Monday, July 16, 2007

Spain the Final Frontier

If you would forgive me for second people and for the pun, but the duChats has hit a “high water” mark on the world tour. These past 10 days we have been riding high on the waves. Bullish to say the least, and tainted with a flavour, being that of Sangria and fear. Even on these lightweight pages I can’t recall a spell of time being so much fun, emotional and just down right off the wall. So once again people sit back as I’ll spill the proverbial beans on the Spanish odyssey, taking in the original mad festival, one massive sports event, and a special cast of ElderStatesmen classics.

Put the Kettle on, the kids to bed and sit back....its a long one!

Valencia and Pamplona

Valencia and the Cup

You’d have to have been a few leagues below the waves to not notice the Americas Cup being played out on Valencia’s windy waters in the last 3 weeks. This has been right at the top of my agenda for the tour, and after watching the Lads sweep the Louis Vuitton cup to make the finals, I promptly booked my ticket to Spain. Arriving on the Friday after race 5 was always a risky call, but rather than blame poor organisational skills, I like to say I backed the lads to win there fair share, even after being massive under dogs. As I’ll prove in the next few mins, I like a risk! !!

So I was meeting up with Dan and Lisa, Jimmy and Kate and one Jeremy Cameron. For those of you who brush past the last name, in a previous debauched life he was the artist formally known as Bullshit, but prefers his full length name now. But for the purpose of story telling, my appreciation of the ‘devils’ tongue and timely theme of the tour….Bullshit it will be! Also Paul Booth and Leyton Perris were over for some mayhem! And not disappointing I add.

The Americas Cup base in Valencia is simply brilliant, and without crapping on ad-nauseoum, it was a perfect set-up. You have probably all seen some kind of footage on TV and it was a good as it looked.

Myself and JC Bullshit arrived on the Friday, sails full of wind! With Dan, Lisa, Jimmy and Kate all on extended holidays in Spain and Europe, they had settled in nicely, and I’m sure they were looking forward as hell to the two of us getting there! In fact they had someone smiling on them as they bunked in with one Steve Tindall. Also they managed to blag a few days on the waves, earning me a slightly green tinge….and not sea sickness! Donut that the lads would be proud of, international donut to boot!

Friday was a good night out, ending in a roof top night club, which was to become our final stop on a few occasions, massive place and all open aired! The next day we rolled out of bed and headed straight down to the Americas cup base to meet the others down there. After a few ‘Hangover’ cures, it was to the woolshed. This place had Kiwi written all over it , and was fantastic to boot. Very similar to the old Chinese markets in downtown Auckland. Can you picture all the Italian supports flocking there in 2000 to watch the race? No, neither can I…..but out of sight! Haha

Regardless this place had atmosphere by the shed-load. Wall to Wall, all sorts and all ages. We met up with Boothy and Perris, who were also midway thru an acute hangover, incubated by the 30+ heat! The Crowd gathered, and the self appointed MC kicked off a rather despondent national anthem (minus the Maori version I add). Fingered him as being the Lieutenant 2nd in charge of team Cromwell! But fairness to the old coot, he got the crowd going. Pity about the race, loosing by a unhealthy margin.

We then moved the show down to the waters edge, more specifically the Estral Damm Bar. A shining beacon of light if you will, perched on the Harbours edge, emerging like a nice froth atop the Saturday afternoon larger of life! This place had found 10 new friends, and we intended to stay and Dupree it. In all my travel’s, and more specifically time spent at bars, never have I seen such an array of …how do I say…Stunners! The bar manager must have had a Harbott hiring policy, generally being they either have the job as they walk in the door…or not, CV be dammed! Love it!

I really think this is where it gets, and the night …a little Dark. Basically held up there drinking 2 Euro beers for the night. Half way thru the night, a rather confused Perris returns, mumbling something about a blown jandel, super yacht, duck tape and a tap on the side of head. Not really sure what transpired the 2 hrs he went MIA, and am none the wiser as I sit here. But I know for sure a beach was involved, because a rucksack full of it was deposited on the dance floor by him? Irony is, its really as close as most of us got to the beach the whole trip! Anyway, night ended at Roof top bar…..late!

Sunday was really the big one, not so much for racing, but just one of the great days. The race was delayed due to no wind, so we headed down the viaduct to a quiet place and have a wee pint. 2 Hrs later the boats return after racing was abandoned, and with it every Kiwi waiting for them on the waters edge, you have to give it to us, you would have thought we one the whole dam thing! Waving flags, hats, t-shirts and even one bemused baby! The DJ had rummaged around his ‘Spanish’ collection and expecting a classic Gypsy Kings song to emerge, instead he brought out some NZ classics from a 2 week period in the 80’s! About 10 Kiwiana songs blasted the Harbour, 4 being Dave Dobbyn repeats! Classic stuff. We also meet up with Sandy and a few of her mates from London, as the party hit full swing. It was about this time in the afternoon that Boothy was trying to change his 9pm flight back to London. More and more desperate calls were dialled, until finally he hit pay dirt and got on one the following day. Boothy will be taking sweet and sour memories away from Valencia that’s for sure. Having already packed his bag, and carrying it ,we headed out for the night!

We all headed off for dinner, before returning to Estral Damm for a night cap, and what also turned out to be JC’s 30th Birthday as the clocked clicked over 12. As much as the big fella tried to play it down, we all took as fuel to the nights fire. On a side note, not since Sex in the City (Was walking past TV at time) have I seen someone fret so much about turning the big Three Zero! He had a point, as the big hand met the little one on the clock I noticed a few more crows feet, grey hair and he even forgot to get the next round, but this might be more to do with genetics than being 1 day older! But I digress, this is once again where it gets a little pear shaped, well that’s if the thieving Spaniard is a portly we fella. See Myself and Boothy fell victim to this incredulous scourge in Spain. My bag had a camera (photos of PJ Montgomery and Bar Girls!! Sad) and …well booth lost all his clothes! Mmmm…..was not a happy camper when he arose from his slumber and trudged off to the airport with only a Wallet, passport and 3 day old clothes on his back! Just tell me when it’s safe to joke about this Paul, although was one of the best days around. Totally worth it! Pandol was downed for the biggest hangover yet, but as Bullshit puts it….taking painkillers on that hangover is akin to popping a few sealegs in the perfect storm!

