a stand if this means something to you. Can you let this precedent continue? My nephews saw that film and had no idea that was a CGI Princess Leia or Moff Tarkin. What happens to your likeness when you are long dead? What happens to your legacy if you get shoved into an absolute dud of a film and your character gets blamed? Actors — how do you feel as artists — how do you feel about people making money out of your likeness? What’s stopping the studios making new Indiana Jones movies with a fake “Harrison Ford” forever and ever?


All the scenes, out-takes or actual footage from A NEW HOPE that they re-purposed for this film in the final space-battle. Is that ethical? Should we care cause I for one found it so fucking obvious and gratuitous.

For details see below.


1) adding C3P0 and R2D2 — for months I vowed to throw something if they were included. But thankfully my civility prevailed. Instead I just cringed and shook my head. Don’t these people making these films have any shame? It’s literally getting to the point where anyone making a Star Wars movie just can’t help but chuck in these two “classic droids” like it was the Force controlling them. But it is just so redundant. So unnecessary. Except if you’re Anthony Daniels and you get a truckload of money each and every time.

2) The old footage of fighter pilots from A NEW HOPE (ANH) getting regurgitated. There were at least three pilots who got re-hashed and one had their sentence “I am starting my attack run on the…” re-purposed to say “shield gate” at the end while the vision tracked to that big shield gate thing.

3) The recreation of that exact scene from ANH with that cranky fuckwit with the deformed face (and his mate). Rehashing the exact dialogue from the cantina scene just before he gets his arm cut off. Embarrassing.

4) All the extra references to “Hope”. One is enough.

5) CGI Leia. We got it from the costume. There was no need to go further. And it was almost like a big, “Look at how impressive our CGI is” rather than a true addition to the film.

6) It’s a diverse cast — if you’ve got balls and a dick. Just cause you have a female lead doesn’t mean you are excused to make every other role — including robots — a male. I doubt it passed the Bechdel Test.


1) I think I spotted a Wilhelm Scream from the first stormtrooper that gets nailed in the Jeddah battle.

2) Donk droid. And maybe a couple of other droids from ANH

3) Referencing “A New Hope” was ok. (But see above)

4) Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) were inoffensive and kinda drove the plot. Although of course it was a bit excessive.

5) Mon Mothma was excellent — and she a great fit for that role.


Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.27.09 pm.pngTie-Fighter confronting Jyn at the top of the communications mast #Didn’t happen

About 8 months ago the studio announced it was doing a big bunch of re-shoots. I took this to mean they were finessing the film. Getting it even more perfect. Taking pride in the job. Realising they didn’t need to rush things. I saw many fans appreciating the “quality over quantity” vibe. They were not disappointed.

But it seems the film was rather drastically changed if you go by the trailers. There’s the  redundant footage which is not a hanging offence. But then there’s the just plain wrong scenes. Scenes that don’t happen. Scenes where characters interact which makes no sense. And it wasn’t just the footage — the dialogue was also stupidly weird at times and inconsistent with what the finished film delivered. It was grossly unsettling.

I suspect the nerds would have already taken this to pieces. OK a quick google revealed this. It’s embarrassing really. (Another precedent this movie has delivered: How can we trust any trailers now?)

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.34.48 pm.pngSaw Gererra without hair lecturing Jyn about joining the fight #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.35.15 pm.pngCrennik getting his tails wet on the Skarriff beach #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.30.37 pm.pngIn the trailers they imply Vader is confronting Galen Erso in this scene

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.33.08 pm.pngJyn in shackles at the Rebel base #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.13.04 pm.pngRebel pilots in shackles, led by Stormtroopers, (presumably on Jedda) #Didn’t happen

So here is my stupid idea about why they changed the film — apart from the fact I suspect the director was a bit of a dud and the movie he delivered was shithouse.

It seemed the end of the movie was going to be a bit too much like Return of the Jedi (RTOJ). The final act in RTOJ has the rebels on Endor trying to get the shield generator while those up in space are waiting for that to happen so they can launch an attack. But the Emperor has set a trap. “It’s a trap!” Admiral Ackbar famously (or memes-worthy) says.

It already is very much like ROTJ in those last scenes, but from the trailers you get the impression that Krennic had set a trap just like the Emperor had done in ROTJ. Krennic is seen gracefully walking over the shallow water on Scarriff with his cape getting a tad damp. You see a tie-fighter jump up and confront Jyn when she’s up on the mast just below the satellite dish. And from the whispers in the spoiler’s community, there definitely was a scene shot and CGI’d where a group of AT-ATs emerge from under the ocean to gradually rise up and make the rebel troops shit their collective pants. (Which would have been so, so cool!)

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.36.00 pm.pngAnd Cassian and Jyn are in the above scene. #Didn’t happen #wtf?

Anyway. I think that movie might have featured a bunch more dramatic scenes, but not a more plausible plot. And plus, as I said before, so much like ROTJ. But in these “re-shoots” I honestly suspect they ruined the character of Krennic. Maybe I am just being a bit romantic about “Classic Mendo”. Or maybe not.

So I give the movie a pass. On a good day I’d give it a 7. The test will come if I choose to see it again and again.

The story of our pets mauled to death




I was at a dinner with my nephews and my sisters when I got the call.

Dee – “I think the dogs have killed a chook”. What? I said. She explained they were missing but she could see one motionless in the neighbour’s backyard.

“Ok. I’ll call you back,” I said. I was a bit numb to it all. Trying to be a good guest at this dinner, and process it all. I was thinking things like, “Maybe one had survived” and “At least they died quickly”. But both of those assumptions were super-wrong.

Then I realised I should get home. I ran most of the way. Dee picked me up at Torwood Park.

I rattled that next door gate so the dogs – two massive alsatians – would know I was attempting to come in. It took a few trys but then they started going nuts with the barking. They smashed up to the gate ready for a fight but they let me in maybe I guess they because they recognised me.

Even though I just had to trust they wouldn’t bite me if I came in – I slunk inside. They led me around the back. I was looking for the bodies and the further in I went there was nothing. Then the dogs went around the deck and up to the top of their backyard. It was like they were leading me to their trophies. I followed and it was then I saw both chooks right next to eachother in a bed of a hundred broken feathers. It almost looked like Art. Just a hideous version of it.

One of the birds (Charlie) was horribly mutilated. Her head was missing and big bits of her body around the neck were chewed out. The other was intact but messed up. She was laying on her side and the eye facing me was closed – like it was fused that way. I picked her up and her head flopped like the neck was snapped- but then I heard something like a tiny inhalation. A gasp. I thought the dogs had made the sound or it was just a crazy snap of the dirt and twigs beneath me. I didn’t realise it at the time — but it was a signal.

