The Old Man And The Sea!

Author’s note.

The author apologises for a complete lack of photography in this blog. The reader will realise for themselves why this is the case.

Paul had known in the pit of his stomach, that the idea of he and Andrew taking a sea kayak and paddling off for the famous ‘Emerald Cave’ on the edge of Thailand’s Andaman Sea could easily end in disaster. But as per usual he ignored the deep warning signs and instead set off onto the deep for a titanic moment on the high seas.

The boys set off from the beach at an ungodly hour, Paul only hoped that there was some seafaring deity who had also risen early and would therefore be looking down or up at them. The sky was a hot slate of muted greys and the sea matched her sullen mood. After a short watch, it was as crystal clear as the Indian ocean, that the Gods had obviously had a very late night! The Boys were on their own.

After the inaugural launch of the SS Lola, The Boys  initially paddled in manic circles attempting to work in tandem; their double act though far less successful offshore. They were sinking much faster than they ever did onstage. At least that took a good couple of hours Paul thought. He barked an order at Andrew to come to the right. Andrew misunderstood his nautical command and used the right oar frantically, steering them over to port.

‘The other way’ Paul screamed.

‘You said the right’ Andrew shouted back.

‘I meant go to the right – to starboard’.

Paul’s formative years at naval school were flooding back. Sadly his pretentious use of seaman’s terminology fell on Andrew’s deaf ears who responded with equally salty language,

‘Fuck off you bossy twat’.

‘We’re taking on water’ Paul said urgently.

‘Piss off’ said Andrew.

He had never been keen on Paul’s inner seaman!

Paul was in the back off the kayak and feeling stern, he could see the boat was filling gradually with seawater. He could also feel himself sinking further into the ocean. He was now wet up to his waist. The kayak was so low in the water he suspected the hull must be filling too. He was well aware that his experience of boats was actually leading him to panic. Andrew, whose boating credentials extended to having once sung show tunes on an American cruise ship on  some of the more ordinary Caribbean islands was certainly much calmer.

Sometimes ignorance was bliss thought Paul.

But The Lola Boys were definitely all at sea.

They managed to plough on through the deep ocean. As they rounded the cape of sheer vertical emerald jungle a large swell began to rock them now and then, each time causing a couple more gallons of seawater to sweep over the side of their craft. Paul stopped paddling occasionally and used his hands to scoop out as much water as he could.

Eventually, after a strenuous row and an even more energetic row, the boys spotted some dragon tail boats moored near to the base of the cliff. They paddled furiously to get to the rocks. When they arrived at the small bay there was nowhere to get ashore. The rocks were jagged and sharp, covered with millions of glass-like barnacles. They managed to navigate to the mouth of a small cave which had a couple of ledges on which they could perch as they attempted to empty their vessel.

‘Let’s leave it here’ said Andrew. Quite exasperated.

‘We can’t’ said Paul. ‘If the tide changes she might be gone when we come out’.

Paul spotted a rope hanging from seemingly nowhere at the mouth to the ‘Emerald Cave’,

‘Let’s tie her up over there’ Paul suggested.

‘You do it’ Andrew spat back.

The boat trip was not going well.

Paul paddled the boat over to the random line and attempted a ‘Sheepshank’. It had been a considerable while since he’d tied one, and what with all the stress of the ‘Lusitania’ moment he settled for a ‘Reef Knot’. He’d always considered that to be one of the most stylish of rope ties, and he knew if he didn’t get the boat secured quickly Andrew would be telling him to get knotted.

Though in less sober language!

Both of them were aware the excursion was not bobbing along nicely as one would wish, but Paul imagined they had independently decided to weather the storm that was brewing, and not let a little water cloud the moment.

Andrew, with a lamp strapped to his head, took the lead. He began his best doggy-paddle into the blackness of the cave. Paul thought he had the look of a drowning miner and smiled silently. He knew Andrew was not in the mood to be mocked. Not when there was drowning to be done. He followed confidently as Andrew lead them deeper into the earth. The cavern grew smaller, and darker with each stroke. They swam an abrupt corner and then there was nothing. An ink-black space and a mass of sea life swimming beneath them.

Paul turned to look for Andrew. There was no light at all and Andrew had been in charge of the torch. The entire rock felt like it was pressing heavily onto to him. It’s billions of tonnes of millions of years of limestone crushing the very breath out of him. He knew it had been stupid.

This excursion! Jesus!

Not only did Paul have a problem with being out of his depth – not just in water. He also loathed tunnels. Whilst driving at speed into the numerous underpasses that pepper Andalucia’s coast road, he had often had to suddenly decelerate, breathe deeply into a crisp bag, and think of a Barbra Streisand number so as to avoid passing out in the underpass.

So why had he considered a watery journey through a hell-like landscape to be fun? It was if he were swimming the Styx in Hades – the devil had the only torchlight. He could just about espy his partner in brine floating on his back about twenty feet behind him – the meagre light shining uselessly upwards into the cavernous cathedral of stone.

Paul then felt an all too familiar dread begin to course through him. His breath became shallow and his head started to spin. He knew he was starting to have a panic attack. It was not the first time.

Paul had always been highly confident in the water from a very young age. He’d been a leading member of ‘The Duckling Club’ at Putney Swimming Baths when he was a just able to walk. His ‘Ten Yard Certificate’ had proved a cinch! But his confidence had taken a huge knock years later when he found himself in hot water on the famous Ipanema Beach. He and two friends had almost come a cropper in the heavy surf there, whilst on singing gig on the QE2. It was only when the three of them managed to make it back to the beach that they had even noticed the entire lack of other swimmers and the flotilla of red flags dotted along the shoreline. He knew then, he’d been completely out of his depth. And he knew now, he’d try to make sure he never was again.

