sábado, 21 de enero de 2012


The pain of travelling, and that is undeniable, is significantly lessened, nay, extinguished by the wonder that is diazepam. However, there exists on this fair earth a sister substance, clonazapam, which, far from being a member of the Taliban, is just that little bit stronger; it takes roughly 20mg of the former substance to place me in a gentle cocoon of escapism, floating both metaphysically and physically above the clouds, take 4mg's of clonazapam and you wouldn't be able to hear Sarah Palin orgasm. My flight from Lima to Amsterdam and from there to England was one long glorious kip. I awoke to the the calming voice of the captain: “We are now approaching...the weather is shit,” in essence informing us that my fellow passengers and I had made a terrible mistake in leaving our place of departure. “You fools, this is what you have lying ahead of yourselves. You could have stayed in exotic bliss but instead you elected to come here, congratulations.” The air stewardess feared waking me from my self induced coma - three meals we are entitled to, I received one. I have no doubt the comatose dribble from the corner of my mouth served as some form of a 'Do not disturb' sign.

The gates of arrival and departure seem to me to be of one and the same thing - similar sentiments are displayed at both ends; I left to mild teariness, and arrived to the sounds of a similar tune: following the emotional roller-coaster that is baggage collection, the butterflies start to flap around in my tummy; I look a little worse-for-wear, which calls for adjustments in the toilet – during which people look at me as if I have just finger-fucked their cat; it doesn't help that I am shirtless, sock-less and with head under a hand drier.

Having just spent the last eighteen hours touching/in contact with people, I happen to be strolling alone now, past the last security gate and around 'the' corner that is obligatory at every arrival gate – first put to test in Croydon Airport, 1928, so as to create suspense. A couple of teary faces greet me and my brother states he “was not” crying; my sister asks, “why are your eyes red?” I laugh, we all laugh – it is funny. I am eyed up meticulously for signs of damage or a half Argentinian love child – my mother's greatest fear – before being merited with the stamp of approval: “Well, you're all in one piece, and that's what matters.” Of course that's what fucking matters, honestly what sort of sentence is that? You are suggesting there was a distant possibility of my arriving in separate parts, figuratively in pieces – the victim of Cubism-obsessed natives.

Life back to normal...

The prodigal son has returned; I am Surrey-Kent border's living equivalent to Sir Francis Drake, sailing through the narrow-minded tides that lap against my beautiful boatlette; to family, and friends of, I am but an exotic piece - an African fruit bowl bought on a business trip years ago. Attention is food for the soul but not all of it tastes sweet; questions are continually asked of my brave travels, and I find myself growing weary:

So, how was it?”

How was what?”

You know..(I did not)...'it'.”

Ah, 'it', of course. You mean South America, how was South America. So, essentially you have boldly requested that I sum up the last two years of my life and a continent that consists of around twelve countries, all of which contain rich and defining differences, in the answer I am to provide you with?”

Yes, I suppose I have.”

It was good, thank you.”

miércoles, 11 de enero de 2012

"Getting the Most From Your Pritt Stick"

The following extract is taken from remaining time Spears and I spent in Comodoro Rivadavia:

With a bus due to take off at 22:45 we had time to kill and so to another grassy knoll we headed, by 20:30 we were sitting, cross-legged (I end up looking like a new born foal packed up into a briefcase when sat in this fashion) under a tree filled with very small parrots that took it upon themselves to drop their faecal bombs of discontent on us, no doubt acts of anger with the fact that we were boiling their unborn relatives. Six eggs we boiled. That's just what we do, boil eggs, act impulsively, eat mani (peanuts) from their shells (as close to hunter gatherer as I'm likely to get) and watch 16 year old boys inhale glue. It is that last point that I ought to elaborate on:

...I'd spotted in my peripheral vision this young chap, sniffing away merrily at this bag filled with glorious glue, and gloriously cheap glue at that; happy as Larry he was. Whilst watching him there, I felt a little sad but also a little connected with that transcendental travelling spirit. Soon, however, little Pablo decided to come spend some time with us and my transcendental spirit evaporated - "be at one with the people metaphysically not physically." The boy was young and high, but by the time he had sat his tiny little legs down on the poo-stained grass I was surreptitiously playing with my recently purchased stainless steel fork; I was to plough it in his left bicep, scream a little, apologise for screaming at such a high pitch, then take flight. I looked across at Spears 'The Heart' Mallis and the following conversation took place...through our eyes only:

"Yo, dude this hobo looks heli-high!" The Heart said.

"Run Spears, run for your life! Leave the eggs, I don't enjoy them boiled anyway."

"Dude, you don't like boiled eggs. Wtf, man?!" He replied, downcast.

"Ignore the gastronomy...and my palate. This boy is dangerous - he's a drug addict and they are all plotting on destroying the economy...I read an article about it, with pictures 'n' all. You take his left bicep. No, take his right, I've got his left. I apologise in advance for any screaming that may or may not take place."

