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August 11th, 2016


10:39 pm - Pointless
Belated update to the football entry a couple posts ago:

Euro 2016: A year to treasure if you're Icelandic or Welsh, both teams doing spectacularly well to reach all-time highs - it says a lot that I can name more members of the Welsh team now than I can of England. First time I watched major tournament matches in a country outside my own, England's knockout by Iceland seen on a big screen on a warm evening in Pristina, Kosovo. To think we used to moan if we "only" got to the quarters, something we've barely done in the last decade...

I did indeed watch Pointless 'live' the day after my last post, four episodes recorded a day and I saw two of them on the Monday afternoon. It saw me return to the Elstree Studios I filmed 'Victoria & Albert' at sixteen years ago, no longer with its massive Who Wants To Be A Millionaire billboard dwarfing all but still feeling rather retro and 'worked-in', a refreshing change from the gleaming glass of modern constructions. Didn't even need to pay to get there, Hendon station having no ticket gates at all and Elstree just seeming to leave theirs open all day - but I forked out the £2.20 anyway in the (admittedly zero) chance a ticket inspector were to board the eight-minute two-stop journey and go on a sadistic fining spree. I was probably the only one on the train who'd bothered.

Walking around said studios reminded me of an unfortunate fact. It's now over two years since the last night of 'Hamlet', in July 2014, marked my last theatrical performance to date and perhaps ever. A couple of stand-up attempts and short films last year kept some of the mind going, but I'm beginning to resign myself to the inevitability that this year will be the least creative in over a decade, something I blame myself completely for. Buried on my Google account are a whole host of unfinished scripts and ideas, many started on a lazy day at Melbourne's State Library of Victoria late last year or early this, none of which currently thrill me enough to start the steps to take them further. Occasionally I'll load one up, only to get a few lines in and become horribly disillusioned by the futility of it all, and instead procrastinate my evenings away binge-watching Youtube videos and listening to musical melodies from a better time. Something, knowing me, I'll probably be repeating in a few years as I hum along to Drake songs and kid myself that I was actually happy when these were first around.

Future still cloudy, still unsure. New Zealand still beckons as a possible location for Working Holiday Part 2, providing I do it sometime in the two years and one month before Thirty. I'll be back in the UK for my twenty-eighth birthday next month, but who the hell do I even invite? It's been almost a year since I last saw those who I consider my friends. If I invite them all and none of them bother attending, then that's it - they've moved on without me, whether I want them to or not. I feel like I'd rather live with the belief that they all do care rather than face a possible uncomfortable realisation that they don't...but it's one day of the year where I can actually celebrate being myself, and it even falls on a Saturday this time, so it might be worth a try all the same. Will give it a think over the next couple weeks.

With no job (ha), relationship (hahaha) or any direction anywhere, the feeling I have nothing to live for and no reason to exist is strong with this one. But I know I've been here before, and I know that, each time, I've managed to rescue something out of the mess. Need to stop fearing that the ideas bank is almost empty. Need to keep the hope. As usual, fuck knows how. But when I'm not thinking about all the people who couldn't give two shits whether I was dead or not, the hope - somewhere - remains.

I'm in Blackpool tomorrow, hopefully enjoying a well-needed catchup with the Knightmare lot. Maybe inspiration will strike while I'm there...
Current Mood: blahblah
Current Music: Erasure - Breathe

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July 24th, 2016


11:29 pm - Chase against Time
Well, I suppose I've done a little better this year in terms of journal writing anyway. We're only in July but I've already written the most posts here since 2012, although that's not quite as impressive as it sounds when you realise that I made well over a hundred posts four years ago but this is only my twenty-sixth this year. But it's a substantial improvement to 2015's low of twelve, three of which were in the last three days of the year. The record - well over two hundred - was set in 2008, with '09 and '10 not far behind, which sadly I can't see returning unless astonishing things happen.