He also knew that having been a strong swimmer in Rio had saved him, but he’d allowed a plankton of doubt to drift across his subconscious. He was now of the knowledge that he was completely powerless if Neptune was not in the mood to play beach-ball.  And the realisation had entirely destroyed his once buoyant attitude to the water. A tsunami of doubt now plagued him like a school of malevolent Men ‘O War. He knew the sea to have an entirely different character if she so chose. Malevolent and unforgiving.

He also knew he was wet.

It was most frustrating.

‘I’m turning back’ he gasped pathetically at Andrew.

‘What?’ Andrew replied.

‘I don’t like it’ Paul choked, ‘I’m going back.’

Paul used the special waterproof bag, in which his unused camera was packed, as a float, and began to kick for the small opening of daylight he could just make out. He didn’t know if Andrew was following. He didn’t care.

‘For fuck’s sake’, he heard Andrew’s baritone echoing in the distant darkness, ‘never again!’

When Paul got to the mouth of the cave he clambered unceremoniously onto the kayak, much of the sea joining him. He fiddled ferociously with the knot he’d tied wishing he’d gone for something simpler. A granny knot would have done! But he’d just had to over do it!

After freeing the vessel he paddled towards the rocks where Andrew had now beached himself. He alighted the craft awkwardly and he and Andrew then attempted to empty the boat for a second time.

‘Shit’ Paul screeched, ‘my hand!’ He had just scraped his left hand painfully along the banarcled boulder he had been trying to cling to whilst performing their marine routine.

‘Bollocks’ he cursed, blood filling his palm.

‘Stop panicking’ Andrew shouted, ‘this is the last fucking time I do anything like this with you. It’s always a fucking drama!’

‘No it’s bloody not’ yelled Paul, slipping from the rock and lacerating his other palm on the razor-like geography which engulfed them.

‘Shit’ he said quietly, hoping Andrew hadn’t noticed.

‘Twat’ Andrew hissed.

They both hauled the boat onto her side and watched as gallons of water flooded out.

‘See’ said Paul. ‘I knew we were sinking!’

‘Jesus Paul!’ Andrew shrieked.

‘What?’ asked a panicked Paul.

‘You’re getting all that blood into the bloody boat!’

Paul looked down and saw the scarlet rivulets dancing along the orange fibre glass hull. It looked oddly pretty. He thought he might be getting a little delirious. He said nothing.

‘So what’ screamed Paul. He didn’t think an extra half litre of him would make any difference to their vessel’s buoyancy. That was just displacement.

He was definitely getting delirious!

‘I’m gonna call over to that bloke on the boat’ he said to Andrew in a manner of exaggerated calm.

‘No don’t’ Andrew yelled ‘that’s so embarassing’.

‘I don’t fucking care!’ Paul said shakily, ‘our boat is sinking. How the buggery bollocks do we get back?’

******************************************************************

Andrew realised their dilemma. Their craft was useless in her present state, and Paul certainly wasn’t helping with his constant panicking. In fact, he didn’t think Paul to be of any use at all. He knew his partner had gone to naval school but that had been over thirty years ago. His current nautical knowledge was now a half-remembered mess of knots and camp semaphore. With a touch dodgy morse code thrown in. Nothing practical that would help them out of this oceanic mess he had allowed himself to be talked into.

Paul always yearned for adventure, yet so often found disaster. Andrew often wondered if they had to come hand in hand. That just maybe his partner craved the exciting moment and the drama. He didn’t want to consider it.

Now was not the moment.

******************************************************************

The boatman made a sign to come over. Paul and Andrew used their boat as a float and made their way over to the larger vessel.

Paul clambered aboard and helped the friendly captain haul the boys’ kayak onboard. It was so heavy they had to ask for help from another of the boatmen nearby. After a few seconds it was obvious why. Seawater gushed for several minutes from a spout on the bow of the boys’ boat. It splashed at length noisily back into the sea, much to the amusement of several European tourists floating safely nearby.

Paul knew Andrew was looking at the package group and thinking that they should have made the same easy choice and come on a motorised vessel. With a guide! It had been Paul who had wanted to take the adventurous route. He knew sometimes Andrew suspected him of doing it on purpose, just to have something to write about. If Paul were being entirely honest he thought Andrew may have had a point. But he wasn’t really sure.

After all, it was a hell of a risk, and he was hardly a bestseller!

When the boys’ kayak was eventually disgorged, the helpful shipmates they’d just met launched the SS Lola back into the water. Paul boarded first, followed by his partner. They thanked the boatman for their services and set off out to sea to return to the beach.

As they paddled away from the relative safety of the rocks, Paul’s hand dripped blood steadily onto the oar. The myriad of cuts stinging sharply as the salt water cut into them mercilessly. The water was coming onboard even quicker than before. Paul had a terrible sinking feeling.

They obviously had a puncture!

He said nothing. Andrew had managed to get himself into a good mood after the earlier drama, and was now singing the tune to ‘Hawaii Five 0’ at great volume, quite unaware of the volume of water filling the Boys’ stern.

Paul knew it was more like ‘Hawaii Five No’!

He only hoped they would make it back.

He emptied their water bottle and began to fill it with seawater, furiously decanting the stuff to whence it had came. When the water had decreased to thigh level he stopped and began to paddle quicker than Hiawatha with a rocket under her pretty feathered arse!

A last the beach came into sight. Paul was fairly confident they could make it.

‘That’s the last fucking time I do anything like that with you’ Andrew began, his sea shanty again, now a familiar tone to Paul, who knew their double act was just treading water at the moment.

‘It’s not my fault’ Paul steamed in, ‘I didn’t ask the bloody boat to sink.’

‘But it always happens with you.’ It’s always a bloody drama!’

‘Maybe that’s when you’re along’ Paul sailed in, ‘I’m alright on my own.’