Mgnudnsudoj,” was the boy's opening line - original and not at all disturbing. The fork remained tightly held in my paw.

Out of courtesy, and to keep him occupied, we made conversation with him. Conversation doesn't last as long as you'd hope with a sniffer of solvents, largely because they can't communicate very well and the effect of this past-time tends to damage the ol' synapses and destroy a healthy chunk of short term memory; such memories were that we were boiling eggs. The loss of this memory led little Pablo, despite our cries of objection, to reach into our pot and extract an egg, then observe it at a closer distance, as one does.

You are granted, when intoxicated, a delayed grace period before your nervous system manages to relay the message that what you did hurt, a lot. The boy's cerebellum soon received this message - this was apparent to us when he looked up at us in child-like horror, as if betrayed by a parent, and spoke the immortal words: “Hot”. The only thing missing was the soothing accompaniment to all documentaries on wildlife: the voice of David Attenborough.

We soon packed up and trotted off into the night, taking what little money the boy had left, in search of the “rich” area. It was not long, however, until a security guard (in disguise) came up to us, revealed his weapon (a baton....a wooden stick....a long...oh, what's the point in trying....yes, he took out is cock, cum on (who), we're all thinking it...are we?) and told us it wasn't safe to stay there. A bizarre city all in all.

I believe I forgot to pipe up on a few little morsels here and there, which struck me whilst enjoying the overwhelming pleasures of Comdoro Rivadavia. The following was scribbled on a napkin I found later in my bag:

...Oh, the irony: This city is a ghastly place (a heady mix of Croydon and Abdijan), however, it does proudly display an old steam engined train that sits on a couple of metres of track, placed in the heart of the city. It would seem this display is a beacon of past development, the foundation and platform from which industrial growth took off. “What? But there are no current trains to be seen in the whole of the city. No means of transport other than car and anaemic horses.”

Therefore, essentially this monument (if we can call it that) serves as a constant, tangible itch in the psyche of the city, reminding them that it has an economy that peaked 100 years ago, almost like telling an 18yr old boy that his sexual peak was in fact 8 years ago. Congratulations.

"The Flight: Death to COOCK"

Finally we’re are jumping ship and trotting off to Comodoro Rivadavia (middle-bottom-left Argentina), leaving Ushuia in our wake. My freshest companion is a Mr. Spears Mallis, he is a 26 year old Californian, fairly tall, with a warm face and prone to falling in love easily, very easily, too easily. It comes as no surprise then to hear that the vast majority of his sentences begin with: “This girl I had just fallen recklessly and irresponsibly in love with, throwing to the wind all manner of self and emotional preservation...” (or something to that effect).

So, the time to depart had arrived and so I set off, with Spears ‘The Heart’ Mallis at my side. The same dreams and aspirations as had polluted my thoughts yesterday still remained seat-belted in my mind, and with that we trotted off to the airport; we were not planning on enduring, once more, the chagrin of an 18 hour journey.

Arrive we did, and wait we would have to, for the plane was delayed by three hours or so. I should note at this point that this was the same company, Sol airlines, churning out the same route and most probably the same plane that was to crash, killing all on board, in three months time.

(NB whilst writing this, sat in cafe, I have just been approached by a small boy, no more than four years of age, who has declared me to be “like a girl”, on account (although I am not certain) of my hair. “He look like girl” He squeaked (four years old and he can't speak proper English, the philistine).)

Anyway, we were delayed and thus time to kill we had: bonding time. We commandeered a nice bottle of scotch, found a grassy knoll - it wasn't like normal airports - and killed the time. Of course, there will arise a few complications when arriving at your designated gate, trollied. One is that you are inevitably late. We were given three hours to cover what was probably 200 metres, and yet all 200 of those metres were still covered at a sprint. The second is that in this case my lovestruck friend brought with him, to a plane what was planning on flying, a Leatherman - essentially a tool capable of fixing a computer, skinning a squirrel, sawing down a sapling and filing your finger nails to the utmost point of perfection.

We arrived at Comodoro Rivadavia at around 2AM.

A day passed in C. Rivadavia:

For those that are unaware of this, Comdoro Rivadavia is somewhat of a shithole, picture, if you will, a soulless city with the view you’d expect to see from an oil rig in the Atlantic. I did, however, get another piercing; an act of impulse. I feel so dangerous and alive right now; I look fantastic.

Scott Adams once said that 'creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.' The art we witnessed that morning certainly supported Adams...

We decided to have breakfast and duly discovered a patch of grass to host the event. Our patch of grass was nestled cosily in the middle of a roundabout, a roundabout in the most heavily congested area of this godforsaken city. It was with a YPF (station de petrol) to our right, shouting, drum banging protesters to our left and with the sensualisation of a thousand morning commuters' sentiments that we settled down to whilst constructing breakfast. A power-box shed of sorts lay adjacent to where we sat, adorning this shed was a fair amount of graffiti, among which were the immortal words: “i liKE YOUR COOCK.”