The dogs were still circling around, so proud of their achievement. At that moment I thought I had imagined it. The birds were so damaged it was impossible they had survived this ordeal. I shooed the dogs away as I lay down the towel (which I had grabbed out of the car) and put both birds on top and wrapped them up. The dogs were still circling around so happy with their achievements as I walked back towards the gate.

Carrying them out I almost immediately felt a warmth through the towel. “Oh god!” I thought. They are so warm – it must have just happened – if only I had got home sooner.

But then I remembered that sound. It just hit me. One of them was still alive.

Dee was waiting for me in the front yard. Even though I was not 100% certain I said, “One of them is still alive.” She was already in tears and now things were so much acute.

I laid the two birds on the deck and looked at the eye of the one I suspected was still alive. Her neck was broken and it looked like she had been dragged around by that neck. Blood was coming out of her beak. How she had survived was incredible — but still so fucking awful.

It was confirmed when her eye — three quarters closed — managed what must have been an incredible effort to stare back at me. She was indeed alive. I knew what I had to do. I asked Dee if she agreed and she said yes. I apologised to her. It was Big Red. Named after Big Red in the “Bring It On” movies. She was the biggest of the three, the most ginger. And probably the top of their tiny pecking order.

I went into the house and grabbed a plastic bag. But what was I going to do? I just realised the bag was to stop her looking at me while I killed her. I put her in and them stomped on her head. I jumped up and down as much as I could until I felt her skull was flat. (I wanted to make sure).

But that didn’t stop me opening up the bag to check I had indeed killed her. Oh god. There was blood on my shoes and on the paving. I had made such an effort the plastic bag had ripped open and the eye that she had looked at me with was now entirely free of her skull. It was massive and round and it was still looking at me. Oh god. Oh fucking, fucking god.

You don’t get a pet and look at it every day and imagine for one second that you will one day stomp on its head with all your might. And that “one day” you will stomp so hard you set an eye free and gaze into it. But that’s what I did. She made no further sound apart from the crushing sound of doom.

oh god.

At first I just stared into space. I think I started weeping about an hour later. Then we went downstairs and discovered an egg in the hutch. I started bawling again.

And today I was walking to the city to get lunch and I put on a sad playlist and just started weeping uncontrollably. Luckily no one truly looks at anyone these days. I think I managed to look half decent at the sushi-station. Maybe not.

This song is just the WORST (or BEST) at times like this:












Had another big interview at Bristol passport control. It seems that UK border control staff can’t fathom that someone could get 5 weeks of leave all at once. Plus they must suspect all Australians just want a UK job and then we’ll stay forever. After a few minutes I almost said, “Look, my dad was born here — I could get a UK passport no probs.” But thankfully I kept my mouth shut.

Another big wait for a hire car and it turned out to be a month-old Seat Leon. Great car — except the sat-nav was flaky. (Kept crashing). The guy at Europcar tried to get me to upgrade to an auto for a mere 50 pounds extra a day. “Um. No thanks,” I said. It was such a ridiculous suggestion I almost lol’d.

Next we were slugging it out with the serious traffic that is omnipresent in the UK. It took us an incredible amount of time to get over to Wales. We crossed this massive bridge — possibly the longest bridge I have ever been on. There was a toll at the end — but apparently it is only a one way toll. We made it to the hotel was in the Cardiff bay area.




So the reason for our trip to Cardiff was to meet my cousin Toby for the very first time. We are actually half-cousins — my grandmother had a child (Pam) when she was a teenager and Pam was secretly adopted out. And I say it was a “secret” because my grandmother never mentioned it to us. Grandma got married, had three children (my dad being one of them) and then immigrated to Australia.

Pam managed to locate my grandmother when I was about 10 years old and it was a big commotion. It was like suddenly my dad had another sister and I had this big branch of family in the UK — including a cousin only a year younger than me (Zoe) and another cousin just a baby (that was Toby). It was almost a scandal because my grandma is such a ridiculously uptight and authoritarian. She seemed affronted by all this information and behaved appallingly.

But during all that drama Zoe and I exchanged a few letters and then again as adults — but we only met for the first time on my very first trip to the UK in 2007. But by that time Toby had grown up and was living in Birmingham so I didn’t get to meet him. Later during the hey-day of Facebook Toby and I bonded over music and it was just a given that I would track him down this trip.


By this time he was married to Emma.

So we arranged to meet Toby at a multi-story pub/restaurant called Mt Stuart and that was awesome. Emma came a bit later as she was still working. (ASIDE: Emma was already a celebrity to me because she knows the amazing Cate Le Bon personally.) We all had a great time and Emma and Toby announced one of them was “preggaz”. I am pretty sure they used that exact term/phrasing. Totally!

The next day we went over to Toby and Emma’s place and then drove up to the Brecon Beacons for a hike. It was so fucking beautiful and because the landscape was so devoid of trees — there were impressive views almost 100% of the time. The UK is a pretty flat place — especially at this latitude — so it was incredibly refreshing to see so much landscape in all directions. I think the term”rolling hills” was coined up here.

Later we went to central Cardiff where the Roald Dahl festival was going off. There were giant peaches, big chairs, snow-sledding, frogs, fantastic foxes etc. I was such a big fan of Roald as a kid, and am so glad kids still see how amazing he is/was. He was so irreverent. My favourite book was Danny the Champion of the World. But there didn’t seem to be any monuments to that.

Then we had food and beer at this food stall section in the park. Then we were joined by Toby and Emma’s amazing friend Lowri — which is “Laura” in Welsh. Moved on to a quaint pub, then a small bar where we got to see the fireworks. Brilliant day!












OTHER BITS: in dot-point:

• Roald Dahl was born here.
• There is a Dr Who museum.
• The road signs are in English and Welsh
• People get dressed up in costume (hen’s nights etc) and climb the Brecons
• There was a massive, but very polite, queue just to get a photo at the summit marker (see below)
• There were a bunch of military doing training up there. Guns, backpacks, camo, the works. As one of them ran by us he joked, “We’re looking for a lost sheep.” Everyone LOL’d.













We woke up super-early ’cause our flight was at 6:45am. Marku generously drove us to the 2 hours to the airport in Helsinki. Our Icelander Air flight featured these shimmering “Northern Lights” in the area above the overhead luggage — a funny touch. We were smashed a bit by the cold as we took the bus to pick up our hire car — but it was truly beautiful to be cold again. The wait for the car wasn’t so beautiful. Epic queues at car hire places is a thing you just have to get used to. If you pick up a car at the airport in Europe be prepared to wait in line for about 30-45 minutes.

