Tricky Day Twenty – Oktoberfest Part II

Word of the Day: Oktoberfessionals – professional Oktoberfest revellers


In only my third year at the wiesn I cannot claim to be anything close to professional, but there are some things I have learned. Firstly, there are many different ways to approach Oktoberfest; I’m personally familiar with three main options:

Option 1 is to turn up at 6am, queue to get into one of the unreserved seating tents, get twatted, be sick and (if you win) go home in Munich’s answer to an air ambulance:

IMG-2348Most popular with Brits and antipodeans I flirted with this approach in my first year and quickly moved on.

Option 2 is to reserve a table in one of the tents 7-12 months in advance. This is expensive and only permits a few hours of uninterrupted boozing: the more popular tents typically have three sessions a day and kick people out after each one.

Option 3: turn up mid-afternoon, warm up with a few beers on an outdoor bench before working your way inside for optimal late evening positioning when it gets really fun.

Option 3 is preferred by many locals, and is much easier if you are from Munich. I am lucky enough to know some Oktoberfest professionals (Oktoberfessionals?) meaning a relatively easy route into Schutzen, apparently  the “most Munich” of the tents. Cool kids, wealthy Bavarians and the occasional appearance from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Oktoberfessional may not be a sufficiently grandiose term to describe David and Fincki: covering two generations they are genuine living legends of the wiesn.

Fincki and I have managed to become friends over 5 years despite him speaking no English and me speaking no German, united by our love of beer gardens and Oktoberfest. He likes to comment on my facebook posts with “du narrischer” which roughly translates to “wanker” but is a word of Fincki’s own invention (there are many). Fincki (apparently ordering one beer in the photo below) has been Oktoberfesting since before I was born and is an Option 2 man, but most likely for all three sessions.

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David has spent so much time at Oktoberfest that his hair looks like the frothy part of a beer; his wiesn stamina is unparalleled. The festival lasts between 16-18 days depending on the year and from my research with the locals, 4-6 proper visits is about par. This year I did 4 consecutive days with David, which was heavy going for me, but he had also been on 7 of the previous 12 days. ‘Magic 11’ has been his number for the last three years.

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The only way to survive and still enjoy this level of drinking intensity is to respect the rules of the wiesn:

Rule 1: keep eating. My first day at Oktoberfest in 2012 ended with me asleep on the pavement in the foetal position outside my apartment, not knowing how I’d got there. This year, while still fully intoxicated every day, I managed to remember everything, stay out late and not embarrass myself too much, mainly thanks to food. Chicken or pork on arrival, another meal after 3-4 mass (litres) and a snack later on.

Rule 2: trust the beer. On days 3 and 4 this year I sat opposite David and we couldn’t see a route to having a good time. Please, no more. But we drank our beer like good little Bavarian boys, drank some more, and had 2 brilliant days at the festival.

Rule 3: don’t get carried away. Many of you will have seen Pieter the baby white tiger who spent most of Oktoberfest on my shoulder making friends. Pieter is my actual son and was delivered by stork for €16. Five years earlier, after falling in love with two identical twins from Dresden (hi Marie and Anne Sophie) I bought them matching white tigers (obvs). I then got really carried away and bought a whole family of white tigers. It was a lot of fun and fortunately my card maxed out before I was able to acquire the giant one, but the wiesn is expensive enough as it is and spending many, many unnecessary euros on cuddly toys makes the hangover feel so much worse the next day.

Carried away

really carried away

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Rule 4: jagermeister is the best medicine. Whenever I was feeling really queasy I delved into the lederhosen for one of the many smuggled-in mini jagermeister bottles, downed it and carried on. The healing power of this stuff may not have been scientifically proven but, trust me, it works.

Rule 5: go with the flow. This is not another beer-related comment – many of the memorable moments at Oktoberfest are totally unexpected and just evolve if you are willing to talk to anyone and end up anywhere. A conversation with a couple of old ladies who it turned out had worked with David’s dad 40 years earlier; drinking with ruddy-cheeked Bavarian men with huge moustaches; after-parties and selfie-stick photos with people we had met that day.

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With classical German precision, the wiesn is perfectly designed to ensure that everyone gets a good amount of drunk, makes friends and has an amazing time. If you hadn’t yet got the idea, I like Oktoberfest a lot. I will keep going back year after year and would recommend it to everyone.

Thanks to all my brilliant Munich friends for making me feel so welcome yet again, and a special shout out to Lukas who moved into his girlfriend’s apartment for a whole 5 days to give me my own place to stay – amazing ❤

And don’t forget Rule 6: detox. I am writing this a few days after my return and have now recovered from the shakes, have stopped waking up in cold sweats and have not had a sip of alcohol. David always does a dry month after Oktoberfest. Fincki does not.