One thing that made me prouder than a All Blacks father, was the amount of Kiwis that had made the trip from Home or UK. This has been touched on in all the reports and convo’s I’ve had. But, being an ElderStateman, I need to be the harbinger of what could only be described as perhaps the most painful New Zealander I’ve yet to meet (Not JC, Harbott and Thingy, although a photo finish)

No, Team Cromwell! Yes folks that craggy lot from down south had saved up there pennies, presumably but not spending money on fashion for 30 years, faking age to get pensions and no doubt numerous raffles consisting of Lamingtons and Styrofoam packed meat! Plus I suspect the odd under ground Bingo all nighter in the local town hall in Crommers, which It’s sad to report survived the latest winter blast back home. Anyway, one particular cringe inducing chap was this rabbles ring leader, we’ll call him Bazza. Bearing a large Kiwi flag and a 2nd hand wardrobe browed from an Hawaiian bartender, he set about turning kiwis beat-red in the face!

His war cries could be heard up and down the waters edge, as he rallied the troops and instilled national pride. Am quite sure flying halfway around the world goes some way to showing my support, but not for old Bazza, he wanted more. Like a possessed drama teacher, barracking us poor unsupportive kiwis into action. A Kiwi-Evangelist if you will!

After chants of the insipid Kiwi, Kiwi, Kiwi it was onto a true classic! Down on hunches in front of at least 100 people……fist clenched!


For an hour! Like some slow motion flash back to the days of Telethons and national inferiority complexes! We all watched in some kind of twisted cringe, but found it strangely amusing! Timeless moment….

So a few more days then the last final blast in Valencia, and heart break like never before. I’m dam sure that Alfred Hitchcock had a hand in the script for this cup. What a classic, the Woolshed was like a roller coaster, not the Rainbow ends excuse…but a big one! The crowd was up and down like a one armed window cleaner, lead, behind, lead….penalty….Drama! The last 1min of that race would have been the most agonising in sporting memory, the Woolshed was at fever pitch. It was like the whole place had each won Lotto…..See below

Then….Damm it! I was shaking for about 20min after that race, Gutted. People just looked wrecked. But the Kiwis all rallied around and greeted the Team NZ boys like champions, rather moving actually. Even team Cromwell were in form. The crowd flowed them all the way back into base….sniff sniff….special times!

I have deliberated in telling the next yarn, but after consulting with my psychiatrist and boxing coach, it needs to be mentioned. We had all decided to head to the bar on the roof at end of the night, which was pushing dawn. The bouncer (Yip) had decided that we weren’t up to dress code and demanded we change out shoes or what ever…..funny being that we all were dressed the same. So a quick strip out the front, which would have made Demi Moore happy, while the Spaniard bouncer watches us and then proceeds too let us all in. After spending a few hours drinking and dancing, we decide its time to hit the road! ….not quite the ‘hit the road’ I had in mind. As I walked out to meet JC, I gave the bouncer the thumbs up thanking him for the night (Honestly call), next thing I know I’m eating pavement. He had cold clocked me from behind, right in jaw! I had gone down quicker than Australia One! Lucky for me I’ve taken more hits than Google, so was back to my feet rapidly. The cheeky sod had gapped it, leaving me to take a technical victory over my Greasy opponent! A rocky style hands in the air moment, and we was off. Only I could take victory out of that…..anyway, he hit like a wet pancake, only a slightly saw jaw the result. Still wondering what we did to rile him up so much…haha!

That done we had our own lay day, and then hired a car to head up to Pamplona………

The Bulls

I remember when I was younger and hearing my Uncle Phil talk about the Running of the Bulls in Spain. Although I forget the full details of the convo, which knowing Phil would have been a one way street, and a lengthy one at that! But like the rest of the Family, he tells a bloody good yarn. This one involving him running down cobbled streets being chased by rather hefty bovines. Although it took me some years to not picture him, all 60kg (wet) ,running from the Black and white ‘far side’ variety. Any how, he tells of himself battling these beasts in the ring and a huge crowd cheering him on! Also perhaps leaping off one Statue, which surprises me that anyone would catch you Phil! Haha (Confirm?)

With this in mind the tour stampeded its way towards Pamplona, more than happy with our 6 days in Valencia, and ready for an even bigger few days. The funny thing is I always pictured Pamplona as a sleepy little Spanish town, all dirt roads and donkeys. We’ll as it happened, and has done on far to frequent an occasion, I was wrong. A thriving metropolis, for lack of a better narrative.

We were meeting a few Heavy weights (Reputation, not size, although formidable) in Pamps, one Steven Terrence Harbott and Aaron “Tokaroa” Tapsil. We had all booked in with the Evergreen tour group the Beige Brigade, who are making a good old foothold in Europe. Perfect set-up at the closest camping ground to the city. A giddy excitement brewed as we were greeted with well over 700 Aussies and a tight (knit) 150 Kiwis! Plus many others around the camp ground!

Thursday night consisted of the usual meet and greet, as the lads did the rounds. Had a excellent random run in with a few good mates from our old Stomping ground Westlake Boys’ High. Ben Dalton, Craig Espie and Matt Massey were all on the tour too…the numbers were swelling! Good messy night ensued.

So it was onto the Friday, and opening ceremony of the San Fermin Festival.

