Wake up, and Smell the Coffee

When I was in the USA, I lived in the midtown area of Atlanta…which was lovely! I was told this was the “gay area” by someone in hushed tones, but honestly I didn’t see the problem – all I saw were friendly strangers who liked to give compliments, and some great brunch establishments! How could anyone hate that?! Certainly always put a smile on my face!

50 Cent Patrick Stewart GIF

But anyway, this was a little far to travel for some friends who lived outside of the city, so I would hop on the MARTA train and meet them half-way at Bankhead Station…then we’d drive out to some random diner, restaurant, or coffee shop for a catch up on the latest shenanigans…

One of these times stands out, and has been turning over, and over, and over in my head recently – I’m sure it won’t take a genius to work out why…

On this occasion, four of us pulled into a quiet roadside place, and piled into one of the cushioned booths to get warm. A chirpy waiter came over immediately to take our orders…we were all pretty exhausted, so there was only one obvious choice for most! “Black coffee, please!” “Black coffee for me too!” “Yeah, black coffee – thanks.” 

He nodded and smiled, as he jotted it all down – before turning to me.

“Errrmmm…” I murmured, a little unsure as I stared at the menu. “Can I have white coffee please? I don’t really like it black.”

Buffy Staring GIF

There was a silence. A horrible, agonising silence. 

Everyone had their eyes fixed on me, I instantly turned the brightest of reds – as if a volcano had erupted in my face, and was attempting to force its way out through my ears…I had no clue as to what crime I had committed, but I was sorry all the same. I looked desperately at the faces of my friends, hoping one of them would throw me a life-line…all they threw me were looks of complete, and utter disbelief.

“Is that supposed to like…be funny? Because its not.” cautioned the waiter,

“Erm, no…not at all – you don’t…you don…you don’t have white coffee? I mean…wha?!”

The waiter looked across to my friends, as if to say; “who is this no-good piece of shit, and why do you even hang around with him at all? Can we shoot him in the head, once my shift finishes?” I wished that I hadn’t been so choosy, I could have just said “black coffee for me too!” and all of this mysterious awkwardness could have been avoided. I wriggled, and writhed in my seat – the leather sticking to my sweaty backside, as I prayed for the ground to swallow me up whole. I gave it one last try…

“Sorry…I want a WHITE COFFEE, PLEASE!” More stares, now there were some who were shaking their head – as if I had gone too far with a bad joke…this was past the point of humiliation, doubly so as I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on! “Black coffee…you put milk in, and it’s white coffee. What…you don’t have milk in a coffee shop?!”

Crazy Pills GIF

“Ohhhhhhhh!” everyone chimed together, which instantly broke the awkward deadlock of silence. But I was still completely dumb-founded, my head bobbing from person to person hoping for an explanation. They laughed (a lot), but eventually told me I had incurred a rather regrettable mistake – and that it was probably best to not repeat it again, even if it is an everyday phrase in England. Ask for a coffee with milk, or a latte…or…anything but a fucking WHITE COFFEE! Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice! Jheez!

After all this they dropped me off at the station, and I was just looking forward to getting to bed – so I could forget about how shitty a person I was without even knowing. And I was in luck! The train was right there! Everything was coming up John, after all!

Not quite…ten minutes later, and I was still sat there – the train hadn’t moved an inch. I put my phone away, after all it was all full of white coffee jokes from the friends I had just left. I glanced to my left, and did a double take as I caught sight of some commotion in the opposite carriage…I moved for a better view, maybe this was the reason that…oh Jesus…fucking hell… 

There was a black man, lying there lifeless – with a puddle of blood around him. There were policeman murmuring into their radios, and a paramedic still desperately trying in vain to save the poor man…with blood all the way from his hands, to his elbows. I couldn’t make out much more than that.

I held my head in my hands, tears began to swell, as I began to struggle to breathe. I looked up at everyone else in my train carriage, I watched for their reactions which were basically just to glance over shrug, and go back to their phones, their books, their whatever else. “Babe, some guy’s dead. So I’ll be late.” I heard someone announce in a bored tone.

