The Barratt Vienna Awards 2017 – Part 2


Celebrity Sellout

They say every man/woman has his/her price. I am not so sure. For example, would I help an FPÖ politician with her English or teach the children of a Russian oligarch? It’s a moral quandary to be sure especially if the money on offer is the size of the usual FPÖ kickback (allegedly). But I like to think I would, on ethical grounds, exercise restraint (mostly because I would need more than a fat payout). In any case, this might explain Conchita’s decision to cash in on her name and who can blame her? But adverts for the Chamber of Commerce in Vienna  imploring people to use their high streets for shopping because “Wo ich einkaufe, ist mir nicht Wurst”? Come on Conchita, we want London. We want Paris. We want Vegas!

(The phrase “Ist mir Wurst” is an all purpose saying in Vienna meaning I couldn’t care less, it doesn’t matter, who gives a shit? that kind of thing. Above, Conchita is saying it does matter where she shops, namely the high street. In any case, shouldn’t it be Wurscht?)

Worst Idea

I use Telegram because they promise me that my personal musings will never be used for advertising. And, so, I am not against instant messaging services per se, just that they should be used with caution. However, my wife is in the WhatsApp group for my son’s primary school. Ostensibly to be used only for important information about the “Hort” (after school club) and any changes to where they might or might not be, it has ballooned into this monster where some parents think it is expedient to share all manner of shit about the school, their children or their moral indignation about a world beset by a resurgence of totalitarian tosspot strongmen. It generally starts before the sun comes up and already you are sucked into a domain outside your home (you feel compelled to read because it “might” include some important information). Any separation from home and education is thus extinguished and it is a blatant violation of the Vienna convention concerning the right to enjoy tea and toast in the morning free from the vicissitudes which conspire to interfere with our happiness. And I despise it.

If In Doubt, Use English

After the election we had the emergence of “dirty campaigning” inspired by our Anglo-Saxon cousins in the USA and Britain. Of course, it should be “negative campaigning” but when it comes to language appropriation, there are few rules and a little tweak here or there is always welcome in the world of “Denglisch”. Fake news has also hit the linguistic sweet spot but of more note is how it has already entered the lexicon and consciousness of the under-10s at my local primary school. Here, as I have learned, it has swiftly come to represent ANYTHING that might be untrue. And so if one child is accused of hitting another child, the accused child will proclaim it as “fake news”. Or if something is opined with absolute confidence in spite of no evidence (children have been experts at this long before the Trump White House came along) and subsequently not believed, then it is simply dismissed as “fake”. So that’s all good then.

Existential Angst Causing Most Indignation

They often say that every great invention or idea can be used for good or evil. This is not strictly true as I have never heard anyone doing something nefarious or evil with cake. But then there are bike sharing schemes. According to the ÖÄMTC traffic psychologist, Marion Seidenberger (the ÖAMTC is the Austrian version of the Automobile Association) in an edition of the local paper Heute, just before Christmas, there are three main reasons why there is the on-going problem and related moral outrage against the free bike schemes currently plaguing the number one city:

  • If something costs nothing, it is worth nothing and therefore the abuse and vandalism of bikes is met with indifference.
  • There is no incentive to return bikes to the place of origin (works against being a responsible user) and so often they are discarded like a can of Red Bull.
  • It is to do with their distinctive colours. Yellow and orange are a reminder they are not private bikes and their visual vibrancy engenders bitterness and scorn.

(My reasons: humans are rapacious cretins; humans cannot be trusted; humans are animals.)

Never Rat On Your Friends, Never Tell Them Anything



It seems apt to mention the Freedom Party with the return of beautifully coiffured former FPÖ Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser to court this year on corruption charges arising from the sale of public assets and alleged kickbacks, commissions or bribes (take your pick). Appearing at the much awaited trial, Karl pleaded poverty: no job, no car, no house, no assets, although I am sure being married to a member of the billionaire Swarovski family, who seem to have made a fortune selling crystal tat and some expensive binoculars, must ease the pain. The case was expected to run and run with the public prosecutor hoping to turn the screws in the hope one of the co-defendants (all 14 of them, all men) would crack over the ensuing weeks. Never rat of your friends, never tell them anything are the ominous words from Jimmy Conway to the young Henry Hill in Scorsese’s meisterwek, Goodfellas, but within the week, former PR guru and bag handler Peter Hochegger basically spilled the beans. Telling the court Grasser and Co received money funnelled through him (up until this point there had been strong suspicions but all circumstantial). Smoking gun or not, it seems Hochegger is on the way to a deal.

Blogs on Vienna or Austrian life

Slim pickings as usual, but there are two notable candidates this year. Before we go there, however, just a quick word of clarification. I thought long and hard about including this category because I didn’t want to be accused on living in an echo chamber or “log-rolling” (trading of favours or quid pro quo). Mainly because both writers are long-term Vienna residents like me with some “regulatory alignment” in some of our opinions and outlooks about enduring, sorry, living in the number one city. However, in spite of our shared heritage, both blogs have helped me see aspects of Viennese life in a completely new light touching on subjects which sound familiar, I thought I knew or understood, or even introducing me to ideas, experiences and observations about living here that I had never even considered. More so in that there is a powerful emphasis on the very specific details about the minutiae of life (day-to-day challenges, being newly retired or dealing with the Viennese civil service in applying to become Austrian). If you are after lists on top-ten cafes or the generic “how you know you are Viennese” article, then these will not be for you. But if you want to discover an authentic, honest and sharp-eyed insight into Vienna beyond the palaces, chocolate cakes and pop-up fashion stores, then you will be not disappointed. Anyway, you make up your own mind. But before you do, have a gander at these:

That’s me lovely people! Thanks for all the reads, comments and feedback. I wish you all a wonderful 2018 and remember, when in January next year someone tells you to invest in a crypto currency, as suggested to me in January 2017 for – a “bit of fun” – then, like me, ignore them (and then find a quiet corner and weep).

© 2017 RJ Barratt