NEXT STOP:  HOME (THEN PARIS) 

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More Oktoberfest here: Day Eighteen – Oktoberfest Part I

What is The Gump Method

Day Eighteen – Oktoberfest Part I

Word of the day: Teutonic – characteristic of or relating to the German people

Cocktail of the day: Gin and Teutonic – gin, tonic and bitte lemon 


There is a consistent theme in my approach to travel: do everything as late as possible without it becoming stressful. This applies to booking flights, packing bags and choosing how fine to cut it for an airport arrival. It often annoys other people but I like it.

Weddings and special occasions aside I’m not the kind of person who would arrange a long weekend 9 months in advance, and yet for this year’s Oktoberfest (also known as the wiesn) I booked my flights in January, proudly informing my slightly bemused Munich friends, most of whom were still recovering from their 2016 festival hangovers.

So why did I make an exception for this funny-looking event with its lederhosen and dirndls? Because it is a special occasion. For me, Oktoberfest is an almost perfect combination of features which, independently, might seem a bit strange or awkward but when mixed together under a massive tent in Munich create magic.

Honed for over 200 years the festival has maintained its Bavarian traditions and adopted some new ones. The music is a prime example: each tent has a live band playing a ridiculous mix of songs that could only work at the wiesn. There are traditional German oompah oompah songs focused mainly around drinking beer, catchy German language favourites known as ‘wiesn hits’ including belters like Schatzi schenk mir ein photo (Baby send me a photo) and then seemingly random pop songs from all eras that have become Oktoberfest classics – Sweet Caroline, the Macarena, Sex on Fire, The Cheeky Girls.

Yep, the Cheeky Girls. Based on this playlist excerpt it could be a cheese festival but the thing that unites these tunes is they are great for a singalong. I bloody love a singalong and I’m not the only one: everyone sings and dances along from their perch on one of the long benches and it is brilliant. The atmosphere in the huge Oktoberfest tents towards the end of a night is as good as any club or concert: packed and rowdy but always friendly.

Packed wiesn

Everyone there wants the same things: it’s all about drinking, dancing, making friends and having fun. Four of my favourite things, which is probably why I keep going back 🙂

This sweaty excerpt from my Instagram story (@odjuns) doesn’t do it justice but gives you the general idea. Cinematography takes a back seat after 5 or 6 litres of Bavarian beer.


Most tall blonde men called Oliver wearing lederhosen at Oktoberfest are very German. People in Munich often assume I am a local but, like many before me, I am a tourist who had to learn the hard way to truly understand The Reason For The Wiesn (I came up with this as a name for the next wiesn hit but don’t have any other lyrics or a tune yet).

I first visited Munich for Oktoberfest in 2012; sat in the Käfer tent beer garden with my Australian Teutonophile mate (hi Bobby) I looked around and started to wonder why I had just spent over €200 on my entry level lederhosen and calf warmers (this was the only photo of me fully kitted out that year, because beer).

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Bearded old men, families with young children, tourists, chicken and pretzels. After all the hype I looked at Bobby and said “this isn’t quite what I was expecting.” His response was as Australian as it was Bavarian: “Don’t worry OJ, just drink your beer and wait for the magic to happen.”

I did what I was told and it worked. The weekend was more fun than almost any other before or since; I had to be dragged away (literally) on the Sunday when I refused to leave for the airport. Two days into Oktoberfest 2017 the magic is most definitely happening again.


 

Day Twelve – Life on the Road (and the Floor)

Words of the Day:

Vagabond – a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job

Terpsichorean – of or relating to dancing or the art of dancing


I’m a child of the earth now. One of God’s people, a free-spirited wanderer. I will go where the wind takes me, and wherever I lay my hat is my home. Life On The Road. At present it’s the Kingsland Road as I’m back in Dalston trying to make a miniature cappuccino last a few more sips.

I bought Jack Kerouac’s On the Road a while ago before I’d handed in my notice at work, sub-consciously choosing what a friend later described as “exactly what you need to be reading right now” (he’s American). I started it in Spain but have made limited progress, largely due to my failed HTML coding efforts and Uncle Bill’s majestic speedos.

Kerouac’s novel is largely autobiographical, and as the protagonist hitchhikes his way across America from one dive bar to the next I have a sobering vision of what my future could be. Poor old Jack succumbed to liver cirrhosis aged 47, following through on his promise to drink himself to death.