So wait…a man dies in a bloody fashion, and no one bats an eyelid? But I mistakenly use the wrong phrase when talking about a cup of coffee, and everyone loses their minds? Something’s wrong there, surely.

You see…I didn’t link the two like this till recently, they were just separate events in my head. But the two are unequivocally intertwined, I see that now.

We can’t just stress, and worry about words…and being “politically correct” or appearing to be a person of true compassion. REAL equality comes about with REAL action. Not just talking the talk. All of the horrendous news stories we have seen laid bare recently, SHOULD be sparking something inside of you…and that something shouldn’t be disdain for well meaning people like Benedict Cumberbatch…but more horror for corrupt, or racist individuals.

Please, don’t just look away – wake up, and smell the coffee – BE the change. 

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Alien for Supper!

No big deal guys – just the time that an eel was skinned in front of me, and continued to wriggle on my plate. OH THE FLASHBACKS! THE HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE FLASHBACKS!

Still, hope you get a kick out of it! I certainly did making this!

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Red Light (Netherlands)

The Netherlands – Amsterdam ~ 2010

(I am missing my friends from home – so, I naturally find myself reminiscing on old times…in particular, about an old adventure we had together a few years ago…I thought you may as well come along for the trip down memory lane!)

One good thing about where I’m from…(and there are many reasons don’t get me wrong!)…is that  you can hop on over to the ferry port, spend the night on a ship, and wake up in Amsterdam. I must have signed up for something many moons ago, as the company often emails me with special deals, and offers – the most important of which is said trip for £35 ($55!). There’s no excuse, so you get together your nearest, and dearest – your A-Team, and rush to pack your bags for a fun-filled weekend! And that’s what I did back in 2010! 

Celebrate GIF

I’d have to miss some time at university…I don’t even know why I am including that bit of information – as if I deliberated the decision at all – pfft,  I didn’t give it a second thought! I think I “asked” one of the professors, and they said it was a bad idea…and then I went ahead, and booked it all up anyways! I hadn’t ever been on a holiday with friends before, and the thought of a few days away with a few of my best’uns, had me in no doubt whatsoever…that this was a good idea!

We arrived at the ferry terminal early, we were well prepared – which is another way of saying; loaded up to the necks with alcohol, we only had to endure a couple of nights, but didn’t want to be either caught short…or worse, having to pay the extortionate rate on drinks at the ship’s bar. You are quite literally held hostage…in the middle of the sea, and have no choice but to shell out whatever they ask…it’s piracy basically, they are just less ARRRRR about it, and no one has a peg-leg, or a sharp hook for a hand. But still…pirates in the most underhand way! 

Anyway, there were four of us – and it was two to a room, so naturally there were some fights over who was with who…and after that was finished with, a fight over which room was the main room, so to speak. You know; the room where everything fun happens, and everyone congregates in for the partaaaayz (with a z to emphasise the  extra coolness)…people tried to give stupid excuses, but the fact is it’s easier to pass out in your own room…and depressing to leave a lively place, and enter a silent graveyard.

Still…you’ll have a cleaner toilet…so…hmmm…maybe I didn’t think it all the way through…

Never mind! Because soon we were all together, laughing, and drinking – I don’t know which we were doing more…the laughing, or the drinking – but both were seeing their fair share of action! I can’t even remember what was so funny now, but I still get the warm feeling looking back; something about a badger had me in stitches…and, errr…someone’s socks or something? What was it? Hmmm…well whatever it was, I couldn’t fucking breathe for giggling!

Laughing 70s GIF

The shenanigans were just getting started when there was a bang on the door…somebody with a name-badge, saying we had to keep it down…it was 8:00pm after all, and people were trying to sleep. (Huh?) We tried our best after this, but soon it became apparent that this would be impossible – this was back when I thought vodka mixed with something sweet was the best thing in the world – it isn’t, but after a few strong drinks you begin to believe your own bull-shit. Anyway, some bright spark said that we should go out on the top deck…that way we could be as loud as we wanted, and not bother anyone. Seemed like a stroke of genius! What wasn’t genius was one of my friends knocking on everyone’s door in the corridor as we headed out…”YOU FUCKING STUPID BASTAAARD!” I said, in one of those really loud-whispered screams, where you want to make it seem like you are shouting, but still want to do it quietly so as to avoid detection…I think he got the message, anyway – we fled the scene, and began to scarper up the metal steps to the deck…

There we serenaded the night away – sing-a-long, after sing-a-long – of whatever tune came to mind…we probably acted out a few Titanic scenes too, and definitely had many more laughs at each other’s expense. After all, that is what being real friends is all about!

