Saturday, 24 April 2010

Friday, 23 April 2010

Glad I stayed?

Somebody told me I was an agel today, because angels bring happiness, and inspire people, How nice is that?
You know, I am nearly glad I got stranded now. If I hadn't then I wouldn't have achieved my life long ambition and become a Michael Swan tribute act, I would not have delivered my Brains session to two brilliant audiences an d I wouldn't have been called an angel.
The reaction of the people on both days, who must have been very disappointed that the person who they had come to see had been replaced by a grey hippy screaming five days! five days! was fantastic.
They hid their disappointment and made the most of what they ended up with.
So thank you to all of those people.
and thank you to in no particular order,
Ana Simina
my family and all the others
for all you have done to keep me company, keep my spirits up and to get me out of here.
And so if all goes well now, and the flight leaves, then this will be if not the  last then one of the last blogs.
Lisbon here I come.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Does anyone know a good barber's shop in lisbon?

Facebook status updates

turns out I wasn't a Swan after all just an ugly duckling

to which Carrick replied : 
Noooo! Surely not. I deputised for him once. But I avoided the subject of grammar. That would have been taking things too far.
to which I replied: 
So did I, in fact some might say I avoided the subject of teaching completely :-)

My hair is so long, I just used conditioner for the first time in my life.

Stars in their eyes

drawing to a close

Not many of these left I guess, My plane departs at 5.40pm local time tomorrow night and that will be that I suppose.
It has been emotional.
Character building
something like that.
So replacing swan seemed to go okay, they laughed in all the right places anyway,
I am not looking forward to tomorrow
I have to check out of room at 9 be swan at 10.20 and then hang around till the flight. Long old day, I know I know never bloody happy eh?
But I am looking forward to it and all the delights that Lisboa holds,
Pinga Doce, olives, bread, cheese, vinho tinto, superbock, sun, a lovely castle,
SO One more lovely Kiev moon, one more swan, one more Ukrainian lunch and then back on the road again.

By the way Kiev is so so so nearly an anagram for Evil, but it isn't that bad really :-)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Stars in their Eyes

The scruffy man hobbled on the stage, his trade mark t-shirt and shorts looking almost comical on his overweight forty year old frame, making this particular make over seem even more unlikely.
The introductions were quickly done, the film started, the contestants doing the voice over himself.
"Hi I am Gareth and I live here in Cardiff bay," the camera panned to a wide shot across the bay and then back to Gareth trying negotiate his way around a morbidly obese seagull.
"I've always been an admirer of this man, ever since I started my career 14 years ago, his books were essential reading for me back then. Then I got to meet him, talk to him, I've even eaten off his plate. I can't believe that I am actually going to be him after all he has written the industry standard grammar reference" the obligatory clue given,  the camera followed Gareth as he limped off across the barrage and faded out.
Back in the studio Matthew was smiling,
" I think we all know who it is but tell us anyway." he said as if he was talking to a puppy
 "well tonight Matthew I am going to be ... Michael Swan."

Yes that is right today I am going to step into the considerable shoes of Michael Swan, obviously I am not going to be him, I can't,  but there are a lot of people coming and they were expecting one of the greats... and they get me. ‏More nervous than I thought I would be.

more facebook statuses

Under 48 hours to go!!!!
spanner in works me thinks

Not sure if anyone cares anymore but very pretty mood in kiev tonight :-)

Save 6 music :-) 

so today

Don't read this one if you came for the lighthearted, it is pretty grumpy, but to be honest I am still the smiliest man i have seen today

So I was meant to be here for almost exactly four days, from Monday  evening till friday evening. I've now been here for nine days. I don't particularly want to go home, I just want to go. Sorry Kiev I am sure you have your charms but I am not in the right frame of mind or foot to see them.

In the restaurant tonight they put me in the furthest corner, so I couldn't even people watch adding to my sense of isolation. The waiting staff then proceeded to ignore me.

Spanner - Works - What to do, what to do.

