Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hop Swiss Part One - we're not in Kilwinning anymore Colin

My auntie has made peace with my Mum, typically Glasweigan style of family reconcilliation where you ring up and just start talking, after their holiday fight about over the proper way to switch off a lightbulb. It's been, when my auntie rang me to say that she had rung my Mum and that she had got my thoughtful card (when I was younger I know for a fact that my Mum would send people presents and they'd ring and thank me and I'd be all, well, what did I send you again? - this one I did send though), my only human contact all day. I've even had an afternoon nap rather than face the horrors of the great Tasmanian toy run or Christmas shoppers. My auntie told me one Xmas some Tasmanian friends of ours gave me comics, not annuals as my Auntie loved to say, but comics, and I had to be shut up from saying I already had them. I think I have a distinct problem with gratitude that I don't mean - when someone gives me a present, my facial expression always make it look like I'm not all that excited. I was a very indulged child, the peak of which was that I spent most of 1990 sulking that I didn't get a video camera, a video camera which I would never have used to do anything except make embarrassing tapes of myself. That my school project on the Soviet Union is on cassette tape (sample dialogue includes the alleged fact the #1 cause of house fires in the USSR is blowing up TVs...) is shameful enough never mind the fact auteur projects such as film the drunk staggerer Tam and who's arse is that in a shellsuit never made it to VHS stores. I am, I like to think, really greatful to anyone who shows me kindness or gives me a present, but there is supporting evidence to suggest otherwise. My Mother is a lot worse than I am, especially one Xmas when Dad gave her a VHS tape which was the best of the Pet Shop Boys and jewellery from a shop called Ratners which, if you don't know, was going out of business because their CEO had said publically they sold a right load of crap. I know that to turn the argument back on me at this point, such is by now the relatively predictable cut and thrust of our parent vs child arguments, that she would bring up two things in response - the hockey skates (more of which later) and my trip to Switzerland, in which me and some other girl sat in a Kilwinning motorway service station with our parents having been picked up at 3am in the pouring rain with only two words to say about Switzerland, and the second one, clearly, was Switzerland...

Before there was Zeehan, there was Switzerland 1992, my last school trip in Scotland before the big move, the discovery of Vicki and the ineptitude at softball. There were two options, the indulged kids going to Switzerland and the slightly less indulged kids heading in a transit van to York. As it happened, I should have packed myself into the transit van and learned to play poker, although not everything was Switzerlands fault. After all, it wasn't Switzerlands fault I was sick on the mini bus up the mountain. And it wasn't Switzerlands fault I lost at table tennis to a bald PE teacher who was doing trick shots by the end with the bat in his mouth. And it wasn't Switzerlands fault that the only girl who would talk to us got so bored with hearing stories of how tough we were she swore at us in German and walked off. The trip was the classic example of middle class ingratitude, after all, our parents had slaved all year (well, my Dad was a supply teacher, so slaving is a stretch, since he adopted his patented supply teaching technique of setting a test in silence so he could read the paper) and we, on seeing the legendary Hotel Schönbuhl owned by some dude who won a skiing gold medal or something, were all standing around the lobby bitching about the accomodation. Yes kids, broaden your minds, embrace the wonderful exotic world that looks like a Kinder Surprise ad with beautiful scenery and entire aisles of delicious chocolate...actually, no, lets sit inside to whinge about the fact that the entire room is made of varnish smelling wood. My Dad swears to this day that when he rang on the first day I was in Switzerland and asked how it was I blurted out that Switzerland was, quote, wooden - yes, that was my entire summation, quite poetic I thought, of entire country and it's value systems. Wodden. In fairness I wasn't in a great mood, no one wants to be the vomiting kid on the mini bus, and I thought if I fell asleep at any time during the week there was a fair chance given that we were in bunk beds I would have my eyebrows shaved off or my hand put in cold water, and if it wasn't for an easy escape route down the balcony, a KLF tape and easy acess to the staff room of the Hotel Schönbuhl where I could get smokes and pina coladas, my nerves would have been even more shot. And that was before I realised I would be sharing a (wooden) room with Colin...

I don't know what to tell you about Colin. He had thick, metal glasses, every third word was a swear word he had usually made up on the spot, he had an undeserved swagger, and most of all, he believed he had special powers. After initially thinking he would be the one putting my hand in the cold water, I realised that there was no chance of that because he was physically incapable of sleeping. Even when no one else was awake he would be carrying on a speed like conversation with himself about his day and continually chattering about the nature of existence. Like Pink, these ideas sounded interesting and outside the norm until you analysed what he was saying and realised it was all just complete nonsense. If you have ever pondered though who would win a race between a diplodocus and Carl Lewis if they were racing in treacle, Colin was your man. His favourite thing to talk about though was how he was able to fly through the air after leaving his body and then his girlfriend would do the same (she was still in Scotland so she had to stop off in Manchester for a sandwich before flying over the sea) and then they would have mid air sex and return to their bodies. I didn't buy this for a second, after all if he had really left his body he would have shut up for more than 5ive seconds, but he was insistent and one night decided to give us a demonstration, which seemed to just involve him lying down and going to sleep. In the morning he told me that his girlfriend couldn't make it but he'd had a conversation with a German girl who didn't fancy him in mid air over the swimming pool, and I was just about to go into full on Ayrshire rational cynicism when he said over a piece of (wooden) toast that I really shouldn't be drinking pina coladas on my own because it was a bit sad and pathetic - now, I hadn't told anyone that there was a secret stash, and I'm sure there was a rational explanation how he knew, but maybe he was able to fly down and see me on his ghostl...no, I probably was still drunk and smelled of it. The last thing I remember him telling me was an elaborate conspiracy theory involving the mind control the US government was using through TV remote controls, and realising then when I left him to go and have a go on the slippery slide, he was still talking to no-one...what Debbie ever saw in him god only knows (maybe he used a remote control)...