Traditional white and red garb are donned for this, and every other day to be fair. Which is nice, if not a little unoriginal. Apparently it’s the new black. So we all headed into the streets, buying the local drink Sangria by the 2L. Cheap……

Within 10ft of hitting the main square the madness started. Drink spraying every where, it was like the F1 champagne ceremony for the next 2hrs, but Sangria instead. I tell you what, Nappysan would make a bloody fortune over hear, and this place is a mothers worst nightmare…from a Laundry stand point, if not every other point to. Like putting a red shirt in with the whites! . People were going nuts, worse (Better) than any Metallica mosh pit could throw at you, yes like a mosh pit with no music. Then the Squeeze started and the Mayor kicked off the 8 day party with a feeble 10 second speech….. thus in one fowl swoop betting the Ramati South Primary School fastest speech time by a slowly kid named Alistair (It must have been hard to
elaborate on finer points of his pet, Rusty, the Skink), but not the most up lifting speech from Mayor Pamps, but then again who needs motivation when you have 9 Bulls running at your bits the next day.

The day ended back by the camp getting pickled by the pool and general banter. A horrible squalid little invention in Spain (Korea I suspect, I never got to close to the fine print) were these childish loud hailers. They play ring tones, and that old Spanish classic - wait for it ------ you all know the words – Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole …..Ole, Ole, Ole….A chant which comes a dam close second to the worlds worst – Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi Oi Oi. Bleeding ears material. Anyhow, these freaking things were every where, including one lurking around the pool the whole day, like a Jehovah’s witness looking for a promotion. This painful twat just keep on preaching the whole day, not religion, but opinions and jokes (Debatable ones at that). So our mate Scott “Hornby” Nixon decides to end our pain and do something about it!

Mate, can I have a go on that” Says a barley legible Nixon

“Um, well, Ok. But be careful” Yank (Irony abounds)

“Fuck this” Says Nixon – A perfect grenade lob into centre of pool. Queue cheering and clapping from crowd!

Highlight of my day? I think so! You can take the man out of Hornby?

So the 1st Bull run dawned, unlike our hapless heroes! Sorry but a few of the lads passed on the first bull run of the year for a bit more shut eye, seeing the fact we must have only just got to bed, only to be told to get up for 5am! But one overly keen Harbott lurched out of bed, pen, paper and stop watch in hand to get the good oil on the race, feeding the vital stats back to the lads for the next day.

Basically for those who are not familiar with the Running of the Bulls Tradition, here’s brief run down:

  • Bulls x 9 (5 Angry + 4 mellow-ish) each weighing around 650-700kg
  • Humans x 1000+ (mostly mad Spanish)
  • 848m of Cobbled St (less than a few meters wide at some points)
  • No visible exit for most of the length and where there might be hope, is an angry copper to smack you back in!

Being a man of great accuracy go here -

So after the race we all went into town for a big night on the razz. All the Kiwis and Aussies flew into the night at pace. And the place was on fire, 200,000+ people had descended on Pamplona, with scant regard for rules or hygiene! My kind of place. The night had it all, classic sing along’s, cheap sangria, a mob lunching….hold that thought for a moment, let me elaborate. Pickpockets are rife, as rife as old mans beard was in the 90’s. All the tour had been effected, my Camera in Valencia, although I suspect 50% Thief, 50% drunken du Chateau. Anyhow, the Pamplona pickpocket was about as popular as Brad Butterworth at a Black Hearts convention. But we caught one, this poor twat decided his next target would be a Aussie chap, and was caught red handed. He had off loaded the camera to an accomplice and she had legged it up the road. Next thing Bullshit (JC) has this little Spaniard in a head lock and the crowd descend! This prick took more hits than the dart board at an RSA, the finishing move being head first at ramming speed into a nearby garage door. We got the camera back too! Haha! Tip for team pickpocket…..pick you target pal! An angry mob the Simpson’s would have been proud off.

About 2hrs previous the crowd witnessed a real special moment. Harbott had come into town clutching his prized Mexican Wrestlers Mask!

What started as Him and Toks play fighting ended in titanic 3 way battle Royal with me included! Within 1min the crowd had swelled to well over 100 people watching the boys body slam, choke hold, leg drop, knee drop…all the drops, suplex’s all on concrete (Were Professionals, don’t do this at home kids)!

This ended after the duChats tagged in for Tokaroa and entered the ring, and after a brutal fight back getting quite a lesson in the art of back yard wrestling. Harbott finishing me off with a classic Boston Crab. The Drama, The Tension, The Skill, The Tragedy, The Crowd loved. We Loved it. Harbott smiled for the rest of the tour, a boy hood dream realised in the most unlikely of places!

But we had bigger fish to fry, Bulls that is. Not that shady town north of Levin, no my friend much much better! 2nd Running of the Bulls – 10 Bulls, 1 added to yesterday.

We got up around 5am to get into town and secure a good spot on the track for the 8am Rocket! Street sweepers were still cleaning as we headed to our spot. Then the 1 ½ hour wait, squeezed tighter than a speed skating suit. Remember half the people are still cut, some are puking. The wait was the worst part…….Then the Cops move and we are free to run, walk or wait for the Bulls. The Aim was to leg it around ‘Dead Mans’ corner for obvious reasons and wait there. Which we did…..Rocket 1 goes off…Bang….6 Bulls charge up.. about 300m back from us. Wait….Wait….Hundreds of lads are pouring past us at this stage, all looking over there shoulders. Harbott and myself attempt to wedge ourselves into a crack in the wall! Shitting bricks…waiting….is this a good place…what if? No idea…fuck….Tokaroa and JC have taken off up the track. More people….feels like a life time!

