Week 69: The Village Of My People

Friday, 26 April 2019

Reading time 03 minutes 33 seconds 

Travel makes you modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world – Gustave Flaubert

Of course I want to see an Ewok village, and off we set!

I’d been drinking in Thailand way too long. I was fairly sure my little teddy bear friends from the greatest movie ever made were not real. Or were they? I had been disconnected from real life for some time. Had technology advanced from Dolly the sheep and the Ewoks were the next step for the scientists? They must have loved Star Wars as much as me. Of course they’d invent Ewoks, it’s what I’d do if I was a scientist. What would be more important to happiness than that?

I was at the start of a weeklong hangover and this was hour one. I’d been drinking and god knows what else for 3 days without much of a break. My mind was starting to collapse and my friends were no help with their offer of travel. The finish line to feeling human was a long way off. I hadn’t slept much and when I had it didn’t feel like normal sleep, probably because I drank so much Thai Red Bull & Whiskey. I wonder what else they or drunk me had put in that stuff?

Hazy memories consisted of morning after parties, afternoon chilling parties and of course the main evening parties. Why were my pals considering a trip? How was I the only one feeling rough?

I was living on party island and I may have slightly over done it. It was only meant to be a 2 day flying visit but that was 6 weeks ago. I’d become a hedonist and had already calculated that with my limited funds I could live here for 2 years if my liver could handle it.

The Ewok village being mentioned threw me all out of whack, which was not a huge leap. I was informed that it was located in Malaysia which was another country. It felt a long way away. My friends assured me it was next door. Well I guess it was polite to visit your neighbours. 

I wasn’t convinced on Malaysia until they mentioned the Ewoks. I had plans of staying in my hut by the beach, eating fruit, drinking coffee and watching the sea while smoking cigarettes and contemplating my life. It was a much better plan, until those silly little teddy bears were thrown into the mix.

Two Hours later we were on the boat leaving party island. What followed was my own version of hell;

• 2 hour boat journey to the mainland
• 10 hour minibus to Bangkok
• 12 hour coach to Malaysia 
• 6 hour minibus to the Taman Negara rain forest
• 3 hour boat journey to the heart of the rain forest
• 30 minute walk to teddy bear heaven

I travelled on the dustiest and bumpiest roads I’d ever experienced and the roughest seas and rivers. The hangover didn’t make it any easier but I was finally in a 130 million year old rain forest and closer to my little furry buddies. Shortly it would all be worth it. We were tired upon arrival so decided to get some sleep and go meet our new tribe in the morning.

The little sleep I had over the last few weeks were near a DJ booth playing Drum and Bass so imagine my shock when I discovered that a rainforest is louder and much more annoying. Insects make a deafening unregulated noise with no natural beat to fall asleep too. To add insult to injury they also try to bite you. This only happened with the DJ once but that’s a tale for another day.

In the morning my hangover was still there but was being overpowered by my childlike enthusiasm. Sadly the weather was against me as it was chucking it down which I guess I should have expected due to my location. I noticed a huge sign which stated that humans breath in what trees breath out and we should protect them. It was made of wood so someone misunderstood the message.

Being in Taman Negara was magical, being with friends who I loved and adored was even better. Life was perfect, until we got to the “Ewok Village”

I would not hear the brilliant Yub Nub song played today.

There was no village and what’s worse Ewoks were not real. I’d been conned, how could I have been such a fool? Obviously they were fictional but when I was told it seemed so believable, looking back I may have still been fractionally tipsy.

The “village” consisted of ladders laying down between the branches of the trees and tied together in what the British health and safety executive would call a very negligible and dangerous fashion. You had to walk precariously over each one while dodging insects who had less natural rhythm than yours truly and still wanted to bite me. This was all done within the canopy of the branches.

My friends looked embarrassed. I looked angry. Just for a moment back there I believed in magic. Now what? My childlike enthusiasm had been destroyed. Ok, time to take stock of my life and the world in general. I now needed to get my head and it’s ache back around life without an Ewok or the village. 

My expectations were not met, but I was still in one of the world’s oldest rainforests which was gorgeous, with people I loved and I was finally sober and in the trees. 
Life was good, but it could have been better………..with Ewoks and their village. What exactly is science doing?

Picture: It’s a repeated photo but seemed right for this walk down memory lane. Is it me or the brilliant Warwick Davis?

Week 68: I Need A “Moment”

Friday, 19 April 2019

Reading time 03 minutes 38 seconds 

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling – James E Starrs

There is an old me and a new me.

My buddy Fi called old me ‘Drunk Boy’. My friends refer to new me as ‘Boring Boy’.