But I'm finding enjoyment elsewhere. Tonight I headed down to the old LWT Studios in London to see an episode of 'The Chase' recorded, the ITV quiz show that's always worth a watch around 5 or so. I'd seen Deal or No Deal a couple of times almost a decade ago, Harry Hill's TV Burp in the (now closed) Teddington Studios, and last year even saw a US sitcom, 'Melissa & Joey', recorded in front of a whooping American audience in LA which was a joy to be part of, they can be long evenings but always fun experiences. I was on my own but it worked out quite well, as rather than being squeezed in the back few rows (I arrived an hour early and was audience member #121 in the queue, I'm not sure if many behind me even got in) the audience ushers got me a great seat third row from the front, giving me a dandy close-up view of the stage.

This was a celebrity special, and the four contestants were introduced one by one - a comedian I hadn't heard of, an athlete I hadn't heard of, an actress I hadn't heard of, and...

"...and our fourth contestant, please welcome COLIN BAKER!"

I almost fell off my chair as the SIXTH DOCTOR WHO walked into the studio and took his place. I met his surnamesake Tom fourteen years ago, saw Mr Matt Smith in a play eight years ago (pre-Who), and that's the closest I've been to any Who since. I didn't get to meet Colin - I could have easily said hi at the end of the show as the audience were leaving but decided it wasn't the right place or time. But it was still good to see him in action, and the episode, without giving anything away in case I'm sued by ITV or something, was one of the best I've ever seen. And that's not just cus I was there for it, even had I watched at home it was a nailbiter! An enjoyable evening and one of the first times I've actually enjoyed being solo in an age.

Tomorrow I'm seeing Pointless!

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July 14th, 2016


12:22 am - May to December
David Cameron left Downing Street today, or yesterday now it's gone midnight. The first change of prime minister since Brown's final moments in my swing-dancing, booze-guzzling days as a 21 year old, back when I thought I knew my life. Blair bowed out when I was eighteen as a social life I'd dreamt of finally began its opening chapters, while it was way back as an eight year old when my mum explained to me that the smiling man on TV shaking hands to the sound of D:Ream would make things, finally, better. I was born during the reign of a female Conservative PM, and as Ms May took power today we're full circle.

My journal posts exist for both 2007 and 2010 switcheroos, both rather painful reading today as my Blair to Brown entry is frustratingly naive and twee, much like my '07 self, and that ghastly line about them being "all the same" is a horrific statement I can't quite believe I ever genuinely thought. Three years later my Brown to Cameron entry features a political rant that all felt smugly mature and intelligent at the time but now comes across as a whinging child throwing toys out of his crib, no change there then I hear you cry. "The country isn't entirely ruined yet" I sarcastically mope at the end. No, not then. But, erm...now?

As my last post suggested, we voted to leave the EU. "We" not including myself or millions of others, and primarily consisting of a non-London, non-Scottish, non-Irish borderline racist minority I'd assumed died out sometime around 1990, and the pound's quickly gone to shit, spelling a probable end to my travel era for the immediate future as everything simply becomes too unaffordable. Cameron swiftly legged it, as did seemingly most of the political heavyweights as no way did anyone want to attempt shovelling us out of this mess, paving the way for Theresa May to become the sixth prime minister in my lifetime. She's only been in power for a few hours, it's too early to judge, but my god I hope she does a better job than her predecessor. With racist attacks increasing and political infighting rampant, it's difficult to know how the country could get worse by the next election but we're talking the Tories here, who don't fill me with huge hope. The 2010s only have a few more years to not be seen as a decade of misery, austerity and insecurity, maybe - just maybe - things get back on track from here on.

Christ, what am I saying, of course they fucking won't. It's difficult to have any optimism for this place right now, it's a horrible time to be back and I'm missing Australia already. And sorry if that sounds grim, but right now I find myself in the position where I'm back in a country and city I lost love with a good while ago, jobless and about the most disallusioned with everything I've perhaps ever been. I don't want to act, I don't want to write, drink or dance, I don't want to meet friends or party or even leave the house, I am, once again, completely out of ideas as to who I am and my place in this mess of beings. Still. After everything I've done, I'm back to this. And every time it happens, I sink further and further deeper.