THEN……Bang, a bull comes flying into the hoardings at dead mans and were off, you can hear the sound of them on the cobbles….. a blur of bodies, people on the ground, jumped over them, have to keep moving! Bulls suddenly along side us, shoulder height!!! , but other side of track, nice choice lads…am screaming at top of lungs now! Loving it! At full pace after them, remembered 4 more still to come after these….bulls are fast….then they close a gate about 100m the track??? What, no idea what was going on…stretcher on the course, someone taken off….then gates open…..shit……Run….run….run….then suddenly more bulls…Fuck Fuck Fuck….no where to go…..pushing people out the way, smashing into them….then a opening in the track, gets a bit wider…..dive right… the heard trundles past…..big bastards…..then leg it again! Have to beat them into the ring or get shut out….but they to fast….get to top of track and big red doors are closing……not to unhappy….heart rate must have been close to 200! Lads all gather, except toks who made it in! Below is the actual race we were in. Long Vid, but worth it for the carnage at the end! We are around the corner from where the guy gets nailed into the boards at Dead Mans!

As you can see below, Tokaroa decided his best evasion tool was the unsightly strip of the East Coast Bays Rugby team…..if only the Bulls had a tad less taste! Honestly it was like where’s Waldo, people spotting him through out the day. A better marketing ploy is hard to think off, Green and Black in a Red and white world! Either by Accident or design, it paid dividends as the big fella was noticed stumbling around town all day. Only returning to the Camp to regal us in tales of the day and what became compulsorily Bombs off the roof into the pool! Another interesting Tokaroa point is the fact he landed in Pamplona with no accomodation, deciding to back himself and find some when there. Seeing as the place was booked more solid than the Texas State Electric chair he was in for tough ask. But in usual style he arrived at the campsite with a new friend, Edwardo from Brazil! (You can't make this shit up) And had convinced his South American friend to share his small tent with him for 15 Euro per night! Also must be noted that Edwardo does not drink.....making surely the oddest of couples in Pamps. Edwardo even calling Toks his new husband...joking? not 100% sure.

Ed Note: Tokaroa has been entered into the ElderStateman Hall of Fame early, after a death-defying weekend. He Ran the Bulls 3 days straight, returning after one race with Bull Shit (Actual) on his hands, proving his proximity. Also leaped off the mussel bar statue, for those in the know…that’s madness. For those who don’t, it’s about 3-4m high leap onto some rather trusted strangers! LEGEND. When quizzed about his 3rd run of the bulls, he replied in typical Tokaroa fashion.

“Why would you run it 3 times Toks?” Crowd
“Well lads, it means I’m in credit for the next 3 years and has saved me 2 trips here!” Says Tokora. And you can’t argue with that sound logic.

See Above Slide. You can See Tokaroa in Green and Black Jumper! Classic

We all left Pamps the following day. A truly amazing dam 5 days there. I would imagine it is an experience I will probably not relive in real life. But am sure as that I will be regaling future young du Chateau’s in my Pamplona experience. I'll also be able to sit with my Bother Tom and Uncle Phil and talk war stories.....Recommend anyone to head there. Just the best. One warning would be not to pack your favourite whites!


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Amsterdam Nights

Press Play on the Music button to the right for the full experiance.

Memories of my school life are full of mischief and mayhem, both of which have no place on this particular blog. I often wondered what the whole point of learning was, and still do. But this past week has been different, for history has been our friend. Back then I had my first encounter with an explorer, a mighty explorer from a far off land. This old-school tourist had voyaged around the world to discover a small country which I am proud to call home, and in the process fostering a nation of eager young explorers. Yes people Able Tasman, the crazy Dutch bastard is a legend. And its with this great feat in mind, more specifically his free spirit and need to explore, I will regale you our prodigious trip across the ocean to Amsterdam, home to Able himself among other things! What all this has to do with a drunken lads trip to the city of sleaze is beyond me, but you have to pad these things out a bit…you know, build up the tension.

Once again it was the usual suspects that has been gathered for the trip across the mighty North Sea, plus one more lad from Dublin. Pete, my old work mate would be joining Troy, Harbott and Tokaroa. 3 Kiwis, 1 Irish and an Aussie. All the ingredients of a bad joke, minus the laughter! The catalyst for this trip was an evening with The Killers. Those brilliant rockers from Vegas. Having seen them just a few months back, I was looking forward to another night in the mosh pit! So the lads had got some dodgy tickets on eBay and were heading for the Dam on a quiet Wednesday.

Rather strangely we were staying at Hotel Ben, yes that’s right. Troy thought, for some unfathomable reason, this place looked the goods, but often its hard to live up to a name. See two friends had the mis-pleasure of wandering into its squalid halls a few weeks back, and upon hearing our choice of bed rest, informed us (albeit to late) of its finer qualities. Top of this list being the Everest like stairs to the 3rd floor, Nazi style managerial skills and complementary towels roughly the size of a licked postage stamp and the moister soaking abilities consistent to that of wax paper. (drying by friction anyone). Note: These said ‘friends’ were Joe ‘The Fizzing Rocket’ Ward and Marty ‘The Hornby Hornet’ Veale, who were on a 5 day train wreck across Europe, and I’d hazard to guess were blind drunk at the check in and check out of Hotel Ben. So venturing an opinion from these 2 about our newly booked accommodation, would be as foolish as getting directions from a still living Ray Charles, or perhaps eating ham sandwiches with Mama Cass. I digress, but apparently these 2 idiots got separated on the train, due to it leaving Marty on the platform, smoke in hand as his partner in crime was speeding his way to Munich! Think Dumb and Dumber does Europe. Anyway….not there Blog…..

Hello Grasshopper. One bonus of Hotel Ben, was location. This being about a 10m stroll to the Grasshopper, but a 50m return journey! For those unfamiliar with Amsterdam, the Grasshopper is one of the finer ‘Coffee’ houses in the city. Big and Green, can’t miss it. Now, I’m an honest man so won’t beat around the bush here. When in Rome, it has to be done. So after a ‘Small’ sampling of the good stuff (Still coughing incidentally) we headed off to the Killers concert *. What followed was the funniest cab ride of the week, nothing springs to mind but for some reason we all laughed our asses off for the 20min ride! Concert was nothing short of fantastic, as was the venue. The Heineken music center, which was like a massive bar that happen to have a concert going. Loved it.