Keflavik Airport is a long way out of town. Originally it was an airforce base established back in WW11 when Britain (and then the US) decided to occupy Iceland. (It was almost an invasion — the justification being, “before the Germans did it.”) But the long drive gave me a chance to get used to the right-hand drive, plus changing gears with my right hand. Iceland has a LOT of roundabouts too — very tricky.

As you drive into town you pass this vast desert of rocks sometimes spattered with grass. No houses, no trees — just rocks. “Why didn’t they build the airport here?” I wondered. Later I learnt that particular area was still geologically active. Riiight! I get it.

Eventually we arrived in town and our hotel was on a street that was closed to car traffic for most of the day so we had a terrible time working out where to park. Google maps was thoroughly unhelpful in this situation constantly telling us to turn where we simple couldn’t. Eventually we just parked at a public carpark and it took me ages to work out the machine which had only limited English instructions. Arriving at our hotel room — which was on the top floor — we were a bit “over it”. But it was a nice space and had pretty spectacular views of that big church.

IMG_1121.JPGIMG_1122.JPGThis is our little hire-car (white) in the hotel’s tiny carpark

IMG_1127.JPGSelf portrait


What they don’t tell you about Iceland in the guidebooks is that the shower smells like farts. I think Dee even tried to blame me. But it’s the high sulphur content in the water — it’s especially apparent when their water is heated. But it’s not a big deal — at least I didn’t think so.

Next we had Vietnamese for lunch then we got some groceries at this el cheapo supermarket chain featuring a very wasted-looking pig called Bonus. (see below.) Much like Franklins or Bi-Lo back here. That night we had dinner at a place called the Public House — just a beer and burger thing. Iceland is pretty expensive it should be said. A bit “eye-wateringly” so at some points. Expect to pay about double what you’d spend in London. (HORROR STORY: we paid A$12 for 4 pappadams the next night).




The next day we headed north towards Gullfoss (golden falls) and Geysir (which does not need a translation). Almost immediately out of town the scenery was truly fucked-up. Like nothing I’d ever witnessed before. It was just a mixture of bizarre and magical no matter where you looked. (And you could see as forever as your eyes would allow because trees were a bit of a novelty.)

You really cannot describe it adequately, not just because it was so alien, but also because there was always too much to look at. Too much to process. I have talked to people who have been to Iceland — mainly Laura Morrissey — and we agree you just can’t explain how different everything is. (And I’ve been to a bunch of places at the “end of the world” — namely Tasmania and New Zealand and Norway.)

But the super vulcanism really makes this place special. I’ve seen it described as “lunar” or “jurassic”. And that relates to the rocks and sometimes the sparseness of vegetation. Maybe also weird stuff like black sand and all kinds of alpine moss. And sometimes of course because every once in a while you see steam literally pouring out of the ground! (No wonder Iceland is literally powered by geo-thermal electricity).

Another crucial aspect to this vibe is because Iceland is so bloody diverse and you can never get used to one particular vista. Everything changes just a few more minutes down the road or even if you turn your head around. I really struggle to articulate the experience. And pictures do not help. The limitations of photography to do justice to a landscape was never more apparent than on this trip. It was almost heartbreaking. (But I got over it.)


We stopped the car a few times for photos (never as grand as what I hoped) and at one place the wind was so bad I thought it was dangerous — like it would blow the door off the car as I opened it. We saw some poor touring riders on fully-laden bikes just swimming across the road because they couldn’t stay straight and travelling less than walking speed. They were hardcore.

The geyser at Geysir was interesting and worth the stop — but after one eruption we were like, “OK — been there, done that.” There were lots of gooby tourists around with super-amazing cameras trying to get a shot/video that had been taken a billion times before. Good luck with that.


So the geyser spews-up every 8ish minutes. As we arrived in the car we saw the geyser go off in the distance. Then we parked, and it took us about 3 minutes to walk up to the spot and we spent exactly 1 minute waiting, and then we promptly left. Express tourism. It may or may not have been a bit like our trip to the Louvre where we just went straight for the Mona Lisa (which took about 4 minutes) and then  we were like, “What now?”.

At Gullfoss we parked for free again and followed the columns of tourists towards the falls. From the top it looks super boring, almost like — are we in the right place? But then you get past the tourist office and suddenly the canyon becomes apparent and you get a few choices . You can stay up on the ridge or dive down to get super close. We went down and later I realised this was the farthest northerly point on Earth I had ever been — previously it had been in the fjords of Norway.


IMG_0969.JPGThe farthest north I have ever been, and may ever go.



At dinner that night I managed to convince Dee to do something YOLO. Being a GEN-Y/ millennial I think she was particularly susceptible to that word being barked at her at any protestation she tried to throw back at me. Eventually she caved and agreed to booking a ~$500 snowmobiling adventure on some glacier a few hours east at 12:30pm the next day.

See on the plane over I had seen a tourist video of Iceland where they showed snowmobiling and it looked easy and apparently, “JUST LIKE RIDING A BIKE!” I can ride a bike, I thought. And I figured that we should see some “ICE” in “ICELAND” — right?


That afternoon the sky was super clear. I found this local website that extrapolated the cloud data and predicted if a clear night was ahead and it gave a pretty good forecast. So I set my alarm for 2:50am. There was no real science to that except I just betted that time there would be the least light pollution. Instead I accidentally woke at 2am and went onto the balcony. The night was indeed pretty much clear, but as I looked these strange clouds swirled about towards the west and they moved faster than normal clouds — and up and down unlike any normal cloud. My heart started racing. I dove back inside and grabbed my camera which has a “stars” setting. Just holding the camera steady with my hands — not even leaning against a wall — I took a shot and there it was. It looks far more impressive in the photo, but it was still an amazing feeling knowing they were up there — dancing about. I woke Dee and she came out for a look and did her best to be impressed.

I then got dressed and smashed down to the harbour which the inter-webs told me was the best place for viewing in the city. By the time I had got there the lights had virtually stopped and that was a tad disappointing — but I had to try. In fact, by now it was 3am and if I had woken at 2:50 like I originally planned — I would probably have missed them.