I'm Billy Hicks. And, right now...I'm nothing.
Current Music: Liza Minelli - Losing My Mind

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June 24th, 2016


01:01 am - Referendum
We're going to end up fucking leaving, aren't we.

Shit.

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June 8th, 2016


10:31 pm - Billy's coming home
1996. What a year. The Demon Headmaster on the telly, virtually every classic song of the decade on the radio, and England did pretty well at football too.

It was twenty years ago today when I watched the opening ceremony of Euro 96 on TV with Dad. Living in Neasden, the (old) Wembley Stadium was a few minutes walk down the road, leading to something of a surround-sound immersive experience as the roars of the crowd echoed both out of the TV speakers and the windows themselves. As a shot of the Red Arrows appeared on screen, we rushed out of the house and into the garden, where, seconds later, the planes zoomed over me bursting out coloured smoke - an incredible sight, as was the hundreds of balloons that filled the skies minutes later. For someone still in infant school at the time, it was a pretty awesome day.

'Three Lions' was sung by everyone in my Year 2 class, and I watched the infamous England-Germany match on a tiny wooden-sided TV upstairs with Dad as Mum watched a soap opera or something downstairs. I remember the absolute devastation at school the next morning, kids almost in tears from the events of the previous night as England failed to qualify for the final. Being only a year old for the equally huge Italia 90, Euro 96 is easily the first major football tournament I remember, and while I never became a huge fan of the game (or any sport) every Euro and World Cup since I have at least some memories of. Here's all of them since, as thirty years of hurt turn fifty:

France 98: Still a kid but my first World Cup, given England failed to qualify in '94 and I'd probably have been a little too young to remember it anyway. Not as memorable as '96 but England v Argentina's sight of a referee holding up a red card and a floppy-haired blonde dude walking off in a huff sticks in the mind. By the end of the year I knew his name was 'David Beckham' and was going out with that posh one from the Spice Girls.

Euro 2000: Forgotten by most (at least from a UK perspective) as they crashed out in the first round, against, of all teams, Romania. Main memories are of a colossal powercut blacking out the BBC shortly before the crucial match, and various unfortunate reports of English hooligans running riot in Belgium overshadowing the game itself.

Korea/Japan 2002: The one where the matches took place in the morning instead of evening, which makes this one easy to remember - I was thirteen as me and the family watched England beat Argentina, and we squeezed into a packed-out Wetherspoons afterwards crammed full of singing and cheering fans. Knocked out in the quarter final with Brazil, but then Brazil were pretty fucking amazing then (and went on to win) so you can't blame 'em.

Euro 2004: Just eating a massive bowl of Corn Flakes in my room as David Beckham's penalty against Portugal spectacularly missed the goal and zoomed into outer space.

Germany 2006: Seventeen years old and my god was this a hot summer - every match with windows open and an ice-cold drink of Cream Soda for refreshment, chugging down so much of it that summer that just drinking a can now takes me back a decade. Again England did pretty damn well but were beaten - again - on penalties by Portugal in the quarter finals, everyone blaming it on Rooney being sent off ala Beckham in '98. Also Zidane losing his mind and headbutting someone in the final, which led to all sorts of comedy GIFs - and David Tennant's first series of Doctor Who. As in it also happened that year, rather than Zidane's headbutt leading to it.

Euro 2008: England didn't qualify! The BBC tried its best with all sorts of "Who will YOU support?" trailers but this just kinda came and went with few being bothered. I have one memory of a match being on the TV in a pub somewhere - this being the peak of my nineteen year old hedonistic alcoholism - but god knows who was playing.