Despite being boring I’ve not out grown doing ridiculous things and last week I proved Friday night is still party night as I cycled from London to Whitstable. That’s right, on a Friday night.

Cycling overnight is the safest way to do this 68-mile journey and it had been meticulously planned by a group called the Fridays. They did such a good job I decided to make it as difficult for myself as possible. I’ve done a few overnight rides before, but my brain must have removed the memories of extreme pain in the same way as it does for some females around childbirth. 

The ride started from midnight on the South Bank. It was freezing and I was wearing layers of lycra, which included my new bib shorts. For the uneducated bib shorts are like a leotard in that the shorts are not held up via your waist but with straps over your shoulders. Apparently, they are all the rage in the Tour de France.

To get them off you need to remove all of your top layers and it fractionally crossed my mind how funny it would be trying to get this lot off if you needed an urgent poo. 

Once the ride was underway we cycled as a group and as it stretched out one of us would wait to let the people at the back know the correct way to go. We’d also stop every 5 miles or so to regroup. There was a nice mechanic at the back known as a tail end Charlie and he would help those with punctures but the regrouping would not leave until the Charlie had arrived. I later discovered this was not his real name.

The mechanic was so cool he wore a monocle and had a curly moustache. I asked him where he bought the monocle, as it looked modern, and without flinching he said, “the monocle shop”. What a time to be alive!

Cycling through South London in the dark isn’t pleasant. At one point we passed a group of youngsters who were in a dodgy underpass smoking something that wasn’t tobacco. As we rode towards them one guy looked at us and as he inhaled, he looked at his joint and thought this must be good stuff.

The freezing cold night and the miles rolled on. I could not feel my left foot, and I was like an opposite version of version of Christy Brown, and by 4am my hypochondria kicked in and I was convinced I’d lost it due to frost bite. 
At the half way point we stopped at a church that had kindly opened its doors, baked some cakes and put the kettle on in return for a charitable donation. I ruined the film and book of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ for the people at my table by saying that like Henry I was going to lose my feet.

This is where my second mistake was made. I demolished the best Victoria sponge cake I’d 

ever eaten and drunk a lot of coffee. The first mistake was the day before when I got the look from the Mrs because I opted to eat too much fruit for dinner. I should have used the facilities but there was no time as I had wasted it spoiling a great book and terrible film.

We carried on cycling but shortly after the cream, in the double helping of cake, started to do what it does on those who no longer eat dairy products. That coupled with the accelerator of coffee started my stomach churning and at the same time the fruit decided it needed to also be heard.  

I pressed on but my need to visit the toilet was growing. I’d held it in before although previously I’d not been cycling and pushing on my belly in every upwards leg stroke.

Next stop. Church. Not open. No toilet. Sweat. Not from exertion but from needing to release my bum cheeks. I tried to wee behind a tree but could not release those muscles for fear of the others joining in to see me carried away in a tsunami of my own making.

And on we cycled.

The sun rise was spectacular although this moment of joy was not to be enjoyed as I was concentrating on my predicament. At 7am we passed Morrisons. I wanted to stop but was almost at the back of the group and it would mean slowing the team down. A few minutes later we stopped again, and I should have at least asked why we stopped on a corner and not somewhere with toilets but I felt like I was in school and was determined to make it to the end of the day and not poo in my pants. 

The next few hours were difficult, and I’ll be honest I had a few close calls.

And then as we entered the next town divine intervention happened. For a second, I thought I heard the angels singing but it was just a few fellow cyclists standing by a public toilet. I cycled up and gave a man my bike and asked him to look after it while I had a wee. I don’t even know if he was with our group but before he said yes I was inside. The public toilet was clean, and the cubicle was free, and my prayers had been answered.

By now my muscles had relaxed and I was moments away from satisfaction. As I went to pull down my trousers, an activity I had done thousands of times in the past, I was reminded I was wearing bib shorts and all the top layers would have to come off first. I whipped off my coat but forgot the Velcro wrist straps and became entangled in it. I could no longer put it back on or take it off and it had become like a strait jacket. I let out a cry. Should I shout and ask the guy outside to help? No, hang on, who would watch my bike?

I took a breath retraced my jacket steps and put it back on. This time I undid the Velcro and tried the zip but my hands were cold and could not grip the zip properly. Then my fingers woke up and off came the jacket, followed by the other jacket, the t-shirt, released the shoulder straps and finally my shorts came down. At that exact moment my legs touched the toilet seat in a sitting position and my relief was immediate.

There was no embarrassment at the huge sigh of relief I let out. It was a close run thing and I’d literally touched a lot of cloth to get into this position.

The Fridays are a great group who put in a lot of work to make fun free rides for everyone, if you’re a cyclist why not check them out; https://www.fnrttc.org.uk

Picture: Me at the half way point. I was very very cold. 