The morning after was, well…rough. As we were leaving the ship some official looking types with shirts, and practical shoes said we had made a lot of noise last night, and they weren’t too happy about it…we didn’t have the energy to deal with it all, but tried to explain that we had went outside so as to avoid bothering people…everyone could still hear our singing somehow…I was a little offended, as honestly I thought I had been hitting some good notes, and particularly when it came to some of The Libertines tunes, I thought I had really shone. Suppose not. They stripped us of our passports, and said we’d get them back “if we were good.” We didn’t understand, but nodded, and moved on – hoping we would be able to sit down sometime soon.

That’s when we were shooed over to the far-side of the parking lot, and instructed to get on the coach that was set to take us to the town-center of Amsterdam…it was a harsh ride; we spoke largely in mumbles, and most of that was based around the subject of being sick – and how if the driver wasn’t swerving so madly – we’d be fine. As soon as we arrived, one of us immediately sprinted down a back alley…so we ran after him, thinking he was leading the way (he had been bragging the night before, about how he has been twice already)…when we caught up with him, he was hurling his guts up next to a cheese store. Maybe he was like, allergic to dairy? Yeah, probably not. Anyway, it took everything I had not to join him, as the faint foul flicker of stomach acid trickled up my nostrils…

But then I spotted a McDonalds, and all was forgotten! This would sort out the killer hangover! And it certainly did! Soon we were renewed, and replenished – and bounced out on to the streets for a good look around!

Regret Austin GIF

The cool guy strut didn’t last for long though, as I was nearly killed by an over-eager cyclist on every single street – before I knew it, I found myself walking a lot slower, and with a lot more caution than before! In other words I stopped stupidly meandering into the cyclist path…oh, the shame. 

Anyway, the “experienced” friend said we just had to see the Sex Museum so we did – but…honestly…no one has to see this place. Not ever. Oh my goodness, what an unnecessary pile of shit place it is! Just a load of bits, and pieces…cocks, and knobs, willies, and twinkles – jammed together in one place…I think it was supposed to be shocking or something, or overly vulgar for comedic effect – but seriously if you’ve seen it once, then this will probably bore you as much as it did me, (and I was 19 at the time!) It’s safe to say, that after this we were very suspicious of everything said friend said, we had to see.

To raise our spirits we visited a local cafe, where amongst other things you can buy these special cakes which have magical powers (or something). We sat for a while, and just relaxed…soon the positive spirit was back with us, and we began to find our sense of humour again. Mind we were a little tired, so much running around the night before…and then today, so busy…what with the coach, and err…the McDonalds…we had a little lie down on the couches, but this didn’t last for long. One of my friends wanted to have a discussion about a pressing issue, something that just couldn’t wait, something that I simply had to hear!

“Why did the cow jump over the moon? Like why? And…how? That is never explained…”

I didn’t really have an answer for that. Actually I didn’t have a fucking clue what he was even getting at, but I nodded politely all the same. But made sure to roll my eyes at one of my friends, so I could get his attention – and  start my own discussion with him…this one was really a pressing issue – not just some stupid cow-moon scenario. This one mattered – this one was important.

“Hey…hey…seriously though now – Martin Luther King was a fucking nice guy. Don’t tell me any different. He was a nice guy. People think he wasn’t…BUT HE WAS, AND THEY ARE WRONG.” 

Rock Proud GIF

This is what I can recall (ish), but the rest is lost in the fog. There was probably a lot more – but it will have just been along a similar theme…that he was nice, and no one knows it (pretty sure people widely agree he was nice, so not sure where I got that from…hmm…) Perhaps my friends got sick of me, or perhaps I had suggested it – but for whatever reason, we were back out on the street, looking for more sight-seeing spots. What actually happened was a lot of walking down the same streets, and circling around…and overall confusion. Where were we? And what were we supposed to be doing?  The cow jump over the moon friend was leading us…but to where?!

