Hearty Welcomes & Salutations! Originally an action-packed travel blog from a globe-trotting Scotsman, An Ache for the Distance has, over the years, slowed down (I post less often), mellowed out (domestic life has found it's way way on here) and become more of an expat/photo blog. Take a look around, leave a comment and share the love if you like something.
Stuart Mathieson, Lübeck, Germany

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Monday, 31 October 2011

Summer 2011 Italy

Another summer draws to an end and all that's left is a fading tan and a collection of photographs.  These are some of my favourites taken in Northern Italy & Switzerland.  Long live flip flops...

Sunset from my balcony, Como-shire Italy

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Italian from a Scottish perspective - Gola

How times change.  When I was younger I once put off joining a local football team for four months because of my football boots.  Golas just weren't cool.  Rather than risk social humiliation, I waited until Christmas.  Santa eventually came with a pair of Adidas boots and I was able to devote my Sunday afternoons in exotically windswept locations like Arbroath losing football matches (normally in double figures) safe in the knowledge that my social credentials were firmly in tact.

Of course, with hindsight, it was stupid to wait for four months.  I mean the boots were terrible, my best friend regulary took the piss because somehow they became shinier when exposed to mud,

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Angry Butterflies For Two Please...

Ever wondered why a "prosciutto focaccia" costs almost twice as much as a ham sandwich when they're essentially the same thing?  I'll tell you...because it's Italian!

How angry is your butterfly?
This has nothing to do with Berlusconi giving the Italian economy an inflationary bunga bunga, but more the style and sophistication associated with the Italians and their cuisine.  I mean something like "fagioli stufati e tostato" sounds a lot better than beans on toast and, as with the focaccia, would probably be twice the price of it's English-named counterpart.

But what we English monoglots fail to pick up on is that Italian food is as descriptive as it is delicious.  Order some farfalle pasta for example and you'd be asking for a plate of butterflies.  Would you like your butterflies in a crushed, angry or charcoal burned style?  Strange in English but perfectly acceptable as pesto, arrabiata or carbonara.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sleeping Indians...

Grabbing some Z's
Have you ever been on a bus or train in Asia and wondered how the hell everyone managed to fall asleep so quickly?  It doesn't seem to matter whether they're Malay or Mongolian, Asian people will generally drift off before the bus gets to 4th gear. 

And how do they effortlessly manage to keep their dignity intact?  Anytime I fall asleep on public transport involves a generous amount of drooling, a nasal symphony and occasional, seemingly electrically induced, jolts into consciousness.  Yet you rarely see Sri Lankans slobbering on themselves or Chinese chewing their own cheeks during travel naps.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Neglected Kiwis - Opshop

It doesn't matter where you are in the world, New Zealand is a long way away.  This physical distance has allowed them to hide not only hobbits, but also their music industry.  In an age where the only musical difference between English-speaking countries seems to be who won X-Factor/Pop Idol, the difficulty in naming a single Kiwi artist is all the more amazing.

In 2008 for example, the most played song on New Zealand radio was from a group called Opshop.  To most English speakers, the name is more likely to conjure images of a commercial back street surgery in Calcutta where Sanjeet offers kidney transplants at discount prices rather than Kiwi rocksters.  In fact in the same year, their anonymity was proven at Heathrow airport when they arrived in the UK for a tour.  Not only were they detained for 10 hours for visa regulations, UK immigration then refused to waste good British ink in their passports and instead shoved them on the next flight back to New Zealand!  Why don't they do the same with Britney Spears?  I'm sure she'd love Christchurch...

Anyway, in homage to the unknown, enjoy New Zealand's favourite song from 2008, Maybe from Opshop.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Double Photography - Pushkar India

The locals might let out a bemused sigh at the sight of snap happy tourists photographing each other whilst nikoning the shit out of everything around them but the revived memories are worth it (if "Nikon" ever achieves verb status I'll take the credit please...)  A photo to compliment a photo gives your sagging memory a digital kick in the balls and restores a scene in your mind back to 3D status... Cow shit and all...

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Scottish Elections 2011

It's time to get a tad political, the Scottish parliament elections are to be held on May 5th and for the first time in Scottish political history, the Nationalists (SNP) aren't going in as underdogs.  Having successfully run a minority government for the last 4 years, the SNP have shown the country they're able to govern, improve the lives of Scots and disprove the London theory that somehow the northern Celts are incapable of looking after their own affairs.  Despite the economic climate, they've achieved a lot in the last four years and let's hope Labour's scare mongering tactics don't hinder their plans for the next four.  Plus, any party with Monty Python humour deserve to be in power...

*Click here for post SNP election victory analysis from the BBC's Andrew Black*

Friday, 29 April 2011

An Italian Insight

*Warning: This post contains content of a grammatical nature*

The Italian media could collectively produce a book with all the words written about Silvio Berlusconi and his Bunga Bunga antics but the reality, as I found out last week, it far more concise.

