Tuesday 11th November. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

Celebrating my 35th birthday with some bad wine and some good company.

Thirty-five years old and still wondering what I'm gonna be when I grow up! Thanks everyone for your birthday emails and messages on the messageboard. My last two nights were spent in a cozy hotel room, sheltering from the bleak weather outside. I spent my birthday surfing the net from my hotel bed, and at night my friend and I treated ourselves to a beautiful meal in the hotel's restaurant. The food and the company were both great, but the wine tasted like it came from a forty-four gallon drum.

And then there was the phone call How much would you expect to pay for a one minute call to Australia? One dollar? Five dollars? No? Try twenty-five &*#@'ing dollars, and that's US dollars I'm talking about- almost forty bucks back home. I always talk to Mum on my birthday, wherever I am, but I knew it would cost a fortune to have a long conversation on the hotel phone. No problem. I'd call home, give them my number at the hotel and wait for them to call me back. So I did, and they did, and I talked to my brother Phil, both my pesky nieces, both my cheeky nephews, and my dear old Mum for an hour and a half. What a great birthday present, except the hotel charged twenty-five dollars for my one minute call, and refused to accept that it could be some kind of mistake. Grrrrr...

You may have read in my journal a few weeks ago, that I lost one of my beloved gloves. Now, that asymmetrical look may have worked for Wacko Jacko, but I don't find much use for a single glove. Obviously my friend had been following my journal, because she presented me with a birthday gift of a beautiful pair of black leather gloves. Only thing is, they were more like the sort of gloves a gentleman would wear, and we all know I'm not one of those. She said she wouldn't be offended if I didn't like them, so I let her take them back for a refund. That way we were both happy; I'd received a thoughtful, useful birthday gift, and she hadn't spent a penny! Don't you love it when things work out like that!

I wanted to mention a couple of useful websites. Most Americans have at least heard of Priceline.com where you can 'bid' for hotel rooms and flights. The flights section I don't necessarily recommend, but if you know how to use Priceline, you can get some extraordinary deals on accommodation. A lot of people- myself included- are initially intimidated by Priceline's 'bidding' system. The bidder is literally required to 'make an offer' on the level of accommodation they require, simply stating the location they need. If Priceline comes up with a room that meets your offer, you have already purchased it, since you input your credit card details right at the start. Sound scary? Not any more. Go check out BiddingForTravel.com. It's a messageboard where readers who have used Priceline- either successfully or otherwise- post the details of their transaction. This way you can clearly see how much you have to bid to secure for example, a room in a three star hotel in downtown Chicago. The price you end up paying can be as little as a third of the hotel's rack rate. Just thought you might be interested!

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