Night in an Igloo

I often notice that spending a night in an igloo is on quite a few people’s bucket lists…and I think it’s clear why this may be; after all it’s out of the ordinary, a one off experience, and at the very least there’s potential for fun (if not frostbite and/or hypothermia.) 

As children we see drawings, cartoons, and photographs of these strange and snowy lands…and the igloo is a constant if not integral feature of this setup – it fills young and old minds alike with wonder as to whether the inside is warm and toasty…despite being made completely of chunky slabs of ice.  I mean surely it is right, or how would people survive the bitter cold?!

Please 90 GIF

Well while I was in Finland I was lucky enough to get to spend a night in one…it was a now or never situation as soon the slightly hotter March temperatures would melt them to the ground. So of course it was a yes without much hesitation. I  had some slight reservations mind you, so I piled on all of the clothes I had just in case (glad I did), from socks, to long-johns…hats, scarves, gloves…jackets, body warmers – the lot! I ended up looking like a cross between the Michelin man and a greasy German sausage; the only skin showing being my pink chubby face  and my constantly snivelling wet dog-like nose…

I went in with a friend I worked with, and my older sister: and we began to note how the outside looked rather bizarre, like a goblin barbarian camp – not sure where that idea came from, but it just looked otherworldly, you know? A long way from the winding uniform streets of my hometown,  the clanging of old clock towers, and the hustle and bustle of the bus schedules. Here there were strange ice huts, looking completely different to the post-card type of igloos my imagination had always held on to…instead they were draped in the skins of dead animals, and held together with strange sharpened wood…I could have sworn I had witnessed something similar in one of The Lord of the Rings movies – but anyway, I digress…

I was first into the igloo and threw myself straight into the center – meaning I was going to be a lovely cosy hamburger pattie with two agitated (and rather jealous) human bread-buns on either side…I had to ignore that and think of the bigger picture though: there was now a much lower chance of me freezing to death that night – try not to judge please, sometimes in the arctic wilderness you have to be savage like that:

Very Cozy GIF

The inside was just as bizarre as the outside and almost as cold; so I got straight into a sleeping bag still fully clothed like Joey on that episode of Friends – and then from my little cocoon surveyed the whole area…as my sister kicked me in the side and made every excuse under the sun as to why she should get to be in the middle as opposed to me. No sale. 

The place was adorned with even more animal skins, and there were a number of candles scattered sporadically around the outer ring – probably serving as both ways to warm as well as to add a little more quaint beauty to the otherwise sinister looking unlicensed fur store…I mean sure they were relatively comfy, but it made me feel slightly sadistic to be lying on Rudolph and all of his other now dead pals…

Anyway, I tried to forget about how some of Christmas had died just to keep my bum comfortable – and actually started to warm up a little…was still shivering though – so we passed around a bottle of the Finish spirit Minttu, hoping slurps of it’s 40% alcohol charm may work wonders and ease some the discomfort. It sort of did…we then fell asleep sometime after that whilst talking about the stars, the animal furs, and of course – the horrendous cold which was mostly all we could think about:

Cold Sucks GIF

I woke up the next morning warm and toasty though! Well all apart from that small opening I had for my face…which was now covered in frost on my eyelashes, and bogey icicles from my nose – but hey, at least the rest of me was okay – who needs a face anyway?  Not me!

But there was one monumental problem…I had to pee…desperately. And that would mean both going outside and leaving my lovely cosy cocoon, as well as potentially losing out on my commanding human hamburger position – this could not happen, no way…there was just too much on the line, the pee would have to wait. So I thought of other things…like…snow, ice, water…and…urgh…forget it…

As soon as I stepped out the -20°C temperatures hit me like a steam train and I knew that there was no getting back to my previous state – the other two were up now anyway, complaining about me leaving the door open (ooops) and the fact that they had to go to work in ten minutes…whereas I had managed to arrange a late start: “you sneaky bastard! How did you get that?! Totally not fair!” – this meant I could get my stuff together, brush off all of the animal hair (which was no small task!) and head back to the “Santa House”
as it was known, and get some solid sleep in a real bed…within, you know: four solid non-ice walls.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life. Like, not dying of hypothermia. Know what I mean? Still a fun experience and one I would recommend to anyone! But…just make sure you pack a bottle or two of that Minttu, it really does work wonders.

www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn

www.youtube.com/storytimewithjohn101

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

2016 Travel Plans…

Here is a brief run-down of my plan for 2016…it’s rather comprehensive – but if I pull it off then that’ll mean a whole host of new stories for Storytime with John! 

