Bland Stuff

Reasons I’ve Got Coffee in My Shoes

There are a lot of unexplained mysteries in the world: the Bermuda Triangle, crop circles, tofu, and the Mary Celeste, to name but a few. Sure, everyone’s got their own pet theories – and some confident souls clutching scientific equations, previously undiscovered historical documents, or curds made from coagulated soy milk might insist they’ve stumbled across the answer – but we’re still all basically in the dark about these intriguing enigmas.

Not that anyone minds too much: there’s something delightful about an enigma. It’s just human nature to be drawn in by riddles – how else can you explain the popularity of murder mystery parties, or those shit jokes in Christmas crackers?

silhouette of a man during sunset
This is a stock photo I found by searching for “mystery”

To add to the expected head-scratchers, something both mysterious and inexplicable happened to me when I got home from work yesterday.

Let me set the scene: it was half past eleven, GMT+1. It was a crisp night, and I’d just navigated my way across a Prague heaving with the usual Saturday night crowd (ie mostly stag and hen does intoxicated by a mixture of a excitement, b cheap beer, c cheap absinthe, and d a little bit more beer). I was exhausted from a dramatic and challenging shift at the hostel.

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This is the only picture of myself at work I have. Note the impressive 8.3 rating.
(The boiler had broken down and, as the closest thing to a Czech speaker on shift at the time, I’d been dispatched to the heating room to be remotely guided through the resetting process by the maintenance guy. (Phone conversations are so stressful that it took me a good five minutes to understand he was telling me to push the giant red button.) Also, a group of lads had been caught smoking out the window, and I’d accidentally given someone $50 worth of change rather than 50€ (ie grossly shortchanging them). But I digress.)

I got home, so exhausted from boiler/currency exchange drama that I could barely find the strength to put the kettle on. Little did I know that I was wearing this generation’s Loch Ness Monster on my feet (in terms of mysteriousness, not smell and/or plausible imaginariness); and yet – when I took my shoes off, there it was: a whole bunch of ground coffee.

How can I be sure it was coffee grounds and not, say, dirt or generic brown dust? Because, thanks, I think, to my extreme tiredness, I didn’t hesitate to smell the mysterious stuff, and recognised the aroma of everyone’s favourite socially acceptable addictive substance.

What the actual (sorry, Mum) fuck? Sure, I drink a lot of coffee and I’m pretty clumsy, but I’ve never spilt a drink so badly that it’s ended up in powder form in my shoe. This was something else.

Invigorated by the mystery (and, maybe, by the delayed effect of caffeine entering my bloodstream via the ankle), I fixed myself a steaming mug of Horlicks, installed myself at the kitchen table and, equipped with pencil and extra large receipt, made the following list of theories.

Perhaps I

  • jostled someone transporting stolen coffee on the metro;
  • fell victim to a good-natured prank at work;
  • developed the ability to secrete coffee powder through the heel;
  • unknowingly walked through a coffee spillage somewhere between the tram stop and my home;
  • was on the receiving end of the mild revenge of the customer I short-changed;
  • unknowingly had my shoe stolen by some looters to use as a receptacle for their liberated coffee – on completing the job, they returned the shoe, plus some spare grounds, to my flat via the cat flap;
  • fell victim to a mean-spirited prank at work;
  • or, and this is a long shot, spilt coffee grounds when I was making a coffee this morning.

We’ll never know what really happened, of course. Surely heads will be scratched over this particular mystery for years to come.

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advice · Bland Stuff

New Laws

I’m not sure exactly why (I sense Brexit has something to do with it) but the British government has just finishing codifying some interesting new laws. The police officer in the featured image may be smiling, but she’s ready to bop you on the head with her truncheon should you infringe any of them in front of her.

Not sure if “to codify laws” is a phrase, but it sounds about right.

You might be scratching your head, wondering what on earth I could be talking about. “But, Ro,” you might be saying, “I am a British citizen. I think I’d know if we had a spate of new laws coming in. I think I’d have seen it on Twitter.”

Yeah, you’d think. The sneaky, sneaky government has purposefully made sure no one knows about this new legislation by posting it exclusively to Google+. And why don’t they want anyone to know about these laws? Because their infringement incurs a hefty fine – money which goes straight into Johnny Westminster’s pockets.