*Ed Note: Mum, am not addicted to it! Only did once, and plus it was organic….and that makes it healthy. OK, you can ground me when I get home.

The next day involved a Canal ride, taking in the finer views of the city from sea level…which I can tell you is fuck all (Being very low in the water). Elderstatesmen tour advice – Stick to the Streets people. That night we ended up heading to leidseplein, which we had been told was a good party area. What followed is really hard to put down on paper, but I’ll try. We got stopped by a young kiwi lad trying to sell tickets on a ‘Ultimate Pub Crawl’. Basically they take you to bars, and give you some free piss! Were do we sign…..

After paying our fee and a few warm ups, it was show time. Our American tour leader Steveo had the unsettling task of organizing about 40 people on this thing. Including, by now, 5 rather drunk lads looking for tomfoolery. Now over the years I’ve heard some great fire up speeches, some that would make a grown man cry or an old lady crack some skulls! Think Pachino, Crowe, Churchill, Malcolm X and Anything off Team America. Well people, we can now add Steveo the Pub crawl guy to that. Never have I seen people go from Zero to 100 faster in my life! When we marched off to the first pub, high five’n and hollering, we should have been marching on parliament or conquering a city…but alas, our energy was directed at the next bar! Oh well. We was pumped. Whoop whoop! Steveo Below

What followed was controlled chaos, walking from bar to bar. Never really knowing where we were or our destination, but you know what, that’s the beauty…didn’t know…didn’t care. We met some classics on the pub crawl, but can’t remember any of them and doubt you would care. Except the chap Troy mistook as Harbott from behind, who had the best comb over since Spitty Wilson back at Westlake. Queue Harbott in disgust for the rest of the night, and trying this to explain to German comb over guy! He though we were strange! Haha. My night finished with a drunken stumble past the red light district (just looking people, nothing sinister here, has to be done….looking that is) trying to figure if each one was female and/or male…after 30min of internal debate, and no real answer, I called it a night! Very entertaining watching blokes look left then right, then duck into a window thinking no one saw them, right. This place is crazy.

Day 3 came with another tour, and my second piece of advice. Bus tours – read the fine print. For had we seen the part on ours, saying “we will drop you at a diamond plant” for what was pure boredom and 60mins of our lives we’ll never get back , we all might have passed on that one. As far as the cutting and polishing of any substance goes, never mind Diamonds, you can count me right out! But at least we got some shut eye at the back of the bus! Oh yeah, and I saw a wind mill which hadn’t turned since the last century turned.

I must mention here my Dutch diet, which consisted of frites (Fries) and mayonnaise and the odd burger, and by odd I mean 2. So basically lived off potato…and loved it. If they have a claim to fame, they should take the frites….simple and brilliant. Heineken was also the only other thing drunk, and to be honest, not as good as stuff back home. Sorry, but I know my Heineken…and I must of tested it in every bar…..but the brewery tour was really awesome. Tour advice 3 – do the Tour. You get beer with it, and a gift. Easy.

By now the tour was heading to a almost Ground hog like finish…we new what was coming, but were all powerless to stop it! I’ve always thought originality has been our strong point, but not on this occasion. The lure of another night on ‘that’ Pub crawl, and Steveo’s speech was to much! Back to leidseplein!!!! (Plus 5 Eruo off for next night). This time the lads had knowledge on there sides….trouble. Poor Steveo’s speech didn’t quite have the same affect in round two, as we all piled in with painful comments. There were 120 people on this one, and with them all Chanting Steveo Steveo….he found it very hard to get his message across! The lads quickly formed as the pub crawls veterans, and it was over before it began. This was just and bigger and better version of the night before. We managed to meet up with Riceyand JC, and got them on the tour as well. Honestly saw them for all of 2hrs…I know, good aye! Thanks for showing us around Amsterdam lads……as useful as a Zimbabwean tail ender!

Tour advice 4 – Do the Ultimate Pub Crawl! On either a Thursday or Friday. Brilliant. Might pay not to mention us though…..

So Amsterdam, what can I say. It was all I had hoped for and more. Beautiful City, and very laid back. But a great place to party and meet people. Elderstatesmen seal of approval. But, it really should come with a warning on the label! My liver is looking to sue the city…go figure!

Amsterdam Photos - Click here

Monday, February 12, 2007

Waitangi Day Crawl and Church

There is perhaps an unwritten rule, shaped over time in regards to the fashion of men. This rule I would regard as the cornerstone in how ‘Men’ approach fashion, a rule so strong that to break can bring the wrath and ridicule from other men. A type of clothing one only jokes about at the pub or is seen on TV. This kind of clothing should only see the day of light wrapped around Women’s nubile bodies or at a stretch (No pun intended) the more ‘feminine’ chaps who indulge there Saturday mornings at the local Pump class down at les Mills. Lycra, yes people the fabric that can conjure up lovely pictures of women jogging around lake Pupuke, and on the other hand one of Richard Simmons covered head to toe in the stuff! You see men are not meant to wear the stuff! Full Stop.

Pushing the boundaries of fashion has always been one of the Elderstatemen’s secret agendas, and this time we had an idea that would not just go over the line, in fact we would just skate right by it! Full body Lycra anyone, sure why not. Leave you embarrassment at the door lads.

We had heard about the infamous NZ Waitangi Day Circle Line Pub Crawl for some time, a bit on an institution if you will, starting some 30yrs pervious on a cold Feb 6. The idea is to meet up with fellow Kiwis and make you way round the Circle line on the tube, stopping at each stop and partaking in a drink at one of the bars! Simple. But being Kiwi’s we add spice by dressing up and making certain rules on the trains (e.g. not holding on ect.)