I have been given the opportunity to fly to London after my talk on Friday morning.
Now after all my grouching throughout this blog you might think that that is great news. and I am certainly very grateful for the effort to get me on a flight to the UK.
So why am I saying it is a spanner in the works.
Well I would love to be home, I'd love to be in my own flat, trying out my new shower, watching the blues on iplayer, wearing my hat and washing my socks.
and there's always a but.
I live in Cardiff,
that means If everything is on time which is a big if would not get to my flat until gone 10 pm on Friday night, I have to be on a flight from Bristol at 10.30 on Sunday morning.
Not enough time to get my socks dry, not enough time to watch the blues, barely enough time to wear my hat.
So is it worth it?
I could fly straight to Lisbon where I need to be on Monday and just chill for a day or two.
What to do, what to do?

I miss my hat

if anyone is worried

My laundry came back fine,
in fact they even ironed my socks, I've never ironed a sock in my life, I don't even think I have had an ironed sock,  i hope they commented on how nice the socks were while they were ironing them.

more status updates

up down up down up down down

If all goes well I will be walking round the streets of Lisboa, sipping vinho tinto or superbock by this time on Friday :-)

Right time for food, and I can assure you it is not going to be TGI's tonight.

Remember Yesterday...

I said I didn't know how I would cope with out internet, well the internet is down in the hotel so now I can find out :-)

The question for today is, should i try to get my haircut in a Ukraine hair dressers?


Just when you think you have turned the corner, that things can only get better, they pipe glenn madeiros into the breakfast room.
All together now

nothings gonna change my love for you
you ought to know by now how much I love you
one thing you can be sure of
I'll never ask for more than your love.

and to cap it off I just looked up those lyrics cos I was not sure of the last line and I have inadvertently downloaded it as a ring tone.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A quiz

Some questions, don't worry I am not expecting answers or keeping score.
  • Why are the bar-staff in this restaurant  wearing 'nurses'' outfits?
  • Where do you put the apostrophe in nurses, when you are putting quote marks around it?
  • Why do non English speakers like to sing happy birthday in English?
  • How did my ears survive the awful country and western band in the restaurant? Well I thought they were country until they started doing  Sting covers.
  • Why are there quite so many staff at this restaurant?
  • Why are people dancing to the aforementioned c&w band.
  • Is it good form to play air guitar while dancing to a c&w band in a restaurant.
  • How good does ice cream baked in pear with a crispy coat sound?
  • How disappointing was it?
  • What is the international sign language for a menu? I drew a square, the waitress thought I wanted the check, that is just crazy. 
  • Why didn't I bring a coat with sleeves?
Scores out of 12

I have a seat on a plane

The good news I have a seat on a plane flying to a destination that is open and working.
The bad news, it is not until Friday and it is not my home town.
But at least I will be moving and to the next place I was meant to work.
No disrespect Kiev but it feels good.

Status updates part three

I got a ticket, for an aeroplane, leaving this town on Friday. I hope ...

is the end in sight? possibly but it doesn't mean i am going home, just escaping Kiev!

trying to work out the hotel laundry system, boy i am confused :-(


So looks like I am stepping in for michael swan for two events, the launch of OALD and Ukraine IATEFL, then getting on a flight to Portugal to sit and wait for the training next week.
I'll be sorry to leave Kiev, (oh no I won't)

My cat must be starving, poor thing

It makes you wonder really...

On friday I felt low, I will be honest, I felt lonely, lost, vulnerable, isolated. I am not afraid to admit it. I cannot imagine how bad that would have been had I not had the internet and my mobile phone.
Over the weekend the internet has allowed me to watch rugby and football, keep abreast of developments, chat to people, telephone people, keep a diary that other people have read, read other people's stories etc
People have popped up from all over the place to say hello, to stop and chat, to check I am okay.
SO thank you WWW sometimes you get on my nerves but I will never curse you again.

Monday, 19 April 2010

posh mcdonald my @3se

it was not even a posh mcds. I think I would have prefered a big mac menu.
Poor, that is not the word for it. I wish I was home now just so I could look up poor in my thesaurus and find something suitable.
Service - terrible
Food  - bland
Atmosphere - russ abbott would have been disappointed
Self-esteem  - shattered

TGI's put it out, right out!