Luckily for you, Google+ is the only social medium I use. I prefer it because I can post sarcastic comments about my loved ones without them ever finding out. Also I can slag off Love Island without anyone thinking I’m just doing it for the attention.

For that reason, I’m abreast of the upcoming laws, and I’m more than happy to share them with you. Be careful: you don’t want to get caught out!


person pouring seasonings on raw meatsNo fish on Tuesdays.

This one’s as simple as it sounds: from October 2018, absolutely no fish are allowed in the United Kingdom on Tuesdays. Persons found to be infringing this law will be subject to immediate arrest and a fine of up to £200. Fish found to be infringing this law will be eaten by the local constable.

That picture is actually a little misleading, so let me clarify: it’s not that you’re not allowed to eat fish on Tuesdays, but rather that fish generally are not allowed. It’s expected that police officers will be SCUBA trained as standard in order to enforce this. If you have a pet fish, make sure to hide both it and any paraphanalia (eg fish tank, model castle etc) related to it on Tuesdays.


person holding drafting paper

All drivers must wear high-viz.

If you’re getting behind the wheel after the 1st of March 2019, please, please make sure you’re wearing a high-visibility jacket that conforms to government standards. If you don’t, you’re liable to pay an on-the-spot fine of up to £70, and, if what you’re wearing is particularly subdued, your licence may be revoked.


black and white business chart computer

No more saying, “I rate it.”

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s the bloody thought police!” No, it’s not. It’s the speech police, so reign in your disapproval, George Orwell. Jesus.

Anyway, the police are cracking down on increasing numbers of people saying, “I rate it,” to express approval. After December this year, those heard saying this will be put under house arrest.


light golden retriever puppy close up photography

Pick up after your dog.

You might say, “But, Rodge! Leaving dog poos around is already a crime.” Yes, true. But this law goes one step further: in an effort to combat declining standards of tidiness in the canine community, dog owners will have to pick up any and all toys the dog carries around the house and place them in a designated dog box.

If a homeowner is seen to be remiss in this duty, whether because toys are outside of the dog box, or because the dog box is incorrectly labelled, they will be sent to prison for a maximum of 35 days, during which the dog will be cared for either by the police constable (if it’s a cute one) or a nominated relative (if it’s gross).


document id uk driving license driving licence

All citizens must carry ID cards.

I don’t know if you remember, but there was actually a move to introduce a similar law not so long ago.

However, under this legislation, set to come into effect from November 2019, citizens must carry the ID card belonging to the last person they shared a pizza with. Those carrying their own ID cards will be subject to serious scrutiny, since they’ve either never shared a pizza with anyone, or shared pizza with a chain of people until their own ID card ended up back in their pocket.

Those with missing or irregular documents will be forced to either pay a £17 fine or present the local police constable with £15 worth of pizza. It’s not clear whether this act will constitute giving or sharing a pizza, so no one yet knows whether the buyer of the pizza will have to swap ID cards with the police constable. I’ll let you know more when I do.


Mrs Brown’s Boys is outlawed.

I can’t argue with this. It’s for the good of the nation.

I can’t even bring myself to find a relevant picture.


The more you know.

Bland Stuff · Gripes

A Solemn Oath

I like to think, in the realm of blogging as in the rest of my life, I’ve got good integrity. For example, I always let passengers disembark before alighting and I leave the bathroom door slightly ajar as I leave it so it’s obvious it’s unoccupied. That’s just the kind of stand up guy I am.

Everyone has a moral code, whether they’ve consciously developed one or not.

Unfortunately, the world of blogging is quite different from normal life. My alighting/disembarking rule just isn’t relevant on the Internet, for one thing.

As such, when I started this blog, I sat myself down in a quiet room with a mug of horlicks, and developed the following set of rules. More than anything, I wanted to make sure the power associated with writing a blog didn’t go to my head. My priority, from the start, has been keeping you, my readers, safe from my own excesses.

Rodge and the Blog:

keeping yourself reigned in.

  • I will never ask my readers to “like and follow”.

This one’s easy to keep because, and, believe me, I’ve looked at the data, no one reads this blog unless they follow it anyway.

  • I will never ask my readers to “share this”.

