Paul had witnessed a few birds in the bush before but had never espied a chicken up a mango tree avoiding cock!
He knew it to be one of those odd things one comes across when travelling in South Asia.
The sub continent never disappointed.
He and Andrew had once seen an unfortunate man’s brains frying steadily on a scorching highway after an accident their vehicle had narrowly avoided – but that was an altogether darker scene. The avian antics now unfolding before him were far more comic. He chuckled as he watched the harried chuck cling on to an unripe fruit for dear life whilst the desperate clucker beneath stalked her mercilessly, egging her on to descend so that he could do much the same.
Only on her!
They were quite the lovebirds.
Paul turned to his partner and asked what type of chicken it was. He usually hated the creatures finding them preferable in a bowl to them scrabbling around his ankles with their putrid dinosaur feet. However, this little bird possessed feathered bloomers which stylishly disguised the normal nasty talons – and a feathered hat. She was almost charming. Almost ‘Chanel’.
Andrew had no idea.
‘But you know about birds’, Paul quacked, ‘ that was one of the first things that impressed me about you.’
‘Only cos I read an ornithology of garden bloody birds when I was eleven!’ Andrew retorted.
‘I never professed to be an expert!’
‘No, I know’ said Paul, ‘Actually that has disappointed me ever since.’
With that the two sat in silence for just a moment – it was to be their thirtieth year together the following day!
Silence came easy.
As did conversation.
The pair of them had just been belting out Cilla Black’s ‘ Something Tells Me Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight’ with such force that Paul imagined the only something on the cards that night was being chucked out of their room.
Presently, positioned at least eight bars from his partner, Paul could still ascertain Andrew doing a swinging Tony Bennet number! He wondered what their hosts would think – but then everyone in Sri Lanka up to now, at least, had seemed so laid back he was fairly sure they’d just swing along. As for the other guests, well there were very few.
A gargantuan and garrulous German Paramedic from Hamburg with his equally rotund and jocund wife. Their niece and nephew who both clearly followed their uncles dietary advice – him being a medic after all. And a ‘houseboy’ who looked after a very ancient Canadian gentleman. Apparently he was very good with an Anthurium according to their landlady. Paul had subsequently explained to Andrew what one of those was, but they had both sussed immediately that Jeeva was in the growing business. And why not? He seemed terribly happy and appeared to have many a string to his fiddle.
Not just arranging flowers.
And then, for a brief moment, there was a pair of young Russians, but they had left almost immediately on account of the Wifi not being up to ‘Russian standard’. Which made Paul laugh, as he’d always thought of that as a brand of vodka! And he was more than aware that the internet connection where they were staying had no such kick!
Unfortunately he’d noticed several young Russians being rather uncharming on many an occasion now and wondered what they were taught about travelling abroad. His mother had visited their impressive country very recently and assured Paul that the people were the most friendly. When abroad, however, Paul couldn’t help but notice they tended to follow the Putin rulebook and invade with little grace! Paul knew he shouldn’t mention it as his blog could be monitored by The Kremlin, if he were lucky. Or some ‘no-one-nik’ working out of a Vladivostok basement more like, much like it was still read by some mysterious followers in China and Vietnam. And Canada come to that – due to a gem scam incident involving the ex newsreader Jan Leeming in Jaipur! (Feel free to read back if your not familiar – The Lola Boys In India blog. I’ll be charging for them fairly soon, so I’d be quick!)
Paul didn’t want to start all that up again – he was more than aware his blog could be Shanghaied as it was in Hanoi!
But he also took it as a compliment – after all, he loved to be noticed. Even drama was good for his ego. He knew it to be a flaw of character but what was an ageing homosexual to do? Change???!!!
He thought not.
He knew at times his pants to be a touch too hot for his years but he weren’t changing them not for no man!
Stick that in your pipe and pretend to inhale Mr Putin!
Paul knew he’d gone off track. Asia always did that to him. Expanded his thought process. It was both exhilarating and debilitating at the same time. But he wouldn’t have it any other way. And he thought ‘The Buddha’ would approve. Duality and all that. Plus they were in Sri Lanka which was predominantly Buddhist. An argument that he’d definitely leave ’til later. He didn’t want to be banned from another country!
‘So you don’t know?’, he continued to peck at Andrew, ‘you don’t know what that chicken is!’
‘I was in the young fucking ornithology club for one year’ Andrew squawked, ‘how the fuck should I know? Anyway, I’m not even sure it is a chicken.’
Paul was impressed, his partner had obviously retained some ornithological knowledge. He was not as bird-brained as he professed to be.
‘Thank you’ Paul chirped. And buggered off down to the small pool to leave Andrew alone in his melodious nest of broadway melody.
