The Summer Holidays Memorial Part 1: Paragliding

Hello everyone! This week is my first week back at school. As well as that, it’s my first week in Year 9 but that’s not important. This post is dedicated to the summer holidays (may they rest in peace) and my experiences during them. So, to begin with, I did nothing. By which I mean nothing. I didn’t even breathe. That’s how lazy I was*.

Anyway, after a trip to the emergency room and a lot of oxygen**, dad came over. Although we didn’t do much (even with our spectacular budget of about five million rupiah***), we had fun. I’m glossing over that because besides breathing a little more, we still didn’t really do anything of note.

So by now we’re quite late into the school holidays and (while, to be perfectly honest, I could easily just have lounged around for the remainder and then regretted it for the rest of the semester until I forgot any lessons learnt in time for the Christmas holidays) we decided that as such, we should do things.

What things, might you ask? First, we went paragliding. You may know that mum has acrophobia (not vertigo, as I often remind her), so this was a really fun and fulfilling and not at all terrifying experience for her. Meanwhile, I absolutely did not silently contemplate what my final thoughts would be if the straps gave out.

So there’s that. Here, have a photo.

I am very disappointed in you.

Here, have it.  Are you happy now?

What? What do you mean “mediocre”?! You try taking a photo with a smartphone while hanging off a parachute by some string! Any takers? No? Then stop judging me.

*That was a joke. I did not suddenly stop breathing at any point in my holiday. Well, not for long.

**Again, a joke. I did not wind up in the ER during my holidays.

***That’s less than $450. He was staying weeks. For a more accurate measurement, check out this cool site.

When a Child Is Tired of Italy….

It’s a truism of travelling Europe that – just as in Asia one becomes tired of temples, jungles and even pristine beaches – the allure of churches, castles, and seminal works of classical art can rapidly start to pale. In the Middle East, the issue tends to be ruins and desert – most notably, we found, the ruins.

Yet, as we pootled around Italy, much of it by train, last summer, I like to think I did a rather good job of keeping my spawn unbored. Here’s a few tips on how to prevent tedium on the road, which come to you courtesy of Rail Europe, the Europe train tickets people.

1: EAT – LOTS
Food is a major part of why we travel, and the main reason why we visited Italy in the first place. Taking the time to eat properly, and eat lots, and do lots of foodie tourism worked perfectly for us. As did regular gelato breaks (see below).

2: BRIBE WHEN REQUIRED
I’m sure one day my son will thank me for seeing all the wonderful mosaics at Ravenna, though that time has yet to come. In the meantime, if it takes a gelato or granita as a bribe for every single church, that’s what it takes.

3: GO EASY ON THE CHURCHES
To guard against church fatigue, pick churches really carefully. Some, for example, you might wish to see only from the outside; others you might want to whizz round quickly; very, very few should be compulsorily lingered in.

4: LET YOUR CHILD LEAD WHEN IT COMES TO ART
There’s no way anyone can do the Uffizi, the Accademia or (heaven forfend) the Louvre in a single day, or even several, and there’s no reason to try – particularly not with a child in tow. Pick a few things you want to see, get them to pick a few things they want to see, and otherwise just amble round gawping at what looks interesting. I’m not a fan of group tours, and, unless they’re tailored for kids, they’re an absolute disaster area when it comes to family travel.

5: TAKE POOL AND BEACH TIME
It’s important for anyone to have days off cultural self-improvement, in Italy or anywhere. And it’s particularly important for kids to have down time, where they’re just splashing in a pool or, for that matter, gaming on the dreaded devices.

6: LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE OBVIOUS
My son didn’t want to climb the Duomo in Milan. He wanted to go to the science museum instead. And it was bleeding excellent. So, too, was our impromptu tour of modern art hangouts in Florence. And I’m very pleased we went to see the Crypt of the Capuchins in Rome.

7: BUT DON’T MISS THE WOW MOMENTS
Arriving in Venice by train is one of the ultimate travel wows, as you step out of a perfectly ordinary train station onto the Grand Canal. So, too, is one’s first encounter with the Sistine Chapel, and one’s first encounter with the Coliseum. Do the wow stuff – but do it quickly. Because, like you, your kids can always go back, and if you do it right, they will.

I’m Not Dead (Yet)

Hello everyone! It appears many of you did not realise that my “shutting down” post was in fact a devious April Fools’. But it was! Why was it three days before you updated to say it was a prank, you ask? Shut the fuck up, that’s why.
Also, we didn’t have WiFi.