I’ll just strongly imply they should by saying things like, hey, don’t you have any friends who might appreciate exactly this brand of off-beat, sometimes funny humour?

  • I will never ask my readers to “comment with your thoughts”.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I just consider that the sort of thing a prick might do.

  • I will not sell my readers’ data for personal gain, be it financial or spiritual etc.

Again, this one has been super easy to keep because 1. I don’t have access to any of your data and 2. no one would want it anyway (no offense).

  • I will regularly post links to my blog on Twitter.

This is so my thirteen Twitter followers can also have the chance to enjoy my updates. They’re people too, I think.

  • I will rarely use my blog as a forum to moan about stuff no one cares about.

Yeah, alright, I’ve broken this one a bunch.

  • I will never post anything unless I think it is, as a minimum, slightly more than not funny at all.

It’s called standards.

  • I will not use my significant power as blogger to sell my readers inferior products.

There’s just something fishy about the kind of person that’d use their platform to sell ad space to the highest bidder. But not as fishy as Wilson’s New Fish Sauce© (RRP £5.99). Wilson’s New Fish Sauce©, now with actual fish! The fish sauce that’ll make you say, “Wow, that sure is fishy!” For sale in all good supermarkets. Not suitable for vegetarians, those with heart conditions, pregnant or nursing women, or the elderly.


It might seem trivial to you, reader, but rules like these are what ensure the high-quality blogs you’ve come to expect here at blandhyphenblogdotcom.

Bland Stuff · Gripes

Cursed Objects

Do you ever wonder what kind of a person would be spiteful enough to make those cursed objects you see in films? To litter their tomb with mean tricks designed to catch out any future adventurers/grave robbers/curious teenagers stupid enough to disturb their final resting place, just on the off chance one of them happens to pick up the tantalising diamond necklace you left draped over the door handle? Who that you know would derive any kind of joy from the thought that they’re messing up the lives of generations of meddling kids to come?

Me; I’m that kind of person.

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Who’s got great taste in shades and a wrathful nature? This guy.

When I die, should my family, as I expect, baulk at the idea of cremating me in a sack of potatoes, I’d like to be interred in a fancy-ass tomb. I’m talking statues and frescos – that’s the level of luxury I want my corpse to experience. I’ll instruct my second-youngest niece to go into my grave just before it’s sealed and strategically place cursed objects there; I’ll make sure to give her these objects, along with a cryptic warning about handling them with gloves, just before I die.

The rest of my niblings will be charged with the task of creating a mythology around my resting place – eg pretending they saw my ghost there, boasting about my fabulous collection of diamond saucepans I insisted on being buried with, drawing enigmatically unfinished maps. That kind of thing. I want the whole local community to be abuzz with rumours about what my grave might contain.

Assuming my descendents do a good enough job, the local people’s interest will be piqued and their imagination’ll be running away with them. Within a couple of generations, the masses’ trepidation will have evaporated and a rag-tag group of friends, possibly needing the money for child support or gambling debts, will be cracking open my tomb with crowbars.

grey skulls piled on ground
semi-related spooky imagery

Obviously, this takes a lot of planning, so let me tell you what I’ve got in mind so far.

When our heroes, such as they are, break into my tomb, they’ll be met with a message etched into the wall. I haven’t got the wording down quite yet, but it’ll be something along the lines of

Hey, thanks for breaking into my tomb, you tosser. Very rude.

There’s a special prize on my coffin but don’t touch anything else or I’ll curse you forever.

Best of luck,

Ro Daniels.

(1996-2087)

You know, something like that. Anyway, just as the intruders finish reading the message, the doors’ll rumble shut behind them and they’ll realise they’re trapped. Torches along the walls will burst into flames as they take a tentative step forwards, and, in the very distance, they’ll be able to make out the shape of my sarcophagus.

Between them and their prize, however, will be the following tempting objets:

  • my dog-eared copy of “Death and the Penguin”;

(I’ll leave it bookmarked at one of the bits where the penguin is splish splashin’ about in the tub. People who take it will be cursed with the not insignificant fate of no one ever taking your book recommendations seriously (possibly because they have stupid names like ‘Death and the Penguin’).)