Being one of 8,000 requires a special kind of dress-up. One designed to stand out from the crowd while being patriotic to home. So the NZ Winter Olympic Speed Skating Team was born. I had sourced my mate Zhang from China to make our uniform (thanks eBay).

15 Lads had been chosen to represent our country, it was a hotly contested makeup, but in the end the boys gelled well as a unit. We had a few lads fly in from over seas, Marty Veale who was fresh from off the slopes in Japan, Jeremy Cameron coming of a high season in Amsterdam, and the Ménage á Trois from Dublin of Seamus, Harbott and Tokaroa where they have been putting in the yards at the local Rink. Also a huge London contingent brought together for the day, Leper and Johnny Foreigner taking time off from Disney on Ice to get here. Dan Dalton, Garrett and Sammy Gunn putting their figure skating dream on hold for a few more days. Plus a big hand must go to the lads from the 666 summer athletic association for competing out of season, Softy, Hick, Mutt and Geoff….in the cold conditions you all stood out!

The uniform ceremony will always live strong in my memory, a special time when one slides on the skin tight speed skate suit for the first time. Yes, it may take a few other lads to help you into the thing, which attends to its tightness…luckily the lads were not in need of talcum power or baby oil, which was in plenty full supply for some reason. The feeling of Lycra on the skin has to be experienced, and those 15 lads will attest to this fact. Like an All black pulling on the fern the first time, we all new the significance! A funnier scene I can not envision, 15 lads in skin tight Lycra, hoods, gloves, booties and perhaps a old rugby sock down the front to balance up what mother nature seemed to forget (Plus it was about 4deg).

So the day kicked off with a roof top Churchill style speech from Team Captain Steven T Harbott, and he laid down the Games and Teams for the day. I’ll skip this part for now, because other than the first pub, the Teams and games plan fell to pieces quicker than a Black Caps tour to OZ. Being sober and feeling naked forced the lads to crash a few cans back, deep breath then hit the streets of Fulham to make our way up to the Start line at Paddington Station.

Below is the actual Start of the Day! Top form from myself in the last play.

We had all practiced our Speed skating walk, and quickly got into rhythm on the Street. I must admit, the locals must have wondered what in gods name was going on as 15 lads in perfect formation cruised past (At High Speed). We arrived at the first station to absolute bedlam, thousands of kiwis all drinking on the street and having a great laugh. Heading into a corner pub, once again getting plenty a funny look, plus many invitations and arse grabs! But not ours ;-)

We gathered outside the pub to play the first (and only) Gold medal match, Curling. Which involved a empty beer can and a circle. Needless to say my team pulled off a tense victory and a mighty celebration was had. All 15 lads then lined up in skater mode and speed skated off in front of about 2000 people all cheering and clapping! One of the funniest moments ever. The next 2 hrs consisted of about 150+ photos, people just stopping us in the street and getting snaps, lads felt like celebrities. One old Indian fella even handed his kids over to JC for a photo op, of course the kids were in tears as was JC. We all made our way towards Westminster for the massive Haka at 4pm. All the lads eventually got lost, some not appearing till the next day.

Apparently we had all become quite well known along the pub crawl, for there were always reports of ‘Lycra’ spotting by locals along the way. Of course we all hated this, so in retaliation to unwanted attention we posed for many many photos with the people. Throughout the crawl we would have to pull into a Bottle shop and reload, on one particular stop we had to do so some crowd control also. JC was ordered by the girl behind the counter to empty the store to 10 people, due to the fact that about 40 people were running a-mock! Step in a angry duChats like a curlers best mate swept the riff raff of Kiwis out and put 2 lads on the door to keep them secured, thus restoring Kiwi pride.

The Crawl ends with a huge Haka, which as you can imagine involves 100’s of topless lads slapping knees and looking overly menacing! I can only wonder what the local tourists are thinking at this point. Anyway the lads all went off to different bar in full kit for more madness, myself and Tokaroa ending up back at the flat around 3am!

The Church

So Sunday came, and most of the lads were as sick as a small hospital. But we had goals for this weekend people, and when your wear the lycra its for good, and plus its fuckin hard to take off when unable to walk! So with this in mind we all convened at the legendary Church in Camden town. This place is as close too religious as Ward is to finding that miracle balding cure.

The beauty of lycra as it needs no ironing, or come to think of it washing! As most lads just slept in the thing it was a quick exit to Camden Town for Midday kick off. Smelling like worse than floor we hit the place skating.

There were 5 of us, and to my surprise there were about 7 others already there. Most of the team had backed up. Right, to describe the 4 hrs that followed would be a dead set miracle, because it would be :
a) Take a CSI team to piece together
b) not do the afternoon justice and
c) I really struggle to remember the thing (Which might or might not be a good thing)

To be fair, I will let the Photo below do the talking on this one! This taken just before a massive pile up which resulted in one of the lads with a broken rib and me with a knee more swollen than a English cricketers Ego. Bouncers all decided to get involved, which resulted in one of the more unusual stand-offs since the Poms took on the Zulu’s; 10 Speed Skaters vs. 4-5 Steroid enabled bouncers. A truce was quickly signed and as it was closing time we all skated for the door! Some thinking clothing was optional at this point!

So the Weekend ended at the Walkie in Shepard’s Bush, with the lads all taking center stage and doing the Lycra proud!

Overall I have to say that it was one of the truly great weekends with the lads, was one of those – You really had to be there people!

Till next time! Lycra out!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Waitangi Day Crawl - Pre Event

Well People, this weekend sees the lads hit the famous 'Waitangi Day Circle Line Pub Crawl' in London. 8000+ kiwis celebrating all that is New Zealand'sih! Which means dressing up as fools and drinking our own body weight in booze! Stay tuned for the report from the weekend.