In a lesson with an Italian student I was teaching the expression "I can't help + gerund."  I offered up my typically patriotic example of "I can't help feeling proud when I hear my national anthem" and asked if he could think of an example with his country.  "Yes..." he replied, "Silvio Berlusconi, he can't help f*cking the girls..."  Laughter exploded for a point well made!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thargo Thunderbox - Red Nomad Oz

The Thargo Thunderbox
Only in OZ – The Thargo Thunderbox!

So what's your favourite euphemism for 'toilet'? Conveniences, amenities, lavatory, can, john, privy, loo, bathroom, washroom – hang on, WASH-room? Is it just me, or is this just wrong??

But I digress.

I'm sure there's a personality test in there somewhere.

Australia's unique position in the public toilet pantheon includes our own super-special, purpose-built slang terminology. Want to 'visit the bathroom', 'have a tinkle' or 'take a dump' downunder here in OZ? Throw away your phrasebook and just say 'Where's the dunny, mate?'

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Italian from a Scottish perspective - Scotto

Many moons ago, I had an in-depth political discussion with a taxi driver on the way to Alicante airport entirely in Spanish.  At that time, I had just packed in studying politics at university so a little political banter wasn't unusual.  What was strange however is that I didn't and don't speak Spanish.

Despite this apparent linguistic limitation, the conversation was a success.  By following the blissfully ignorant idea that all Spanish words were simply English with lispy pronunciation and an extra vowel thrown on the end, we were able to chat about the presidente and the parliamento using my fantastico vocabulario.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Photo of the Weekend (Graeme Smith)

Should Sony Europe ever decide to set up an entirely Scottish branch then this photo from an old school friend (in both senses) may just provide the perfect advertising for them.

It was taken whilst 40,000 Scots bawled out their national anthem before a friendly against Brazil in London and was probably the best moment of the match for the Tartan Army.  Scotland went on to lose 2-0 and were unfortunately given a sound lesson in the silky samba ways.  The team seemed in awe of the Brazilians for 80 minutes of the match and so these initial moments of hope and optimism are worth savouring.

For some other arty snaps click on the link below the photo...


Sunday, 27 March 2011

Indian English

Lost among the hundreds of photos from India last year was this little beauty, taken in a milkshake shop somewhere in the suburban sprawl of Chennai.  A fine example of the Indians not allowing linguistic barriers to get in the way of business and also a photo that poses many questions.  Do they tosat the bread and jam together? Or is it jam made from bread? What kind of sandy vegetables can I wish upon? And how do you toust veg?

Credit where it's due though, the place did a fantastic chocolate & fruit milkshake with small pieces of spaghetti mixed in, magical...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Daytripping in Liguria

Come holiday season, weekends or any moment they don't fancy working, the Milanese tend to flee their city like rats on the Titanic.  If they're not sunning themselves by Alpine lakes then generally you can find an abundance of Gucci & Prada handbags being transported over the regional border into neighbouring Liguria.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Simple Pleasures

Milan is a city of style, fashion & money, but it's not la Dolce Vita. Outside the tourist friendly centre, it's a city set up almost entirely around industry and business, meaning in an Italian context, it's a bit of a munter...

Luckily however for the Milanese, and myself, the Alps are only half an hour away

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Italian from a Scottish perspective - Fango

One priceless aspect of learning another language is discovering that another culture takes a silly word seriously. Take the Italian word "Fango" for example. Transport this vocabulary to a Glasgow bar and it would likely take on colourful twists, such as,

"Ye stupid f*ckin' fango, ye..."
"you know, when you've been fango'd!"
"Last night, I was well fango'd..."
"D'ya fancy coming to mine for a wee fango???"

Alas, the Italians miss these opportunities to enrich their language and instead use the word simply to mean "mud." However, not the sort of people to let you down, except in military alliances, Italian google makes up for this linguistic limitation by focusing almost entirely on semi-naked people having a mud bath when searching for fango images.

So, next time you find yourself in an Italian restaurant, test the waiter and ask him what the fango is like...

Italian - English
fango {m} - mud {noun}

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Classy Italia?

The Italians are generally regarded as a stylish bunch, zipping around atop Vespas, clad in Gucci and on the whole enjoying "La Dolce Vita." Fine wine, world class food and a decidedly attractive populace all go towards confirming this much accepted belief. However, sometimes our Latin cousins just don't quite get it right.

When it comes to alcohol, they may produce some of the worlds best wines but they have no idea what constitutes a good beer. Credit I suppose is due to Caledonian Breweries of Glasgow for somehow convincing the Italian population that Tennants Super is a respectable beverage worthy of purchase. Readily available in supermarkets, cafés, trattorias and restaurants across the country, Tennants Super not only commands commercial respect in Italy but also rips the euros from Dolce & Gabbana wallets.