IMG_1174.JPGEarlier that night


The next day I was still convinced my impulsive decision was on point. Dee was incredulous. She was convinced I would be a mess once this whole malarkey was acute. After 2.5 hours of driving we turned up to this very remote looking outpost. No one seemed to be around. We went up to a door that looked like it was where we needed to be. But in a massive fail we tried to pull the door — where it was a push-vibe. Another entry in our FAIL-LIST. We hurried back to the car — thinking the door was locked because we were too early. After hiding in the car for about 20 minutes other prospective adventurers started arriving and we saw them gain access and realised our fuck-up.

IMG_1197.JPGWe stopped at this waterfall on the way

So we slunk back and signed huge waivers and got fitted up in this gear. Like a full body suit. Big fat shoes. Gloves and a balaclava. Then a massive helmet. All of which was either too big or too small but we didn’t have the heart to complain or fuss. Once kitted up — shit was about to get real.



We awkwardly trudged over to this rusty truck with massive tyres. With the help of a small step ladder we were on board and so began the bumpiest journey I have ever experienced. It was so bumpy it was just plain fun. You just couldn’t help but LOL. Meanwhile Dee was beginning to fret.

So now I will turn over to Dee for her thoughts:

“I was bloody loving it, but also really thought that Davey was going to throw up. He is a terrible with motion sickness and the ‘super-jeep’ ride was like serious turbulence to the nth degree. And also he was already nervous about the whole thing, so I spent the journey up to the glacier worried that he was going to vom. But if I didn’t have that to worry about, that would have probably been the most fun part of the whole thing. It really did feel as if we were going on a lunar journey – the landscape became increasingly grey and rocky; all of our fellow astronauts kept their helmets on and really seemed to be contemplating the seriousness of our mission. Dunno what we would be doing on that lunar mission (colonising? snowmobiling the hell out of some alien life-forms?) but everyone seemed to be feeling the same. Anyway, I kept on turning to Davey to offer him encouraging, “isn’t this fun!” looks that usually coincided with us being unable to get up a particularly steep incline or bracing to drive over a glacier.”


(I also worried about the truck tipping over, the truck breaking down [it sounded very sick and took a few go’s to get started], frost bite on my fingers, and how I would pay for clean-up if I vomited into my helmet — the place I felt would be the most appropriate.)

Once we were snowmobiling I thought how bloody impossible this situation would have seemed to me just a few days ago — or a few hours even. “I am on a fucking glacier, in the middle of Iceland, which is on top of a volcano, driving a bloody snowmobile. What the fuck?” A few seconds after we started off into the icey-snowy oblivion I forced myself to make a note of this. And underline it.

But the higher we got, the colder it got. And the whiter. Pretty soon we couldn’t see more than 50 metres.

I was pretty worried most of the time — not shit-scared it should be said — I  spent a bunch of the time up there just processing all the ways things could go wrong. But despite that — I had an incredible time. I knew this was well above my comfort level and I would appreciate it forever (obviously once we were safely down). It was absolutely insane being so close to a crevasse (having studied all those mountain books once upon a time) and being in a total white-out was just like being in the Empire Strikes Back on Hoth where Luke is visited by ghost Obi-Wan. I had no faith that Han Solo would rescue us should things go pear-shaped.

The most horrible of thoughts in my head was that in this white out we had no idea of navigation — and this is one on my most evil fears. If our guide was somehow compromised by a sudden crevasse or a roll-over or worse — our group would have little to no idea how to get home.

IMG_1205.JPGThe briefing

At the start we had this briefing — but it was so windy, and my head was inside a helmet an astronaut would be jealous of, and thus I missed crucial points about the artificial heaters inside the handlebar grips. Consequently after the first leg my fingers were so cold I had to unzip my jacket and press them against my raw skin to heat them up again. And then Dee was like, “Why aren’t you using the heaters — ya dig-head.” Pretty much verbatim.


At this first stop we huddled around the guide who drew us a snow-map of the region on the ground. Then he proceeded to point out that we were standing directly on top of a massive volcano called Katla which hasn’t erupted for 98 years — yet it usually erupts every 13-95 years. In other words — it was well overdue. And tremors were detected just the month before. (And it seems there was one as recently as  September 11, 2016). And then he said if it blew it would probably flood the town he lived in (Vik) and there was a pretty good chance the next eruption (when it comes) will ground flights world-wide for maybe 120 days. Freaky. We just might have secretly hoped it blew while we were in Europe and we were stranded. That would be terrible!

Next stop was at a crevasse and that was fucking insane. I stood well back. Like I have read Inter Thin Air and seen that Touching the Void documentary. Crevasses are very, very dangerous places.




But then this American dude wandered off up along the edge of the crack. I was so concerned that he was getting too close that I pointed him out to the guide. The guide started shouting at him to come back but he couldn’t hear. Then the guy suddenly pulled out his wang and started pissing into the crevasse. I was appalled. I am a pretty sure his partner overheard me saying to Dee, “That is so fucking rude.” Apart from the brazen crassness, I bet the glacier fed some local water supply. And the dickhead had taken a piss just a hour before at the little hut where we all got geared up. Sheesh!


Our last day was meant to be at the Blue Lagoon — but, HOT TIP,  you need to book well in advance so there were no suitable times. It was raining and a bit chilly so we bummed around the sights within walking distance. It was a mercifully “nothing” kinda day. A rest day. See our flight was at 6:45am the next day and we had to be out of bed at like 2:30am. Even then we only just made it. For a tiny airport it was ridiculously busy. And there were so many security/passport/checking-in/bus-to-the-airplane hoops we had to go through. Insane.











IMG_1184.JPGMorning on day 3



Here is our trip a bit deeper (mostly east) into Finland proper.


IMG_0902.JPG(terrible photo of Dee, but this was the traditional pastry breakfast in Finland – I think called korvapuusti.)


So (Dee’s great-uncle) Marku picked us up (at Helsinki Station) and he immediately drove us over to this coffee place on this lake which was a venue for the winter olympics way back then. We had some traditional pastries as well and then headed for Porvoo which is one of only 6 medieval towns in Finland. It dates back to the 14th century and is a big deal over here. There was even a large group of Russian tourists on some bus tour. (I had to ask what language they were speaking). Lots of wooden houses painted in bright colours. Very tiny streets.



Next we headed out towards the country. Finland has a lot of trees and lots of winding roads (probably cause they are all dodging the millions of lakes.) Very, very soon I got super car-sick. I was in the back seat and we got lost at one point and I just forced up the courage to beg our very generous host to stop the car because I didn’t want to vomit everywhere. It was evil. I spent about 5 minutes in this beautiful forest trying to compose myself. It was so hard. I hadn’t felt that degree of travel sickness since I was a kid. Another 2 stops later and I just put my head between my knees and a plastic bag underneath that fully expecting to blow some serious chunks at any second. For whatever reason — I managed to hold on to the contents of my stomach for the next 100ks.