  • a bent fork;

(If you touch this, you’ll never be able to eat gracefully again. Goes double if you’re on an important dinner date (eg with the love of your life, with a local radio DJ toying with the idea of interviewing you etc).)

  • a glass duck;

(The glass duck, as a clearly inferior imitation of its rubber counterpart, will bestow its new owner with the unenviable quality of always being outshone by brighter, plastickier equivalents.)

  • a model of St Isaac’s Cathedral in Petersburg;

(St Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest cathedral in the world, when size of cathedral is measured as volume under the cupola. The architect, having calculated volume including the cupola, therefore considered the building robbed of the title of world’s largest cathedral. With mathematical simplicity, then, all exploits undertaken by anyone who steals this model will be one quarter as successful as they’d hoped.)

  • an empty beer glass;

(This curse is inspired by my incredible ability to spill every drink I’m handed. Now you can see how it feels, thief.)

  • £19.90 in loose change;

(If you’re anything like me, you put your silver coins in a jar in the corner of your room and save them for a special treat. When the day to spend your booty finally comes, you carefully count out exactly twenty quid – in other words, the price of a pie and four pints at my local – and head off into town. After stealing this pile of coins, though, you’ll be cursed with the inability to count properly, leaving you floundering, a pie and three pints in.)

  • dusty tin containing two (2) plasters and a 10p piece;

(You think you hoard shit now? Just wait until I hit you with this curse. Every time you go to throw away a normal household item (eg plastic fork, used floss stick, empty tub of butter etc) a weird emotional attachment will strike you and you’ll ask yourself how you could even think of chucking away something that’s been with you through so much. Tenderly you’ll place the rescued item on a shelf and you’ll cast it loving glances every hour or so for the next few days.)

  • and about forty intriguing pebbles.

(Every time you’re in a serious situation (eg job interview, close friend’s pet’s funeral etc) you’ll remember that story about the labrador that ate loads of pebbles on the beach and when he walked his owners could hear the pebbles clacking about in his stomach. Even if you manage not to beam, those close to you will be sure to pick up on the joyful glint in your eye. Plus, this one will be particularly hard to sidestep because there are some pebbles, we can all agree, which are just crying out to be grabbed.)


If those pesky grave robbers manage to get through all of that without giving in to the temptation of nicking something, they’ll find a humble envelope propped against my coffin. In it they’ll find

  • a congratulatory note;

(It’s important to recognise achievement.)

  • three spiders;

(This is in case, as I suspect, spiders will have been wiped out by the time of my death. Absolute travesty, I must say. If, by some miracle, these spiders manage to survive until they’re freed, they’ll run out into the world and repopulate the Earth with their disgusting eight-legged babies.)

  • a £5 WHSmith gift card.

(My successes at school were always rewarded in this manner; hopefully those who have proved themselves worthy will be able to buy themselves a treat from Smiths (eg some nice highlighters, this month’s National Geographic, a calendar to give to their aunt etc).)

advice

Interview Tips

businesswomen businesswoman interview meeting

Thanks to my recent post, your CV is as fine-tuned as a good-looking fish. By this time, no doubt, you’ll be practically wading through interview offers; employers, seeing your paperless/pictorial/well-fonted resume will have been falling over themselves to get hold of you and invite you for a coffee and a chat.

Incidentally, conceptualising interviews as nothing more than a chill cup of tea and conversation with your mates is one of the best pieces of advice I can give you. See below for details.

I don’t care who you are or how great your interpersonal skills are: interviews are emotionally draining for everyone. And since it’s because of me and my great advice that you’re faced with the prospect of so many interviews, I thought it’d be wrong of me to let you go into that situation without a few handy tips.


Wear clothes

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Originally, I wrote, “Dress for the job you want,” but that advice is so open to abuse (e.g. turning up to an interview for an HR position dressed as a fireman) that I decided to simplify it.

Friends, you absolutely must wear clothes when you go to interview. Very, very few employers look kindly upon naked candidates. (Classic exceptions include when applying to work as a topless model, lifeguard at a nude beach, or accountant in a large multi-national.)

What kind of clothes you should wear does, of course, depend on the position in question. Hope this helps.


