The second most horrible place I ever lived.

or how I came to move from Brisbane back to Adelaide

This is a short story written by me a few years ago for the Adelaide University Student Newspaper, On Dit (pronounced On Dee - it's french for 'one says' I believe). I thought about changing the names to protect the innocent but then decided that no-one is innocent. Thus, any resemblance to person alive, dead or indifferent is probably no co-incidence.

dave :-)

Translated to HTML Jan 1995.

The New Flat; a first impression.

Moving from my luxurious Queenslander style two storey house in Paddington to a cheaper top floor apartment in Red Hill seemed like a good idea at the time. My former house-mates, also work-mates and by coincidence also called Dave, had decided that living together and working together was simply too much for the human condition to put up with. As for myself, I couldn't give a damn; as I was to discover, I could put up with almost anything, but so be it. Also the owner of the house we were renting had decided that years of having us as late paying tenants was enough and she was putting the house on the market.

I relocated easily enough, moving in with a friend and work-mate called Laurie who had recently split up with his wife and had been staying with us anyway. The apartment itself was quite small, but had two decent sized bedrooms, a small kitchen which included a fridge, and a lounge room. There was the added bonus of a tiny concrete and steel balcony which afforded a spectacular view of the car-park and some of Queensland's ever present jacaranda and mango trees. There was a small bathroom/laundry/toilet as well but the less said about that room the better.

Outside the front door there existed a labyrinth of stairs, passage ways, and, at the centre of it all, a huge great pit descending four floors to hell. Near this pit, somehow a part of the whole structure, were embedded solid steel doors, somewhat similar to furnace doors. When we opened one up a foul, some would say diabolical, stench assaulted us. We concluded that these furnace doors were provided so that weary souls on the top floors could simply dump their household garbage into them, rather than lug it all the way to the ground floor. It made perfect sense to me, and Laurie and I were relieved that things could go so well.

Then things went horribly wrong.

Things continued to go well for a while. Laurie's parents gave us an old washing machine. This however was not the modern miracle of cleaning that I had been used to in the past. This thing had two drums, neither of which I could figure out how to set to wash. My only attempt at washing clothes in the next few months ended up in total disaster.

But at least we both had jobs and the bills were being paid. That is until Laurie was fired. Now technically I was Laurie's boss, but we had brought in these two 'management consultants' who were determined to make our struggling little company a success, no matter if we died in the process. They had determined that Laurie - the only fully qualified artist in the place - was in fact redundant. As it turned out, Laurie was not eligible for unemployment benefits as his wife was still working so I agreed to cover his rent for a while.

Life went on in happy bliss for a few weeks until I started to go a bit stir crazy. This began to manifest itself in the usual ways. I would take the company car up to the North Coast with a friend of mine called Robyn, where she and I would swallow far too many pseudoephadrine pills (just like speed only nastier), drink too much, and stay up all night in a cute little A-frame house owned by a friend's aunt, until I had to return to Brisbane for my 7 am management meeting. This behaviour went on for a week or so, until one day, in a fit of speed-induced psychosis and pure hatred for everyone I worked with (especially the two smarmy management consultants without whose interference I could still have been happily drowzing on a beach) I gave everyone in the meeting a piece of my admittedly addled mind, and stormed out of the building with the keys to the company car.

I raced up to the apartment building and fuelled by anger, adrenalin and speed, tore up the stairs and into the flat. The phone was ringing and I made the lounge just as Laurie answered it. Franticly I waved my arms pointing at myself and generally trying to convey the impression that Laurie had not seen me yet. Laurie must have picked up on my wild eyed charades because he indicated to the caller that he had not seen me, had no idea where I was, and, yes, he would call if or when he did see me.

Laurie laughed when I told him what I had done as we drove madly over to visit Mick and Delena, mutual friends. I pulled up in his driveway with a screech, stepped out of the car and walked through the gate leading to the pool, where Mick, and friends were lounging on deck chairs, enjoying the warmth of the Brisbane sun. I walked straight past them and dove into the pool, swam a lap and clambered out. They looked at me with slightly stunned, slightly bemused expressions as I unfolded a deck chair and reclined, my suit a dripping mess.

That night I went out to dinner with Laurie, Mick and Delena. We ate, we drank, then we went for a long slow drive while I listened to an old Neil Diamond tape and thought heavy thoughts.