Kotka is where Marku lived. But he had organised for us to stay in this river/sea-side villa of one of his mates. His name was Pekka. And Pekka was an absolute legend. His daughter Emma was turning 21 that night and it was apparent everyone was coming over for a party. “Awesome,” I thought.

While Marku went to fetch his boat, Dee and I went “Roaming”. Over in Europe there are laws variously translated as “Freedom to Roam” or “ Every man’s right”. In Finland (and heaps of other places in Europe) that means you can literally go on private land to pick berries — as long as you are a reasonable distance from private houses and yards. Unfortunately the berries we saw were pretty much in people’s front yards. But it was fun just considering the notion. Berries and fruit were everywhere.

Back at the house Marku arrived with his boat and took Dee for a trip while I had a nap cause I was still a very bit fragile having spent 2 hours being so violently nauseous. A few hours later, I started to recover and by that stage Pekka’s family came over in little spurts. First was Pekka, then Emma’s BF (Arho) and her younger sister (Maija). Then Pekka’s wife who had to rush off to do hospital duty (she was a doctor).


IMG_0987.JPGMarku’s boat arriving




Before we knew it Pekka was (wood) firing up the hot tub (see below) and we were having a wild time translating the handwritten notes on the back of Dee’s grandad’s old photos. They were a bit racey (for the time).

Everyone spoke excellent English and we all got on famously and it was genuinely incredibly fun. I was super excited. So excited that when the sauna was announced — boys always go first — I was like, “Hell Yeah!” And sauna (pronounced “sour-nah”) is a big deal over in Finland. According to Wikipedia, there is an average of one sauna per household in Finland. It is seen as a necessity — not an extravagance like it might be viewed over here. And Saturday is the traditional day to take one. So Pekka, Arho and me all had a shower and I was last in line, showering in my improvised swimmers. Suddenly the other two were completely naked and I just dug deep and got the last of my kit off. Like I have not been naked in front of other males since school (apart from one medical exception — don’t ask). The only comparable occasion was in Japan when I went into the Onsen in Kyoto and I went so late at night no other blokes were around.

But being all naked in a steamy room with beer and stories and laughs — it was so great. An entirely refreshing naked experience! It just felt normal.

I am a hyper-sweater. I know that from bike riding. I sweat about twice as badly as my mates. And so I was a mess in there – just melting faster than the wicked witch in Wizard of Oz. But it was still kinda interesting. After about half an hour (I could have spent longer) we all went out and did a running jump off the jetty into the river. It was so amazing. The buzz of being so hot and then so cold all of a sudden is like a hit of drugs — not that I know what a hit of drugs feels like. Really. That river freezes over in winter and they have to cut a hole in the ice to do that sauna-to-water trick we had just done. Incredible.

For dinner we had this big plate of salmon and veges — served traditional Finnish style — and it was amazing. This night was without too much exaggeration — one of the best nights of my life. Thanks everyone over there! Rock on. (We also had homemade pizza at their place on Sunday night too — love you guys!)



IMG_0910.JPGThis is Arho about to dive in!

IMG_0911.JPGAnd me…. 





The next day Marku took us to the old fortress town of Hamina — where Dee’s grandfather came from before he immigrated to Australia in the 1960s. The town is designed in concentric circles — just like a fort. Indeed there are fortifications and moats everywhere that have been re-purposed as schools or sports fields. Or just dog/walk parks. Next we headed to the Virolahti bunker only a few kilometres from the Russian border. On the way I had dreams of seeing Russia, maybe just like Sarah Palin. But Finland is so flat, and so forested too. You rarely see views more than a few hundred metres unless water is involved. And despite the fact we were in spitting distance of Russia, there was no hope of seeing it unless you literally drove up to the border.

The bunker was incredible. These massive square rocks four deep that stretched for hundreds of kilometres. (Designed to stymie Russian tanks). It was a proper Marginot Line — but actually finished (no pun intended). Trenches and bunkers too. The line is now a popular multi-day hike.





Hamming with forts all around.



IMG_0937.JPGTaking pics of the homemade pizzas!

IMG_0940.JPGSaying goodbye to our Finnish puppy besties!








HELSINKI – September 8-9

Had my entire backpack searched at the airport security in A’DAM. I was cool with that, but boy oh boy — they were thorough. I got in trouble because I didn’t realise I should have taken my camera and the iPhone charger out of my pack and put into one of the trays (just like the lappy). Look — I travel quite a bit and this was the first time I had encountered these regulations. Anyway I did my best to be polite and apologetic.

On the flight we tried one of Ben Law’s little tips. We deliberately booked a window seat (me) and an aisle seat (Dee) separated by an empty seat (some random who we could negotiate with later). It was genius. Thanks Ben! No one got booked into that middle seat and we had our row to ourselves. Pity it was only a 2 hour flight.

Over Helsinki we swapped seats and Dee got a decent look at all the lakes of her homeland. “It’s the land of a thousand lakes,” she said, quite authoritatively. And it looked true. They were everywhere down there. But as I learnt later — there are about 188 THOUSAND lakes in Finland. So Dee was basically lying. I am used to that.

Anyway I bloody dare you to look up Google maps and witness all that land vs puddle bullshit. It is bloody crazy. Wait. I can do that for you just cause I am a decent guy. Observe:

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 3.46.24 pm.png

We should establish at this outset that Dee is 1/4 Fnnish. Her mother’s maiden name is the unpronounceable “Veijalainen”. Phonetically you could get away with saying VAY-A-LINE-ANN.


Finland has a population of about 5.5 million people, so about a quarter that of Australia. It’s relatively flat — didn’t see any mountains or even that many hills. Lots of lakes and ocean coastline — as mentioned previously. Finland has been around as an autonomous state only about 100 years. Was part of Sweden for a bit (in Helsinki all road signs are in Finnish and Swedish), then Russia (further east you get the road signs begin in Finnish, then below is the Swedish, then below that is the Russian). Finland allied with the Nazis at the beginning of WWII and fought the “Winter War” with Russia and punched well above it’s weight. (But in the peace deal, possibly cause it killed a highly disproportionate amount of Ruskies (compared to Finns) — it lost quite a bit to Russia.) Mostly it has been pushing against Russia, rather than Sweden. Monuments and markers of the War(s) are everywhere here.