Now I must point out he isn’t the brightest in the world, God love him – but he started to explain that he had been leading us towards the red lights. Because “you follow the red lights, and end up in the red light district.” We laughed in his face (obviously!), and said that was the stupidest thing we had ever heard. And also, why did he even want to go there? I am no expert in those kinda things…but 2pm, really? He said he was intrigued…that’s all, just wanted to see the place…and with that he spotted another red-light, and was off on his way. It’s almost biblical isn’t it? Well no, it isn’t…but, yeah. 

We laughed, and considered just letting him go – and returning to the bus without him…but that little thing called guilt began to sneak in (dammmn youuuu!) and we ran to pull him back, in a bid to make him snap back to his senses, if at all possible. The lure of more food seemed to do the trick, just fine! Go figure, ey?  

It was a shame, but our trip was soon going to be over – and as we piled back on to the coach, we were able to reflect on the last couple of days…actually we just fell fast asleep…but still, reflecting on things sounds better.

Amsterdam Pic

 A few snap-shots I have just re-discovered! Please note my friend’s “hotmale” t-shirt he bought in one of the tourist shops – also note my fake smile (I was jealous that he spotted it first!)

Once we got back to England we were all exhausted…and it was mutually decided that the only thing that could remedy this, was a humongous breakfast…a colossal amount of bacon, and sausage…eggs…toast…mushrooms…whatever else you can find, throw it on a plate! Oh, and a cup of tea – milk, no sugars…because, you know – diet, and all that…we began to discuss everything that had went on, as you do…checking, and re-checking who had said what, re-opening certain situations, and moronically trying to defend our actions to one another.

I laughed so much that weekend, and things were certainly more simple back then – but at least I have the memory – and at least I now know, that most people do agree that Martin Luther King was a fucking nice guy. What a relief. 

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Waffling On (Belgium)

Belgium ~ Bruge – 2004

I re-watched the fantastic film In Bruges recently, and it reminded me of my trip there over ten years ago! Back then I had no idea about what to expect from this idyllic little spot…I remember asking my Mother, and her telling me something about riding a canal boat.

Didn’t exactly sound like party central to the thirteen year old me!

Canal Bruge GIF

But what I found in Bruges, was a treasure trove of beauty, and a haven of delicious things!

I mean the beautiful Gothic center alone, some of which dates back to the 1200s, is simply awe inspiring…and reason enough to visit as it’s an amazing place to just wander around. It is one of those places, that is nice to get lost in…unfortunately, after a while your arm hurts from all the whoa, look at that pointing when you spot little things of interest…but that’s actually alright, because you can sooth your pain by eating your body weight in some of the finest waffles on the planet!The best emporiums make it in front of you, which is a bit of a tease, but makes the experience all the more special…then you layer them in cinnamon, and sugar…I can’t stress enough, how good these things are – they are crunchy on the outside, and chewy in the middle (if done right!)…oh sweet Jesus, Mary, Moses…that stuff is the thing of heaven.

I can picture that first bite now…that taste that made my whole life flash before my eyes…

Life Flash GIF

Speaking of which, I remember buying a couple of bags of them, to bring back, and share with friends at school. They were battered, and broken by the time we arrived back in the UK…I remember the surge of secret glee I felt at considering they would probably not want them anymore…I’d pretend to be hurt for a bit, then take them home, and scoff the lot myself! Fools!

But that didn’t happen, and I had to fight back bitter tears as I watched the waffles deplete one after another, till I was left with a load of empty plastic bags,  and even more regret. So word to the wise, triple what you think a normal sane person would bring back…and then triple it again. In fact, you will want to pick up some of the delicious chocolate too…so best to just bring an empty case, or throw out all of your clothes, and possessions before you leave so you can have plenty of space for that which is more important: confectionery items. In fact, it is totally okay to tie whoever you are travelling with up, and use their plane seat as extra storage for all of the tasty treats you want to bring home with you.

I know I am waffling a lot, about…well, waffles…but if you are going to waffle on, then what better subject than waffles? I can’t get waffles out of my head…there’s nothing else I can remember about the place…

Oh wait, no ~ did I mention beer?!