"I have decided to resign," I said to the half-sleeping occupants of the car. They expressed their disbelief with a muttered 'bullshit'. I stopped the car at the top of a mountain and took a piss. There is nothing quite like the feeling of pissing off the top of a mountain at sunrise. Laurie and Mick joined me. There is much to be said for the silent strength of male bonding in a trying time.

"I'm resigning," I told them again, dick in one hand, cigarette (I still smoked back then) in the other. They still didn't believe me for some strange reason. I dropped everyone home and went to work.

At 7 o'clock in the morning I left my letter of resignation blu-tacked to my computer. This, in later years, turned out to be the smartest move I could have made. I then went into town, bought a new suit and went to the movies. I felt better than I had in some time. I felt a new sense of freedom. I registered for the dole.

There's no such thing as a free lunch on credit.

My dole payments came to $110.00 per week, as did the rent on our flat. We had a choice, pay no rent or buy no food. We decided to make sure that the rent was paid up and scrounge the rest. Our food began to run out and desperation set in. When the going gets tough, the not so tough get credit so I decided that the only way out of this, surely short-term, cash flow problem was to obtain some sort of credit by hook or by crook.

Now banks hate lending money to people who need it. They would much rather lend huge amounts of money to corrupt business enterprises and then get the government to bail them out when it all goes bad.

Banks are also not too keen on giving credit cards to people unless the people can prove that they have decent incomes. Needless to say, my dole payments were not quite what they were looking for. It occured to me, however, that department stores are not like banks. They delight in the giving of credit cards because they know that you can only spend your money in their store. A store card is like a consumer handcuff. Now, naturally I knew that no store would ever give a credit card to a recipient of unemployment benefits - oh alright, a dole bludger - like me so I showered, shaved, ironed my best shirt and put on my new suit. I chose a conservative, yet interesting tie and sauntered off into town. My only means of transport was walking and so by the time I arrived in town I was more than a bit hot and sweaty. I cooled myself down by sitting in the furniture department of a very big department store for a while and then I took the plunge.

I marched into the credit office and walked directly up to the reception. "How do I go about obtaining a store credit card?" I enquired.

The receptionist passed me an application for credit and informed me that I need only fill in the details and they would process it in due course.

"I don't have the time to wait for that," I replied with a sense of urgency in my voice. "I need a card as fast as possible - it's for a gift," I offered as some sort of reasoning.

"May I speak to the manager; I'm sure he will understand." I suggested. She seemed uncertain, but her hands automatically moved for the PABX controls. "I'm in," I thought triumphantly - just a little more pressure. I glanced at my watch. "I won't take long and I am in a hurry."

So I saw the manager. He was a friendly enough sort of chap and never bothered to ask me if I had a job so sure enough, the manager assured me that he saw no problems while he filled in the application form for me. My card would be on its way in a week. I signed on the line with his pen and thanked him. I then left the building feeling as high as a kite.

For the next week I waited in anticipation of the fun I could have with a credit card and sure enough on the seventh day, as I was resting, there arrived a special letter for me in my letter box. I tore it open and to my delight it was a credit card - my very own credit card. There was a letter welcoming me and thanking me for my wise decision to shop at their store, a colour brochure displaying some of the delicacies I could purchase and thereby go straight over my limit. They were begging me to spend - and I gave until I could give no more.

Laurie and I marched into town like men possessed. Driven by hunger and thirst, we strode into the store's food hall. We sat, we ordered, we ate, we charged it.

Debts and filth gather like flies.

The novelty of credit was in no danger of wearing off. As long as we could go into town every day and eat we were more than satisfied. So what if we were adding $200 per week to my card. By now we had the bug. We decided that just because we were poor as shite, it didn't mean we had to live as though we were poor.

I phoned a TV rental place and made an appointment for a sales rep to come over and sell us something, or to be more precise, rent us something. That something was a state of the art CD player/turntable/tuner/etc. A flat without music is no flat at all we reasoned. This little gem was to cost us a mere $35 per month. We used part of our rent money to pay for the first month in advance.

The flat was beginning to smell. In the corner of the kitchen we had a huge cardboard moving box which we used to throw rubbish in. Every so often we would take this box out to the steel pit doors and hurl the rubbish down the chute. We referred to this action as "placating the pit demon". After a while however, the building manager taped the pit doors shut with gaffer tape and attached a note saying "Do Not Use".

Being somewhat lazy creatures, we simply allowed the rubbish in our house - most of it generated by visitors who would come over with Coke and order pizza while we would spend long evenings doing nothing but sit and get stoned - to pile up in the big rubbish box.