South Africa 2010: The year of the vuvuzelas!! Every match had the sound of them bellowing out from the stand and linked in the mind with 2010 along with Tinie Tempah songs and episodes of Glee. This one was something of a turning point for England fans - all the usual build-up before the opening match against USA, they proceeded to do utterly shit and the hype has never come back since, like everyone just completely gave up for good this year and accepted we're just always gonna be a bit crap. England did - just - advance into the second round but were absolutely annihilated by Germany, who beat us so thoroughly (4-1!) we didn't even get the thrill of a penalty shootout that year, and then there was the disallowed goal from England that - to the Germans - felt like payback for '66. When Germany scored their fourth goal I did kinda want them to get a fifth just to evoke comparisons with the famous 2001 England 5-Germany 1 game, but little did we know what would follow four years later...

Euro 2012: Overshadowed by the Olympics and everything else that went on that year, which actually might have helped England as, with few taking notice, they reached the quarter finals for the first time in a major tournament since 2006. And it was penalties again - I remember before the shootout even started that everyone basically gave up hope, including the players themselves, it's the moment penalties progressed from a run of bad luck to something genuinely psychological as if England just know they're gonna lose and therefore be a bit rubbish. But the UK went on to storm the Olympics anyway which was the real big sporting event of the summer.

Brazil 2014: Christ. They didn't get anywhere near winning this year - eliminated at the first possible opportunity, no hype, no build-up, nothing, just a general feeling of despair from start to end and made 2010 look like a triumph. It's Germany that many remember this one for and that 7-1(!!!) win to BRAZIL, a team so good in 2002 utterly dying on their arse just twelve years later. I was in Pisa Airport for the duration of the match, refreshing Facebook and live updates every few minutes as the German goals just kept on going. Germany, of course, went on to win the whole thing which seemed hugely deserved after their brilliant play.

Taking us to today. The first round matches are Russia, Wales and Slovakia, surely three teams England will breeze through but that was said six years ago before they played the USA. The biggest worry is that the EU referendum vote happens two days after the crucial Slovakia match - if we're shit then I can see a lot of disgruntled people voting Leave soon after, which may sound bizarre but England's performance in the 1970 World Cup is said to have impacted Harold Wilson's chance of re-election later that month. It begins with England v Russia on Saturday, and I'll be glued to the screen to watch how we do.

I'd love a Final moment in my lifetime. I'm lucky to have experienced the '96 Semi - a whole generation of young adults today have only seen an England quarter final match live. I don't see it happening this year but, should they ever do as well as '66 again, it'll be an incredible where-were-you-when moment.

There's a World Cup in 2066. I'll be 77. Maybe I'll live long enough to commemorate a hundred years of hurt...

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June 1st, 2016


06:39 pm - Myrope
To elaborate, yeah I did manage to make it around Europe. From The Netherlands I zoomed into former East Germany, ascending the Reichstag in Berlin and the reconstructed city of Dresden, up to Hamburg and Lubeck in the north, crossing the sea into Denmark and delightful Roskilde and Helsingor. The latter of those is also known as Elsinore, and contained one hell of a building - Krongborg Castle, where, around 1600 or so, a bloke called William Shakespeare decided it was the perfect place to set his new historical play. Hamlet.

Two years after my turn as a male Ophelia, I'd made it to Elsinore proper. The selfie had to be done.



Once I'd finished gawking and scene-by-scene remembering, a quick 20-minute ferry to Sweden followed and then an overnight train up to Stockholm, where Eurovision awaited. And for a few, brief seconds, on the night of the live final, 200 people saw me on telly.



That's Carola (Eurovision winner 1991), Mans (Eurovision winner 2015), Loreen (Eurovision winner 2012)...and me cameoing as the skinny-looking dude in the audience between the two of them. 20 years after watching my first Eurovision, I only went and bloody appeared in it, sort of. One for the 2016 scrapbook I s'pose.