I will keep an eye out for the signpost to Alcoholism and avoid that turning. Like many of the gap year students I will encounter along the way it would be easy to treat this adventure as an extended Spring Break party trip. Yes I will drink and yes I will party but as I’ve been doing exactly that on almost every holiday for the last 15 years this one needs to be more than just beach based bar-hopping.


Like the rare occasion that I wake up on a Sunday at 8am without a hangover, I feel this moderation could multiply the time I have available to actually do things while I’m away. But what things should I do? In Spain my mum asked me what I hoped to achieve from all this (both the travelling and the blog, for which she now has the address, eek). After giving her the standard Gump Method chat about not really having a plan, I did come up with a few answers:

World peace, obviously. Spiritual enlightenment. The meaning of life.

While these are all admirable objectives I’ve put them on the longer term to do list and have decided on a few, more achievable, skills-based goals:

  1. Get good at Spanish
  2. Get good at surfing and/or kite-surfing
  3. Get good (even better?) at dancing

Yes, I saved the best till last there. I can hear the sniggering. I’m planning to spend time in South America so by dancing I mean the Latino varieties: salsa, rumba, tango etc.. I’m not fussy and don’t really know the difference but I’ve always enjoyed dancing and have never had a lesson (shocking I know).

The film Dirty Dancing has served as a major source of my terpsichorean inspiration (every day’s a learning day). Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey blended various disciplines under the umbrella style ‘Dirty,’ and their iconic final lift has been mimicked all over the world, perhaps never more expertly than by myself and Jackie (aka Montauk Baby Girl) at Halloween last year in New York. Dressed as David Bowie (I was told it was more Ellen DeGeneres) I performed the role of Johnny Castle and MBG of course played Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. If you haven’t seen this video before you really should:

I’m the first to admit that there is room for improvement. No one puts baby girl in a corner but I deposited her solidly on the floor. Fortunately I took the brunt of the damage: MBG recognised the impending disaster and expertly adopted the foetal position as I got underneath her, cushioning her fall and sacrificing my right elbow – not all heroes wear capes. She never even thanked me!

With some immersive training I’m hoping to be less Ellen DeGeneres and more Judge Rinder, who impressed the judges on Strictly Come Dancing with his passion and flamboyance. I wasn’t in the UK for that season of Strictly, but watching this video today I immediately understood why so many people compared me to the man (both visually and stylistically):

One last thought which, again, came from my mum (what would Freud say) in response to the speedos post*. She said that once something is on the internet you can’t take it back.

Correct.

Along with my failed attempt to maim MBG I have now shared my three GGA (Get Good At) goals with the world and expect to be held accountable.

Me llamo Ollie Jones y quiero ser bueno en hablar español (sin usar Google Translate), surf (o kite-surf) y bailar.


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*Facebook took down my link to the speedos post as it broke their community rules. Lolz. You can still see it at Day seven. Speedos and self-reflection


 

Day seven. Speedos and self-reflection

Words of the Day

Speedo: 1. Informal, short for speedometer 2. Trademark, men’s brief, tight, swimming trunks

Misogynist: a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women

Yep, speedos and misogyny. Buckle up people, shit’s about to get real. But let’s ease into it….

So the travel diary without any travel ends here. I’m writing this from the south of Spain, where my mum recently bought a lovely little holiday home in Quesada, on the Costa Blanca. Quesada is not the most authentic of Spanish retreats; there are more Irish pubs than tapas bars and shop owners greet customers in English, but it’s cheap, cheerful and, most importantly for mum, sunny over 300 days of the year.

After a late flight in I woke up to the sounds of cicadas and chainsaws (next door is doing some landscaping work) and rays of Spanish sunshine piercing the blinds. So this is it, the real start of my journey. Will I find my ‘perfect paradise,’ like the day I sat next to Sarah Slater on the bus to the school playing fields?

I emerged from the poolside room, towel in hand, ready to occupy the prime sunbed location next to the olive tree; as I opened the door and made a few steps in pursuit of my prize, the path to the sunbed was blocked by what could only be an apparition – my Uncle Bill in a pair of speedos.

Uncle Bill

The horror I experienced in that moment was not due to the speedos themselves. I love speedos. I rock speedos. Few men are more comfortable in the garment, or so I thought until I saw Uncle Bill. It was the way he wore them, with such panache and insouciance, like they were an old pair of jeans.

Fashion runs deep in the Jones family. Mum can make anything on her sewing machine, my sister Steph is smashing her career at Alexander McQueen, and I….I have some nice shoes. And, like all fashionistas, Uncle Bill knows how to accessorise. The trainers and hat were clearly on point, but you need to look a little closer to see the true genius of the man.