The cockroach population was increasing exponentially. If you've ever seen Queensland cockroaches you will have an idea of how truly nasty it can be to have hundreds of them share a flat with you. They grow to about 5 cm in length and they fly. Jumping on them from a height won't kill 'em. They can pick locks without breaking stride, fight their way out of microwave ovens and hurl bricks at unsuspecting passers-by.

All cockroaches like a stable home environment, just as much as humans. The secret to annoying roaches is to find their home base and destroy it. In our flat it was not hard to figure out where they were living. Judging by the fact that they were concentrated in the kitchen, (they would scurry about in the griller, even when you were grilling food - once I made some cheese on toast and when I brought it out from the grill there was a live cockroach embedded in the melted cheese), it seemed likely that the rubbish box was their little slice of the Australian dream.

We moved the box. A thousand black shapes scurried in all directions. Up walls, across the floor, some flew straight for us causing us to duck and shield our eyes. Pretty soon there were more of the little bastards than we could count, all over the damn flat. Bravely we tried to carry the box out of the flat towards the recently sealed rubbish chute. As we were half way down the hall the base of the box gave way, divesting itself of the remains of about fifty home cooked meals and other assorted crap. It smelt bad. Another million or so cockroaches came tumbling out as well, and proceeded to whirl about like dervishes. The collection of old bits of meat, egg shells, soggy bits of vegetation, blood encrusted bandages, cigarette ash, cigarette butts by the ton, damp paper and the rest was quite stable when contained within the confines of a large cardboard box, but on the floor it looked and smelt revolting. There was quite a large maggot collection in there as well, but that was the least of the horrors; we were used to them.

Using a couple of plates we scooped most of the sloppy mess back into the box, which we held on its side. Carefully, and with a delicacy that would have impressed the judges of any ice dancing competition, we moved the box outside. We untaped the iron door and started throwing all the stuff down the chute, cackling demonically while doing so. We then hit upon the idea of killing the many roaches which had tagged along for the ride by rolling a Coke bottle over them. This was surprisingly effective, if a trifle messy. When all the roaches were dead, a process that took several hours, we tore the box into manageable pieces and set fire to them as we threw them down the chute. After the last piece had fallen we re-gaffertaped the door and went back inside.

There was a slimy, sticky, brown trail leading from the kitchen to the front door. The smell from the remaining blobs of filth was overpowering. We lit up some incense and put a CD on the player.

When we do find money we spend it on crap!

By now we were living in what could only be described as third world conditions. Our friends began to stop visiting, and after a while even we preferred to sleep somewhere else. After a week or so of no food, Laurie and I decided to do 'The Deed'. We began tidying the flat. Out went more garbage, washed were the dishes, restacked became the bookshelves. The scraps of paper, food, rubbish that littered the lounge room floor went over the balcony. The vacuum cleaner arrived from Laurie's mom's house and we went crazy. It was a non-stop cleaning orgy. In the process of cleaning we found just over five dollars in loose change. This was to be our reward for being good boys. With five dollars we could buy real food.

So off we went. The flat was clean! We entered the convenience store with pride in our hearts. Confidently we purchased the following yummy goods. One box Australian camembert cheese (always buy Australian), one two litre bottle of Coke (never buy Pepsi), a small box of water crackers and some liqueur chocolates. We had been back in the flat for less than five minutes before the whole lot was gone. The beginnings of a new sea of filth had formed in the lounge.

There go the lights.

I woke up one morning and realised in a daze that for about a week all I'd eaten was a bowl of rice with a few, about ten, frozen peas drowned in it, topped with slices of mango stolen from the neighbour's tree. I clambered out of bed and manoeuvred towards the lounge, making careful note to avoid the shiny black slick mark on the floor which, funnily enough, connected the front door to the kitchen. All cleaning efforts had failed to remove it so it stayed as a brutal reminder.

The lounge was not too pretty. Laurie was asleep, sprawled on the floor looking as though he had recently been shot. He was using his favourite grey jumper as a pillow, wearing his favourite white shirt with grey tie, his black shoes and his grey briefcase was not far from his hand, on the floor. He looked for all the world like a black and white photo of a Mafia hit; lying as he was between a brown beanbag (which if it could have talked, would have screamed) and a scattered CD collection.

