A Year of Living Cautiously (“The Bazzas” 2021)

I decided to end the year in the number one city in uncustomary fashion: a trip to the beauty salon. Yes, the Christkind had checked me in as part of the Yuletide celebrations in the form of a voucher, ostensibly to support a local business which had been through the wringer in 2021 during various attempts to keep a lid on the Corona virus.

You will be pleased to know I am not a complete newbie when it comes to all things “Kosmetik” (as they call it here). It’s just that having my nails sanded to perfection and my face poked with a needle (I think it was a needle) is not something which regularly features in my Outlook calendar. Although on reflection, if 2021 was characterized by anything significant, hardly anything appeared in my Outlook calendar in 2021.

Nevertheless, piped in by the theme tune to Mission Impossible, I arrived for my appointment and soon I was sitting at a small table with a plexiglass partition. All it needed were two old telephones hanging either side and it would have looked like a scene from a 1970s prison visit. I am asked if I know anything about manicures. Well, it’s not my first, I replied, but never with these machines, gesturing to two objects on the table which looked like a cross between a 1980s clock-radio and a distant cousin of Amazon’s Alexa. Oh no, they are for the fake nails. Fake nails in a world beset by fake news. I see the sense. But we can use them if you want, my manicurist chuckles (as does the mature lady sitting next to me, fingers like Cruella de Vil). I give it some serious thought but then concede that fake nails painted in a shocking red might freak out Mrs Barratt (consigliere of the Christkind and the real reason I was there), so I politely decline (laugh like a plonker).

Instead, my fingers were clipped, prodded and smoothed whilst I listened to the heavenly background music characterized as it is by the usual Austrian radio playlist known as God Awful. This all took about fifteen minutes and admittedly, by the end they looked amazing. Yet while this miracle was unfolding it gave me plenty of time to ruminate on another year and consider the candidates for my round up of the great, the gruesome and the grievous.

And guess what? I had nothing. I had nothing because 2021 had passed in the blink of an eye, much like the pace of change associated with another shuffle at the top of Austrian politics. Such an expeditious blink, in fact, that back in the spring after I inadvertently deleted all the work emails in my inbox, my initial horror shifted to shoulder-shrugging indifference as I reminded myself I had only changed my computer in January, so little harm. Until I quickly realized that was January 2020 and this was the second year of Corona.

Loss of time aside, I ascribe this apparent apathy to the various events of 2021 which I have failed to remember, to the triplet shadows of home-schooling, various lockdowns and the seduction of tribute payments from the angels at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. Where every week seemed to morph into the week before and the week after, where sadly, in truth, I didn’t actually go anywhere much, do anything new much, or achieve very much. And when your existence seems perpetually rooted in the best dishwasher tabs, the relative merits of the most convenient bottle bank or which is the best supermarket trolley in 2021 (clear winner are the ones from cash-and-carry supremo, Metro), then inspiration is, like an honest member of the Freedom Party, hard to find.

As luck would have it, I had time to reflect on this spartan state of affairs a little while later as I lay on my back trying to answer questions about my skincare routine. Mostly about whether I used any products and if I had any specific skin conditions (just British, I replied). When faced with such unfamiliar situations, and in my mind, unexpected questions, I am reminded once more of how little I know about life. All I could offer up when asked if I had any special preferences for my impending facial overhaul, was a rather meek, er, the “normal” ones.

Don’t worry, I am like this with everything. When once asked in a gastro-Beisl in Vienna which cheese I wanted in my cheeseburger (because every pub, Beisl and bar now must offer a burger of some description, and yes, at some point, and some level they all taste identical), I foolishly, asked, well, what have you got? Only to be serenaded with an extensive list of different varieties which I recognized, although in that moment instantly forgot, only to respond with a: “Er, could I just have cheeseburger cheese?”

As such, with the nights turning towards fireworks, casual mentions of skiing (not me, I retired after winning best attired snow ball thrower in 2018) and the menace of Omi-crone (my mother-in-law, not the variant), all I can report is that sometimes all you need to unlock a little insight are: some warm towels, a face massage, something called a “peeling” and, perhaps they greatest invention of the 21st century, a machine which gently wafts warm steam over your face for fifteen lovely minutes. Ladies and Gentlemen, and the non-binary, I give you the Bazzas:

Vienna Magistrat

Although they seemed to have lost the public relations battle in 2021 for another immigratory misdemeanors, Brits in Vienna got the red-carpet treatment from the immigration department (MA35) with Corona inspired guaranteed appointments, relative fast turnarounds for the Brexit induced residence cards, and some employees even using English. Best first-hand account, I defer to the Curmudgeon here.

Services to the Crown

British in Austria doing sterling work to keep the British informed during and after the Brexit shitshow but mostly for their invaluable advice and support relating to the new residency requirements (see above). I only know Michael personally, but he informs me there is a network of volunteers scattered through Austria leveraging various talents to get the word out. People, I salute you, you deserve a special gong from Her Maj. More importantly, this should also put to bed the speculation as to the identity of ViennaDad, who might or might not be a certain Herr Bailey. Perhaps. Or perhaps not.