The language is like nothing I have ever heard before. Apparently it has more in common with central-eastern Europe than Scandinavia or even Russian. It is still a tiny bit high-pitched, but not sing-song like Norwegian. Everyone seemed to speak an incredible amount of English so you can truly get away with “Hei” (Hello) and “Kiitos” (Thank you).

Sauna is a big deal over here. You pronounce it “Sour-nah”. According to wikipedia there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. Than is over one sauna for every two inhabitants. Wiki: “Finns think of saunas not as a luxury, but as a necessity. Before the rise of public health care and nursery facilities, almost all Finnish mothers gave birth in saunas.” We got to experience this all first-hand. But more on that later!


We arrived by train from the airport and found our way to the hotel which was basically in the dead centre of town. We had missed lunch and it was now too late so Dee sent me on a mission to find snacks, a drink, fruit and a tinned coffee. But finding a convenience store was a super-challenge. I got the fruit (berries) just at a market-kart near the station but failed on most of the other criteria. Finland has that thing where you can only buy booze at State-run facilities. And these can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.

Meanwhile my phone-card from the UK refused to work so on the agenda for that night’s activities was to get a cheap Finnish phone plan. We eventually found R-Kioski. Pretty much exactly like a 7-11 but it also had these massive gambling machines (like Pokies) in a corner. Very weird.

Later we scrambled around to the big sights like the Cathedrals and the big Square and the waterfront. Dinner was at this pub place around the corner.








So in Finnish – “Linna” basically means fortress or castle. We got to see a few other “Linnas” around the place. The vibe in Finland is that it is a tiny country squished between superior nations but it will defend itself to the hilt. To the HILT. And “Suomen” is basically the word for Finland. So Suomenlinna is a bit of a big deal. And it isn’t just one island. It is six islands connected by bridges. There’s a bunch of people that live there permanently. There’s even a school. And just quietly — the Pokemon were going riot over there. I saw a bunch of kids who had obviously skipped school just to go nuts over there.

The place was huge and there were always tiny nooks and details of the fortifications to look at and explore unimpeded. Tunnels and ramparts and actual batteries. Plus cute houses and views over the sea towards Estonia. It made the our pathetic “fort” in Brisbane (Fort Lytton) look pretty ordinary.

Lunch was at a ramen place. Look — it is so much easier ordering food in the language it was invented in when you are in a place that is a billion miles away. So consequently there is cultural neutral-zone.You kinda appear quite knowledgeable, and be a deadshit tourist at the same time. It’s a level playing field. “Tonkotsu Ramen Kiitos.” And then you can proceed to know the condiments and use the chopsticks (and spoon) with super-dexterity. It is a revelation. (ASIDE: In London we would order Pho, but we would get the kudos by pronouncing it “Fir”.)







Here’s the thing – I will not try to pretend this next bit wasn’t tragic. It is what it is. I have been the biggest fan of this song, and it’s film-clip. Like almost equally. It is just the perfect marriage of sound and vision (and dancing). One of the very first children’s shows on TV I watched was called “Words and pictures”. And that was what it was about. Perfect. Art or just lowly “entertainment” wasn’t necessarily confined to just one medium at the same time. You could be the best of both or all worlds at the very same time.

Anyway this film-clip was so amazing and I just had to go there. Luckily the wikipedia page had the very specifics so I could go there and KNOW I was in exactly the same place. Nothing was changed. I even attempted to play the song on my iPhone but accidentally sent the music LIVE to everyone on the train cause I hadn’t quite got my headphone jack connected. Dee was horrified, but I didn’t care.





That night we had dinner in some brewery and prepared for the next day into the heart of Finland via Dee’s great-uncle — Marku. He was picking us up at 8am.






IMG_0895.JPGSome art installation!

Amsterdam – days 11-13.

We arrived in Amsterdam on my very first birthday overseas. And of course it didn’t quite feel like the kinda birthday you get back home where I buy myself a lego set and eat sticky-date pudding for desert and relax on the couch all evening. No — it was just another intense-day where we had to get somewhere and once that done — maybe I could relax and maybe be interested in celebrating. I think I might have got to that point at about 5pm.

But backtracking: we got an uneventful train from Breda and then found a cab rank at the back of Amsterdam station and I swear we got ripped off. I couldn’t see any meter running but I thought that was just cause I didn’t know where to look. And cause we were doing two drops, one for us and one for Jess, I thought that might have something to do with it.

I thought I had learnt this scam (from this time in Atlanta where the driver locked our luggage in the boot until we paid whatever he had previously “quoted”.) The scam is where the taxi driver just “quotes” you a figure at the start of the journey and you accidentally “accept” and so the meter isn’t running the whole time and later you don’t have much choice but accepting. It was a bit more acute cause Jess had to pay the final bill (cause we got dropped off first). So not a great start. And taxi drivers wonder why they have such a bad rep and why everyone seems to embracing Uber.

Our hotel was a little on the edge of town. But close to all the museums and the park and of course there were canals everywhere.




It really was the most bikes I have seen in one place. It was a little funny though because ALL the bikes were using the bike lanes or the side streets — never the road proper. I looked on and thought, “OMG, I could smash so much faster using the car part of the road.” And I saw the occasional “roadie” and they were using the bike lanes too — which were vastly more congested. I guess that was the vibe. For me personally I like to mix it up with cars and smash it. To make sure my Garmin stats are the best they can be.







It was a nice place where we were staying. All this cool furniture and Art in the common areas, plus a market virtually next door which had a food hall, cinema and cool shops.





That night we had dinner at a Japanese place and then had some fun — just quietly.

The next day we realised another TRAVEL FAIL: you could only buy tickets to the Anne Frank museum online and our window was virtually frozen out. I had even read Anne’s Diary as prep, but I figured just standing outside was enough. It had been such a harrowing experience just reading her words and then stumbling around the streets where she lived, walked, and where she rode her bicycle — before it was banned. Then looking at her prison before a proper-prison was sad enough. Her ghost was everywhere — indeed she was almost a ghost when she wrote those words, and walked these streets and cowered at the back of that factory.




Later that day we had lunch in a rooftop restaurant which had one of those  glass elevators. I am all a bit tragic in these situations. I don’t like heights, and I don’t like elevators. But I love views. Work that one out Freud.

And then we went to the Van Gogh Museum and used one of those audio-tour things. They are so good. I am so dumb when it comes to Art. I barely even know what I like — mostly just knowing what I hate. And the stuff in the middle — the stuff I am indifferent to is more a mystery than true indifference. So it is so refreshing having stuff explained to me. I LOVED that nun (Sister Wendy) who explained paintings in the most incredible way imaginable. So much weirder (and less pompous) than Robert Hughes, but conversely so much more natural. I saw it on some obscure timeslot on the ABC when I was a kid. Even as a kid I thought she rocked. CHECK THIS OUT I BLOODY DARE YOU — OMG! Or this which is super-trendy ATM. (Watch vs Hannah Gadsby’s review of the same painting.)

