The gentleman behind the car hire desk at Geneva airport had heard enough of my halting Melbourne high school French, so he asked me gently, ‘May I speak English with you?’
Not the usual ‘Do you speak English?’ but ‘May I speak English with you?’ He gave me a line I’ve used hundreds, if not thousands, of times since. At a hotel reception desk in Ystad, before getting into a taxi in Istanbul, when lost in a maze of Estonian alleyways, I now begin my chats with strangers with ‘May I speak English with you?’
Here’s why. Continue reading
We’ll be somewhere near here. Naturally I can’t give really specific details or the paparazzi will be lurking in the bushes hoping to glimpse us.
I’m taking a little time off. Back soon. But first a thankyou…
Thanks to all the people who’ve visited this blog during the year, even if you were just researching a school project on the Aboriginal flag or Googling ‘buildings that look like penises’, ‘goddess Kali’ or ‘poo’. It’s a regular source of cheap entertainment for me to log on each morning and see the search terms people entered. I hope at least some of you found what you were looking for.
It is encouraging to a blogger to see visits growing, followers signing up and a steady stream of thoughtful, interesting comments being added. I’ve met some lovely people in cyberspace this year.
Thanks again, visitors. Stay safe over the holiday period, drive carefully and don’t overindulge and cause damage that can’t be rectified by a therapeutic walk or bike ride.
I look forward to regaling you with more tall tales and true of our travel adventures very soon.
Whatever happened to the good old days?
The days when all members of the tribe were equal and everyone was looked after. The days when villagers knew their neighbours. The days when community spirit overrode individual ambition. The days when families prayed together and stayed together.
The days when there was no word for genocide. The days before weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombings, drug wars, street crime, terrorism and Call of Duty computer games. The days before most people had heard of Syria, Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan and Rwanda.
According to Steven Pinker’s provocative book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined, the good old days have been overrated.
In the good old days your chances of being assaulted, bashed, raped, chopped up, enslaved or tortured to death at the hands of a fellow human being were far higher than they are today. There are shocking glitches in the trajectory, but we are now living in the safest, most peaceful and crime-free era our species has ever known.
I’m delighted to hear that, and I’m delighted that my particular interests – education, writing and travel – get a little credit for helping the process along. Continue reading
So tell us, Richard, how did it feel when the guy threw up on you?
Early start this morning. My day began with an invitation to appear on Huff Post Live, in a panel discussion about whether alcohol should be banned on planes. I qualified as an expert witness on this topic, apparently, having once been the recipient of a projectile vomit from across the aisle.
It was my first appearance on an American talk show. I soon discovered that it’s not a hard gig since the Americans do most of the talking, and all you have to do as a panellist is laugh at their jokes.
That was easy too. The discussion between my fellow guests (a flight attendant, a passengers’ rights advocate and the Huffington Post travel editor) was very entertaining and I could comfortably play the straight guy.
Moderator Marc moved us around the topics. From drinking on planes we discussed other bad behaviour by passengers, screaming kids, use of mobile devices and finally, inevitably, Mile High Club adventures. I had little to contribute on that last subject.
Thanks for having me aboard, Huff Post Live. It was fun.
Here’s the link to the segment.
What do you think? Would you prefer alcohol to be banned from flights? Have you had any bad experiences with airborne drunks? Could you manage without the booze or is it all that gets you through the long haul?
No wonder cabin crew are sometimes grumpy. Photo: Getty Images
I enjoyed the AAP article in the Fairfax press (disclosure: they sometimes run my travel stories) about the 10 most common complaints flight attendants have about passengers.
Clicking your fingers at them is what they hate most, apparently.
It got me thinking about the gripes I have about those whose very close proximity I’m sometimes forced to endure. It wasn’t hard to find a list of 10 ‘don’ts’ for people sitting next to me on long haul flights. Continue reading
Phillip Island, Victoria. Just looking costs nothing.
Thanks to Leo who contacted me with the Tourism Australia list of 100 things people can do for free in our country.
I was delighted with all the ‘hits’ and the comments on my previous blog post about Tourism Australia’s latest glamorous ad, apparently catering to the glamorous potential visitor.
We skinflint locals know that there are plenty of things to do DownUnder that won’t cost anything but the time and trouble (okay, a bit of transport money too) you take to get there.
I love lists, so of course I picked through Tourism Australia’s top 100 freebees, ticking off the ones I’d done. I scored 51.
Here are my top 10 ‘been there, done that’ Australia for tightwads experiences, in no particular order: Continue reading