"Wow, Laurie's dead on the living room floor," I instantly deduced. (Working with computers for a few years does funny things to your sense of logic. You begin to forget that just because the fuel meter is broken, doesn't mean that the car has some kind of bug inherent within its design that means that it is now no longer consuming petrol. I made that mistake once, to my eternal regret)

After spending a delirious moment convinced that I was looking at an artist's impression of the murder of my flatmate, I came to my senses and Laurie came to. He looked a bit the worse for wear. This, I became convinced, was due to an extraordinary quantity of dope and lager that had made its weary way through his internals. I'm glad I didn't see him the night before, let me tell you.

Laurie looked dejected. The strain of having an income of $0.00 was beginning to show on his whole body. We needed food and damn fast. Damn the bills, fuck the rent and swing the credit card around like an insanely curious person testing the size of a room with a cat.

We summoned the energy to walk into town, walked into town, then into the food hall and into pig out heaven. Twenty minutes later, our appetites sated, we sauntered out, doggie bags full to the brim with some not bad at all tucker. This particular food hall is situated, strangely enough, right near the CD and record section. I could barely resist the urge to splash out in a fit of credit abuse. In fact I didn't resist, let's be frank. I bought ten CDs and we went home, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves.

As I approached the building I was overcome with excitement. I could not wait to get up the stairs and bung a CD in our brand new CD player. We bolted through the door. We ripped into the lounge, I flipped on the power, pressed the CD OPEN button, whipped a CD out of its case and whopped it in. I hit play and the CD ensemble slid gracefully into the player. The little blue/green LCD screen lit up with a few irrelevant numbers. The player made a skip skip skip and then the music poured out.

All the lights went out and the music died. There was an awful stillness from the fridge. Somewhere in the distance I could hear the sounds of a truck's brakes as it pulled up at traffic lights about three kilometres away. I felt sad and alone.

"Fuck," was Laurie's only response.

Solitary confinement

Now I was really pissed off. There was very little to do so I began to write, read and make stupidly long phone calls. Friends still dropped in to visit but Laurie started staying out more at friends' houses. After a few days I found myself reading through most of the night - I remember wading through a vast collection of pulp horror and sci fi/fantasy books, as well as spending my last ten dollars on a copy of Wuthering Heights - what a cool book - and finally falling asleep for a few hours before the heat and humidity woke me up.

It was Wednesday. This is significant because Wednesday meant two things to me. Number one was dole form day. I was off to put in a dole form and I was going to see my mother. She offered to pay my outstanding electricity bill if I agreed to repay her on Thursday where, all things being equal, the government's $110 gift of life would appear as if by magic in my account.

"Oh well," I thought to myself, "that's my money gone for the next fortnight and fuck knows where the rent is coming from". I tried to explain this to my mom but she was fairly adamant that I could either sort out my life or; well, usually the alternative was a demand to move home, but mom had rented my old room out to a boarder so moving home was out of the question.

I gave in, my need for electricity overcoming any other desire. If you put your mind to it I'm sure you can almost taste the fetid odour that a cramped flat develops after a few days of hot, wet Brisbane summer, with food scraps and a pile of empty soft drink bottles in the corner of the kitchen. The roaches were back needless to say. No power had meant that the place was in an almost perpetual state of damp darkness and the old half cabbage that once lay preserved in ice at the back of the freezer returned to life and promptly dissolved (like that really cool scene at the end of the film The Evil Dead), releasing a stink that the words derived from a thousand pictures could not even begin to describe. I suppose that 'bad' pretty well sums it up though.

Mom came with me to the closest 'Lectrickery office where she paid the bill for me. "Shit," I thought, $90 just to hear CDs I just paid over $100 for, and am of course paying massive interest on. Eventually she dropped me home and gave me an emergency food parcel of one tomato, a block of cheese and a loaf of bread. She also bought me a bag of mangos to prevent the onset of scurvy. I felt curiously ungrateful and accepted the food without comment.

Walking into the flat felt repulsive. One look into the bathroom convinced me that I had to escape. I picked up the phone and discovered the other significant thing about Wednesdays. Telecom always choose Wednesdays to cut people's phones off. Their rationale, I assume, is to give people an optimum length of time to discover that they are not able to use their phones and rush in to pay their bills. I bet an army of statisticians worked that out. Wednesday, I am sure, has been proved to be the most annoying day of the week. What better time to add insult to injury by cutting someone off from the world - totally.

At least I'm losing weight!