Beer Bruge GIF

I was underage by quite a bit, but from what I remember this wasn’t a huge issue, I mean having a little try isn’t a big deal…right? Well apparently not, so we headed to a brewery, which doubled as a museum – and were shown around…we saw all of the machines in action, and were told the history of the place by the cheery owner. He would stop us every so often, and let us try small tasters of each type they produced. I felt like a rebel with every sip, but looking back, the only person who thought I was being naughty was…well, me! 

After a short while the tour came to a close, and I will never forget the Belgian’s closing line…and I quote directly;

“So you have seen what we have, and you have tasted what we have…so I now hope that you no longer drink that English piss. Thank you very much!” 

He then did a little bow, as the group laughed and applauded. I mean, yeah – our beer does taste like horse-piss…even worse when you compare it to the Belgian stuff…but come on, low blow. Mind, he wasn’t all bad, as after that jibe he handed out coupons for one free pint of any beer we wanted! Perfect, the day was getting better, and better! 

“I’ll take that! You won’t be allowed it anyway…” that was my Dad – all I could see was a cloud of smoke, as he sped off to pick up my beer for himself. My Mother snatched my sisters, and quickly followed after him.

There was only one thing for it, only one way in which we could drown the sorrow that accompanies huge losses in life…“another waffle?” I suggested…

And you know what? The world felt right again. So in short my friends…although this was a funny line in the film…

Bruge GIF

I can’t say I agree! Because, well…I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I was still pretty impressed!

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Dumbo Rides an Elephant

I didn’t really have a lot planned when I went to Nepal…”I wanna’ ride an elephant!” was basically all I had on my mind; aside from that I was very open! What did I end up doing before I got to that? Well national parks, jungle treks, and canoe rides to name just a few! And yeah sure, sure, they were all fun…of course…but I couldn’t shake the fact that no matter what happened, I would have to ride an elephant on this holiday! Hmmm…perhaps the several million times I had watched Dumbo with my previous class may have had something to do with this fixation…

DUmbo GIF

Whatever it was some guy said that we could book to do it the following day! I was so excited, I couldn’t wait! YEAAUHHHH! It was finally going to happen, WOOOO! FINALLY! Perhaps we would get stuck up in a tree, and there would be a magic feather, and we would make friends with some crows, and, and, and…

Well, no – naturally there was torrential rain…all night. So much so that the hotel room became an overpopulated zoo of creatures and critters; at first it was shocking every time you spotted a lizard on the wall, or a moth at the light – but after the millionth sighting it became far too commonplace to mention. Instead you just sit there swishing every now and again, as every tickle of wind or twitch of your skin feels like it may be a carnivorous insect you thought you would only ever see in the movies. The rain trickled through the badly made ceiling, but the mosquito net was providing ample shelter, despite the fact it had huge holes just about everywhere. A hippo could have made it through some of those holes…never mind a tiny mosquito! But you very much get what you are given in those places!

I had a decision to make that soggy next day – do I miss the opportunity because of the awful weather, or do I just go for it? Well despite not having any kind of raincoat, waterproofs or even a plastic poncho to drape over my pathetic shivering body – I decided fuck it, and went for it; after all what fun can be had in a hotel room? Well, lots of fun (obviously), just ask the owner of the Beverly Hilton  but the possibility for fun is reduced to next to none when you are dealing with a duo of diarhorrea stricken travelers…who have no access to toilet paper, never mind AC or television. With all that said, as soon as I stepped out (in a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and a baseball cap) I had immediate second thoughts as to whether this was such a good idea…the rain was very heavy, and I was drenched through and through within a matter of seconds…but still, elephant ride? Probably should still do this? Yeah…this is a good idea…a very good idea…

Rain Truman GIF

We piled into a truck; myself, my sister, and a young American couple. This is when my sister announced that as a vegan she would just be watching me from the sidelines…I mean I understood, it wouldn’t make sense that you don’t want to eat something but it is fine to ride it around…so I nodded in the most understanding way I could muster, secretly hating her for leaving me along with these complete strangers, I mean, who are they? What will I say to them?