So wish me luck, please!

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn

www.youtube.com/storytimewithjohn101

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

A Caged Bird (Poem)

{I see myself, but it doesn’t look like me,

I see myself – but what should I be?

Yes, what should I be? And what should I become?

Be a dreamer – or achiever – you can only pick one.}

Ohhh, you want the bullet train to fame my boy?”

No, no, no! Just the mega bus away from plain and tame, would be a joy!

Well fucking stop that thought.”

Nothing good happens here.”

Oh, you’re into the arts? HA, HA, HA, must be a queer!”

Fuck off to London if that’s what you want – but know this,

we all think you’re an absolute cunt.”

{I want to think outside the box,

but I don’t have the keys to this cage,

I try every possibility in the locks,

that get rusty with age.}

HA! You don’t know about life! We struggle and strive, 9 to 5 that we hate, but we can barely survive, we buy things that we don’t want with credit we can’t pay, we turn on the television – it’s shit – but we watch anyway, we can’t wait for retirement, man that’ll be the day! We‘ll get to sit on our arse till we’re dead – ahh, bliss, don’t ya say?”

{I can see this for myself, but it doesn’t look like me,

I can see this for myself, but it’s something I don’t want to be.

Yes, there’s what I should be, and what I want to become,

I don’t want to cut my roots…I just want to grow: till my days are done.}

~~~

www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn

www.youtube.com/storytimewithjohn101

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Wonderlust!

What is this fabled ‘wanderlust’ that I see strewn around quite literally every form of social media these days? By the looks of it it’s something to do with handwriting fonts, pictures of maps, and photos of fields, seas, and mysterious pathways…right?

ahh wait no, here it is:

‘Wanderlust; a yearning or desire to travel and  experience adventure.’ 

Head Scratch GIF

Makes sense! No wonder everyone’s auntie and their cat has the word littered around the place as if its as commonplace as regret after a face tattoo! I mean, surely every single person in the existence of existence has had such a will…haven’t they? And I can’t see that changing anytime soon, it’s in our primitive nature to make such demands on ourselves – life is but a small window after all, and it’s on us to fill each little panel with as much colour as possible…so it may be worthy of display.

Yeah, yeah – I know! I’m being a typical liberal arts major freak and contorting the meaning of what it is to ‘experience adventure’…so apologies for that, it must be at least mildly annoying – but I just want to put forward the notion that just because you haven’t or likely won’t have a huge dramatic The Lord of the Rings type of epic in your lifetime it doesn’t devalue the journey you are already on…as long as you are living and breathing you are on your own personal adventure – just without the hobbits, and dragons.

Hobbits GIF

Although you may encounter hairy feet, and cockroaches…which is kind of the same thi…yeah alright it’s not, sorry – real life does have its pitfalls. 

Anyway, but despite this people post these wanderlust pictures, bless their hearts – and I’m not that against it or even mildly offended (I suppose i’m just being a dick if anything), but they often wrongly think that it’s the travel that they are longing for…that all they need to do is board a tin can in the sky,  eat peanuts/watch straight to DVD type films for twelve hours, then take a few photos at their guidebook destination to show people back home, and then they will feel content…but that’s not what it’s about, and that’s not what they want if they were really to consider themselves thoroughly. 

They want to step outside of the ordinary maybe because of a stagnant or complacent lifestyle, they want to experience something that shakes them from their routine, and reminds them they are seeing, hearing, and feeling human beings. They want to be in wonder…in amazement…they want that “wow” factor which you can only get by witnessing things first hand. Can you get this from travelling? Of course you bloody well can! Can you get it from opening your eyes to the beauty of life all around you wherever you are…yes! And you are not any less of a person for being more in line with the latter than that of some mad bearded traveller type who talks down to people who haven’t spent months in an igloo drinking their own urine. Or whatever it is they do – was just a quick example. 

Yeah GIF

