Just returned from four days in Salzburg, Austria. Myself and the Admin Supremo were at a retail seminar, working hard, as you might expect.

On the train back to Munich and our Edinburgh flight, the Supremo found himself haggling with the conductor on the train, who explained (in German) that we needed to pay extra to be on this particular train. The Supremo deemed this totally unacceptable, and protested loudly, in English. The conductor, faced with the prospect of an argument with possibly the world’s most argumentative man, suddenly appeared to lose any grasp of English he might have had, and one credit card transaction later, moved on.

The trip was pleasingly punctuated with stops for coffee, at every opportunity, convenient or otherwise. And the odd slice of Sachertorte and apple strudel, obviously. When we weren’t working hard of course, which wasn’t very often.

Salzburg is an outstanding city, with a wonderful old town full of twisting medieval streets and a rich history. It is the birthplace of Mozart, who himself wasn’t that fond of Salzburg and its denizens, and moved to Vienna at the earliest opportunity. But what did he know about anything, apart from music. That he did know about. We enjoyed a simply stunning rendition of his Requiem in the Kollegienkirche on Saturday evening. And headed to a concert featuring Mozart on the Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we got that one wrong, and it was Haydn, Ravel and Fauré. We also weren’t expecting all of Salzburg to turn up for the concert in their Sunday best. I daresay they weren’t expecting two Scots/Irish loafers to appear in their jeans and hoodies either. Mercifully, they served coffee and Lion bars at the interval, so despite the lack of Mozart, all was not lost. Still, we sneaked out after Fauré’s Pavane, before having to endure another Haydn symphony (Haydn, I can’t help but feel, is the poor man’s Mozart). The Pavane was the BBC’s World Cup theme in 1998. I think this important fact was lost on the majority of the good folk of Salzburg, and was somewhat disappointed that the conductor, who looked remarkably like David Baddiel, didn’t point that out. One feels that if it had been David Baddiel, he would have surely mentioned it.

Moving on, we spent some time with a portable audio guide machine thing glued to our ear as we walked around Mozart’s residence. The audio commentary contained a fair few bursts of Mozart’s music, which led to the amusing sight of other tourists dancing and jigging along with what looked like a portable credit card machine pressed against their ear. By the time we had made our way round Mozart’s birthplace, and then the inside of the quite impressive Castle, we were both getting serious museum fatigue. So we popped into Mozartplatz to say goodbye to the man himself, and then quick-marched back to the hotel for a nap.

We followed that up with easily the most expensive meal I have ever had, at the Ikarus restaurant at Hangar-7. Outrageously good food, and service, at an eye-popping price. An Amaretto in the glass-and-steel bubble suspended from the glass-and-steel hangar ceiling, 50 feet above an exhibition of Red Bull-sponsored planes, helicopters and Formula One racing cars, rounded the evening (and the trip) off in some style. As befits men of style, such as the Supremo and myself…

Some photos of the trip here

It’s not all doom and gloom

I apologise for the lack of bloggage recently. I would dearly like to tell you that the hiatus has been due to my spending quality time with an outstanding woman, but I’m afraid the quality time has been spent with Commandos 2: Men of Courage, and the outstanding woman remains afar off. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as Burma has been more or less liberated, and I am currently in the process of rescuing a Resistance man from Colditz. No easy task, as I’m sure you can imagine. However, I have looked up from my computer screen long enough to pick up a copy of the Guardian, wherein I read an article on the world’s finest (and most expensive, surely) coffee maker, the Clover. This mostly hand-made machine makes coffee so good that retailers can afford to charge getting on for £10 a cup. Step forward Starbucks, purveyors of evil-tasting coffee. According to the article, Howard Schmuck, or is it Schultz, the Dark Angel in charge of the Starbucks Legions, was so upset that they no longer had the most overpriced coffee on the high street that he promptly bought the company that makes the Clover. Which means that if the coffee from these things really is that good, independent coffee shops will no longer have access to it, which is a dastardly ploy typical of the fiends.

Or perhaps it’s just a successful capitalist tactic. And here’s where I struggle. I can consider myself both a capitalist and a socialist, depending on which way the wind’s blowing at the time. I buy the Daily Telegraph from time to time, and the Guardian at other times. I sometimes even read them, and find myself amused by their extreme right and left winged-ness. I wear, with some pride, a T-shirt bearing a mock-up of the Starbucks logo with the words “Big Bucks Capitalism” replacing their name, and bask in the compliments from dissident-minded student types who like it. But I work for a company that is essentially capitalist in nature, and enjoy it. As I see it, capitalism rewards hard work. A socialist approach, while brilliant in theory, will inevitably be milked by those in our society who can’t be bothered to work and are more than happy to live off the hard work of others. But capitalism is also fallible, and susceptible to corruption, by corporations who grow too large to be bothered with ethics. Starbucks, I am sure, don’t even feature on the map of the world’s most unethical companies. They obtain their coffee from Fair Trade sources, I am assured, and pay the best prices for it. But somewhere along the way they make it taste really bad (I know, I know, that’s a matter of opinion) and charge outrageous prices for it (that’s indisputable) and place their outlets in every street in every land, even in France, where they should know better, adding to the global homegeneity and making me upset. And that’s, more or less, why I don’t like them.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Starbucks were referred to in the article as an “ailing coffee giant”. How I like that description. Jones informs me that 650 out of 830 Starbucks have closed. I presume he means in Australia, which is where he was when he told me that. And presumably they’re properly closed this time, rather than closing for a few hours to teach their baristas how to make coffee (you’d think they might have thought about doing that earlier).

When Starbucks finally falls catastrophically from its position in the global financial firmament, there’ll be a party at my place, and you’re all invited. Let’s hope it’s not overly soon, though, as my kitchen ceiling collapsed last week under the weight of a not insignificant amount of leaking water from upstairs. Not a problem, mum has returned to her position as chief cook and clothes washer, and I have moved my Command Centre to the living room. Colditz has been conquered (this blog was a while in the writing) and I’m about to liberate Paris. Vive la Résistance!