Anyway — I did my best not to get all teary – but it was super-hard. He was a redhead too. Bloody hell.

The next day we did that Ryks Museum and that was OK. Like it was at least an hour of entertainment before you were over it. We stretched it out to 1.5 hours. OMG — art galleries just get so samey. Call me a philistine — but that is the truth.




At the time, and a bit since I really don’t think I got into Amsterdam that much. I think I need to go back one day and maybe that will change. I mean Paris was a bit like that. London possibly too.


IMG_0805.JPGGratuitous red-light district shot — it was pretty tame really.



These signs were everywhere. We had to google them later because I thought it was highly weird. It turns out that it is an anti-theft device where if you steal something you just might get sprayed by a DNA code that will mark you and basically connect you to the crime. Unless you have like a billion showers in the space of a week. Or burn all your skin off. Or confess. Up to you.

IMG_0825.JPGDee with a shop cat



GUEST BLOG – Jess writes about the Redhead Festival


My take on Redhead Days is a little different to Davey’s… While I fully sympathise with the plight of the downtrodden gingers, wept for the guy in the Being Ginger Netflix documentary, and would argue strongly that the lack of ginger emojis is a mild form of racism… I myself never endured any ginger torment as a child.

Sure, there were what Dee would call my “terminally ill years” between the age of ten and 15, before braces and eyebrow tinting, but even through those awkward teenage times, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked, “Is that your natural hair colour?” I’d have enough money to hit up every ginger festival in every country every year.

I know this makes me (even more of) a minority, and I consider myself lucky for never having been made to feel embarrassed about my hair colour. (Except maybe for the time I dated a guy who turned out to be obsessed with Annie, and I only found out when he introduced me to his grandmother, who said, “Oh, she does look like Annie!” That was awkward.) My ginger pride stems from my upbringing, and the strong female gingers I had as role models – my beautiful mum, who I watched being constantly adored by my dad, and my fiery aunty, a total knockout loved by everyone. I don’t even know if you could call it “ginger pride”… Our hair colour, while acknowledged and celebrated, was just a small part of who we are. It was a non-issue, so I never had to overthink it, and I just kinda liked my hair colour. Even appreciated that it made me a little different.

So for me, Redhead Days seemed like a bit of fun. Something that would make a cool story… “Yeah, so I’m traveling through Europe for six months, and my first stop is a little town in the Netherlands for a three-day celebration of gingers.” Why not?!

But then I arrived in Breda, and my little ginger bubble burst. For the first time in my life, I actually felt self-conscious about my hair colour. While there was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the gingers, it was the non-ginger ginger enthusiasts that really made me uneasy. All of a sudden I was on display, and I didn’t like it one bit.

Standing in the town square, men with cameras would swarm and take photos of me like I was an animal in the zoo. One guy got so close I had to give him an “I can see you” eyebrow raise so that he’d back off.

Probably the most unsettling encounter was with a (non-ginger) guy from Vienna who claimed to be a journalist. He approached Dee & me in the park one afternoon looking for a story, with a bottle of coke and pack of cigarettes his only tools of trade. Within five minutes of awkwardly sleazy chitchat, he was convinced he and I were “the perfect pair” and suggested we be Facebook friends. Feeling a little flirty (in hindsight, foolish!) from the wine, I said that if he could find me at the pub crawl later that night, we could make that happen. He did find me. Twice. At two different pubs, among hundreds of gingers. In the dark of night in a foreign town, he seemed even more creepy than during the day, forcing me to make a French exit and go home to bed.

The official group photo was the last straw. Being herded into the photo location space, and then separated by a barrier from the non-gingers while the photographers snapped at us from the top of a cherry picker, just felt a little too much.

So while Redhead Days was an interesting experience, I was relieved when the weekend came to an end, and I could just throw my hair up in a ponytail and move on. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d washed and blow dried my hair three days in a row. Because hey, if I’m going to be photographed unknowingly, I want to be looking my best. 💁 (Blonde emoji used for lack of a ginger one.)

And here’s Jess’s blog: The End of August


DAYS 8-10


It’s been a bit of a life-dream going to The Ginger Festival. There are others apparently — but the one in Breda is the biggest and I think the very first. But despite being desperate to go, I was still quite a bit intimidated by the experience. I treat my gingerness as politics. It’s incredibly important to me. I know I harp on about this all the time, so just skip the next two paragrapha if you’ve heard this all before.

I am what I can only describe as a “Militant-Ginger”. I genuinely believe we have a case for ethnicity. Not just for our physiognomy, but because we are genuinely persecuted. And I know you are thinking, “What’s a few harmless jibes? Get over it Coppertop.” But it’s really tough growing up the only redhead in your class. You feel so different at a time when you just want to be so, so the same. But I never had it as bad as the woman I saw on TV describe how her (male) classmates ripped down her dress to see if her pubic hair was red too. And when that South Park episode came out I wept for my little ginger comrades still at school that had another set of bullshit to deal with. I constantly feel like telling little ginger-kids, “Don’t worry — it gets better.”

There is also another case for our ethnicity — the fact we evolved to be genetically adapted to the highest latitudes — where the sunlight was weak or only available for the shortest periods. Our pale skins could soak up the limited sunlight more effectively so we didn’t have any vitamin D issues. Anyway. I identify as a ginger and it shits me so much when we are dismissed as just a minority hair-colour. We are all so much, much more that that.


When I see a random ginger I cannot help but pausing for that milli-second to process that meeting. I feel we have a tiny recognition moment similar to what the movie “Fight Club” popularised. We don’t say or do anything, (or even nod or maintain any length of eye-contact) — but it’s just an instant affinity. Maybe it is even mutual. So of course SPOLIER ALERT: this will become a bit of sensory overload very soon. More on that later.

So back to BREDA. When I announced we were going to the festival, Jess — a fellow ginger from Brisbane— said she would come too. I spent ages at Antwerp Station lining up to buy our train tickets (cause the machines refused to work). The woman at the counter was a ginger and for the 20-odd minutes I waited in line I worked up the courage to say that I was buying tickets to go to the Ginger festival — imagining all the while she would be pleased or at the very least — interested. It turned out she was mystified at best. Maybe it was my terrible attempt at translating the concept, but she had no idea about the festival, didn’t care about my trip and maybe even didn’t identify as ginger. Not a great start.