Paul threw the paddles weakly at his husband and started to make his way up the beach. He was going to have words with the guy who’d hired out the leaky death trap of a bloody shit tub nearly killing them both!

Andrew started to drag the canoe along the sand but soon found it too difficult. It was clear the entire hull had filled with water again. They had been so close to going down.

Paul complained to the kayakman who very kindly offered to only charge them half price for the pleasure of sinking – twice! He explained it was not his fault, he could only be certain of the state of his fleet on their return to port. He then gave a dull, wry look alluding to the tonnage the boys had displaced on the vessel.

‘Bloody dangerous’ Andrew snarled and stomped up towards the bar. It was ten thirty!

Paul was annoyed to say the least. He was glad they’d both survived. But he wasn’t so sure their relationship was entirely as shipshape.

He suspected a couple of tankards of grog may improve the tempestuous situation. But the waters were definitely rocky.

Later, Paul stood in the passive pink sea. Alone and blissfully thoughtless. He felt the sting from his lacerated hands and was immediately reminded of the rocky moment earlier in the day. He smiled.

He headed to join Andrew for a beer, happy to be a landlubber, the wind coming confidently back into his sails. The thought that he and Andrew may have run aground dissipating as fast as a warm sea mist. He knew that he and Andrew had navigated far rougher waters in the past.

Only never in a kayak.

And, thought Paul, never again!

The Lola Boys Go To Pearl Island!

Paul had implored Andrew not to touch the oyster curry. It sounded to him both unappealing and dangerous.

It turned out to be both!

On the long train journey down from Prachuap Khiri Khan, heading for the jungle of Khao Sok, Andrew suddenly became violently ill in carriage 8, on seat 29.

The passenger in seat 30 was not amused.

Andrew suddenly developed the pallor of a stale Brussel sprout, and had already started to emit the putrid wind that is associated with that most unpopular of vegetables. After another of the countless food hawkers passed through the aisle offering fried something on a stick, Andrew decided to fill a plastic carrier bag with what was left of the crustacean curry. Paul had a rapid word in his partner’s shell-like and advised his husband very firmly to make for the nearest public convenience. Which happened to be inconveniently located at the other end of the railway car.

There was trouble brewing in seat 29.

As Andrew made for the lavatory with his ‘Seven Eleven’  bag still attached to his gob, Paul could only pray that he wouldn’t trip on the Buddhist monk who was lolling quite unmindfully near to the exit. He knew that oyster and saffron were considered quite appealing in the culinary world, but doubted the monk would agree were Andrew to shellfishly saturate his religious robes!

Thankfully his partner made no such contribution and managed to get to the ‘little boys room’ just in time to make a noise little boys generally didn’t usually make! The roar reverberated through the train like a Chinese dragon on steroids. The Thais, never a race to engage in unnecessary confrontation, acted as though nothing had occurred. Probably putting it down to the churlish nature of carriage number eight, which was nothing if not rickety.

There were a group of Europeans,however, who made it quite clear they did not approve of Andrew’s fishy Brexit, as they glanced disdainfully towards the temporary oyster shack Andrew had made his home. Paul returned their approbation with one of his very hard stares, a talent he’d learnt from reading Paddington Bear in his early youth.

After all, it wasn’t Andrew’s fault his seafood was resurfacing. Plus, had these Teutonic bullies stuffed themselves with something other than Snitzel and Sausage whilst in the charming Thai seaside town of Prachuap, they too may have suffered a little sea sickness!

Paul didn’t voice this opinion of course. He was more than aware that the British were very capable of the same blinkered choices when it came to eating and drinking abroad.

He knew people who had lived on the Costa Del Sol for twenty years, and only frequented English bars, ate bangers and mash, and couldn’t count to three in Spanish! But he wasn’t going to name and shame. What was the point?

Most of those types couldn’t read anyway!

After what seemed like a night’s fishing expedition Andrew returned to his seat. Quite exhausted and terribly clammy. Paul knew there was no way they were going to make it to their intended destination of the prehistoric forest of Khao Sok. If they persevered with their itinerary there could be an altogether different rumble in the jungle. So when they hit the very ordinary city of Surat Thani in southern Thailand, they alighted the train and made for the nearest hotel.

The establishment in which they found themselves was situated on a dark backstreet on the wrong side of the rail tracks. The over made up woman who welcomed them rather severely, wanted to see no passport, just payment up front.

She assured them it was a nice room. A fact, which after they climbed the multitude of concrete steps to the third floor, they concurred with. It was a pleasant room, were it on a wing at wormwood Scrubs!

Still it had beds, and strip lighting, so they could at least see as they stripped and fell onto the oyster grey bedsheets of what was quite obviously a knocking shop!

On waking from his sick-bed Andrew felt much better and had begun to come out of his shell once more. Paul persuaded him that to hang around in the gritty Surat Thani was not a good idea, perhaps they should head further south, to the Trang Islands.

There was a train leaving at awful ‘O’Clock, and they should be on it.

Andrew agreed, still appearing a trifle pistachio.

Paul was aware that his partner really didn’t have the muscle to argue. And he knew it was him who had warned against the mollusc Massaman. So now his partner was literally jellyfish in his hands.

 

The enigmatic Trang Islands,  deep down in the Andaman Sea, had enthralled Paul since he’d first read about them years ago.  They lay, like a strand of wild pearls, in the Indian Ocean, close to the border of Malaysia. They were home to the equally mystifying Chao Lair, The nomadic sea gypsies of Malay descent, who moved effortlessly with the tide. Making their home wherever the weather was set fairest – much like The Lola Boys!

 

Following another interminable journey on a local train, which just happened to follow the track of the famous ‘Orient Express’, minus the luxury and the murder, the boys arrived in Trang. A mainly Muslim town in the deep south of Thailand, but one that was not prey to the Islamic terrorism that Paul knew stalked the west.