Many things struck us about this piece of modern art and public profession of anger. One of them was the change in capitals, ‘twas as if the chap or chappette decided after three letters and much deliberation to go: “Fuck it, this is worthy of capitals, the world MUsT hear this!” I wandered to what extent this piece of art was grammatically correct: "Are we looking at a someone playing around with the homophonic qualities of the ultimate word with the subconscious leap one naturally makes when first reading the sentence? Is the artist ironically belittling the derogatory graffiti we see littering buildings and walls but simultaneously mocking us for our ignorance and essentially imploring difference in a world of mundane structures and a reluctance to enjoy individuality?" ‘Coock’ celebrates individuality, whereas ‘cock’ might also demonstrate a Freudian frustration with another person's exemption from the ordinary. Ultimately though, this was South America: they spelt it wrong. Silly boys.

I felt like Bear Grylls as we boiled our own water (Spears boiled the water) - I happen/purposely don’t travel with such weaponry as a stove, but my minion did and so we/he made some quite marvellous coffee. Sitting there, sipping away, watching the world go by in a needle-littered haven, a paradise among a sea of constructed chaos, feasting on porridge, bran flakes, fruit....oh, the fruit we dined on. I knew in that moment that class floats above all obstacles, surpassing financial struggle and situational disturbances to enjoy a good bowl of porridge whilst gazing philosophically at the words ‘i liKE YOUR COOCK’.

martes, 10 de enero de 2012

"An Extra Bar Won't Stop the Bending."

The following records the journey from Calafate (South Argentina) to Ushuia (the southern most city in the world...yes, still in Argentina):

I was placed, regally, on seat 20. Seat 20 was a seat behind a mother and her son. The child has Downe’s Syndrome. The child enjoys a number of different past times: kissing anyone that passes, on their lips (no, one can not catch Downe’s Syndrome through kissing. Yes, the thought crossed my mind), demanding all sorts of utterly unrelated material such as teddy bears, crisps and gossip magazines. He also took great pride in screaming when none of the aforementioned items were granted to him. Passer-by’s fell into a chorus of patronising tones and acquiesced to his every request. Uncertainty as to what to do and how to react preoccupied the minds of the majority. The mother, on the other hand, watched idly as discipline flew out the window.

Regardless of the attention the child had been and was probably likely to continue to receive, the child still took it upon itself to scream loudly at frequent intervals. It was at around the hour 10 mark when my humour was really flying at full mast, come hour 15 and I was drafting disgracefully plausible options in my head.

Customs was passed a total of five times but only two actual borders were crossed. It should be noted that I was an illegal alien in Argentina at this point - your visa runs out after 90 days and to renew it one must either pay 300 pesos or leave the country and re-enter. It made sense to take the fine on the chin as I had, after all, been in the country for a period of close to two years with but one leave to England in the books, my option was glaringly obvious. I waited for the inevitable slap on the wrist and healthy fine, come border time.

The bus hit the first crossing and this stern looking woman waited for me ominously at the end of my queue. I changed queues. A voluptuous, impressionable looking lady now awaited me – the Nigella Lawson of the immigration world.

“Hello sir, can we (she was representing the Government...'WE'!) have your proof of entry please?” she asked me kindly.
'Shit, what do I do? Stay calm, only a small fine awaits you. But wait, what if they don't take kindly to my English roots...I'll go to prison...I can't go to prison, look at me, I'd be as pillaged as a Anglo-Saxon settling in the West Midlands, right on the coast...with a nice view...and conservatory,' I panicked. 'Pretend you can't speak Spanish. Yes, that's perfect, smile a lot, play with your hair and remember: you can not speak Spanish.'
The woman asked me once again for the papers that would be responsible for my possible incarceration and inevitable flight of all things pure in this world, oh cruel fate. I snapped out of my Shakespearean monologue and gently smiled at her. She smiled back – this was going well.
“Uhhh, English? I arrive not long go, no realise papers be important.” I said...IN THE ACCENT OF SOMEONE WHO CAN'T SPEAK ENGLISH! 'Fuck, what on earth possessed me to deny knowledge of both the Spanish and English language? Great, they're going to bring in someone who's mastered Bulgarian and I shall go to prison; I'm bringing surplus soaps... “Don't worry about that Tyrone, you can just leave it right there on the bathroom floor, look, here's another bar. What? Why drop that too?”'
My imprisoned musing was interrupted for the second time: “OK sir, but you need to remember next time to keep hold of them.” the woman informed me. I pretended I didn't understand her response, so I just nodded and continued to smile. She gave me my passport and papers, turned to her friend and muttered: “Idiot.” I was an idiot, fantastic news. It was a badge I would gladly wear; an idiot that had been granted his freedom. I glided back to the bus as life rushed uncontrollably through my veins, head held high, breathing in dramatically the Patagonian air, which tasted the same (same) but different.