Anyway, it was partially true in that school has eaten up a sizeable chunk of my time, although I still have plenty of time to spare – as demonstrated by the fact I’m writing this post on a weekday (yes, it’s amazing). Actually, it’s pretty amazing that I’ve even posted Although there has been less homework recently. It’s probably about the impending school trip, which I might as well tell you about.

Yes, next week we will go on a trip! To the faraway land of Java! For five days! At a cost of 200 pounds! No, I don’t think it costs that much either. Still, we get two weeks of school so why not. Anyway, it’s been fun at school so far; I have made some friends and even one enemy! (Nah, apparently he’s a dick to everyone – speaking of dicks, he seems rather insecure about something…)

Where was I? Oh yes, so this new school. I don’t regret anything; although the power went out today in the old campus, leaving the facilities without the aircon on which they appear to rely, I really like this place and likely will do for some time to come. Besides, it’s necessary for my education and my future.

So that’s about it really. Oh, and we went to Malapascua over the half-term, but that was replaced by the April Fools’ post. No, I will not write about it. Unless mum makes me. But until then, read hers. Seriously.

 

Over and out.

Farewell to you all

I’m really bad at starting posts, so I’ll just break it to you: I’m discontinuing the blog. For those of you who don’t know what I’ve been up to, I’ve been settled down and going to school (yes, school) in Bali for quite some time now. As a result, I’ve had less free time and been doing less travel overall.
This has meant that I’ve been unable to post anything new for a while and, while those of you who know me are quite familiar with my long breaks from posting, this “hiatus”, as it were, is permanent. In short, no new posts. The site will be staying up; I may move back to WordPress.com because it’s free but it will stay up.
If, and this is highly unlikely, I do manage to get the time required to form a new blog post, I will do so, but don’t get your hopes up because as I said before, I have been very strained recently. It’s been a nice run and I’m very grateful to have been granted the success I have been, but I simply can’t keep it up.

So in short, HAPPY APRIL FOOLS!

After Australia

Hello! Today I am hailing from Bali, tourist hub of Indonesia. You probably know the reason I haven’t posted is because I was in Australia for new year’s. I dunno… actually, I think quite a lot of people read this. I still tend to think of it as something I do that is seen almost exclusively by my family, but…

Moving on. Remember how in Harbin we did that long house hunt? Well, here in Bali, the first order of business was to clear immigration. Two hours later and we take a taxi to Ubud via the brand-new highway erected for god knows what reason. Oh, and then we checked in.

So check-in was rather tedious. Apparently someone hadn’t checked out or something so we couldn’t stay in our room so we waited and then we ended up in another place. This new one was nicer and we stayed there for a night before moving back to the hotel. But anyway, our househunt wasn’t very impressive.

We went out, spent an hour or two checking hippy-infested vegan cafes for boards not advertising chakra repair shops (I’m joking, alright?! Take it easy) before finally going to Pizza Bagus. I can’t remember where, but we found an ad for a two-bedroom place next to a doctor’s house. After that, all we needed to do was… well, everything else.

Starting with school. There are four main options. There’s Green School, Bali International, [expunged] and, we learn, somewhere called [espunged]. Of the four, I’d say [spunged] is the best for me because it’s kind of friendly and laid-back but not as laid-back as [sponged] so I’ll get some work done.

See, the problem with me is that, like many people, I’d rather do less work than more. I can do it if I have a deadline to meet, say, if I’m working towards a test or something, but if someone asks me “okay, you’ve done your core studies, what do you want to do now?” then I will be inclined to say “nothing, hope you’re okay with that.”

Hence the desire for a conventional school framework. But anyway, it was time for a holiday. (Yes, already!) We’d been offered a free stay at two five-star hotels in exchange for some post or other and honestly, for an (almost) all-inclusive package for three nights, who wouldn’t accept?

So, with little fanfare, we checked in. We were shown around the hotel and then the spa, which has many rooms (one of which, “Blue Romance” or something, seems to contain what looks like bondage gear but apparently does something less kinky and more therapeutic).

I has a foot massage, she has a… long-winded massage. I don’t know. Anyway, after a considerably shortened foot massage (I slipped and screwed up a foot a while ago), get dressed, realise I haven’t got a room key, panic, sit outside for half an hour, go in, get a key from mum, walk to room 2237 as per her directions, realise this is wrong and storm back.

Some time later, I successfully unlock the door to room 3327.