“Is that a piece of toilet roll on your face, Bill?”
“No, Oliver, it’s a nose protector made from toilet roll, it’s what the Australian cricketers wear.”
And that was that.

 

Will the real OJ please stand up put some shorts on 

Uncle Bill is worthy of a dedicated blog post, but for now I want to talk more about speedos. And firstly let me apologise to team America who use the singular form, speedo. In Britain we wear them as a pair.

With my friends I have become almost synonymous with speedos. Rarely would a pool party go by without me stripping off and showing off in my latest number. Whether it was the poolside supermodel catwalk (I can do male and female) or my snakey-hipped, pelvis-thrusting dance moves, I have never been shy to don some budgie-smugglers and act the fool.

So who is this (cute, sexy) man? Speedos, Lycra and fancy dress seem to have become a part of my DNA in recent years. A cursory flick through my Facebook profile pictures would appear to confirm it.

But why is there hardly a single picture of me in normal clothing? Why am I always showing off and who is this persona I have created? Is it the real me or just some social media derivative? Ok, deep breath, this is the ‘buckle up’ part….

Around 18 months ago I found out that a man who had met me only twice had described me as a misogynist.

The emotion I felt upon hearing this was like the opposite of a mic drop. Horrified.

I do not dislike, despise, or have strong prejudices against women. The two friends who told me about it (one male, one female) vigorously defended my honour in the resulting discussion. However, the man in question was not stupid. He knew what it meant and would not have used it without reason. What had I done or said that could make someone use such a sickening and emotive word to describe me?

The answer was twofold, both in the things I had done and the things I had said.

Had I ever objectified women? Honestly, yes.
Had I ever shown a lack of respect towards women? Another yes.

And in fuelling the fire of my party boy, speedos-wearing, ‘superlad’ persona I was telling stories which reinforced this totally unacceptable behaviour.

The first step is admitting you have a problem and, as you can see, I’m working on changing my story. In the 18 months or so since this happened I have been living closer to the values that are most important to me – respect, honesty, humility – but I’m still a work in progress.

My close friends and family know who I am and how I roll, but I have a way to go before the persona, online and offline, catches up.

For now, here’s a picture of me, and an unknown accomplice (hi Kenny), in Las Vegas in 2009, sporting the original banana hammock. I do not intend to stop wearing my speedos, I just hope to be a better person underneath them.

And on that note I’m overdue some pool time….as I didn’t bring my speedos I will be wearing shorts.

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Day four. Man date

Definition of the day: ‘Man date’ – when two straight men do something that would be regarded as a typical dating activity, like going to a film or out for a meal 

I went on my first ‘man date’ today and it was great. A great man date with my new mate. His name is Michael.

I met Michael a few nights ago and was immediately impressed and slightly in awe as he told me his story. I wasn’t shy about letting him know this, and he was (rightly) cautious….who is this guy and what does he want.

Michael is one of a few people I’ve met who I would describe as a force of nature; a super smart, tall, handsome black man, 30 years old with the power to change the world. I’m not even joking. After uni he shunned employment offers from top tier investment banks to work in music, taught himself how to produce, set up his own studio, signed some artists…..fast forward 8 years and he is keeping a low profile (out of choice) but has had some major success and now owns a largely self-sufficient record label, meaning he has the time and money to make a difference by pursuing other projects.

I will always be grateful for the experiences I had at university and the great friends I made, but hearing Michael’s story, and others like it, makes me wonder how many people suffered from a lack of imagination and inadequate career advice upon graduation.

For me the options were consultancy, law, banking, government or a large corporate. Some of my friends have gone on to do great things 10-15 years later in a wide range of industries including those, but it just wasn’t set up for the nonconformists. I do think the world is changing, and that the millennials could end up being our saviours, but I digress….

So this man date. I met Michael on a Tuesday and we agreed to go for lunch on the Friday (very Craig David) to discuss what he was doing and how I might be able to get involved. After a big Thursday night I arrived 20 minutes late (not cool, sorry Michael) and realised I was a little nervous. Lol. It genuinely felt like a first date. On arrival he was sat at the table, menu in hand, waiting patiently. I found myself making small talk, asking lots of questions and trying to be interesting.

lady and the tramp

After getting over my butterflies we had a great conversation. One thing that hit me was the scale of his ambition. He genuinely has a plan to take over the world (in the nicest possible way) whereas I am completely linear in my thinking…..quit job, go travelling, maybe find a new job, maybe something else.