Week 67: Another Plane, Another Fight

Friday, 12 April 2019

Reading time 04 minutes 39 seconds

In a world of thieves the only final sin is stupidity – Hunter S Thompson

I’ve never enjoyed the stories of folk who start with “typical me”. It seems as if they engineer the situations just so they can use that phrase. That said I seem to be heading into typical me territory here as I had a shouting match with a person on a plane. It wasn’t my fault but either way it seems that I’m becoming a type.

It’s starts like all good stories, sat between two women on a ten hour night flight. One of the ladies was kind, thoughtful, non-judgemental, caring, her smile illuminated the plane and made those around her happy to be in her presence. The other was my girlfriend.

Kind lady never complained once when I had to move her from the aisle seat on my 6 visits to the toilet and was clearly sympathetic to my peanut sized bladder. She was older than me so probably understood. I found it strange that even though she drank water, a gin and tonic and a coffee, she didn’t visit the facilities once. 

She was clearly a grandmother, not a nan but a grandmother. There is a difference. She seemed like the favourite of the grandparents. Everyone had a favourite gran and I bet she was nailing it. Her husband was across the aisle and seemed like a good Werther’s originals grandad. 

I really liked her. We shared a few little laughs together during our brief spell in one another’s company. My only niggle was that when I pointed out a teenager who was wearing a big puffer jacket and commented that she won’t feel the benefit of that outside she didn’t laugh. But I could forgive her for that as I’ve heard it been said that comedy is very subjective.

She was not the woman I argued with but I want to get across that I’m not a monster who randomly argues with people and I can have a short term relationship with people on planes.

The tension started when we arrived at Gatwick airport which came as a surprise to the ground crew as they were not expecting us. I found this a little odd as I booked the flight nine months ago. 
Coaches had to be organised to ferry us to the terminal and the captain informed us that it would take 20+ minutes so we may as well stay seated. This was lost, as everybody was already standing removing luggage and heading to the door and were never going to sit back down.

I didn’t believe the coaches would take 20 minutes. If they hadn’t managed to organise it in the last 9 months why would they now? I read my book and fell asleep. 30 minutes later the transport arrived. Sadly the stairs to get us off the plane were not ready so it’ would be at least another 10 minutes or so. Apparently the ground crew didn’t know we needed stairs. These guys were nailing it. The pilot was beautifully sarcastic in his announcements. Someone shouted out that they should deploy the emergency chute device which helped relive the tension but not much. People were angry and agitated, one of whom was my girlfriend.

To not wind her up anymore I finally rose from my seat and retrieved my bag from the overhead compartment. I asked where my other half’s little bag was as the storage area was empty. I was instructed to look again.

I then called my first witness to the stand and asked a fellow passenger to confirm what my eyes were telling me. My girlfriend looked aghast, and stated that she had put it there herself. I gave her the REALLY look. 
We’ve been together a while and I rarely get to use it, not nearly as much as her. She returned this look with a don’t mess with me I’ve been on this plane for over 10 hours and I’m not happy look. I wasn’t sure but I sensed a little anger.

I asked my fellow passengers to check the surrounding overhead compartments but they were also all empty. My other half looked shocked. She reiterated the ‘I put it in there’ comment. The surrounding passengers now gave me a REALLY look, which I passed onto her. In hindsight this was a little dumb.

Steps started to be retraced when I blurted out my second mistake which at the time seemed the right thing to say. Did you leave it in duty free? I felt the people around me collectively wince.

My Mrs then started to panic. How will we drive home? How will we get through the passport control automated contraption? A computer won’t understand that your passport is thousands of miles away in another airport.

The line of passengers were starting to console her. Those further down the plane who could not hear were enquiring what was going on and word passed down the line that some wally had lost their bag. These people were stuck and had been standing for 40 minutes now so were grateful for a little bit of drama.

A lady from about 12 people away then shouted over enquiring if we had lost a little suitcase? That was a shock, how did she know it was a little suitcase? The only facts we released were a lost bag. I shouted back yes we had, and how did she know it was a little suitcase? 

Like a tennis match the crowd swivelled their heads to see her reply.

Avoiding my question she asked where it was stored?

It was a plane full of mainly British people so the out loud conversation was very rude and upsetting for some but the rest were all ears.

I pointed to the overhead locker above me.

She then held up my girlfriends suitcase and enquired if this was it?

Yes. Why do you have my girlfriends case I shouted back. 
There were a lot of questions going through my mind, the main one being is this thief finally developing a conscience when faced with the horrors of her victims suffering?