 

TIME WARP

 

Okay, so what next? We have a tour of [spooged], nice, then a tour of [wait, what?!] the next day, nicer, then we both fall into a storm-drain. Neither of us gets wet (fortunate, because I think there was more than just mud in that water) but mum sprains her ankle. Tragically, this means we can’t spend an hour on a bike going to a meeting at [I mean, uh, expunged] at 7 AM the next day.

And then I went to school. The end.

 

ATTENTION FUTURE-DWELLERS! DUE TO MY NEW SCHOOL, I WILL PROBABLY NOT UPDATE MY BLOG MUCH. WHAT DO YOU MEAN I DON’T UPDATE IT ANYWAY!? SHUT UP!

 

Anyway, don’t expect many posts from me.

Yes, I know. Stop rubbing it in, will you?!

Diving, or How I Nearly Died (AGAIN)

Diving. Diiiving. Diving is awesome. There are many, many dive sites in Dahab and I honestly can’t name many of them, but there’s one that will stick in my mind for a while: the Blue Hole. What happened was pretty simple: I went diving at the Blue Hole. I had reservations about it (people have died there), but I was bribed with Kerbal Space Program.
So yeah, there I was. Joyfully squirming into my tight bastard wetsuit, legs flailing, almost in the blissed-out state of mind that gamers (screw you spell checker, it’s a real word) get when they have a brand-new game. But not quite – demonic wetsuits are bastards like that.
So yeah. After that, I got into the back of the Hilux and we drove to the place. After a short walk (during which I do not carry my kit) everyone puts their kit on except me. I only put on my belt and boots, with the rest going on in the water. I miss out on jumping in, though. Sadface :(
So… underwater, it’s all pretty much normal. We swim along the wall, not really doing much. Then my fin comes loose and I have to fiddle with it. This distracts me from the fact I’m rocketing skywards surfacewards towards the surface at a rate of bloody knots. I notice the change in light and I adjust my buoyancy, even fining down towards my mum.
This, unfortunately, dislodges my fin. I plummet nonchalantly to my potential doom, fiddling with the offending footwear. Eventually, I notice something wrong.
Here’s the deal: J tends to hang several metres below us, staying well away from the main group. So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed she was on the same level as me. Aaand… mum is higher up. As is [EXPUNGED]. And she’s signalling for me to… deflate my BCD? What the hell?
At a depth like this, as I realise I’m sinking, why go further dooown… oh, she wants me to go UP. Well I was going to anyway – wait, why’s she got my hand? Then she inflates both ours and we’re away. The rest of the dive continues as usual, apart from my inexplicable air supply drop forcing me to breath from [EXPUNGED]‘s spare reg.

Who would’ve thought I’d just had a near-death experience?

 

©Copyright Zachary Sutcliffe 2013-whenever I damn well choose. If you steal it my imaginary lawyer will shank you.

 

Note: this happened a while ago.

I’m Screwed

I’m screwed. Screwed.
I am alone in the house. Mum has gone diving. I have to do maths. I have done a pretty good deal of maths, but I have a lot left. I am taking a fifteen-minute break from my hour’s worth of maths. Let me explain. Mum got rather mad at me yesterday (I didn’t do enough maths and then I took out my phone at dinner).
So today, as I am alone, I am to do four hours’ worth of maths and my Chinese characters, with the penalty for failure being a computer ban, with the exception of Skype (and not with my friends), for a week. So, here’s the deal. If I complete the task, I don’t get a computer ban… but mum recognises the system as viable, storing it for later use.

If I fail… it’s a ban. Balls.

Yeah, that.

By doing this post (and thus admitting I took a break), I am… well, spinning the chamber.

There’s just one thing: how the fuck do I win?

The Great Adventure in Blightain – part III

Part three! Part three is here! Will I need to break it again? Find out in this episode!

Day two. We are in the building. We are sat down. Briefing commences. First aid class: underway. I will do some serious medicine. I will be… Bat-medic. Oh my god, why didn’t I think of that earlier?! Anyway… today is rather more outdoorsy stuff. Many people were only doing a one-day course on office first aid, so now it’s all a lot more relaxed.

The time is ripe for me to bring up bearsharks¹ again. Smiles, stares… it’s getting old. I decide to cut back. The morning is just classroom stuff. Or… is it? No, scratch that. We’re going outside to deal with someone with an injury. Blood is present. We also have a time limit.

The top score is (allegedly) 15 minutes, and we’re competing to beat that. Whether that is the actual time is debatable. I am put in charge for this and we are split into two teams. That’s one team under me, one team under mum (coincidental) and one casualty for each.