We arrived at Breda station around lunch time and when we walked out into the light we stopped because we weren’t entirely orientated. But then suddenly a woman came up to us with a brochure and I thought, “Ugh, somebody selling something.” I did my least enthusiastic “hi” and was even about to decline what she was offering. But then she asked if we were here for the Festival. Instantly I was gobsmacked. Though not a ginger, she was an official spruiker of the Festival. She handed us these booklets and gave us directions — all in English. It was incredible. We felt special. We had arrived. We just might be home.


There was a bit of drama getting this apartment — despite the fact I booked it first and three whole months before we were due to arrive. (The whole reason for the trip was based around getting to Breda). Eventually Laura in the UK had to pay for it because I couldn’t pay by credit card and paypal would only pay in Australian dollars (which the owner refused). And that was a highly convoluted process and took ages and all the while I seriously wondered if we were being scammed.

So when we arrived at the address and it was just a vacant shop I was horrified. “I had a bad feeling about this,” I said. We looked around the back and were met by a security gate with no intercom. Dee was calm. Jess was calm — but I was mortified. I dove into my pack and brought out the confirmation print out. There was a phone number listed. So after a few fails at  getting the area code, I got through to the owner and he was like, “You’re early! I’ll be there in 10 minutes”. Saved! I can’t imagine what we would have done had we not got SIM cards. Anyway. Crisis over.


This is my review of the apartment if I could be bothered: only one bedroom, but there was plenty of space. Noisy at night — made good use of ear plugs. No hair dryer. No air-con (just a very ordinary ceiling fan in bedroom). The three flights of metal stairs were treacherous after rain. Complicated key system. Wifi was a bit flaky. Don’t forget (like we did) to bring 300 euros in cash for safety deposit.

Exploring Breda we saw all the sights despite only officially simply trying to find a supermarket. Then we realised we needed that hairdryer so Dee and Jess went off hunting that while i lugged all our groceries home. Jess and Dee made a frittata for dinner and we ate on our balcony which had a decent view. Then we all got showered, made-up and blow-dryed (me included) and made our way to the nightclub which was the first event on the Festival schedule.


As we got closer I got both nervous and excited. Not being totally confident in google maps I wasn’t even sure we were in the right place, but then we turned a corner and there were some gingers hanging about outside. I instantly said hello to everyone. But I got some push-back. I got the intense feeling they were not used to being greeted so warmly by a stranger — even a fellow ginger. I think that is a European thing. (My friend Cass moved to Norway and said to me that if he greets a random in the street, like just being polite, they cannot comprehend it. They assume you are an acquaintance they have forgotten. It is inconceivable to them that a stranger would want to simply say “hello”.) I worried that this whole event would be a bit wooden. Just a photo-op. A total disappointment.

But of course I was determined to make the best of this. Inside, as the beverages kept flowing, everyone seemed to loosen up a bit and realise there was an affinity. Eventually you could just go up to anyone and say, “Hi”. We met a bunch of gingers including Ireland’s Ginger King. (He had a crown to prove it). And then we were all corralled into a group photo. At that point knew this event was important. The Ginger-Fest hadn’t officially started but there was at least 200 gingers here ready to stand up and be counted (and party.)

IMG_0687.JPGHere’s the Irish King!

I got in there for the photo and then dived upstairs while the MC was still talking to get a shot of the crowd below. I posted that shot to Instagram as something like: “There are 100% gingers in this shot. True Story” It was profound. I know I use that word a lot — but it was so meaningful. I was with my brothers and sisters. I was with people who knew what I had gone through and I knew what they had gone through (and would go through, potentially, for the rest of their lives.)

My ginger friend Nicci commented on that post saying, “I can’t imagine what that would feel like.” And as I woke up the next day and saw that — I realised it was a truly momental occasion.

NICCI: “You’re so used to being an oddball that you don’t even think about it anymore, until someone mentions they were in a room full of people similar to you, and you get an odd sense of belonging for the first time that you didn’t know could exist.”


The next day Jess and I were all trying to look our best. I have never had the need to shampoo my hair twice in one day — but that happened. As I ventured out that morning I felt   quite consciously that I was being “looked at”. I felt like everyone knew why I was here. But combatting that hyper-self-consciousness was the fact I felt like I wasn’t the only one. All us gingers were almost celebrities. Indeed Jess will later tell you stories about how she was shot by all these ginger-paparazzi. (Stay tuned)



That morning we got our country stickers. We seemed to be the only Australians there — but later we found at least two other gingers form Australia. But most of the gingers were from Europe. One from Iraq. For the first time ever I have worn our flag with pride. Not pride in the flag, just pride in the fact we had come a long way and there were many, many gingers in Australia that I had promised to represent. And I thought of EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU. (Even though I forgot to tag the awesome Shelley in my Insti post. Still sorry about that Shell. Forgive me!)



On this night Dee chose to stay home. She could have come, but in her mind that would have been awkward. I understood her decision. So it was just Jess and me who got assigned to different “teams” for this event. They had to divide us all up into groups of about 12 so we didn’t overwhelm any single venue. My group had two guides and then we hit about 8 pubs and nightclubs before a big meet-up at some massive nightclub. Of course – I had a great time. That was a given. I was a bit dusty the next day it should be said.




OFFICIAL PHOTOS (we are actually in these – just saying)

So a Sunday emerged and we all met in the Square and again it was too many gingers to process. It was obscene. Ginger-kids too. About ten of them were planted on this stage looking out over all of us. (They were so well behaved it should be said). After a big speech by the mayor we all walked about a kilometre to the train station for a group photo. At that point Dee got excluded. There were bouncers that literally said, “Gingers THIS WAY, you people go over there.”

Dee was a bit nonplussed already. Obviously I felt sorry for her, but then I didn’t. SOZ BEB.

The Sun had now come out and it shone down on us just like the deadshit it is. We all realise it is the reason life exists and the reason we all still exist, but to us, it is still pretty bullshit.

We all stood there in that SHINE for about 30 minutes trying to look our best “GINGER” and always looking straight ahead while these goobs tried to get the perfect shot on-top of these cherry pickers which were constantly going up and down. All the while we were melting, squinting and possibly developing (or nurturing) various skin cancers. UGH! This terrible MC was running around interviewing gingers on the loud speakers and it was cringe-worthy at best. I didn’t really expect anything better — but this was billed as the pinnacle of the whole event. And it was pretty ordinary. They really need to make that bit slightly less contrived. Like we are herded. Or a spectacle. Just saying.