The Lola Boys were not even that adventurous!

There had been some recent bombings around Yala, and the train that had chugged innocently along that line had been blown up a couple of times in the recent past killing many.

The Boys avoided this region and took a minibus due west from Trang, along with a surly French couple and a smiling Thai teenager. Soon they reached the pier, more than an hour away hidden amid the mangroves.

The young driver, who was high on natural energy and quaffing copious unnatural potions which had the same effect, crashed twice on route. Once into a petrol pump, and then again into a scooter that was obviously not so obvious to him. Paul caught his face in the rear view mirror. They both laughed. The tight-arsed couple in the front seats did not share their amusement.

They quite obviously feared for their lives!

Paul wondered how they would cope with the erratic Thai ferry network once they began travelling the islands. De-ipodded and deep in despair. Some of these so-called ‘gappers’ really shouldn’t travel, he thought.  At least not until they’ve had their gaps filled.

In every way!

Then perhaps they’d pack a little experience to bring along with them.

But he knew he was probably being bitter, having put a little too much of that into his own ruck sack for the journey.

Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who said youth is wasted on the young? Paul knew, as he climbed clumsily aboard the boat to join the miserable duo, that the Irish genius was correct.  The greenness which came with the inexperienced so often kept them clammed up within their shells. Paul was fairly certain he had never been like that, but he couldn’t be quite sure.

When they arrived on the tiny island of Koh Muk, the nomenclature of which Paul had deemed most appropriate, he and Andrew were both knackered. The latter even more so as he had been vomiting Oyster for over twenty-four hours.

They hit the only resort which had a vacant bed in their price range and collapsed into the reception.

They were shown to their hut, which was just about big enough for a hobbit, and both realised independently, it was to be for one night only.

Or divorce could swiftly follow!

The expansive space outside, however, was more than enchanting. The rugged coast of Trang province, with it’s magical limestone karst scenery, cast it’s spell magnificently.

The boys had arrived in paradise.

Koh Muk wasn’t mucky at all. Not at first sight. What a gem!

Paul was aware that in Thai ‘Muk’ was translated as pearl.

Therefore, The Lola Boys had arrived on Pearl Island. An incredible place, home to Thailand’s famous Emerald Cave.

But as his partner still posessed a tinge of something very green he thought he’d better not mention it.

Andrew, after all, had quite clearly had enough oyster to last a lifetime.

Back To School!

It was just the day before Paul and Andrew were due to bid their farewells to the bijou town of Chiang Khan and it’s enchanting Mekong setting that Paul realised he had slightly buggered up the loose itinerary he had planned. It now seemed there was no way of getting to their next port of call without a hugely complicated journey, involving  three tuk-tuks, two cattle trucks and a marathon hike carrying rucksacks!

Not to mention the possibility of something going wrong and them missing one of the connections.

Or worse, one of the bus drivers not liking the look of the incongruous pair lounging on the roadside and stepping his flip flop down hard on the gas.

It had happened before!

Travel in rural Thailand was always a challenge.

Paul thought he’d keep the journey details secret from his partner until he had done some more research. Surely there was an easier route, he thought.

Or rather, hoped.

Or dinner that night could be chicken foot for one!

It was invariably Paul that got the boys into the odd predicament whence on their adventures, but then again, it was usually him that extricated them from such difficulties too. Especially as Andrew normally didn’t have a clue where they were. Paul assumed his usually very intelligent husband had smoked heavily through nearly every geography class of his youth, puffing hazily behind the proverbial bike sheds.

His partner still insisted that Switzerland was in Scandinavia, this  despite Paul explaining that he would upset a lot of Swedes with that attitude. Actually, there had been one particular Swedish lesbian whom Andrew had seriously pissed off, on a very remote island in the Indian Ocean, with this geographical misplacement. Not to mention the odd misplaced pussy gag!

To be fair, they had both been paralytic, unfortunately the mashed Swede was more tasteful! With a lack of humour that was deeply rooted.

But it was a Paul who once got them stranded on the summit of a jungle clad mountain in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, mid-thunder storm. The boys were entirely ill prepared for the precarious descent, wearing the wrong footwear, carrying only half a bottle of vodka, a carton of cigarettes, a lighter, and an out of date copy of ‘The Lonely Planet’.

At least we can make a fire if we get lost, Paul had maintained. His partner had not been impressed.

Paul had also known deep down that he was clutching at damp twigs!

It was also Paul who had persuaded a reticent Andrew to go on a snorkelling trip off of the Gili Islands in darkest Indonesia. It was only when they were mid-ocean, sans life jackets, they both realised their guide was none other than the man from bloody Atlantis!

They  had front-crawled after him blindly, their faces scouring the deep ocean floor for turtles, surfacing only to discover their small craft was now an even tinier speck in the distance. The current had taken them what seemed like miles away from their safety vessel and Paul could feel himself start to panic. He scoured the horizon for Andrew, who was hardly Esther Williams in the water, and saw him flippering away in the distance after the little merman.

Paul turned back towards the boat, he knew he could make it if he quickly learnt how to breathe again.

This fishy tale obviously ended happily, (for some),  yet not without further drama.

When Andrew spotted his partner floundering, like a dying haddock half a mile back, he too got into a flap. He came about, and using his best doggie paddle set out to rescue his partner in brine.

Suffice to say that as Andrew eventually came alongside, dangerously exhausted, it was Paul who had to swim out to do the lifesaving. Andrew’s flippers, mask and dignity sinking to a watery grave.

And it was Paul who, this time, had got them stranded in the middle of nowhere!

So it was really up to him to save the day – or rather, find the way.