Chill out

Just calm down!! Like, seriously, if you can’t keep your nerves under control, there’s no way you’ll get this job. You’ll have to move out of your flat and live under a pile of newspapers on the corner of the street. You’ll have to sell your plasma. So, you must relax. I can’t stress that enough. Hope this helps.

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One thing that always chills me out is the thought that, even if I don’t get the job, at least I’ll have a free cup of instant coffee and excuse to talk about myself for a couple of hours. Free substandard coffee and Rosie-centric chat are amongst my favourite things. “I guess it all started when I was eight…”

I think it’s a good idea, to sedate the butterflies in your stomach, to imagine that you’re heading to a mediocre, somewhat sterile business-themed caf to have a chat with a friend of yours. Don’t think about it as a job interview: think about it as a conversation with a mate who always insists you wear suits whenever you meet.

Sure, this falls down because very few friends are quite that interested in your employment history, and you probably shouldn’t swear quite that much at a potential boss, but it will give you a certain joviality and cheeriness. Those are qualities, as we all know, which are valued extremely highly by businesses.


Prepare answers for predictable questions

No two interviews are exactly alike, but most employers are bound to ask similar sort of things – why do you want this job, what experience do you have, why have you brought a wasp nest to a business park. That kind of thing. It’s worth scripting answers for some of the more common questions so you can reel them off fluently. Here are a couple of examples; feel free to use them, although I fear they’re not as universal as I’d like so you may have to adapt them.

Tell me about yourself.

Here’s something I really should’ve been prepared for. In the heat of the moment, I think I described myself as “rather reliable and quite hardworking,” but I wish I’d had this to say:

Switch out “Louella” for “Rodge” and “thirty-seven years of age” for “a legal adult, I can show you ID”. Apart from that, this is spot on.

The important bit runs from 00:08 to 00:37; I included the whole clip partly because it’s a banger and partly because I dunno how to crop videos.

What makes you want to work as a breakfast waitress?

This question genuinely did stump me for a couple of seconds because the honest answer was that I really didn’t. I managed to cobble together the following, though:

We have a phrase in English: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I completely agree with that. I think there’s something really special about how that first coffee of the morning can change your mood: it’s almost magical seeing how a person changes after drinking a coffee.

Of course, my Czech isn’t that good. Here’s what I actually said. (Imagine it with lots of pauses and flamboyant hand gestures.)

In English at home we have a certain expression: breakfast – it’s the most important food in the daytime. I agree, yes. To me I’d say there’s something very unusual about when you drink coffee for the first time. You feel better. It’s nearly bewitched when you watch a man drink his coffee.

What are your biggest flaws?

It’s a classic. I started off bullshitting, talking about how I’m too much of a perfectionist and other lies, but I’ve changed my perspective. I reckon honesty is the best policy.

For a start, I’m pretty underqualified for this position and I really don’t have any relevant experience. I’d always much rather be writing my blog than stocktaking and I’ll never value efficiency over having a nice sit down. My sense of humour is pretty childish – I’ll struggle not to laugh if a customer falls over in front of me. I don’t know how to iron shirts so my blouses are always creased, and, anyway, I think spending a long time ironing clothes you’re gonna put on is pointless. My time management skills are appalling; I’m often late for things because I get distracted on the metro and miss my spot. I don’t proofread very well and stuff I write often has anagrams of the words I meant to say. I’ll definitely steal toilet paper from the office; you might as well factor it into my pay.

Workplace flaws aside, I’d rather listen to the same album a million times than branch out and try something new. I’m uncomfortable at sea. I dislike my own first name. I take wasps wherever I go; I don’t know why. Sometimes even I don’t know if I’m joking.

Do you have any questions for us?

This might seem like a simple concession to your lack of knowledge about the workplace, but don’t be fooled. It’s actually a key part of the interview process, and you will be graded on your response.

What’s your policy on pets at the office?

How’s things? Really, though. How are you?

What’s your policy on employees crying in the stationery cabinet?


No wasps

This is a piece of advice quite often left out, but I do find it crucial. Absolutely do not take wasps into the office with you – it really is frowned on.

gravid yellow jacket wasp close up photography
Just leave him at home for the afternoon.

I know what you’re saying, “No wasps at all?”

None. No wasps.

Hope this helps.