The casualty is a dude, happily unconscious (I prefer it that way) with a nice red swimming pool in his leg. Yeuch; I’m glad he’s out. I direct my team (efficiently, if I do say so myself) through the ABC’s² and Primary Survey. Then, concluding there is nothing wrong with him other than the MASSIVE BLOODY HOLE in his shin, we start to heal him.

And he’s bandaged up. One large, bloodstained dressing later and his leg is mostly covered up. Mostly. The small red crater must be left to rot; that little bastard plagued me on day one as well and I hadn’t been called out then. Anyway, we’re done in under the time limit. “We’re done!” The yell is quiet but satisfying. Moments later, the other team is done too. Close call.

Lunchtime! Back we march, happy to have beaten the top score and happy to be going back into the warm dry class. A lunch of champions – no, scotch eggs and raspberries, and it’s over. No scream today. The afternoon is… the great outdoors. Out we march and… helmets..? Why are there helmets out here? Apparently, we have to take these off.

Oh, what’s that? Without killing anyone? I see. This may require effort. So… I will be the headrest. I will hold the head, and I will take off the helmet. I use my legs as a headrest. Well done me. Then it’s time for a real challenge. We have to bandage up a guy with a huge gash, a busted arm, possible spinal injuries and… diabetes, we learn.

You see, I was given (on day one) a hint: on day two, outside, the devious buggers were going to hide some stuff in the clothing of the casualties. I wasn’t told what they’d be, where they’d be or when they’d be hidden. But it was a big help anyway. Because guess what we find? An insulin injector.

So, we start off. “Be as thorough as you can,” I say while working out the map with Nicola. We have to grid-reference our location, ditto the nearest 24-hour service (capable of calling an ambulance) and find the quickest and safest route there. I am busy doing this when I’m called over to help keep the guy steady as they move him up so he isn’t pressed against the tree.

He screams. He passes out. I hold him.

Another medic does (to my annoyance) the map. The guy is checked again. He’s bandaged up and stuff, but my legs are screaming from holding him up. We’re on a bit called the Slippery Slope of Death, by the way. Go figure. He’s slipping, my legs are dying and the ground’s sloping. Hence the name.

I ask (loudly) for someone to replace me. Help comes. It feels freaking awesome when my legs are freed. I am free! The pain is going! Anyway, he passes out shortly after the bandaging. Then, as I read the Manuel at them, Nicola goes off. The course is plotted; she’ll take three-odd hours to get to the destination. Woo.

Then there’s a lot of rummaging while I sit there as (basically) a weight for our first aid fanny-packs. Bloody hell! What are they after? And, triumphantly, one of them pulls out a wallet. And an insulin injector. Which meeeans… he’s diabetic. Oh well, we should have looked harder. Still, at least our group found it (mum’s didn’t).

Then it’s time for another exercise. This time I’m the casualty. And the injury is, quite coincidentally, a broken arm. Wowee. The treatment is a EuroSplint, of the exact same type that was used to splint me in UB. The splinting is done with only one bad joke (“Limoncello” is NOT the “freshest transformer”) and otherwise all goes smoothly.

Then the last and shortest challenge: fix a twisted ankle. Okay, so there’s this bandage, right, and it sticks to itself like clingfilm. So we use that, and she’s okay, but then she says she feels faint, right, and then she passes out. So yeah, I ask Manuel the Manual and he says that she’s got compression. Diagnosis complete, level complete. Woo.

Anyway, that’s that. Now, my feelings. Erm… private.

¹Bearsharks were a running gag during the first aid course, starting with day one when we made charts of all the things we’d have to consider. I was with the group for “Environment” and… well, let’s just say they fell under the category of “Environmental Hazards”. They’re 50% bear, 50% shark and 100% deadly. Well, one breed is. The other just flops about and drowns.
²Airways (anything in their windpipe?), Breathing (are they breathing?) and Circulation (blood flowing?) check.

Erm… Britain Part 2

Hello! Welcome to part two of my great British saga, which is expected to last all of two posts and… erm, probably under 1,000 words. Post two will feature stuff on the first aid course and possibly more on my feelings. It depends. It depends on how many words I need to cover my first aid course.

I will start off with the journey to Hope, the site of our course. Hope is a small village in the Peaks. So. We get in the car. I get out Google Maps. My phone begins pumping out instructions to get there, and… I open the Daily Mash. So it begins. Time passes. I read the best articles out loud. Then, after only a few hours, we’re there.