He could still hear him. It was now Cole Porter’s ‘Night And Day’!
And then the Russians returned, as they always do.
Apparently a night and day at an alternative establishment was not up to ‘Russian Standard’ either. Paul imagined the young couple had dropped their standards when they realised the price of them. He smiled over at them as they checked in but was met with a Soviet glare.
He was never xenophobic. Yet he was still unconvinced!
He decided to give them the cold shoulder and raised his leg clumsily to rest on the table in front of him. A habit he despised, but the swelling from the injury he’d sustained on his early morning power walk to the wine shop was giving him real gip. Even though, according to his stupid smartphone app, he’d burnt 586 calories. Most of them, doubtless, from his brain! He knew he should never have done ten kilometres the previous day. Sometimes, he mused, smartphones were just for the dumb. They certainly had the power to push one beyond their natural endurance. Making the user believe in the information on the screen rather than listen to the clues their body provided. The stupid fitness app made him apt to do fitful bouts of exercise for which he wasn’t quite yet ready. He knew he’d pushed himself too far. He blamed it on the stilettos. He never learnt his lesson – however painful!
He had wanted to avoid the slightly scruffy beach and it’s mash of ‘Mohammads’ pestering him with their wares. None of which he wanted to wear. So he had taken the back streets of Negombo. They were peaceful and pleasantly tropical, Bouganvillea vied with coconut palms and climbers which Paul didn’t recognise to create a tranquil and bucolic walk. It was only when he hit the main drag that things became just that!
The ancient Romans would surely have executed whoever was responsible for the paving. And in a very concrete manner. Hopefully. It was not just uneven, it was dangerous. More akin to the ‘Cakewalk’ ride Paul remembered negotiating as a child at Putney Fair than a pavement. There were also missing elements, or rather, slabs, which meant a pedestrian could drop into sewage if they were absent minded. If one didn’t keep one’s wits one could land in the shits.
The assault course known as the sidewalk, added to the unrelenting heat, made for a most unpleasant perambulation. And when both of the plastic bags containing the cans of beer split and the contents tumbled into the road, after Paul had insisted on being double-bagged but was refused due to lack of stock, in a country which seemed to abound in plastic, he was not amused. He dodged tuktuks and trucks as he attempted to salvage his booty. He limped as fast as he could to escape the traffic, beer sodden and embarrassed. His achilles tendon smarting!
T’was an old war wound he’s picked up whilst pretending to parachute into Vietnam during The Old Vic’s flop of ‘Hair’. ‘The Musical!’ – as if anybody needed telling. Suffice to say, during a dress rehearsal, Paul’s shute hadn’t opened as expected and his big break became just that. But of the ankle. Not ‘The Business’! It still bothered him to this day. Andrew always reminded him that it was his own fault as he wasn’t kind to himself – but that was a touch of potty-kettle coming from a singer who smoked more than Bette Davis once had! So Paul rarely took any notice.
But it was horrible to lose one’s footing. And for a vain Paul even worse than most. When he fell from his pedestal it was usually from the height of a Sri-Lankan deity. Pride comes before a fall – or so they say. But Paul hadn’t yet partaken of the pride of ‘Lion’ beer he was hauling back to the digs – so they could hardly be blamed.
Back in the grounds of the guest house and uncomfortably resting on a concrete chair with foot resting awkwardly on a cold beer, Paul cracked one of them open. He thought he’d earnt it. Hysterical laughter abounded from the balcony behind him. His own. It was Andrew, of course, conversing in boundless merriment with their wonderful landlady, Vijai. She had lived in Swansea for 45 years so Paul was almost sure she could cope with a touch of his partners bawdy cheek.
The chickens were fucking now!
Paul didn’t want to look. The cuteness was wearing off. His favourite Chanel’ clad bird was looking more and more ‘Primani’ by the minute!
She now looked cheap and plucked!
Just like that pun, Paul thought, as he tapped away on his laptop, avoiding the toxic stares of the kids from Chernobyl, who had now made their way down to the pool. Suddenly the temperature had dropped – it was how Paul had remembered The Cold War as a child. He imagined that the pool might freeze over should the icy couple decide to take the plunge.
He thought it time to leave.
He knew he was chicken. But he didn’t care.
But then the Islamic call to prayer drifted through the palms. That beautiful incantation that is both hypnotic and ice cream van like at the same time. Paul remained until the Imam, or the sound engineer had finished their work, entranced, reminded of Madonna’s ‘Frozen’.
‘You’re frozen – when your heart’s not open!’
He wondered if she’d met the Russians who were now preparing to take a dip.
He decided to cluck off!
The turgid couple had found their deep water port.
It was definitely time to go home to roost !