The eyes of my loved one bore into me and then her mouth took over. I told you I didn’t leave it in duty free she said angrily then less angrily that it was a relief to be proved right. 
I was not relived. I was angry, firstly I’d made my girlfriend out to look stupid and forgetful, secondly there was a thief on board the plane.

I should have screamed apprehend that woman, but we were locked in a plane and going nowhere so it didn’t seem necessary. 

I could either apologise to my lover or argue with the thief.

Why did you steal my girlfriends suitcase? I shouted.

Everyone turned their heads from me back to the thief. The tennis match resumed.

I didn’t steal it came the reply.
I returned the volley. 
Yes you did I can see it in your hand.
I heard a whipping sound of a hundred necks.
It’s not stolen, I took it as I thought it was someone else’s bag and I was doing them a favour.
Who is this person I countered?
I can’t find them at the moment came the weak reply.
And then I went full sarcy.
Oh really! How convenient. 
HA, I had them. Game set and match to me. Take that you causer of arguments and thief.

She then shouted an apology. I hadn’t seem that coming and I was flawed by this but my sarcasm was still high and I responded with a well placed Thanks.
It must have come out as very mean as the crowd went ohhhh.

I said sorry she repeated and I said thank you I replied, but I said this with such anger and hate that a hand came onto my arm and my poor girlfriend said leave it. No harm done and I needed to calm down.

Well there was harm done. There was a thief and if I continued to shout at them I’d postpone my slice of humble pie.

Then the plane doors opened and everything was forgotten as there was a stampede down the now found plane steps. The argument was over but without resolution. We picked up the case on our way out.

I never saw the thief and never apologised to my girlfriend. Typical me.

Picture: I aim to take only 24 pictures on any holiday in a stupid tribute to old style cameras. This trip I only took 5 and this was my best. It’s in the airport on the way home. I’m very pleased with the results

Week 66: Will It Fit? No? Let’s Try Anyway

Friday, 5 April 2019

Reading time 2 minutes 38 seconds 

If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk. – Robert Baden-Powell

One of my previous jobs was a van driver.

That’s the foreshadowing taken care of.

My Cousin was more of a man’s man at 13 than I am now. He knew bloke stuff and probably owned a drill. I believe that’s the mark of a real man. The ability to own and use a drill. I have to pay someone to do my drilling for me. 
He was related to my uncle, my nephew, not the drilling person and he was helping me move house with the help of his dads van. He was also stronger than me so would prove useful.

I’d finally bought my first home, it was nice. People suggest buying a house because it has a great catchment area for schools or it’s a nice location with equity growth potential. I bought it with my partner as we both liked the garden shed. 
We’d never owned a shed before and wanted our first one to be perfect and this was it. Cute as a button I believe was the expression used, except buttons are never as cute as sheds. My Cousin didn’t even need to teach me that important Man fact. That shed is still standing 20 years later although it’s been sadly neglected by its current owner. Some people don’t respect a cute as a button shed, and some do. I’m in the latter group.

On move day I admitted to my cousin that I sadly suffer from hordering. Back then we didn’t know it was a problem as channel four hadn’t made programmes highlighting it. I had a lot of useless possessions which were scattered around the four corners of London in friends’ houses. 

The plan was simple gather all my bits together in my new gaff then have a party and upset the neighbours.

While driving the loaned van around west London I took a short cut I knew. I was an ex van driver around these parts and had the route planned to a tee. I then came across a width barrier.

My cousin sitting next to me told me to turn around as we wouldn’t fit. I explained that I’d driven my van through here many times and just had to take it nice a slow. He explained that this was a bigger van, wider than the 6 foot 6 barrier. 13 year olds they think they know it all. Well not this time, I’ll prove him wrong.

I drove slowly towards the width barrier, he kept telling me to stop and I kept ignoring him. We were part of the way through and I thought that if I floored it now we’d be clear. So I did. The Engine revved, the van lurched forward and for a small moment we moved and then the sound of metal on metal hit my ears, both doors caved in and the van ground to a halt.

There are some horrible sounds in existence, metal on metal being one of them. The other being the phrase I told you so.

The van was what is known in the delivery driver game as proper stuck. I wanted to get out and have a peek but couldn’t open the doors. I leant out the window to survey the situation. We were never going to fit. My cousin was right. I had destroyed his dads van and he was trying not to laugh and failing. We both cracked up like naughty children which only one of us was. The other being my cousin.

I reversed back and the annoying metal crunching sound was thankfully drowned out by the beeping horns of all the traffic that had backed up behind us.

Once removed from the width barriers I drove the van back to its owner. It cost me a few hundred quid to fix the van and I decided that in future I’d hire a removal firm and leave my cousin out of it.

Picture: The names Wills, Mat Wills. License to drive vans…………Badly