I really felt shitty. I hadn't showered in days and was beginning to feel as though my life had collapsed around me. Laurie had vanished completely and I resorted to laying about in bed reading for periods of twenty odd hours at a stretch. I subsisted by stealing mangoes from the neighbours garden and frying them with small bits of chopped up tomato and eating them between bits of bread. I thought about ringing my mother and begging her to lend me the money to pay my phone bill but realised the futility and plain stupidity of such a though immediately. "I'm really fucked now," was all that really occured to me. Every so often I would pick up the phone hopefully. I stopped when this became too depressing.

I escaped from the house and took solace in long walks, a habit that remains with me to this day. I also started staying over at my friends' houses, not showering or changing clothes. I was getting scuzzier and scuzzier. After a week or so I returned home to find a mountain of evil looking bills. There was the CD rental, a final demand on the flat rent and the credit card bill from beyond hell. Dutifully I took them upstairs and put them in the rather full bill drawer.

In the last two weeks I had lost two kilograms. This even I deemed unhealthy.

Not to mention my mind.

I woke up at 9 am with the most dreadful headache I could possibly imagine. I had been up `til 7 am reading and now felt like there were two creatures fucking inside my brain, but one of them didn't want to. I made a very weird decision that morning. I decided to become a real estate broker. My suit was not in the best of nick, but I peeled it up off the floor of my room anyway. Man, did it pong. Rain had come in through the window and for the last few weeks I had left my suit lying in the corner of my room, soaking wet. In one of the pockets there was, for some odd reason, a bread crust which had by now developed a mind and personality of its own. The roaches and ants were having a field day with it in fact.

I rinsed the suit out under the shower and used Laurie's old hairdryer to dry it. I dressed up as well as I could manage without either showering or shaving. I must have looked as mad as a cut snake. I walked into town and wandered straight into the offices of the first large real estate firm I found. I addressed the reception and explained that I had come about a job and that I would like to become a real-estate sales person.

Now either I didn't look and smell so bad after all, or the receptionist was completely daft, but either way she tapped a few buttons, spoke to someone and asked me to wait on the sofa. I did and pretty soon a woman came out and introduced herself to me. I shook her hand and we went into her office. She asked me all sorts of questions about why did I want to sell real-estate, what had I been doing in the past and what was I doing now. I crapped on about how I had always loved real-estate sales and knew some fine real-estate agents etc. I pointed out that I had some theatre experience, some writing experience, some business experience and that I needed to work.

She explained the many and various methods of memorising details of houses and buildings; she also explained that I could earn heaps of money really fast. This thought appealed to me. Then she went on to advise me that I needed to have a few thousand dollars saved up to survive for the first few months when commissions would be really low - I paused - and that I should have my own car.

I left the building somewhat releived and yet a bit sad. In retrospect, not having a car or any money just saved my life. My father's office was just down the road so I thought I would stop in and say hi. Dad was on the phone as usual and waived me to a seat. I waited 'til he finished his conversation and then explained that my phone had been cut off and that I had tried to get a job as a real estate sales person.

Dad had a fit.

"From now on, I'll look in the papers for a job for you. Get your phone back on," he urged. Then he looked up a vocational guidance councilor in the phone book, rang them up and made an appointment for me for the following day. He gave me a few dollars for the bus and sent me home.

The next day I caught a strange bus that went out to suburbs that, in all my time living in and around Brisbane, I had only ever associated with the world's largest hypermarket and other such crap. But out there in the mortgage belt there thrived a nest of social workers, all keen to tell me what occupation I was best suited for. I didn't really mind this idea as, sure as fuck, I had no idea.

These people, when I finally got to meet them, were in fact one well meaning woman who came across more like a wise granny than a social worker. She determined by means of her arcane arts that I should move to Canberra and study (what! I never even mentioned Canberra once and here you are telling me to live there! I wouldn't know Canberra from a bar of soap), or I should get a job working with computers (fuckin' yeah, tell me something I don't know).

I left, hoping that someone just got paid by the Government to tell me that the sky is blue and the grass is green and you and I stand in between, kind of at the crossroads but more something to do with where the waves touch the shore or is it the horizon. Her grasp on metaphor was outstanding.

My headaches became worse and worse until one day my mother came over, took one look at me and dragged me to the doctor. The doctor's eventual conclusion was that I was suffering from stress and I should try and get regular good food and exercise. He proscribed some medicine I could not afford and I went home.

The phone rang.


You can barely imagine what joy the sound of a ringing phone caused. I answered it and to my surprise it was my dad.