That’s why as lovely and well meaning as it is, I really loathe the question; “so how many countries have you visited now then?” As it is completely missing the point in my book, I mean I don’t count and I never will – in doing so you are reducing the experience to a number, and a check-list…I find it robotic, I find it soulless. The questions that excite me are more focused on the human side of things; “what did you see? What did you do? Who did you meet? How did you feel?” These are what we should really be examining…and you should ask the same of yourself whether it be on a boat in Vietnam shifting through the islands of Halong Bay…or after you attended something in your hometown; a football game, an art show, drinks with your nearest and dearest…a hot dog eating competition – whatever it is just mull  it over and think;  “what did I see? What did I do? Who did I meet? How did I feel?” 

Life is just people wandering about aimlessly trying to make sense of things – it’s just people bumping into each other and saying hello then telling their life story; everyone has a tale to tell and you can make any experience richer by bearing this in mind. You see, thinking this way gives you a greater appreciation for life, and how amazing it really is – do I forget this sometimes and wallow, sure! Pfft, all the time! But that’s just more of a reason to remind myself again, and again.

Just look at yourself – you get to meet people everyday, see things, feel things – I mean how great is that?! Also you’re hot, and have a nice personality.

Pretty GIF

With all that said, I would encourage everyone to travel if you can, it’s fantastic…but don’t forget to look at what you have right where you are. Chances are it’s pretty damn wonderful and more than worthy of your time.

So it’s wonderlust over wanderlust, my friends. Remember that. 

www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn

www.youtube.com/storytimewithjohn101

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Almost at Everest

This tale is about the time I almost saw Mount Everest…yes, that’s right…almost saw. It isn’t a story of how I felt when I finally laid eyes on the huge natural behemoth – instead it’s the story of how I tried and failed.

I should point out that I didn’t ever plan on climbing it – I am not a fool, although I may look, and act like one; I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses – and putting one frostbitten limb in front of another as I take desperate drags from an oxygen tank is not my idea of fun, and most certainly isn’t a field in which I would excel…in fact I would probably have so much to complain about up there I would talk myself into an early grave. Because of this I had arranged to take the Mountain Flight from Kathmandu airport up to Everest to catch a glimpse (without all of that walking and heavy breathing)…don’t judge, come on, I had one day left in Nepal and I wanted to use it wisely!

After all, I bet an actual climb up Mount Everest entails a whole lot of inhumane practices – such as surviving on a diet of weird toothpaste meat energy capsules as there is no space to cook…if that is true, which I have promised myself it is – I can’t do that, I need my food. So, it was the only option to be a lazy piece of work and fly up there. I’ll climb next time…maybe…probably…errr…LOOK RON WEASELY EATING A SAUSAGE!

Eating Heavy GIF

Phew!

So I had booked the short tour flight just the night before, despite still being horribly sick (heavy duty industrial strength diahorrea) – it’s unfortunate of course, but it is for that reason that I will probably never return to Nepal…you know for fear of all of my insides falling out of my anus in a burning rush of searing pain…no big deal or anything. It was with this self-instilled no return policy, that I decided whilst I remained in the country I should do everything I can (to get my life’s fill of it all)!

So I popped a bunch of pills, drank some water, wore two pairs of underpants, and hopped uneasily into a taxi to begin the trail to the largest mountain in the world.

Obviously the taxi driver took the bumpiest fucking route known to man, so I was forced to clench harder than a crab claw’s vice grip – there were a lot of touch and go moments, but I held on, justI mean I had to! I am sure we all agree that shitting myself whilst looking at Mount Everest, may have taken some of the fun out of the experience! Anyway, after some jumbled directions about which muddy path I should follow, I trampled down what appeared to be a flooded building site until I found some automatic doors that had been jammed open with chunks of cardboard – I sighed my deepest sigh, trying to put it to the back of my mind…these guys can’t even grasp the intricate mechanics of the door mechanism but I am trusting them to throw me up into the sky in a tin can…smart John, very smart.

It’ll be fine, you won’t die…it’ll be fine. No one dies. It’ll be fine. 