The rain was still chucking it down when we arrived. In the distance there were large wooden shack-like platforms, that we would soon be using to (not so gracefully), clamber on these huge animals. I went first, giving one last look down to my sister who stood there with my umbrella grinning at my predicament. I pulled myself up, and was met with quite literally an upturned table and a battered cushion to sit on – that was what they attached to an elephant in order to use it as transportation. Where do I even sit? The guy gestured (in the most awkward way possible), that I should put one of the chair legs between my legs…and wrap myself around it…I fought the urge to laugh, and did as he instructed.

It was now turn for the couple to get on with me. They struggled for a long time, slipping, and sliding on the wooden surface – and often unintentionally pushing their bums in my face…I sat there and tried to pretend it wasn’t happening, but whenever our eyes met – I tried to politely nod and smile, but it probably came off as very creepy…there’s no way around it in that situation. 

Not Creepy GIF

Once we got moving we started to chat a little bit, the usual; who? what? where? questions – they were actually pretty cool people; an art teacher and a musical therapist. But once this idle small talk was out of the way, all of a sudden the guy sprang into the strangest bit of dialogue I may ever hear…

“Hey, you heard about claw? The Claw? No? Well yeah…I watched a documentary recently…and there’s this tiger called The Claw. It’s like a killer tiger…runs wild.”

“Oh…really? Where is he a-“

“Here. Yeah, Nepal. And The Claw is female by the way. She’s pretty bad-ass.”

“Mhmm…well, that’s…comforting. Thanks so much for telling me that. Good info.”

His girlfriend chuckled, and looked off into the distance – I wonder if he had kept her up all night talking about The Claw, maybe she watched it with him – I wish I had, then I might be prepared should he jump up and –

“So yaaaah…Claw like…killed fifty people, or was it eighty? Maybe one hundred and twenty…yeah one-twenty in total, fifty people last year-“

“Err…”

“It gets pissed off at elephants carrying people, and jumps up – swiping at people. This dude had a hand off.”

Scared Man GIF

I nodded, but stopped talking for a while, worryingly there hadn’t even been a flicker of humour behind his words…it was spoken to me as if it was a public service announcement that every elephant rider should be aware of – the rain continued to lash down, soaking my now laboriously heavy t-shirt within an inch of its life. I pictured all the way this fabled Claw character could kill me…or how the weird upturned table construction could just slip off its ropes, and I could break my neck quite easily…or maybe we would fall the other way? Then I am pretty sure that the guys beard would break my fall…but then I would be stuck in the middle of the jungle…The Claw would definitely get me then…

THWAAAAACK!

It took me a few seconds to work out where the sound had came from…it was a hollow, loud banging, that echoed around the jungle with a solid dull tone. THWAAAACK! This time I didn’t miss it, I had just saw the “driver” lash the poor elephant full force on the skull with his heavy steel implement. We looked at each other in total disbelief. I stared at the steel rod…it as curved on one side so it could be used for beating, and spiked on the other so it could be used for prodding – both seemed like cruel punishments. The elephants head was battered, pinkish brown where the same torture weapon had been used over and over, year after year, for this very purpose. THWAAAACK! I was filled with an uncontrollable rage – I rarely feel anything like it, but I stared at the back of the driver’s head…trying to stop a crazed urge to pull the implement from his sweaty hands, and beat him around the skull with it – see how he likes it, maybe I would throw four adult humans on his back, and hit him every time he decided he was exhausted. THWAAAACK! ARGHHHHHHHHHH! STOP!

Anger Control GIF

“I hope The Claw jumps up, and eats that guy.”  I muttered. The couple laughed, but I was pretty serious. I had previously had no idea of this side of things, so it was deeply troubling for me – honestly I just wanted the whole thing to be over…but it was now dragging. This was exacerbated by the fact the torrential rain made the terrain very difficult for the elephant to navigate – much to the driver’s disapproval. Yes, we still had a long way to go yet. 