Some things in life are universal,

Some things in life are universal, you can see them in many places, for example the last hundred yards of my walk home tonight yielded,  the mad old lady on a balcony yelling at her cat, the teenagers sitting in the children's play area smoking and drinking in the dark. The fat lazy cop smoking a cigarette outside his booth outside an embassy, the badly parked car meaning the poor  limping pedestrian has to walk in the road the hedgehog scaveging for food and  the idiot doing the iPhone dance. If you haven't got an iPhone you may
not know this ritual, you see the screen changes whichever way you  hold it, so the picture is either displayed vertically or horizontally depending on how you hold your phone. The thing is the iPhone likes to play tricks so if you hold it upright the screen displays horizontal but as soon as you move it the screen moves too. MAking you do a little dance with your phone trying to make the position and the screen comply.

Posh McDonalds

I am thinking of going to TGI friday for dinner, is that wrong?

always look on the bright side of life

One of my nephews, he shall remain nameless to protect his blushes, has chicken pox, his spots are appearing mostly on his goolies as my sister, who will also remain nameless to protect my nephew's blushes, quaintly puts it. So I suppose life could be worse at least my goolies are spot free. :-)

manly tissues

I needed to buy tissues today so I wnet for the manliest ones I could find.


So a genuine update here.
I have been asked to stay  here to cover a session that was meant to be done by Michael Swan, that means I am here until Friday now.
Thanks again to everyone who have helped me, and have tried to keep my spirits up.

bloody hippy

Airlines smairlines - My email to the BBC

The Airlines are blaming European governments for the shambles. Do they really think it is the governments' fault or are they just trying to divert attention from themselves.
They had no contingency plans for this, have no insurance and are now blaming governments for protecting the safety of the people. They are hoping that the people affected will jump on the anti-government bandwagon and start demanding that the airlines fly again.
I have been affected by this, I am stuck in Kiev, but I do not want to fly until I know it is safe to do so.
It is all very well doing tests but those tests are being carried out by airlines who have a vested interested in saying they are safe.
Would it be beyond big business to risk the lives of a few to make sure they stop taking the hits?
My airline has been a disgrace throughout this, they did not call me back when they promised to do so, they have half heartedly  replied to an email but have no offer to meet the costs I am having to cover to pay for additional accommodation and living cost.

Panic attack

Hmm having a bit of a homesick panic attack, if I stay here till 
Friday then Lisbon I will not see my flat for three weeks. :-0 that's 
a long time to go without a home cooked meal :-)
It seemed to be easier at the weekend when decisions were not called for. Now I have to think, make decisions, choose I can feel my stress headache coming back. 
This is a nightmare that just keeps on giving :-)

Strange days indeed

Within about five steps I got offered the chance to hold a chinchilla and the chance to buy a magazine called 'Vice News' although I was sorely tempted I turned both down.
I also got kicked out of Teranova fro carrying a dangerous rucksack. oh well :-)


I wonder what they think of me, hobbling around their town in my trademark outfit of shorts and tshirt, a handwashed slightly shapeless t-shirt at that. I've said a lot about how they dressed but what I haven't said is that no mttmmatter what they look like, they have still put loads of effort into how they look, they are smart
presentable stylish, and there's me, a scruffy interloper not keeping up appearances.
Obviously shorts are frowned upon, quite literally, I am getting some funny old looks, it is twenty degrees in the shade but big coats and scarves are still on show. For example woman just passed me in a full length leather coat she must be sweating like a weightlifter before a drugs test.

shorts or not shorts - that is the question

Shakespeare was wrong!
It is blue blue sky in Kiev, so should I wear shorts and give my jeans a rest or will I
a) look foolish
b) be cold
c) both of the above :-)