Leave the interviewer wanting more

As in, literally take some of their stuff.

Pubs

Gibs Café Bar

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I wandered into Gibs after a disappointing trip to the Wombat Café. From the outside, it looked like a pretty standard Czech pub: Pilsner Urquell sign, low lighting, couple of older gentleman smoking outside. I headed in on a whim, figuring that another beer would help me sleep and get the memory of Wombat Café’s gross decor out of my mind.

As I passed the threshold, I noticed with mild surprise that they’d made the strange decision to have a fan on the step facing inwards, blowing a draft through the bar. Ducking inside and heading to the bar, I smelled something unexpected and familiar.

Did you know that it’s legal to smoke funky cigarettes in certain bars in Prague?

That’s something I recently found out.

Maybe it was because of the mentality that goes with smoking that much, but the atmosphere in Gibs was great: I sat at the bar with a beer and chatted to everyone who came in, working my way through a massive bag of pretzels. The only moment I felt anything less-than-euphoric was when I tripped over someone’s dog on the way to the loo – I actually don’t know how I managed to overlook it, since it was the size of a small horse.

The clientele was almost exclusively made up of expats, so I didn’t get a chance to exercise my extremely terrible Czech; maybe that’s for the best. The owner, a guy called Roman, welcomed everyone personally, making an effort to remember names and backstories – partly to create a friendly, chatty atmosphere, and partly, I think, to check that everyone coming in was cool with being passively hotboxed.

The beer itself was nothing special: just Pilsner on draught and some cans of Kingswood in the fridge. That said, I think anyone who claims to go to that bar for the drinks is lying.

I rate Gibs a solid two joints and one unexpectedly massive dog. The only reason I’m not calling off my search for a local is that for me, weed is like trifle. Nice on your birthday, but I couldn’t deal with it every day.

Pubs

Wombat Café

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I spent my allotted 64kč beer money in the Wombat Café this week. Once again, despite the hours of research I did before coming to Prague, I found this bar entirely by chance: terrified of missing my step target and facing the wrath of my fitness app, I’d decided to take an evening stroll around my neighbourhood.

[By the way, “hours of research” is a high-and-mighty way of saying I Googled “craft beer Prague” and then marked the results on a map.]

More terrifying than my phone’s hardwired passive aggressiveness, though, was the prospect of doing anything relating to exercise. As soon as I heard the ping in my headphones that indicated I’d reached 10,000 steps, I clocked out. I practically fell down the steps into the nearest bar – Wombat Café.

The first thing I noticed was, unsurprisingly, the overriding theme of the caf – comics. The walls were covered in prints from different graphic novels, including a particularly massive section taken from Sin City. The owners had also set up a series of well-lit shelves groaning under the weight of cartoony action figures; I ignored the fact that all the women depicted had massive chests and not a lot of clothes, as well as the lack of any real women in the bar, and headed to the counter.

Since, as you can see from the name, Wombat is more café than bar, I was unsurprised that they only had the obligatory Pilsner on offer as far as beer went. There were also a couple of slices of cakes on offer and I spotted a coffee machine under a pile of dusty Star Wars merch. Unusually for the Czech Republic, there were far more bottles of whiskey than beer; however, given my refusal to drink anything that tastes that much like your throat is actually on fire, I stuck to the ležák.

The atmosphere in the bar was really strange. The guys in there were all clearly good friends, and I enjoyed listening to them chat to the bartender, who I reckon was also the owner. If you were into comics and were good mates with any of the regulars, this would be an incredible way to spend your weekday nights.

The downside of any bar where you mostly serve your mates, though, is it can be pretty uninviting to anyone else – I felt this very strongly. About halfway through my mediocre beer I happened to glance up and noticed that five of the guys were unabashedly staring at me with a what-are-you-doing-here kind of expression. I couldn’t help but share their feeling: it was a little bit like I’d noticed the door to a flat was open, wandered in, and sat drinking a beer in someone’s living room whilst they hung out with their mates.

I’ll award the Wombat Café a doughy slice of fruitcake and half-arsed pint, with the important asterisk that if you happen to love nerd culture and have an in with one of the crowd, it could be the place for you.

haiku

Haiku of the Week

Perfect Queen’s English.

High budget infographics.

The evening news.