He was most relieved when their wonderfully eccentric landlady, Lem, said she could recommend an alternate route. Alternative it proved to be, though in an altogether different sense.

They had been booked onto the local school bus.

The following day the boys made their way to the Chiang Khan High School to join the pupils on their way home from class. As they arrived at the gates, Paul noticed a couple of scruffy buses parked up on the kerb, he assumed one of these was to be their mode of transportation along the Mekong road to the village of Pak Chom. But in the east, he had learnt to expect the unexpected, and then, expect something a little more unexpected after that.

The boys did their deal with the driver standing next to the big bus. They then attempted to climb aboard with their luggage but were stopped immediately with some indeterminate Thai from their driver. He made a gesture towards the front of his vehicle and bade them follow, which they did. It was then they met their ride for the day. A small lorry, open-sided, and full of chattering teenage ladies. Some of them taking up quite a bit more room than one would expect from a pupil in year nine on an oriental diet.

Paul knew at once this was not to be the most comfortable of journeys.

He climbed onto the truck and as he did so the schoolgirls scattered in every direction, fleeing the ‘bus’ like brats from a sinking ship.

When it was almost time to depart, the gaggle of girls returned to join the braver boys who had now also boarded. There was much laughter and hilarity as the rickety vehicle rolled out of town along a dusty track, smothering it’s occupants in a cloudful of rusty clay.

The word ‘ farang, farang’ was repeatedly shouted, followed by shrieking amusement, which made it quite clear to Andrew and Paul just what the subject of conversation was.

‘Farang’ was a word ubiquitous in Thailand.

On first visiting the country many Eastern moons ago,  Paul had considered it to be vaguely offensive. It’s standard definition was ‘foreigner’ he’d learnt, although it specifically meant a Caucasian. Someone hailing from Japan or China would never be labeled in the same way.  Yet Paul had discovered over time that it wasn’t really a racial slur. It was the manner in which the term was used that counted most.

‘It ain’t what you say it’s the way that you say it as it and that’s what makes insults’,

as Bananarama may have sung in the 80s – could they have sung!

These chirpy kids on their ride home were almost certainly not being insulting. They were having fun – the kind of fun only children can have before the responsible malaise that is adulthood has set in.

It was great fun bumping along with this gang of energetic youth as the wheels of the bus went round and round. Andrew and Paul could almost taste their own salad days, even though they were cooler than the coolest of cucumbers as the open sides of the truck allowed the winds from the Mongolian plains aboard to plane their faces.

Andrew managed to get the entire bus load of kids over excited by sharing out a tube of ‘Skittles’.  It wasn’t an altogether fair roll of the bowling ball though, as inevitably the chubbier of the group managed to score a complete strike by downing twelve of the sweets all at once. Much to the sweet-toothed chagrin of those who went without!

A bright young chap named ‘Boom’, obviously one of the top stream, sat adjacent to Paul for their journey downstream. His English was better than any Paul had heard from a Thai lad his age and Boom was most eager to practice his linguistic skills, proudly engaging the slightly queer ‘farang’ in conversation.

Boom was seventeen years old and had been taught English by an American Cambodian. He wanted to train to be a teacher and was desperate to visit London and one day to work in that great city.  Paul listened intently to the intelligent boy’s dreams. He considered such aspiration a great quality and only hoped his native country would be forward thinking enough to open up such opportunities for such gifted ‘Farang.’ Surely talent and skill should be the prerequisite for a geographical work placement – not just arbitrary lines drawn on a map of mankind’s making.

But should that be ‘Peoplekind’ as recently espoused by the handsome Canadian Premier, Justin Trudeau?

Really!

What a great butt though!

Boom introduced Paul and Andrew to his sister, who was equally as charming but with a name that was totally unpronounceable. Although Andrew was still having trouble with her older brother’s nomenclature, frequently  getting his boom mixed up with his bang.

At one point Paul thought his partner was shouting the lyrics to Lulu’s only other hit, and could quite happily have given him a ‘Boom-Bang-A-Bang’ right in the gob.

But young Boom didn’t seem to notice – or care.

In fact he and his little sis stayed on the bus with them, way past their home village, in order to explain to the driver exactly where to find the boys ‘out of the way’ resort.

The journey was beautiful. The river snaked mesmerisingly alongside, dotted with grassy islets as she accompanied them on their wending way.

When they arrived the friendly siblings also accompanied Paul and Andrew along the driveway, giggling all the way, to make sure they had brought them to the right place. When they knew their task was complete they coyly asked if the boys would pose for a photo with them both. Andrew and Paul were more than happy to oblige, and a short photo session ensued, with the usual ‘v’ signs, the Thais seem to love, being the pose of the day.

Paul thought perhaps the teenagers, who had taken a good couple of hours out of their free time to help these two Johnny foreigners, might like a tip for their trouble. But the youngsters would not hear of it, it was enough that they had got a couple of pictures and been able to practice their English.

It was a heartwarming reminder, to his cynical self, that not all the youth of today were tarnished with the same Instagram filter.

These fresh-faced folk, he noticed, could interact with something other than a keypad. And with something from another generation!

Although he had to admit, Boom had used an app on his mobile to get the boys to their digs.

So he was reminded that not everything in the modern world was entirely black and white.

Just like ‘farang’ Paul thought, as he watched the sun set blissfully over the Mekong.

The colours of the world were miraculously complex.

And all the better for it, he mused.

He was so pleased he’d managed to bugger up their itinerary.

The road less planned was so much more interesting.

 

 

 

Buddha Nature.