care home for the elderly

Okay so accommodation was sorted pretty quickly and I am on a flight on Tuesday if things move again, so those are fine, I am coming to terms with being away, you just have to really, flight already cancelled nothing you can do! (that is an obscure and bastardised CSI quote).
The next question was clothes, went out shopping but things were expensive and small, so I needed an alternative. A box of persil and a bath of water did the trick, thank god I don't have to wear my undies inside out, who does that anyway, it is disgusting, surely any .... no I don't want to go there.
I can last a couple more days, but my jeans are starting to stand up on their own and I am not sure I want to hand wash those, hotel laundry? Never used it, don't know how it works.
Now it is the little things, i am running out of contact lens solution, worse my lenses should have been changed on Saturday, I have a spare pair but they are my emergency pair. What is the argentine contact lens fiasco were to happen again. My finger nails need cutting, I didn't bring my clippers and my hair, well I look like a bloody hippy, it is half way down my back. Little things that you don't even think of at home but become an issue here.
It is another lovely day, I should leave this room or else I will get bed sores, I should also let them clean it I suppose. I hope this is my last day in the Ukraine for a while, but to be honest I am not getting those hopes up. That hope is very low, low low down.
So I sit and wait, not sure what I am waiting for, just waiting, wearing clothes that are not quite clean,  my hair and nails  in a growing race, my eyesight failing by the day, bed sores and a bad leg. I guess I am getting a taste of what it must be like to be
in a care home for the elderly.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Status updates part two

Spring time in Kiev. The sunshine and then tonight the beautiful slender moon helps to lift the spirits.

 wonder if there is a course book feature in this, if any authors out there want to interview me I'll be happy to oblige. I'll even let them use a photo of someone else like they did with poor Mister Flynn. 

The girl in the Restaurant

She sat on her own and picked at her food. She had three courses but didn't  look interested in eating, In between courses she toyed with her mobile, never making a calll or sending a message, it was just her safety blanket, her worry beads. Every now and again she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue, wiping away a tear or just a empty gesture, something she does all the time.
Was she beautiful? it was hard to tell, so heavily made up was she it was difficult to tell what was naturally made  and what was made in a factory. You felt if she smiled she could light up the  restaurant but a smile was about as likely as a me getting out of this country before tomorrow, which considering the flight embargo had just been extended indefinitely was not just unlikely but bordering on the impossible. I wondered what made her so sad.
Of course I would never know, but her sorry filled the room like an awkward silence.


Yesterday's winter turned into today's summer and after the sleepy Saturday Kiev came alive. The main drag was cordoned off and was crammed with ramblers, entertainers roller bladers and the bane of everyone's life skateboarder. It lifted my spirits and allowed me to people watch for a litlle while.
There is something about this country that stops me from relaxing, it has a dangerous feel. Maybe it is the mafia look or the number of bmws with blacked out windows. There is a beer drinking culture here, but rather people cramming into pubs people swig out of bottles on the street. Maybe the large numbers of people drinking beer out of bottles wrapped in brown paper bags is a contributing factor to the sinister feel.
The plume is still spread out across Europe and planes are still grounded, but test flights have taken place and airlines are grumbling so maybe the embargo or the clouds will be lifted soon.
Walking home I may have stumbled upon what makes the place sinister, there is a lack of street lighting, there are long stretches of unlit roads, things you expect to be lit, like entrances to hotels, or squares are swathed in darkness, making it feel like someone will step out of the shadows any minute.

why bloody Kiev?

In the last couple of years I have been to Paris, Rome, Lisbon, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, Athens, etc, why oh why did it have to be in Kiev that I get stranded.
Nothing against Kiev, but the cyrillic letters, the sheer distance and the grotty hotel staff make me wish it was somewhere I could sit by the sea and drink coffee.

thanks and apologies

I would like to thank anna and naomi for their help, and apologise to Carl for the idiot comment but it gives me a chance to use my new emoticon

sorry if I did this


i.e. put your nose out of joint

Cut my losses

I have decided to cut my losses.
I have taken out Ukraine citizenship and registered for tax, let's face it I am stuck here so I may as well settle in.

Good news???

Flights resume from Ukraine airspace.
Hmm can I plot my escape, head south I guess.
Hope conquers all.