We check into our room. Nice little B&B. Pretty place. Food. Book. Bed. Morning. Food. Car. Course. Talking. CPR. So, erm, CPR. Cardio-pulminary resuscitation.  Hand on top of hand, ball of hand in centre of chest. Pump. The rhythm is ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive. I pump, and pump, and pump. Then the defibrillator. It tells you what to do, so that is easy.

Then… choking! Heimlich (now the abdominal thrust), thumping, baby-shaking… then lunch. Mmm, scotch eggs and raspberries. Delicious. I’m chowing down and having a leisurely drink when a horrible scream jolts my heart rate up over 9000. And… our instructor, Nicola Pickering, is yelling. Her hand is blood-red.

“Argh! I’ve burnt my hand!” The words aren’t even necessary. We all saw. Time to learn how to heal a burn! So – “DUH,” you say, ‘Just use cold water!” NO. You use a burn dressing. Or clingfilm and then ice or cold water. Why? Because the last thing a burn needs is more air. That’s why.

But we have a burn dressing. So we put that on. And lo and behold, her burns turn to plastic. Huzzah! Anyway, the afternoon is spent doing wounds. First I’m a medic, gingerly bandaging the 15-centimetre wound on mum’s arm. Then I’m an assistant, grabbing dressings out of a bag. Then… then I’m unconscious, my spine damaged, my mother rendering me dead.

Then I’m back in the building, having biscuits. Then tea is over, and… talk, talk, talk.

Talk, talk talk.

 

…Shit, I’m going to have to break this again.

Talk, talk, type.

 

Blah blah Nicola Pickering blah course blah High Peak First Aid blah. Blah. Google blah map blah.

How it Feels Leaving Britain… Again or my Adventures in Great Blightain

Hello, people! I think I know what you want to hear, so… I am in Dahab. I am sitting at the helm of my PC. We arrived yesterday. I am now going to tell you about how crap it feels to leave home. It feels… upsetting. I wanted more time there. But it also feels… good. As in, good to be leaving the cold.
Good to be leaving the government, the rain, the… airport. I think it felt best to leave the airport. The other places were likable, in their own way. Except the government. I won’t miss them, the oily, cynical bastards. Not that I saw them.
Anyways, it was sad. For a start, I didn’t get nearly enough time with my friends. No sir. In conclusion, I didn’t get enough time to see relatives. I might have felt a bit better, in hindsight, if mum hadn’t been plastered right up to the point at which she woke up in Luton. And then later sort of blamed me for her missing tickets.
Enough whining, though. I can’t write an entire post about how sad I felt on the plane to Geneva (and then Sharm). So, let’s start with Kinder Castle. What is Kinder Castle? A castle. A CASTLE. David rented it. David is a futures trader. David is a lord.
Seriously. We gave him champagne (well, fizzy). The others gave him such things as cufflinks, a jumper, a “Bathtub Duck Shoot” set and… a lordship. Yes, my cousin is now Lord David. He owns a square metre of land in Obscuristan, Scotland. Okay, I lied. Obscuristan isn’t in Scotland. It’s in Siberia.
I don’t know what he’ll do to his square metre. I’d be impressed if he could find it. Anyway, it’s probably got a crappy tree on it or something. But anyway. Kinder Castle. Kinder Castle is a small, well-kept castle in the Peak District. It’s owned by the National Trust or something.
It was built during the European Dark Ages, but restored during the 17-1800s to make it the perfect English “Summer” home. Well, I say Summer… you know what I mean. That time of year when the sun shines down upon the world… then quickly hides because Britain’s appeared.
Anyway. I enjoyed that. But what did I actually do? Hm, good question, quote mark-free person in my head. I… watched an awful lot of TV. I… shot things with the water pistol that came with Dave’s bath toy. And I flew a kite. That’s mostly it.
Sure, I played with Dave (they had a Wii), I messed about, I iced a mini-cake, I… built a fort. Oh yeah, that. Minor detail. I figured out that the Sky box in the lounge worked, and then I noticed the huge array of cushions and footrests that would help with my fort. And I thought it was a good idea.
Not everyone was happy with the new arrangement. But I liked it, and I thought it was cool. Even when I had to deconstruct it at checkout time. So, I spent most of the time in my fort, with the telly. I spent some time with other stuff. But… it was the fort that mattered. Really.
So, erm… yeah. Telly, fort, water, cake, kites… yeah. Then we drove off. Then we drove back, a day later, for a first aid course. CPR, metal-splint-things… OKAY, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I will continue this in another post. Stay tuned for first aid, airports and… probably kittens.

©blah blah blah lawyers blah 2013 blah lasers blah