Andrew and I set off at an ungodly hour, after an equally unholy breakfast for the bus station in Phitsanulok on Thailand’s northern plains. I say ‘in’ Phitsanulok yet Thailand’s bus stations have an annoying habit of placing themselves away from the towns they represent. Sometimes by miles. It’s akin to Victoria Coach Station being situated in Watford ! One invariably needs a long tuk-tuk ride from the terminus to get to the city one was looking for in the first place. Perhaps this is quite intended. A kind of trade union. The drivers of the larger vehicles passing their passengers on to the smaller ones in order to share the wealth. Very socialist. Incredibly ‘Buddha’. Also, incredibly irritating for the selfish traveller!

After shelling out another tuk-tuk fare and being set down in the dirty place, we were informed that our bus heading west, to the ancient city of Sukothai, was ready to depart. We hurriedly bought our tickets and struggled onto the tiny vehicle which was actually not much bigger than ‘The Mystery Machine’ in Scooby Doo.

Some of the passengers were equally as mystifying, and that was excluding Andrew and I !

We did as we were told by the driver and placed our rucksacks at the front of the dodgy vehicle on a purple velveteen bench near to the driver. An incredibly officious woman, at least, I think she was a woman, clambered onboard making full use of her grandiose grey  uniform and screamed at us to move our luggage. Of course, Andrew and I, whose Thai is shamefully limited to ordering beer and saying thank you, had no idea what the woman was saying, and she continued to rant until a helpful English teacher seated at the back translated for us. Mama Morton wanted us to shift our stuff.

So I then struggled to lift all the bags through to the back of the bus and placed them in a pile as instructed. When the uniformed harridan had made her exit, the bus driver immediately asked if I would move the bags again. This time back to the front of the bus.

I sighed, inwardly, as it is never a good idea to show displeasure in this country, not without risk of physical attack, and then lugged our belongings back to where I had initially placed them. Already in a harried sweat, I perched with one buttock on the only remaining seat in the van, next to a small elderly man with a terribly wide gait and a sour demeanour.

Two minutes later Eva Braun was back, this time screaming at the driver, who then screamed at me to move the offending baggage back to where it had whence came. I held my composure and awkwardly lifted the heavy backpacks once more to the rear of the aisle. By this time I was perspiring like a Grand National outsider, what with the heat and the heavy furnishings inside the bus.

I was exhausted and we hadn’t even moved anywhere yet!

I retook my seat, only with even less buttock, as now the little peasant man had managed to take up even more space and had grown even moodier. I looked towards Andrew, who had found himself a comfortable seat at the front with extra leg-room just behind the driver. I wanted to throw him a disconcerted look but he wouldn’t have understood,  just as those bastards in club class never do.

We then lurched backwards, performed a seven point turn, and began our journey back in time to Sukothai, the original capital of Siam. It is from this city that what we now know as Thailand, her architecture, the intricacy of her culture, the piety of her people first blossomed. It is in Sukothai that the teachings of Prince Siddhartha, or The Buddha, became cemented into Thai life. Sukothai provided the mud in which the lotus of religions grew strong. But I digress from my meditation on our bus journey, and in true Buddhist style, that would never do.

So after several terrifying heavy braking incidents, when most of the passengers were flung forward violently in polite silence, we were on our way. I edged myself slowly onto the seat for which I’d paid, closing the scruffy pensioner’s legs with a little more force. (Surely such a small man can’t have such enormous testicles I was thinking).  I pushed a little harder with my knee, it was then I noticed his crutch, the kind one walks with, wedged between himself and the window. A large metal affair, and worn with heavy use. Shame swept over me and I immediately struggled to pull myself away from him to allow him room for his complaint. I turned to him with condescension and smiled apologetically, as only an ignorant foreigner can. He beamed back – I felt even more terrible. I opened my packet of chewing gum, this time checking they were not nicotine flavoured, and offered him one. I assumed he would refuse due to his age and superior culture, but to my surprise he accepted my patronising offer and popped one in his gob – most pleased.

I was glad. We had made friends, and as the spearmint released it’s vapour I felt relaxed for the first time since climbing aboard. If, a tad uncomfortable.

I began to drift off for a moment, but was suddenly disturbed by a dreadful choking noise from my fellow passenger with whom I’d been chewing the fat. He coughed alarmingly and began to snort in a porcine fashion. I turned to face him but he was facing downwards, his whole body rattling with the obvious attempt to dispel the gum he had inadvertently swallowed. No one else on the bus seemed to be alarmed.

I have noticed before on transport in the east, that one could be sacrificing a goat on the back seat and nobody would bat an eyelid!

I wondered if I should bash him on the back, or call the driver. As we both began to panic the shrivelled man-made a terrific whistling wheeze and wallop, the gum shot out of his mouth with such explosive force that it bounced audibly against the back of the neck of the woman in front. She didn’t flinch. Nor did the gentleman who’d emitted the missile I’d proferred. They both remained upright, heads aloft and facing straight ahead.

I believe this is in the Buddhist nature, as the head is considered a very sacred part of the body and should never me touched.

I was also rigid, only with fear. It had been a narrow escape. I’d briefly imagined myself having a lengthy stay at the ‘Bangkok Hilton’ for manslaughter using a spearmint gum!

Eventually I drifted off into an almost contemplative state, not before removing my own chewy so as not to suffer a similar fate. I was again woken suddenly, this time by the sound of my head hitting the metal bar on the seat in front, as our driver came to another sharp halt. I looked hazily through the windows, expecting to see a dog, or worse, lying on the highway, but there was nothing. The way was clear.

Our driver jumped out from his door and made his way nimbly across four lanes of traffic, negotiating the central reservation like an Olympic hurdler he made his way into some far scrub land. Minutes later he returned waving a large scimitar, climbed back into the driving seat and restarted the engine. Again, nobody batted an eyelid.

Andrew turned to me from Club Class and raised an eyebrow, I stared back expressionless. The driver could see me in his rear view mirror and I was afraid if I showed any disrespect it might be me on the end of his sword.