After being vigorously molested by security, I spotted the desk in the distance and slowly waddled my way up to it, occasionally flinching due to what can only be described as adult nappy rash: if for some reason that sounds fun in any way then know that it is not…I don’t want to give too much horrifying detail, but to say that it felt like someone sandpapering your butt-hole, would be an outrageous understatement. It is more like someone…I’ll stop.

Despite the mess that was going on in my lower section, the lady at the desk still smiled cordially, she didn’t judge my diseased penguin walk, she didn’t mind the vague smell of sewage that probably clung to me…good for her…I couldn’t have did it. As I beamed back at her, I began to reach for my passport as I –

“YEAH, WHEN DO I GO ON THE PLANE?!” a strange sweaty man burst from nowhere to shove me aside, and instantly shared a “what the fuck?!” look with the lady, who appeared just as bewildered as myself!

Disgrace look GIF

The guy didn’t look at me once, I assumed out of sheer shame – I mean, know that if I was going on like an absolute prick I wouldn’t be mad keen on giving my victims eye contact, no, no – just do the crime and ignore those affected by it, that’s the code. I didn’t let this little incident get me down though and took perverse joy in listening in to the (pretty one sided) conversation…he kept demanding strange things, asking odd questions and becoming angry when the answers were not to his liking…to the point the lady looked altogether freaked out -he kept wagging his chubby finger and saying “YOU DO YOUR JOB – DO YOUR JOB WELL.” I mean who gets hot flaming mad about there  being no complimentary peanuts on the flight?! Who gets a little rage on because there aren’t two cushions on the seat?!

Well the answer to both of those questions is that guy. I thought I was having a shitty day, but I would take toilet woes to dealing with him any day of the week! The lady had to maintain the classic professional smile throughout the whole torment, I was half expecting her cheeks to spasm due to over use and peel off. She held on. 

When we got through to the main waiting gate area (it was all one large room) I made a sprint for the toilets for reasons which should be obvious by now. I was not disappointed, the smell was just as rank as I had come to expect, there were rusty brown splodges that were presumably a homage to the thousands of people who had entered and pissed on the floor rather than use the disease ridden cubicle. Bizarrely there was a mop in the corner of the room…which was weird…I thought that must be some kind of joke by the staff, like a funny thing which further exemplifies just how unnecessarily putrid the place is. But anyway, joke or not – I had assessed long ago that this wasn’t a place anyone could use for toilet time, so I washed my hands (probably making them even more dirty than before by turning the tap OFF) and then headed back to the main big room. The angry man was shuffling about, still irate, barking at people as he went on his way…I sat down in a far corner well out of his path…ah..no…he then performed an unexpected U-turn and…oh…oh, my…he was heading straight towards me…I tried to look a little bit strange, unhinged even – like the kind of guy you would just think hmmm, not sitting next to him…he may try to sell me cheese he keeps in his pockets, or ask if he can lick my gloves or…it’s not working, he is still coming – do something weird, why is it not working?!

“PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE – PLEASE DON’T SIT DOWN HERE!”

Dont SIt GIF

Naturally he sat down right next to me despite there being ample space literally everywhere else – I felt the violent surges of red creep up my neck, past my cheeks and up to my ears…the anticipation of being put on the spot and screamed at about the lack of peanuts, or whatever other mad crusade he would crazily ramble on about this time. I sat there tensely, wishing I had put the second earphone in when I had the chance…now if I put the other in it would be too obvious a don’t fucking talk to me kinda tactic…which is just not socially allowed for some reason, so yeah – just had to sit there staring at my hands, hoping maybe they may fall off…so that I could have a decent enough excuse to return to the bathroom…but they didn’t, they just stayed there, shaking a little…I looked off into the distance, itching my neck over and over…I started to tell myself that maybe he would just leave…maybe he wouldn’t want to shout at me…maybe he –

“WHERE ARRR YOU FRUM?”