Most Scots, including myself, would happily admit their national beer isn't exactly of world beating calibre but it's pretty cheap for a pint and the super strength stuff keeps the homeless fellas in the park happy for a bit. Although how it came to be a respected brew in classy Italia remains a mystery. Perhaps the comment under the second photo explains the situation better, after all the financial crisis has been a difficult time...

From An Ache For The Distance
A box of Tennants almost finished in my local supermarket in Milan. To put the price in perspective, a bottle of German Franziskaner hefeweizen costs €1.19 and is almost twice the size.

The usual place you find Tennants Super (pic & subsequent comment from naughton321 on Flickr)
From An Ache For The Distance
Tennents Super, aka Tramp Juice, is a beer that has been cynically 'reverse engineered' by its manufacturers to cash in on the requirement of many hardened alcoholics to find a favourable price/strength ratio when purchasing booze. This is referred to by advertising types as market forces or supply and demand. Nobody else drinks Tennents - it tastes foul and you are nauseatingly drunk after two cans.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Warning - Travelling (in India) Can Damage Your Health

It's a strange sensation when your eyelids feel like they're on fire but a sure sign that you've got a fever high enough to heat the inside of an igloo. I shivered my way through two fever-filled nights in Arambol, Goa before dropping the masculine facade of "ah, it's nothing" and finally going to the doctor.

To be honest, if it was only fever and chills I would have just stayed in bed, but it wasn't. The fluctuating temperatures combined with a tropical climate had me sweating like an alcoholic in a sauna. As a human puddle, I would put on a fresh t-shirt, lie in bed and have to ring it out after an hour. A continuous state of sogginess.

The result, a fantastically extensive heat rash took hold. Not only was I glowing on and off and leaving damp patches everywhere I went, but to add insult to injury, my body felt that more attention needed to be drawn to my sorry state. Red, blister like spots stretched down both sides of my neck, over my shoulders, down onto my arms, around my back and across my stomach. My complexion changed from bronzed and well travelled to cherry tomato pizza in a matter of hours. I swiftly went in search of a doctor...

As I lay having my pulse taken and cultivating my sweaty calling card on the black leather examination table, the doctor enquired calmly if I'd had any long trips recently. I asked if Bhopal to Goa in a week by bus, train, boat, tuk tuk and taxi qualified as a journey worthy of medical note, he gave a confirming nod.

It seemed the diesel fumes inhaled for an hour on the ferry from Mumbai, the dust streaming in through the bus window in Indore and the windowless second class carriages on the Konkan railway (complete with numerous airless tunnels) had given my immune system a hefty kick in the groin so to speak. Travelling in India had reduced my to a sweaty, fevered, spotty lump and given the slogan Incredible India another interesting dimension...

The least offensive photo of the pizza rash...
From An Ache For The Distance

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Mock The Week

Italian TV shows the British perspective of Berlusconi through the eloquent prose of Frankie Boyle...

Friday, 28 January 2011

An Edited Italia - Jan. 2011

To edit or not to edit? That could have been the question...

Had Shakespeare lived in the digital age perhaps he would have been interested in capturing the "being" as well as pondering the being, if you you know what I mean... Perhaps whilst being, he would have wanted to eternalise that perfect "kodak moment" like thousands of other camera wielders swarming over tourist sites across the globe.

What would he have then done when faced with the disappointment of shit photographs? Would he be logging his good self onto amazon to buy photoshop and dismay at how cheaply his books are selling? Or would he accept that his photography skills are somewhat lacking and that perhaps he should stick to the sonnets?

For a man that gave the English language an abundance of new words & idioms, he would probably be learning the intricacies of contrasts and adobe's visual effects... Why then, if it's good enough for Shakespeare, do I feel guilty about editing photos......?

Sometimes though, editing a photo can give a new lease of life to what would otherwise be the photographic equivalent of a beige cardigan.

After a recent day-trip to Como north of Milan, I found myself in the possession of nothing but digital beige cardigans. Disappointing considering the charm of the old town's winding lanes and the postcard perfection of lake Como bordered by alpine foothills.

However, after playing around with google's Picasa editing program, I found myself with an image that, in my opinion, typifies modern Italy. A country which is covered in historical buildings fit for a Walt Disney movie but surrounded by the modern clutter of the 21st century...

Monday, 24 January 2011

New Beginnings - Italia Jan. 2011

The summer sunshine is gone, the daily chicken masalas are a thing of the past and a true "hero" status acquired in a second class train carriage is simply unobtainable in Europe for a Johnny average like myself. How do you console yourself after Incredible India? Move to Milan, reacquaint yourself with crazy driving habits, exaggerated body language, fantastic food, fanatic sporting tendancies and all of those little differences that make life interesting...

From An Ache For The Distance
Via Dante Milan

From An Ache For The Distance
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II