Eventually we hit Sukothai bus station, which unsurprisingly happened to be at least ten miles from our final destination. We, or rather, Andrew, had a protracted row with a charabanc driver who wanted to charge us ten times the usual fare to take us to our guest house, until my other half skilfully spotted a local Song-thaw, whose chauffeur did it it for less than a pound.

The charming man even drove us to the door.

Although it happened to be the wrong door!

When the smiling hotelier of the wrong hotel explained this mistake he made us get back into his vehicle and drove us to where we were meant to be.

And with a smile that gleamed like silver – no weaponry in sight.

The next day we hired what were described as bicycles and hit the old city.

Fourteenth century and crumbling.

Our wheels probably hailed from the same era, only the decrepit UNESCO site was in better nick. But at least they had smoother brakes than the bus the previous day.

There was certainly an atmosphere in the park. Amongst the giant serene Buddhas and the huge moats studded pink with lotus flowers, gargantuan trees spread their emerald limbs providing welcome shade of which we partook readily.

The noonday sun searing our occidental skin like a laser beam, we were more than happy to pedal out of sight of the ever present pedlars and into the relative cool of the wood’s peaceful boughs.

A gorgeous mix of Buddha and nature.

It was most relaxing.

Timeless.

I would mention old Siam and ‘The King And I’ at this point, only I have discovered that Thais generally loathe the book and the musical. The idea of their beloved monarch, be it way in the past, cavorting with a ‘falang’ in such an undignified manner is most unappealing to them.

Should Deborah Kerr have ever made it to the real Siam I think she may have been hung drawn and clawtered!

The following day we climbed onto our torturous wheels again and made for some of the more outlying ruins of this truly magical place.

We came across a stunning standing Buddha, majestically perched on a hill which was over three hundred metres. We climbed, what was described in our guidebook as a shady stone walkway to the summit. We arrived with near sunstroke – the only thing shady about the ascent had been the guidebook’s description.

After a brief moment of contemplative perspiration we took the much easier route down and continued on our bikes through sunlit paddy fields, thankfully most of it downhill.

Andrew then stopped for a crafty smoke next to another ancient temple and I alighted from my saddle to take the weight off my perineum. I’m quite sure the machines we had hired were invented for eunuchs. I felt as if I’d completed the Tour de France in record time, minus the ubiquitous dope the pros use. It was then I heard a familiar sentence.

“Shit” Andrew exclaimed, “I’ve lost my sunglasses!”

“Where” I growled softly, wishing I’d borrowed the sword from the bus driver the previous day.

“ I  don’t know, back at the first place – never mind, they were only twenty quid”.

“ I got you those for Christmas” I said indignantly, “they’re originals, and they were much more than twenty quid”.

“Were they?” Andrew asked soulfully.

“Yes” I maintained.

They were actually twenty-five quid from TK Maxx but now wasn’t the time to quibble. My innate Buddha nature told me that.

“We’ll have to go back for them” I said, with the enthusiasm of one of ‘The Famous Five’. Probably Anne. Sadly!

With that we were back in the saddle and pedalling furiously, retracing our tracks until we came to the giant Prince Siddhartha, still standing still on his hill. Unfortunately most of our route back had been uphill – we were now dripping.

We searched for a few minutes around the area and nothing. I was beginning to think we would need to re-climb the mini mountain in the midday heat to see if Andrew had mistakenly left them as an offering at the Buddha’s feet. Where was that scimitar?

Before we could begin our ascent, a group of park workers, who had seen us scouring the undergrowth called us over. And after a brief conversation, incomprehensible to all of us, one of them, with an oriental flourish of the hand, presented us with two pairs of spectacles. The sunglasses and the reading lenses Andrew had obviously dropped there.

We were both thrilled.

The honesty of the moment was truly touching, and Andrew was, I knew, secretly delighted that he’d held on to a pair of new shades for at least a week, and so felt compelled to tip. So did I,

“Don’t put them on your head next time – they always slip off!”

With that we were on our way again, cycling through the enchanted forest with optical protection and feeling optimistic about mankind.

We both knew it wouldn’t last.

Humans are not, after all, infallible – even when they believe in Karma. But for a moment,  we were calmer, and we revelled in the knowledge that good people roam this great globe of ours too.

And in Thailand, one seems to bump into a lot of them.

So be kind. Look behind the obvious. Be Buddha.

Just don’t offer them a chewing gum!

 

 

The Lola Boys And The Mystery Of The Fake Fakir!

We set off far too early into the pink morning of Jaipur, with Aslan, our trusty tuk-tuk driver, who Andrew had prematurely hired the previous evening, after meeting him at a local beer shop. It transpired Aslan was not as trusty as we’d hoped, when our first stop turned out to be his textile shop on the edge of town.

After many attempts to stitch us up with overpriced garments, we eventually set out for our ‘city-tour’!

Within five minutes we made our first stop, picking up an impossibly chirpy chap from a scruffy street corner. We assumed he was cadging a lift, but as we screeched to a bumpy halt, Aslan informed us that unfortunately, he was compelled to work in his shop for the day, and instead, his young nephew, Hussein, would be our tour guide. He gave his ward a list of instructions in rapid ‘Hindish’, and bid us farewell, making it it clear we were to pay him later, and not our young chauffeur. Then, with several indecipherable nods of the head, he took his leave.

Hussein though, was wonderful. Cheeky, energetic and most importantly, with two hands almost firmly on the handlebars! He told us he was Muslim, but not to worry, he was not a terrorist. As he hurtled down the centre of the road at a suicidal pace, we were glad to hear this. Cows, pigs, goats, dogs, cats, peacocks and humans made their escape as we continued at ‘break-someone’s-neck’ speed on our city slalom.

It was definitely what one would call, a brown-knuckle ride!