"I think I've found you a job, son," he explained. He asked me if I had the weekend papers, which of course I didn't. He then offered to drive over and show me the ad. He read it out. Basically it was a computer programming job, something I could do, and it was in Adelaide. I suddenly came over all still. I thought about how cool it would be to move to Adelaide, the place of my birth, and get a job.

The next day I went into town and bludged some computer time from a store in town. I sorted out some references and wrote a long letter of application for the job. Nothing happened, then a few days later, after I had given up hope, the phone rang. It was them and we conducted an informal phone interview.

I had applied to one of the few companies in the world which somehow was stupid enough to short-list me down to three applicants and offer to fly me to Adelaide for a final "person to person" interview. Boy, did I feel cool or what. So they flew me to Adelaide, interviewed me and only then did they think to ask me if I could read music, a skill as significant to the project as computer programming was. A skill I do not have.

Fortunately I still had my return ticket home. I was about to book my return flight when someone contacted me about another job. After a few days spent stuffing around, organizing an interview with a man by the name of Chris, I took time to renew a few old friendships with people I had for the most part not seen in many years. I was startled by how dull and straight most of them were, with only a few exceptions. Finally, dressed up as well as was possible with my new briefcase and red power tie, I went to meet Chris.

Chris was one of those people who look older than they really are. He relaxed deep into his chair, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and lit a cigarette. He offered me one, I took it. He was a chronic smoker and ran his office out of the back of his house. Less than ten minutes into the interview Chris started rolling a joint. It was not the biggest joint I had ever seen, but it certainly smelt strong. He lit it up, toked on it and passed it to me.

I was no stranger to the demon weed but, having lived all of my smoking life in Queensland, had never seen dope smoked so casually, without all the blinds being drawn, the windows closed and the lights turned off. I was used to the idea that the way to fool people into thinking you were not smoking dope was by making people think you weren't home. Only in retrospect did this idea seem daft.

Chris passed the joint to me and, always keen for a smoke, I accepted. I toked and then, as good smoking ettiquite dictates, passed it back. What I was not prepared for however was Chris rolling another joint. He bade me finish the one I had on my hand as he assembled another three paper masterpiece. Chris only ever rolled three paper joints. He only ever smoked heads. He smoked these joints constantly.

Soon the interview was lost in a mist of stoned enthusiasm. I knew that I had the job and I knew I would enjoy working here. I started to feel really pale. I could feel the slightest breeze on my cheek and the blood in my lips moving; familiar warning signs. My head was whispering to me "You've smoked too much dope and then had a cigarette haven't you?"

"Yes, but I didn't mean to" I mumbled to myself.

"What?" asked Chris.

"Can I use your bathroom" I replied and staggered to my feet. I made it to the bathroom and vomited noisily for about ten minutes into first the hand basin and then the toilet. In a stoned haze I attempted to shove bits of vomit down through the gaps in the plug hole with my fingers. This kept me occupied for quite a while. I washed my face, flushed the toilet and washed the sink. I rinsed my mouth out with water a few times, blew my nose and walked back out to talk to Chris.

"Sorry" I mumbled.

"What?" replied Chris dreamily.

"Nothing" I replied.

I flew back to Brisbane and prepared to move. Laurie and I vacated the flat and I moved back into my parents' house. Laurie moved in with Mick. Dad and I, mostly dad however, cleaned the flat. All of our bond went to pay back rent.

Things started happening at a frantic pace. I broke my foot by falling from the bottom step of a flight of stairs. This delayed my departure for a week while I watched the Winter Olympics on TV. I still had the CD player and I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music. I was so pleased to be going that nothing, no matter what disaster befell me, could wipe the smile from my face.

The day came, my bags were packed, I was booked onto the plane. I arrived at the airport, I met some friends who gave me a card and my dad who bought a round of gin and tonics. I promised to write, then picked up my stuff and boarded the plane. They gave me a groovy window seat, next to a kindly looking woman. I opened the card - it was a cute drawing of a smiley teddy bear. Inside amongst a sea of words of wisdom and signatures was the same bear, a tear in its eye as it waved to a fading plane. Underneath this illustration originally were the words "We hate to see you go". Typically however the card had been doctored with a hefty amount of pen scribbled in cannily over it.

I could not help but notice the appalled look on my neighbouring passenger's face when she read the final words of well wishing over my shoulder.

"We hate you," the card had been converted to read, "You suck."

You gotta laugh but eh?