After roughly fourty eight hours of ghostly conspiracy theories, bad chat up lines and inepitude of the lesser tennis arts, I had no sleep and was suspicious of the (wooden) toilet so I wasn't in the best frame of mind to sit in the dining room with a busted ear-drum listening to a hearty Swiss welcome from the skiier dude who told us many hilarious jokes about the difference between Swiss folks and Scotch folks (this thing was definitely not on). The chef at the hotel was a man called Fredrik, and he was tempremental in his little chefs hat and big stretching gut. The highlight of the ceremony was to be the exchange of cultural delicacies, our teacher gave the hotel a bottle of Manchester airport duty free scotch and they gave us all custard in a glass dish. Sadly for Fredrik, he had stirred when he should have mashed, and the custard was truly terrible, somehow burnt and cold and made of goats milk gone wild...at once, 50 Scottish kids tasted the custard that Fredrik rejected, and he was beyond livid. Even with my burst ear-drum I could tell that he was screaming incomprehensibly at us about what a bunch of lousy kids we were and how little we appreciated the finer things in life. To a dull hiss in my ear that was only partially called by over exposure to the KLF, he turned a little of his German flemmy anger towards me for a moment, he snatched everyones horrible treat away from us individually, leaving some fat kids pretty distraught, went into the kitchen to audibly cry, leaving us with some incredibly awkward moments of silence where even Colin was silent, and then returned furiously with the Swiss equivalent of a Bubble O Bill on a plate for us, which he slammed down on the counter before flouncing off disgusted. So there we sat, in a draughty over decorated catering hall at individual metal tables, watching a man have a desert based nervous breakdown, miles from home...at which point Colin stood up and announced he suspected there had been a listening bug in the custard and he had been able to taste it...

And then when things went really wrong...

13 comments:

the projectivist said...

thank you for that useful information about the USSR television sets. trivial pursuit season is fast upon us, and that's bound to be one of the questions.

i had a quick look at the hotel just now. 'wooden' was a good description, although i did note there was a pinball machine in what must have been the Recreation room. hours of fun right there, surely?

squib said...

lol! I have always wanted to go to Switzerland but now you've ruined it for me in a lumpy wooden custardy kind of way

the projectivist said...

Miles?
Miiiiiles?
have you fallen down behind the sofa or something? should i send a bag of prawn cocktail crisps by pigeon in case you're unable to crawl to the pantry?
if you can reach your pc, let me know, otherwise - well i suppose you'll have to wait until people begin to notice your post building up in the letterbox...

Kath Lockett said...

Words fail me. But not you! :)

Miles McClagan said...

I can vouch that from what my Dad called The Ronald Reagan Big Book of Facts in the USSR that there was a significant problem with blowing up TVs and three legged tights...I don't remember the magic pinball machine, I was hammered and sick, as they say in the classics, but it definitely was wooden...

By the way, I've been here all the time, I just waited until there was some comments to get back amongst it! If you send a lime spider by pigeon, I'd be delighted to answer...

I'm representing well for the Swiss tourist board then? On the plus side, the chocolate cabin was delicious...

Just wait until part two...words are failing me thinking about it...

Baino said...

Firstly, I am mortified that you didn't get the video camera because I'd have loved to have seen a short snap of you wiggling out to KLF ah hah ah hah! Secondly, Switzerland . . my Aunt (a teacher) took me on her high school trip as a seven year old. Can you imagine the horror of the 17 year olds with 'Miss Dunn's bratty niece'. Fortunately I've been back since sans uniform and loved it. Thirdly . .Colin sounds well like such a 'Colin'. But most importantly is it true that if you put a sleeping boy's finger in cold water he wets the bed? C'mon Miley, you need to answer the big questions here.
Words failing you. . really? OMG someone get an ambulance.

Miles McClagan said...

There is no video footage of me anywhere - no photos never mind video...it's certainly not Switzerlands fault It was miserable, it was all me...Colin was definitely a Colin...and as far as I know, the finger in the water, warm or cold, definitely works...and if I run out of words, I'll be worried...it wouldn't be right

Quickroute said...

Life can be cruel but custard should never be compromised

Miles McClagan said...

I now wish I'd called this blog uncompromised custard...got a ring and a half to it!

Jannie said...

I absolutely adore varnished smelling wood. I missed that part of Switzerland because I was only there 6 hours and that was mostly on trains and in train stations.

Miles McClagan said...

Considering I had been in Scotland, I found Switzerlands on time trains hard to deal with! The whole country smelled of wood and chocolate...but the trains, good work!

Helen said...

ok, I really don't want to start an argument... but how is there more than one way to turn off a lightbulb? Unless you include the drastic measures like pulling it out of the socket, or turning off your house's electricity, or shooting it with a BB-gun (or worse), I can only think of flicknig the switch...

Miles McClagan said...

Ducks...I don't want to get involved...no, apparently, according to my Auntie, if you flicked both switches at once you were creating a massive fire hazard, and you had to switch one off, wait four minutes, then turn the other one off...Mum told her to get stuffed, and the rest is family history...