I have sourced the below as our uniform for the 16 lads attending! Special times

Look for the update next week team....should be a cracker! Dublin lads, Bullshit from Amsterdam and Marty Veale from Japan are all making guest apperances!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Big update!

Let the 2nd Year Begin

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, 2 months since I last made Interweb contact. Well I say it make the blog grow stronger. Poor effort on my behalf, as I’m sure you’ve all been worried sick and have sent out the rescue teams to track me down. Well fear not worrisome readers, for I have re-surfaced like a pacific black pearl diver from the depths, clutching another bag full of yarns and undersized stories!

Sometimes while travelling its best to hold the correspondence until something worthwhile has happened, lucky for you lot the duChats and Co have been busy little beavers indeed. So lets ‘Dive’ right in… my last contact dealt with a few concerts and a messy tour around Ireland…… well as I like to keep things uniform, this one will be no different!

I left the Green Isle bound for London about a 6 weeks ago, with a faint hope of perhaps shifting the social life into a lower gear. After what was 3-4 going away bashes in Ireland I felt I was due for a small rest! So below are 3 posts, oneeach from Dublin, London and Paris! In reverse'll see!

Also have added heaps of new photos! Even some old Globetrotter ones i found...haha. Good times.

Also some other Vids down the Right hand side! Enjoy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Paris - The Mother Land

A true highlight of the past year was my first trip to Paris to see the All Blacks. A home coming of sorts for the duChat, back to the land of my pioneering fore fathers. Well we all know how good Paris is, so I’ll refrain from crapping on about its finer points! Only to say that a £2 bottle of wine actually tastes better than one would expect, and with the advent of the plastic pop top…perfect for the long trip to the Game! Yes, I may have a flashy French name but there is top notch kiwi blood flowing thru my veins! A Rachel hunter quote springs to mind…..

As luck would have it, my musical concerting partner Troy had managed to get a few tickets to the Killers at a small venue in downtown Paris. So I hit town a few days before the test on the Wednesday to hook up and see them Live! Trip there was mint on the Eurostar, now my preferred travel method…well only to France to be fair. Felt very Secret Agent like on the Train, very fast. Sorry I digress.

A few warm up drinks in the shoebox sized hotel room, we hit the gig at pace. Troy and his Wife, Catherine, and yours truly straight to the bar. Then after getting a feel for the 1000 seat room, the mosh pit! No repeats of Gun’s N Roses incidents…as far as we know. Check out the vids below. Mr Brightside and All the things that I have done. They would be one of the best bands I’ve seen all year, just awesome!


All the things that I have done

I was informed some days later that we in fact ended up at the local….how do I say…strip bar in the Moulin Rouge Area! Which I had no recollection of then, or now as I write this. I’m squarely putting the blame on the triple Tequila’s we consumed…or so I’m told! Is there anything worse that going to a strip club and not actually remembering anything of it. The Lord works in mysterious ways my friends.

So after doing a fair bit of footwork (Fancy?) getting around Paris, and basically avoiding any verbal contact with the locals (A Shock to some but much to the dismay of Mr Holt. My 3rd form French Teacher, I actually faired rather poorly in the subject. I blame a genetic disposition to the language, figuring that’s why my ancestors left the cheese eating surrender monkeys to it).

Friday came, and with it a huge influx of Lads from England and Dublin for the big test on the Saturday night. Through some cunning planning the

majority of us were all in the same establishment, with a few others dotted around the suitably dodgy red light district of Moulin Rouge. More sex shops than the internet! (That’s what I heard anyway)

As Jimmy Barnes once belted out, Cheap Wine!! A connoisseur of fine wine would have chocked on his Merlot, for our standards revolved more around price than locale or grape variety. I believe the cheapest was something around the €1.85, that was a bargain…even for vinegar, which it had a striking similarity too. We loaded up once again in the shoebox and decided to have an impromptu gathering, as more lads floated in for the weekend. Come 10pm, Tokaroa and Manu were in full singing voice, with classics such as November Sun in Paris! The owner decided enough was enough and pulled the fuse on the room. So lights out we all hit the town! Once again memory is not quite like when I appeared on mastermind that time in 86, but needless to say the lads took full toll on the local bars! Meaning the next morning involved enough pills to keep a retirement home open.

So the big day had arrived, all quietly rearing to go for the big AB’s v Frenchies test at Stade de France! We spent most of the day trying to decide on all manner of ways to get booze into the ground, which as it turned out was more like fort knox, than a Rugby ground. This frenzy of ideas was prompted by the astounding fact that they only serve NON-Alcoholic beer inside. We learnt this from some poor sod who had, in 2004, consumed about ½ Dozen brews only to realise he was still sober…the most freighting story ever heard! Well not us, so after tucking into the Red, we all packed the drinkers best friend – Hipflask! Unfortunately a few saw fit to lighten the load on the train to the ground, and drained their hippies! As you do…. Prob for the best, because we all had to at the gate, as the security was tighter than Jeremy Cameron before payday!

Game and ground were just awesome, hard to describe…..which is what I did with my old batting partner Harbott, who after consuming his (And Paris’s) share of Scotch was unable to make out who was who from the 90 odd people running around the field! Classic Harbott. See the eyes below! Good man

We all finished up the night over running a bar back in Moulin Rouge area. Foolishly the bouncer was letting in anyone claiming to be Kiwi, so we had ownership of the place. I also unleashed my refined break dancing skills on an unsuspecting French public, and floor! Took me a week to realise why my big toe was blue? Might be time to pack the steel toes when dancing! Also only made the train by absolute minutes in morning! From waking to train was under 25min! Some effort, and thanks Steve for the Alarm in the morning. I believe some might have actually missed there’s back!

So Paris, what can I say. Only I could write a whole 2 pages on the place without mentioning the main attractions. There’s always next time…..