Not really a spoiler anymore to say Ukraine won, my preferred choice would have been Australia - and for a few glorious minutes that genuinely looked the case - but Ukraine mega, mega deserve it after their horrific last few years. Perhaps I'll be there again next year, depending on what on earth my life will be consisting of by then. I managed to predict most of the top ten before the show, except I underestimated Armenia, Lithuania and Belgium in favour of The Netherlands (11th), Austria (13th) and Spain (an insultingly low 22nd for their CLUB BANGER 'Say Yay') and, thanks to experiencing them all live on the night, they haven't left my Spotify listenings since. Douwe Bob's 'Slow Down' (Netherlands) in particular is becoming something of an anthem for me right now, perfectly soundtracking my cross-continent wanderings.

From then on it was directly onto Norway and I spent a week living on overnight trains and airport benches, saving well over a hundred quid in accomodation which I spent on the cheapest grub I could find. I got as north as Trondheim, where I almost caught my second cold in a month due it being bloody freezing up there - and one of the stations is called, I kid you not, Hell. Yep. Camera time again...



But the best views were reserved as I headed west from Oslo to Bergen, up the mountains. It may be almost summer in most of the hemisphere, but not when you're as high as this.



Soon enough I was back in the lowlands and Bergen is definitely my fave Norwegian city, disregarding the dozen-strong tourist groups that seem to do their best with invading every possible photo you attempt to take. The weather was iffy but I hiked up Mount Floyen to see the city from high, strolling around the historic wooden buildings by the fjord.

It was a bit of jolt to go from chilly Norway to scorching, 30-degree Italy, but despite a transport strike on the first day I made it from Ancona to Rimini to San Marino to Florence to Pisa, gloriously tanned (and bitten) and def worth it. I'm gonna check out some of the Balkans over June - Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia and Kosovo, methinks, with the others to follow this year or next I hope.

I'll start properly adulting eventually.
Current Music: Douwe Bob - Slow Down

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May 30th, 2016


09:15 pm - Oh
I got the mother of all colds and spent the rest of the week ill in bed, and by the time I'd fully recovered I wasn't in the mood to write anymore. So that was the end of that.

Got to most of the places I wanted to see though.

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May 3rd, 2016


09:49 pm - Tas Mania
Another daily bustle of busy crossings, trundling trams and businessfolk with Big Macs in hand as I stand on the steps of Flinders Street station, watching the Melbourne morn for possibly the last time. These same steps saw my first introduction to Australia back in March 2014, and my terrifying beginnings of Working Holiday life in October last year. While the latter doesn't feel a huge distance in time away, Bowie and Prince were still alive along with a host of other recently conked-out celebs (Rickman! Daniels! Wogan! Wood!!), radio mainstays such as 'Hello', '7 Years' and 'Love Yourself' were eagerly awaiting future airplay domination, and Leicester City was a nondescript location with an underperforming football team. It may be as long as 2019 until I'm next here, perhaps as a belated 30th self-present. Or in a couple months, not sure yet. June, July and beyond still remain mostly unplanned with still plenty of opportunity for a Leicester-style miracle.

One final Cherry Ripe later and I'm feeling fancy and important on row 1 of a Jetstar flight to Hobart, achieved with one of the most ridiculous bargains I've ever nabbed in backpacking history - $23.40 return, just under six quid each way at time of booking for an hour's flight and possibly the cheapest Melbourne-Hobart trip ever offered, at least adjusting for inflation.

Compared to Melbourne's blue skies and 20-degree temps, the biting wind and pouring rain of Tassie is something of a shock to the system, and we're awkwardly standing on the tarmac for several minutes as the automatic doors into Arrivals refuse to open. Eventually a tiny side door is opened and we all squash into the terminal via a small side alley next to some bins. Not the grandest of starts, but hey - $23.40! It could be raining acid goat urine from the skies and I'd still be gleefully celebrating the deal.