Argh, fuck. I turned slowly to face him – as much as I would have loved to ignore him, or just get up and shoot myself in the head,  for better or for worse – that isn’t me. Strangely, we ended up speaking for some time, at first I gave him limited responses, as it was the usual who, what, where kind of interview, it also irritated me that he kept referring to Korea as Japan…so much so that eventually I just shrugged and started doing it myself. Yeah, yeah – Korea do great sushi, don’t like Tokyo though, far too crowded…mhmm me too…

He asked me what I enjoyed doing, what my passion was – he assured me that you have to have passion in life or you may as well be dead. I said I loved to write funny stories, and make people laugh if I could – naturally, he immediately asked me to tell a joke, which is always horrible – I don’t really do one liners…but he wouldn’t take no for an answer, he just looked at me with these expectant eager eyes until I finally caved…what happens when you drink food colouring? You dye a little inside! It was a little bit like Slumdog Millionaire, as a random memory of a Penguin chocolate bar gag slipped from my memory vault, perfect for this occasion. There was an awkward pause…I was about to apologise for inflicting such a bad piece of cheap humour on him, but he then started raucously laughing, and slapping his thighs – “GOOD ONE! DYE LIKE DIE…DYE IS…AHHH!” 

Funny Laughing GIF

He was impressed that I had thought it up by myself…so was I. There was an announcement that the flight would be delayed, they needed to wait for a weather safety report. But we didn’t particularly care, we carried on chatting about this, and that. He asked me about my family, friends…you know, the usual introduction stuff – when I reciprocated he began telling me an unexpected tale of woe that really gripped me, and has been on my mind ever since…

He was originally from Syria, and had once been married…with one son. He was so proud of him, that much was obvious – he told me he had studied day and night without any pushing, easily passing all of his exams and becoming a doctor – which was the only path he was ever destined to be…he wanted to help people, and had been the same way even as a young boy, always fixing up animals and doing things for his Mother. He then spoke fondly of his wife…the most beautiful woman you will ever see, clever and witty – someone he could talk to deep into the night, never to tire of the conversation…it was the perfect life he said. Was. 

That’s when he told me…his son had been on a bus, on his way to start his first job since graduating, when a bomb blew up, causing the vehicle to fly off the road, and kill every person unfortunate enough to be inside. His wife, once the happiest lady you would ever meet, instantly stopped working and would lock herself in the bathroom every day…after a few agonizing weeks she was found dead, she had shot herself in the head – so as not to deal with the worst possible heartache imaginable. He gestured the gun shot to the head, and began to form tears in the wrinkled cracks of his eyelids.

But he didn’t want my sorrys…he didn’t want my sympathy – instead he made me promise I would live out everyday in as full a way as I could, he held on to my hand and squeezed tight – after all, he said – that is what he is doing. I wondered what he meant, and it was then that he revealed a tattered map, once owned by his son, and told me that he is visiting all of the places he once heard him speak of, all of the places he had promised his Father he would see one day.

Everest had been on the top of the list.

There was an announcement that the flight would be cancelled, and a full refund would be available. You’d think I would be disappointed, as unlike my new friend – I didn’t have the option to try again tomorrow – as I would be returning home the next day. It seems like I had just wasted three hours of my life in an airport for seemingly no reason whatsoever…but the truth is I had learned a lot from this strange rude man, that had barged into me just earlier that day…at the risk of sounding cheesy let me just say this – I walked out with a different appreciation for what life is that day, it’s a flickering flame that can go out at any moment. So you have to make the most of it.

Go on…

www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn

www.youtube.com/storytimewithjohn101

Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

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. 

Hate at First Sight (Hungary)

Hungary ~ Budapest – 2014

I hadn’t been to Hungary in well over five years, so on this recent trip to eastern Europe I was hoping for a different experience with more mature eyes…for those of you who didn’t read it before, this was my last encounter with the country:- “scrotum-stares-hungary” I mean the name says it all…but it’s still probably worth a quick read just so you are up to speed!