After a short while we spotted a strange fish in the water, it swished and wriggled near the surface, in a snake like motion. “Croco” – mumbled the driver, I hadn’t noticed at first, but he was right – I could see small limbs just under the murky river…it was huge, but paid us no attention. I was amazed to see it in its natural habitat, as opposed to sitting bored out of its mind in a dusty zoo someplace – but when paralleled to the elephant’s situation, it made me even more upset. I was holding out a slight hope that the crocodile was on its way to meet with The Claw, and that they were going to form a superhero team to take out elephant riders for good! It didn’t ever happen, well not yet anyway – these things take planning, and planning takes time. I get it! 

Afterwards I thought about the whole thing, and the issue at large – I know now I will never ride an elephant again, or pet drugged up tigers in Thailand…I don’t knock anyone who does, because I was one of those people up until a short while ago! I just ask that you make yourself aware of the sad and cruel reality at play here. It’s depressing I know, but it’s an important issue we shouldn’t overlook. People are on the poverty line in these countries, and use these things to make money…but it isn’t their fault, it is the tourists fault for giving demand to such things. The cruelty I saw, has me breathless right now  even thinking about it…let’s try and make it a thing of the past. No creature deserves treatment like that. 

The Surf King

It may surprise you to hear that I actually detest the whole flying process, despite the fact that I do fly quite often. Everything from the treatment you get as part of a herd…shepherded through this little bit, then the next, then the next, all of these false obstacles designed to make you feel like you are making progress – so you are forced into this little desperate shuffle as you edge closer and closer to being able to sit down…you are regularly fondled under the guise that you may have a bomb or drugs lodged up your anus…and even when you get on the plane you are not safe! As there is the groin check, where the air hostess goes and basically stares at everybody’s crotch one by one…under the guise of “checking if you have your seatbelt on”, yeah right – I see through your LIES, you SICK, SICK WOMAN! Then there is the gross food, that you shovel down anyway like the immense waste of space you are – because, well…what else are you going to do on this flight that appears to have an estimated duration of ETERNITY.

But still I get on these tin cans in the sky, why oh why?!

Continue reading “The Surf King”

Taxi Stand Off

I don’t cope well with heat…searing heat that is…maybe it’s because I am from the North East of England…maybe it’s because I have a heart of ice…but whatever the reason, I can’t stand hot weather. It completely confounds me that anyone can put up with (let alone enjoy), standing under a giant ball of fire for a sustained length of time. I mean, it sounds just totally mental to me – the theory is you’re supposed to just lie back and marvel as your skin transforms itself into more radiant hues, like some kind of diseased chameleon…slapping on lotions and potions to help with the ordeal, which you could actually just avoid altogether by staying indoors and streaming a movie on your laptop, whilst eating ice cream that won’t turn to liquid instantly…

I’m a certified Grade A burner…so I am probably just very, very jealous of all you tanners out there.

Anyway, Nepal is a place where this sphere of flames appears to be approximately three times as pissed off as it is anywhere else. It is completely and unfathomably, unbearable. I felt like screaming “I’M MEELLLLTINGGGGGG!” every second of every day, even indoors (I know, I KNOW! WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THAT?!), where the WIFI was often unreliable – so therefore using my own solid gold advice was well and truly out of the window. Dammmit.

So invariably you venture outdoors, but the sheer abrasiveness of the heat leads you to becoming slightly insane, and making ridiculous impulse decisions when out wandering – “IT’S THIS WAY!!! NO…THIS….YES, I AM SURE IT’S THIS WAY, COME ON, COME ON, ARGH – WHERE AM I?! I HAVE LITERALLY NO IDEA – AH, I THINK IT’S THIS WAY…COME ON, COME ON, I’M SURE I SAW A – ARGHHH!” you twist and turn, wriggle and writhe, pulling yourself through the unfamiliar maze like streets – that all tend to look identical, but just appear to have different names…often very similar names actually, probably just to make the whole process even more confusing for you.

To make matters worse, the suncream I had lathered all over myself had met with the heavy amount of sweat that was now leaking from my body – making for a hot, sticky nightmare. I rubbed my brow, cursing the sky as it beamed down with an unforgiving intensity – that’s when I felt the first sting of suncream run into my eye sockets – “YOWWWW! ARGHHH – FACK, SHI! IT’S IN MY EYES!”