There apparently is a local bus, but it's an hour or so's walk away in the middle of nowhere and it's already getting dark, so I plump for the slightly more expensive shuttle service which drops me off at the door to my hostel - $25 return trip, which is, ridiculously, more than the bloody flight cost. But the views of far-off mountains, cliffs and farmland are wonderfully atmospheric on the way, the dark, stormy skies adding to the windswept atmosphere nicely. I grab a $7 Subway footlong, write this entry and slip away to sleep to Bowie's greatest hits, as evocative of my ending Australian era as Conrad Sewell and tropical house. As long as there's sun, as long as there's rain...

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May 2nd, 2016


02:29 pm - Plan-it
My time in Melbourne reaches its end, and I'm making peace with the place again. After my few months in Adelaide and around, returning to Melbourne was initially an awkward experience - too many bad memories of hopeless job searches, failed friendships and stolen iPods. Certain street corners are as uncomfortably busy as London, virtually queuing to walk what should be a five-second journey, and then there's the homeless. The many, many homeless, too many to ignore, several regulars of the same state library I write this entry in and ranging from the pleasant-enough eccentrics to those who scream and rage at no one in particular and pummel each other to pulps in the foyer. But the trams are free, it's easy to get around and the shops are open 'til the wee hours, making midnight snacks easier than other parts of Oz. I'll miss Cherry Ripe chocolate bars, Dare iced coffees and the joy of finding caesar salads discounted to 50 cents at the end of the night.

The skies are blue today, the temperature a slightly chilly but pleasant 17 degrees. We're well into southern hemisphere's autumn now and it's a world away from the 44 degrees I experienced (for the first time) in Adelaide just before Christmas. Hobart tomorrow will be 14 degrees and, according to the current forecast, something of a washout, then it's an abrupt switch to glorious 36 degree sunshine in Dubai for my 24-hour Thursday stopover, then the start of my European adventure - The Netherlands - is looking astonishing for this time of year so far, an early forecast predicting well over 20 degrees meaning I may well be arriving into temperatures warmer than Australia. But that's not until Saturday and Europe is only barely on Monday as I type, so best not to start celebrating too early. Whatever the weather it's still looking to be one heck of a month.

As with my SE Asia trip in January, I'm relying on a lot of planes, trains and buses to run on time in order to take me around the world. I can just about get away with delays of an hour or two, but if any are cancelled completely I am potentially screwed, stuck thousands of miles away from my intended destination/s. I was lucky with Asia and everything ran on time, and I'm hoping for the same to happen this week. My next opportunity to fully relax will be arriving in Rotterdam in the early hours of Saturday morning, until then I'm hoping my Melbourne-Hobart-Melbourne-Dubai-London-Rotterdam route doesn't let me down.

It's fasten-seatbelt time...

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May 1st, 2016


01:43 pm - New Dorm Fades
After months of suffering through sharing rooms with some of the worst people I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing - the drunks, the shoe-stealers, the fucking-each-other-in-the-bunk-above-mines (still pisses me off four months later) - I finally struck lucky with my latest hostel. Some of the nicest, most genuine people I've met not just in Australia but around the world, and one of them cooked curry for the entire hostel on Saturday night. Most were long-term residents who were there indefinitely, many over the age of 25 and some well into their 30s which gave the place a generally better vibe than the screaming hell of 18-year-old rich kids away from their mummies and daddies for the first time, but even the younger folk were easy to get on with. I was sad to be leaving and wonder if my backpacking experience would have been different had I found the place much earlier.

As I continue to plan for my second summer of the year, it's looking more and more likely that I might end up being back in the UK indefinitely from June. Still going travelling - you can now get coach journeys to the likes of France, Belgium and the Netherlands for one pound if you book long enough in advance - but mostly sticking to Europe for now. But I'm glad I spent my time here, it's another era of my life I can look back on with both good and fairly iffy memories but hopefully allow the most positive to help me into the next.

So today looks like being my penultimate full day in Melbourne. But I still have a brief trip to Tasmania to undertake first!

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