English has been used for years in various Austrian business contexts as a means to confuse the minions although there is the concurrent risk that using a foreign buzzwords to demonstrate knowledge or competence is always a sign of corporate insecurity. However, this year I have seen the steady creep of words into everyday language, blatantly popped into the middle of a German sentence. People talk of “challenges”, “performance” or “boosters” (obviously) and one spotted recently in a newspaper headline which spoke of “taffe” challenges. I am assured that this allusion to “tough” is not German and simply an English affectation. Nevertheless, my favourite was discovering that the German verb for the English “manage” is suddenly “managen”. This is news to me after all these years but it now means every “English” verb can be incorporated into your daily German with a simple “en”. And the best thing is that almost every Austrian these days will probably understand it.

Not The Number One City

As much as I appreciate the 23rd district of Vienna and the number one city more widely (like an old pair of shoes for the gardening, comfortable, a bit battered but ultimately a necessity) sometimes it is essential to seek what is new in the rest of Austria. This year’s was the Gerlitzen Alps in Carinthia above the Ossiacher Lake. A wonderful week only slightly spoiled on the first evening by watching England lose to Italy in the final of the European Football Championship, in the company of mostly Italian supporting Germans. Facing them the next day, although gracious in “victory”, was, as I may have alluded to in previous postings, a wee bit challenging.

Fat-Finger (Step Away from the Smartphone).

Former Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

Over Promised, Under Delivered

Former Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

The Perils of Youth

Former Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

Services to Madame Tussauds and Blade Runner Replicants Everywhere

Former Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz.

Sounds of the Dancing Stars House Band Warming Up

Shoe-in … (oh come on!) would have been Former Austrian Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz but he has obviously bagged himself a job in Silicon Valley. Apt given the preferred material of the android is silicone (a “liquid or rubbery substance consisting of polymers or oligomers of siloxane with another atom”). Reserve choice can only be former Vice Chancellor Heinz Christian Strache, although it is not sure if he has the funds to afford the plasters after the first shimmy on the parquet and the inevitable blisters. Secret tip: former head of the ÖVP (Peoples Party) in Vienna and very tired looking federal finance chief, Gernot “who he?” Blümel.

Perpetually Vexed

Herbert Kickl, leader of the far-right Freedom Party (slogan: bonkers, barmy and blue) and former Interior Minister seems constantly in a tizz about everything. I suspect that he is compensating for something although he must have enjoyed the dethronement of his former coalition partner and winner of this year’s Services to Coiffured Hair Award (cancelled), Sebastian Kurz. On a personal level, given his commitment to seemingly spearheading the anti-vax protests and criticisms of lockdowns, I can’t make up my mind whether he is a c+++ or just a stupid c+++. Or perhaps just a wanker.

*This award was reponed this year as usual winner, Mr R Barratt of Liesing, finally cheered up.


All who went through the vaccination rollout in Vienna, particularly the main venue at the Austria Centre over the Danube, were right to enthuse about the organization, speed and efficiency. In short, Sie haben dass gemanaged.


After the long lockdown from November 2020 to May 2021, my local pub Koci went through a quite breathtaking transformation. Where once was a bog standard, traditional Gasthaus (mediocre food, fake tree and with a nod to nobody in particular, a Bitcoin machine), now stands a sleek, modern version of a three-star hotel bar. However, progress is progress and now I pleasingly have the third place in Vienna that doesn’t ask to see my Covid passport (freshly anointed with the third jab) or bring me the menu because they already know what I am drinking and where my political allegiances lie. (Second place to Café Stein in the 9th district – see below. Tastefully consistent although they need to ditch that music which reinterprets classic rock or pop songs as easy-listening, insipid ballads.)


The 17th and 18th district of our great metropolis might be the most desirable places to live according to a recent newspaper report (commissioned by the district chiefs of the 17th and 18th districts), but my pick is the 11th, Simmering, which I always call Semmering (a mountain 100 km away). It has the best music instrument shop in Vienna (Klangfarbe), the best art supply shop in Vienna (Boesner, a short walk from the last station on the underground line U3) and it is our new venue of choice for swimming (Simmeringerbad), lockdowns notwithstanding. And golly, the district, as the Duchess of Argyll might quip, is huge!


No new places, just good places: a chance to revisit – I think – the most authentic Italian restaurant in the first district, perhaps in Vienna: Xpedit (Wiesingerstrasse number 6). Also, at the height of summer dodging the lockdowns, Zum Alten Beisl in the 10th district. In a word, fabulous inner courtyard with fabulous food, only metres from the madness of ice-cream parlour Tichy and the hustle and bustle that is Reumannplatz in high summer.  

And on that note. Ich wünsche Dir, Euch, Ihnen einen Guten Rutsch. See you in 2022 and my heartfelt thanks for reading this far. All comments, suggestions, criticisms and concerns should be sent to: Mr H. Kickl, 1080 Vienna.

© 2021 RJ Barratt