Anyway, rest assured I had my fingers crossed hoping that there would be a lot less scrotums this time around, and a little less staring if possible! Well the short version is that I didn’t see any scrotums on this adventure (automatic huge plus!), but the staring was at threat level midnight! This time there was a lot more hostility to the gazes, I think it was due to the fact that I was now a young man…so therefore probably fair game, perhaps when I was a child they didn’t think it was so acceptable to give me the type of look that suggests they want to rip off my head and use it as an ornament, or more likely – an ash tray.

Hostile GIF

As my brother and I walked around it became clear that the male portion of the population were the most forthright in their glares – they sneered, growled, and made every other caveman-ish attempt to make us feel uncomfortable. We stood out I guess, the native’s clothes looked like they had been purchased in the early 90s…usually the look was completed with a raggedy mullet curling down the flabby neck of its owner – so in comparison, despite the fact we were just wearing shirts and dark jeans, in their eyes we may as well have been wearing Elton John style glitter jackets. This is largely conjecture, but we came to the conclusion that they probably thought we were two young homosexual chaps on a nice week break together…and that they would try and laser-eye the homosexuality out of us, or at least make us feel sufficiently uncomfortable with the whole thing. Hard to enjoy licking an ice cream cone, with 20 bigoted men staring at your every movement. Very awkward. 

On the subway we took to staring at the ground, pretending we were not aware of the blatant display of hatred – in our hometown it was pretty much the same drill in certain areas. Both places were filled with people who will aggressively stare, and if you even glance at them it will be all, “are you looking at me?! You want to start something?! Someone hold my brain I’m going to fuck this cheeky bastard up!!!” I can’t speak Hungarian, but I imagine it is pretty much the same, word for word. One time we stepped on the train, cue hateful stares of course – but this time we were also met with a strange gypsy-looking lady humming a bizarre tune loudly to the rest of the cramped carriage…I assumed she was asking for money for her performance, but nope…she was just rocking back and forth wailing out of her lungs…this would make a great eerie tune on a horror movie sequence, I thought to myself…but was cut short from this imaginary sequence by a mustached man in front of me – he pointed at my trainers, so naturally I looked down…maybe my laces were untied, or a bird had shit on them or something…nothing…I looked back at him, and he pointed again – oh God, leave me alone – I shook my head, and looked away, wondering if my ear drums would explode anytime soon so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to the lady’s groaning tune anymore –

“JUST LOOK, JUST LOOK!”

I knew it was him. I took my time to turn to face him, and even when I did it was with a slow robotic movement…I didn’t want to have anything more to do with him, but perhaps if I didn’t give him drips of conversation he would pin me down and make me listen to the harpy-lady’s song for the rest of time. And I couldn’t take that. He made gestures that insinuated he wanted me to take of my shoes, and give them to him…you know, just so he could look.

Oh my God, I am going to be beaten up and robbed for my trainers…I’ll have to walk back to the flat in my socks…I bet there will be loads of little stones that are mildly uncomfortable to tread on…oh God, no…just FUCK OFF, comb your mustache, slap a Gran, go cow-tipping, something, anything – whatever you do – JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

So scared GIF

I shot him a confused look, that in my head would be perfect Oscar-winning acting…”I done, I done no…what you say…when…I done” I stammered to him slowly, even introducing my hands and shoulders, to further emphasise just how little sense his broken English was making to me…in my head I was Russian…but I suppose it doesn’t really matter, so long as he didn’t run off with my Nike Airs.

We arrived at a station, the doors opened – and the majority of the cabin flooded out together, they had been some kind of strange collective group…the strange singing lady, the burly sneaker thief, and the rest of his staring entourage. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief…as did my shoes.

Stepped in shit on the way back to the flat though, go figure – should have left him have em after all! 

Like this story? Then why not like the Facebook page?http://www.facebook.com/storytimewithjohn YOU KNOW IT MAKES SENSE!