(Photos all stolen/borrowed from Harbott and Dalton, Cheers Fellas)

London - The duChat has Landed

The thing about London is that there seem to no surprises, nothing that someone before you hasn’t done, and therefore plenty of advice as to what Not to do. But I say rubbish to their advice, so in the true Elderstatesmen way I’ll make them all again…some even twice.

First weekend as per is always a blur, but was actaully able to see some of Londons sights, this being my 4th visit here having not seen any bridge, palace or abbey yet! My Friend Jackie was over for a few days, so took the opportunity to see some of famous places. Kind of beats the Postcards.....

I had booked a lovely room in Hotel Ward, complete with Street side views and TV at the end of the sofa. Amanda and Joe welcomed me into there home like they child the never had, and frankly didn’t want! Bless them. My first real taste of the Backpacker lifestyle…Dosing! The first week was a nice relaxed beginning to my time here, but this was soon shattered with the arrival of Marty “String ‘em up” Veal fresh from the Orient and looking for a sparing partner in any bar around London. So being jobless i slipped into the role fast, who was I to turn down midday drinking while watching cricket!

I’d love mention the Vodka incident the following Saturday night at the Halloween Party, but to be completely honest I have no clue as to what transpired after that bottle was finished. But I’d sincerely like to apologise to the chap dressed in the Kiss outfit for breaking his Axe….and to Marty , the bouncers and most of all the coat check girl for spending at least 20min searching for my ‘Lost’ leather jacket…which I’m happy to report was found about 2hrs later sitting on the couch at home, having never left the house. Top work on my behalf! Well move on shall we!

A few weeks later Harbott and a few lads were over for the AB’s V England match at Twickers, which was a beauty. The Previous night we all met up in down town London. With Ward, Veale and myself holding fort waiting for the rather tardy Harbott (on 6 hour journey from Dublin, bi-plane i think), Sandy and Emma turned up. Then Leper, fresh from Canada! After what turned out to be an all day session on the Ciders we all decided to push on and find another bar in the Convent Garden area. The smell of fresh hot dogs and fried onions got the better of us, so we loaded up. You see in London there must be a dodgy hot dog stand every 20m, armed with this info we decided to tuck into our 2nd course at the next sand. This is where it gets a little strange. As we waited for ‘Hasim’ to prepare the dogs, a Van full of under cover cops pulls up and 6 lads jump out and being to arrest ‘Hasim’ for illegal hot dogging! With out a word of a lie, they shut off the gas, and cuffed the poor bastard. Not letting an opportunity pass, I decided to dig into the ‘Evidence’ and we all got away with free dogs! Once word spread to the other Doggers, panic was rife… dogs were going for basement prices! Tragic really…we were all full as fuck!

The game was a cracker, and there is nothing like smashing the poms on there sacred home turf! Girls Aloud at full time was special, thought they played better than the pommie back line.

Ireland - Some of the Best

So my time in Ireland came to a predictable end, a blur of going away do’s and impromptu send offs. The 2 best nights were the work send off and then the next week my final weekend in Dublin. Was really cool to gather of all my friends I have meet in Ireland over the past year.

On the Friday (Oct 6th) I met up with all my work crew. Much to my suprise a good turnout was there, must have thought I was going to do a shout..haha...fools! Cheers Team! Was a really good time, and will cherish all those memories, well up until memory loss kicked in around midnight! For those I’ll just see the photos!

Saturday involved a good night out in Town with all the Kiwi and Aussie travels I have collected, and call friends! Another top notch night on the gas in Dublin, perfect send off it has to be said. So to all the crew Cheers, love ya work.

Although most nights went smoothly, there was one exception; A night of random drinking with Troy after my last day at work. We headed out to a local for a celebratory pint, which lead to a 3am finish. After surveying our limited options of transport, we foolishly decided upon one of the local Rickshaw operators to get us safely home! Wrong. Now these are two words that don’t belong together on a page – Safely and Rickshaw. I would dearly love to fix the blame squarely on our inept eastern European driver, lets call him Sergey. But that would be unfair. You see after stopping for a hearting (Of the arteries) feed on route, I decided in all my infinite wisdom to help old Sergey out. Jumping from my seat I proceeded to help push the little rickshaw past it’s record speed (Which I believe is somewhere between the speed of smell and Rush hour traffic). What we failed to do was centre the load, this being Troy, and as we rounded a rather sharp bend……..we produced the kind of action stunt more at home in the chariot race from gladiator! Sending all 3 flying across the road and onto the pavement! Fortunately I came away unscathed, Troy however boor the brunt on his right hand, which swelled up like a little fat kids! The real winner of this was my Garlic fries, which I’m happy to report were left in perfect condition (well until I devoured them). We never saw Sergey again…last seen heading in the wrong direction, cursing something like 'Fuckin Foreigners' , couldn't agree more myself!

So a few more little gatherings finally ended my time in Ireland, which will go down as probably one of the best years in my life. To say I enjoyed the place and people would be an understatement akin too saying the Irish only like the odd drink. When looking back on my 12 months there it only brings good memories, the place is just so easy to live in and get around. Kind of like an alternative version of New Zealand. Amazing scenery, landscapes and a rich enduring history that you can’t help but get caught up in. For most of us Kiwi’s we really only hear the English side to the tales, but hearing the history of Ireland and trying to learn as much as possible was a real special aspect of my time there. And of course the people, which we all know are just brilliant. I can’t recall over the past year of ever meeting an Irish person who was rude to us. In ever bar and town they are just so welcoming. You can strike up a convo with anyone in a bar/train/cab ect, and generally they start them. Also meet some really great Kiwi and Aussie friends who I’ll hopefully have as friends for many years to come. It’s funny, from the 1st day there Harbott and myself really only knew 2 people, but by the end we had gained a whole new group of mates…I spouse that’s why we travel!

Right enough of the sentimental bullshit! On to London