Saturday was better, less fear but the stress headache was still there.
Spent the day watching rugby on the interweb drinking tea and being resigned to my fate. I was a bit worried I would get bed sores from just laying in bed all day.
Actually I didn't lay in bed all day, I went out to buy washing powder and beer, don't worry I haven'[t decided to kill myself with that strange concoction. I just decided if I was going to be here for a while I needed to do some hand washing and drink some ale.
Luckily the blues were on the Telly, so I decided dinner could be room service. How wrong was I?
This bleeping, bleeping hotel, decided no room service on saturday night, ha ha ha what a load of crap. So after the Blues hammered the turks I had to go out for a late supper.
Guess what I had, go on guess,
Chicken Kiev :-)
Of course not eating till late meant I was not sleepy, so I stayed up till three thirty drinking vodka and beer and looking at you tube music videos.


it is funny here, all the women dress the same , all of them,  all of the time, okay not all of them but a lot of them,, unfeasibly high heels, ludicrously short skirts,  boob jobs, fake blonde hair, overly made up, perfume oozing out of every pore. Meanwhile the men all try to  look like mafia, black leather jackets (suit style) black polo t-shirt black trousers brooding emotionless faces. The problem is the women really do look like whores but the men are trying a little too hard.
But it is like a new national dress, in a hundred and fifty years from now people will be recreating the look at Disney's epcot centre.

i reckon some of  the women are so artificial they are flammable, and if one goes up  the whole country could go up in minutes, Australia is on its guard against forest fires, Ukraine watches out for  women fires. Maybe a discarded cigarrette would be the initial catalyst but then those sick people who do that sort of thing  would start copycat fires, purposely setting women alight in the streets of Kharkiv.

Status updates

A selection of my facebook updates


rugby on the computer, tea, chocolate, and it is pouring with rain, close my eyes and it could be cardiff.

Hand washing and I don;t mean washing my hands I mean washing by hand.

So hoist up the John B. sails See how the main sail sets Call for the Captain ashore, let me go home (let me go home) Let me go home, (let me go home) I wanna go home Well, I feel so broke up, I wanna go home


Bored in a restaurant I wrote about my fellow diners: 

Friday night, the pizzeria is filling up, people out after a long hard week, the same in thousands of cities around the world; friends getting together to unwind and relax, to catch up and gossip, hearts being poured out and secrets shared.
Natasha sits opposite Olga, so far oblivious to Olga's secret. Natasha talks and talks her fingers illustrate her points, her friend quietly drinks her beer, her fingers from her right hand form  an L shape around her mouth and up her left cheek,  her mouth patiently waiting for the moment to break the news.
Roman the waiter, tall, thin, blond, his pockmarked skin betrays his age, he’s normally so slovenly, so careless, but he  has a spring in his step  tonight. On table one, his table is a British man, on his own, a chance for Roman to put his English to the test, But more importantly a chance to make a good tip. His colleagues look on amused, they've never seen him this attentive.
 Ivana totters down the stairs, the modern day national dress of the Ukraine woman; short skirt, black tights and unfeasibly high heels, her hair an unnatural blonde, her heels making the stairs treacherous. She's told Dimi she is going to the toilet, but she just had to get away from him, away from his snide remarks, his put downs.
The three girls on the large table are also in the national uniform, the look like three whores on their way to work such is the effect of the national dress. They laugh and chat and look relaxed.
Natasha lets out a scream, shock! So Olga has finally shared her secret. Natasha cannot believe her friend has cheated on her husband. Olga talks in hushed tones about how her new man does things to her that makes her feel like a woman. Natasha is all smiles, but inside she is angry, she hates the fact that she didn't spot it, her woman's intuition had let her down, and also jealous that her friend is getting some and she is not.
Sasha pours beer from the pitcher into his friends glass making sure he is giving Marin just that little bit more. The two friends watch Ivana totter back to her seat, they admire her breasts and her arse but they fail to spot she's been crying, in fact nor does Dimi, so wrapped up in himself, he doesn't  notice the woman he claims he adores has been sitting on the toilet crying. Sasha watches his friend intently, hanging on every word. His secret will not be revealed tonight.
Roman doesn't clear away the Englishman's plate, his colleague Petra got there first. He seethes with rage, he'd been rehearsing his line but now he'd not get a chance to use it.
The three  whores have been joined by three men, older much older, suddenly the  mood has changed, the girls no longer chat to each other but talk to  the men, all big eyes and smiles, the language has changed too, no longer Russian but English, the men speak with heavy germanic accents the women with their soft Slavic voices.
Natasha watches as her mate takes a call from her new fella, she is all light and giggly, Natasha has a sudden urge to slap her, to kick her to punch her, her jealousy is bubbling, she has to go, to get out, she decides a toilet break is needed.
Sasha's chin is on his hand, he looks up at Marin as Marin tells of his latest conquest. All that is missing is from the scene is big  fluttering eyelashes. Natasha stands up, straightens her skirt and bends for her bag. Sasha makes a big show of checking out her arse, showing he is all man, then he goes back to admiring his friend and pouring him just a little more beer.
Dimi makes his move, toilet time for him, Ivana knows she has to be quick, she takes her coat and gets to her feet, she is out of the door and hailing a passing taxi before she can think twice, the driver asks her where to, just drive she mumbles through the tears just drive. She left behind her cigarettes but she does care, she can replace them, she can't replace her self esteem.
Ivan and Natalie are babies in comparison to the rest of the crowd, barely sixteen, her flat shoes give her away, he is betrayed by his loud deep awkward laugh. They share a pizza and a glass of wine, they count out their money to the last penny to pay for their meal, no tip for Roman there, But where is Roman? He is conspicuous by his absence now that Petra has stolen his English speaker. He is out the back smoking but not inhaling, holding the cigarette between his middle finger and thumb, the tip in the cup of his hands like he's seen them do in the films, he near whistles ad he inhales like his Heroes do.