All of my recent ‘big ideas’ usually died after a couple of whiteboard sessions with a mate at work (who was also full of big ideas**) and limited follow up, cos it always just seemed a bit too hard….

Anyway, every day’s a learning day and today was no exception. Michael and I metaphorically swiped right on each other and will be hanging out again soon.

Notes

**The last ‘big idea’ from my mate at work was….(drum roll)….toilet doors that can be opened by foot. Designed to avoid that awkward hygiene conundrum when you’ve washed your hands but know that many before you did not. If anyone wishes to invest in this world-changing idea please comment below and I’ll pass it on.

Day two. So, what do you do?

Word of the day: Nothing

This is not a sleep blog, but in the spirit of full disclosure I did not get out of bed until after 2pm today. Sorrynotsorry. When I first resigned and told my mum I wasn’t going to get a new job just yet she expressed a concern that I would go nocturnal, drink too much and stay in bed all day. I brushed it off at the time but it’s currently 1-0 mum.

So yesterday was a big day for me as I got a first real taste of #shunemployment by going to Chiltern Firehouse on a Tuesday night. It’s an upmarket members-only type bar, not the kind of place I would usually hang out, and probably not until the early hours of Wednesday morning with work the next day. 

Bit of a tangent but my mate Andy and I (hi Andy, thanks for everything) used to refer to the 30th of December as ‘Wheat from the chaff night’ with the idea that people who are willing to go big on the night before New Year’s Eve, after a big boozy Christmas, are the kind of people we want to hang out with. Chiltern Firehouse on a Tuesday night is a slightly different wheat from the chaff to Portsmouth Tiger Tiger in late December, but suffice to say there aren’t many 9-5ers worrying about next day’s deliverables.

I met some really interesting people – someone who is creating a platform for Nigerian musicians to sell their music globally. Another person buying up fishing rights in Somalia, someone with their own fashion label, a full time artist.

When one of these people asked me what I did the unplanned response was to smile and say “nothing.” Such a good feeling. They assumed I was some kind of trust fund kid, but when I explained that I used to work in finance and was looking to make a big change it sparked some great conversations with these inspirational people, a potential business opportunity and at least one man-date (more on that to come).

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One of the catalysts for me quitting my job was the common question – “so what do you do?” Despite having achieved quite a lot to get to where I was in my career, for some reason I always felt a bit ashamed saying “I work in private equity.” For the last couple of years I hung my head and muttered the words because I just didn’t like talking about it.

The long term plan is to be able to walk into a room and tell people what it is I do with a smile on my face. As “nothing” will only work until I run out of money it is not a sustainable answer to that question, but it’s good for now.

Day one. Welcome to The Gump Method

Word of the day* : shunemployment

Hmmm. An inauspicious post-midday wake up for my first day of freedom.

This is not how I mean to go on but I’m blaming jet lag…. I took the Sunday night red eye back to London after 10 days of fun in New York, expertly woven into my last three workdays in the office.

Ok so how does this feel. Yep, pretty good so far. Everyone else is at work and I’m sat in a coffee shop with all the freelancers and a couple of new mums in Dalston. I’ve got my leather jacket on so feel more of an affinity with the former. I wonder if I still look like a guy who works in finance. Someone told me I had a ‘finance guy haircut’ the other day, just after I’d got it done. Gutted.

unemployed hero

So what am I actually doing. Well, I can’t claim to be funemployed as it’s Monday morning and I’m not having fun, so for now I’m calling it shunemployment. I am shunning the workplace and the hand that fed me, with no particular plan or timeline to stick to – the complete opposite of my typical working day.

For now, I’m not putting any pressure on. Immediate goals are to enjoy the freedom while reducing alcohol consumption, getting back in the gym, eating better, sleeping better and giving myself time for stuff, like actually planning where I am going to travel to rather than just naming a list of countries I haven’t been to – Russia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Colombia.

I also have a few short trips in Europe lined up over the next 5 weeks or so. These are things that were booked in advance when I was still working, and will be a nice warm up for the bigger trip(s) further afield. South of Spain with my mum (hi mum) then Oktoberfest in Munich (one of my favourite things in the world), then an ayahuasca retreat in the south of France (more on that another time). So at least some potential for weirdness before I go travelling for reals.

THE END (apart from the note below)

Note

* I had a ‘word of the day’ in the diary I wrote as a kid, so I’m going to keep this up as a nod to the 12 year old me. In another nod to the 12 year old me here is the number 5318008. Please comment or send me a reply if that number means anything to you 🙂