Eventually it comes down to this; you will either pull your eyes out and use them as makeshift ear muffs (two birds one stone!), jump on the next motorcyclist who honks his horn and tear him limb from limb, or you will get a taxi and be transported to your destination with relative ease. Naturally your mental state is somewhat altered by the intense heat, so this decision takes a little longer than it normally would…but you opt for the taxi ride eventually…well this time anyway.

Taxi Driver

Once inside, despite the dirty interior, you start to relax a bit – you know take in the sights “…ahhh, look! A man coughing his guts up as he stirs a huge pot of curry! Oh, wow! Look! That woman is being sick directly into the gutter! Jesus Christ – are we nearly there yet?” You have no idea…but you do know you will get there eventually, so that is a vague comfort, and the slight breeze the movement of the car produces is somewhat refreshing on your reddened face. It certainly beats your situation five minutes ago. That was a version of hell.

After ten minutes or so the car stops. “HERE IS THIS!” announces the driver…it doesn’t look like the pamphlet you have in your hand…you are quite certain that it can’t be…wait, what? So the taxi driver has not taken you to the palace that you had pointed to on the map, but instead decided you would enjoy the museum of aviation a whole lot better…fucking hell, and to add to this absolute MESS, the sun cream I had applied previously was still stinging the shit out of me, forcing me to squint uncontrollably, in between vigorous rubs, to try and alleviate the pain.

Arghhhh, just pay the man regardless, and get into another taxi as soon as possible.

“How much is it?”

A creepy underhand smirk forms in the corners of his mouth –

“Errr…500?”

He rubs his hands together as if he is the Nepalese version of Fagan…this is completely normal unfortunately, you should just take it for granted that people will try to rip you off at every turn. You are the clueless tourist, and they attempt to bank on that fact whenever possible.

“500? Naaaah-no, no, no -”

“Okay, okay – 400.”

“No way! I paid 200 for a journey that was twice as long yesterday!”

He stared back at me blankly, I was suddenly aware that I was massively pissed off, not sure where that had came from – as although this guy was ten a penny, he had just became a manifestation of all that was crooked and wrong with certain parts of Nepalese culture towards visiting foreigners…the sun was still unrelenting, the heat horrendous, and the cream began to sting my eyes until they were reddened and crazed beyond all comprehension.

“Okay, okay – 300.”

“YOU HAVEN’T EVEN TAKEN ME TO THE RIGHT PLACE! THIS IS THE AVIATION MUSEUM!”

More blank stares. I tried my best to reel in the Mr. Hyde side of my personality that seemed to have burst off the leash without my consent.

“Right, listen there’s 200, thanks very mu-”

“NO!”

As I placed the money into his hand he immediately pulled me back – attempting to stop me from leaving…despite the fact that I was overpaying him for taking me to the wrong location…madness.

“300.”

I stared back at him – completely and utterly enraged.

“Naaah…nerr…NO. LOOK – (taking one of the 100 notes back) – do you want 100, or 200? Your choice…”

This was fucking MAD. What the fuck was I even doing? I don’t do this, this isn’t me – I don’t really stand up to people in this way…even if I am definitely being wronged…I usually just do the very English thing and apologize profusely and complain about it later to a close friend…perhaps he would realize that and beat me to death in the street for attempting to fool him…I had to stay strong, remain in this Mr. Hyde character no matter what.

“300.”

“Okay…your choice…100 it is.”

I began to walk away with a faux manly confidence – he immediately stopped me again.

“WHAT?!”

He stared at me, clearly weighing his chances, testing my mettle…I stared back straight into his, trying in vain to look as close to Wolverine as humanely possible; but my eyelids were still red with irritation, and out of nowhere tears started to flood down my cheeks despite my best efforts to squint them away…not very errrr Wolverine-ish…I stood my ground regardless….who would give up first? That’s really all this would come down to…usually it would be me, but not this fucking time.

He grabbed the money and drove away. It was a minor victory, but it felt HUGE.

The joke was on me though…I then had to walk all the way back to the hotel (fearful of more taxi driver stand offs) in the searing heat. Absolutely gross.

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/24/wacky-races/

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/18/blood-sucking-leeches-nepal

 

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