TV documentary 2050

In 2010 the Icelandic volcanic eruptions started, they lasted for over two years. The plumes of smoke closed airspace across  Europe, people were stranded, unable to get home. Local communities sprung up away from home for example on this little corner of  Grand Canaria there is a little czech village.  But this is the sad story of one welshman who was stranded in Ukraine
From his appearance with hsi long grey beard and unkempt appearance you would think he has always been a tramp but this man was a up and coming star of the TEFL world.

But this poor man had gone mad well before the end of the eruptions. Since then he has  resisited all  efforts to send him home he wanders the streets of Kiev, shouting I was only meant to be here 5 days, five days. 

Bloody annoying

Do you know what I find bloody annoying?

I shall tell you shall I?

idiotic comments like this 

 the lack of planes in the sky at all contributes  to the clear sheer blueness of it

and this  

"No noise pollution or air pollution in Canning Town. Let's hope for another quiet day - reclaim our skies!" 

I am so glad that people are enjoying themselves while the airspace is shut. Halle bleeping luja. 


Everything was going normal until a text on Thursday night from Lenka saying that there was a problem with a volcano in Britain and there were no flights to or from the country.
Thinking that Edinburgh must have blown up as that was the only volcano I could think of in the UK, I thought everything would blow over (quite literally) and all would be okay by the time my flight was due out at 4pm the next day.
How wrong was I?
In a word, very.
The full extent of the situation unraveled itself after the train journey from Kharkiv to Kiev. Uk airspace closed until Saturday, no flights in  or out, people panicking.
I went through my options, get to Prague, after all it is a home from home, sit tight and wait for the dust to settle, (thanks Naomi for that pun) , try to get to Lisbon (I am due there next week.)
I must admit I felt alone, scared, vulnerable. It was the uncertainty that was the killer.
BA were saying they could not get me on a flight till Monday, Oxford were silent,  because of a two hour time difference not because of indifference.
We decided that Prague was the best option so ran to the airport, booked the tickets and waited, waited, and waited for them to close Czech Airspace and Ruzyne airport and leave me stranded in Kiev.
Emotions? difficult to say really, I suppose frustration was the biggest one, my stress headache was growing growing.
So it was back to the shitty hotel and more uncertainty.
I found out I was on a flight on Tuesday, that was 4 more days in this place. A place so strange, so different. When the alphabet is different you feel  lost, confused. WHen your ankle is painful you feel limited.
I put together tired plans for the evening, involving buying vodka and wine and going to a pizza place I knew and started to resigning myself to my fate.
What follows here is a few of my musings, status updates, annoyances etc. just so I have a record.