After we’d eaten lunch, at a slightly frightening ‘restaurant’ Hussein had recommended, or rather, insisted we break paratha at, our enthusiastic driver informed us he had managed to contact the guru, and that he had agreed to see us.

I should add that earlier, the boy’s uncle, had suggested it may be possible for Andrew and I to visit a famous soothsayer, who resided behind a jewellery shop in a suburb of Jaipur. He assured us we were not obliged to buy anything if we so wished, as this sage was a ‘very good man’, who only shared his gift for the love of giving, not to promote his other, more earthly gifts.

‘Oh, he’s not the man who was on the television recently?’ I squawked excitedly, in my best tourist fashion, ‘with Jan Leeming – you know, the old newsreader?’

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‘Yes, that is him. On the British BBC. The Marigold Hotel man,’ Aslan crowed.

‘We saw him’, Andrew piped in, almost as uncool as me, (but not quite), ‘he was great’.

We had both watched the BBC series ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ a few months ago, kindly recorded by our good friend Stella, and one of our favourite moments had been the former BBC newsreader in tears whilst visiting a psychic in Jaipur. Unkind I know, but terribly camp!

The Real Marigold Hotel

‘Well if he is not busy he can see you, but he rarely see’s tourists, but I will phone him and let you know’.

So, after lunch, happy Hussein took us on a manic ‘Pacman’ style tour, eating up the back alleys of north Jaipur, searching for the famous fortune-teller’s premises.

After twenty minutes of getting no-where, I suggested perhaps we needed a psychic to find the place. Hussein didn’t get it, or if he did, he didn’t find it funny. Neither did my husband, who was now sweating like a glass blower’s arse and more than ready for his usual siesta.

Finally we came upon the place. A very ordinary shop, on an average road, but one that Andrew and I both recognised from the television as the establishment that Jan Leeming, the broadcaster, had gone to meet her forecaster.

We removed our shoes and entered the jewellery shop. We knew from the telly that the guru was to be found at the back of the store, behind some smoked glass. But he was nowhere to be seen. Instead, we were forced to listen to a sales pitch on Blue Topaz for quarter of an hour, as a smiling salesman emptied bag after bag of earrings onto the counter.

‘This Topaz, favourite of the girls. Believe me.’

After many polite refusals, we eventually pierced the guy’s sales technique, when we told him we absolutely knew of no women with any holes we would be eager to fill. So he was wasting his precious time. We then got up to leave, believing the whole affair a scam, and feeling slightly stupid that,as seasoned travellers, we were fooled by this gem of a ploy.

As we re-shod, and headed past the cattle towards our transport, the shopkeeper suddenly called after us.

‘Why did you come here? It was not to buy jewellery?’

‘No it most certainly was not’, I answered in my best Maggie Smith, ‘it was to visit the guru- that’s what we were promised!’

‘Then go and see him’ the vendor said simply, ‘he is in the back. He will see you now.’

Slightly puzzled I turned to Andrew. I’d assumed that as we hadn’t even sampled any of his wares, the espy man wouldn’t want to see us, but I was obviously wrong.

‘Go on babe’, Andrew said kindly, ‘you go in first.’

I thought this was my partner being considerate, as he knew I was slightly worried about the whole experience and so smiled at him with nervous love. Then I saw he had a fag on the go and obviously wanted to finish it!

I went into the back room I had seen on the TV, and there, behind his desk, was the famous guru of Jaipur.

‘Sit down’, he intoned softly, ‘I knew you were not here to buy jewellery, but when I saw you in the shop I asked my man to come and bring you back. Do you know you are very special?’

I blushed. Before I had a chance to answer the silkily spoken, moustachioed fakir asked me my mother’s age.

‘Sixty-Eight’ I answered.

Suddenly his dark brown hands thrust a calculator toward me with the figure 68 already input and displayed on the screen.
I was slightly taken aback, as I had had to think about the answer and this stranger seemed to have the knowledge literally at his fingertips.
‘And is your father alive?’
‘No’, I replied, cynically trying to give nothing away.
‘If he were alive, how old would he be now?’
I had to concentrate once more. Mathematics  has never been my strong point,
‘Seventy’ I answered, slightly unsure.
Again the magic calculator was turned towards me and my response verified, as a big 70 digitally sprung from the machine.
‘What do you want to ask me?’ The mystic went on.
I was blank, I was so shocked by the seemingly intimate knowledge this man already possessed. I daren’t ask a thing unless I got the answer I wasn’t looking for.
We continued in conversation as the guru asked me a few questions.
‘You are in a relationship?’
‘Yes’ I answered.
‘And she is a water sign.’
I paused.
‘Yes’, I lied, knowing ‘She!’ was an Arian and most definitely of the fiery variety. Some doubt began to creep in, but then,
‘How long have you been with him?’
Now I was confused. This guy was slightly weirding me out.
‘Twenty-five years’ I responded.
‘And he is how old?’
‘Forty-six’ I said.
Surprise, surprise! The magic calculator was spun on me again and there it was, in plain black and grey, four and six. The number 46. Bingo!
Before I had a chance to go on the mystic began his rant.

He told me I lived in Spain. I had a complicated childhood, but I should forgive my mother. She had much guilt. My sister was similar to me but very different. She was creative like me. He told me I was not happy and should change my career. Go into nature and carry on writing! You cannot be loved by everyone, he said, so stop trying. And forgive your mother. By this point my head was spinning. There was a brief silence. Then suddenly, he continued,

‘You do know you were abused as a child?’ It was half question, half statement.

‘No!’ I said firmly, ‘I don’t believe I was.’

‘Emotionally – yes you were.’

Before I had a chance to respond he went on,

‘And I don’t mean to upset you, but your father killed himself.’

‘No’ I interjected again, ‘he died of cancer.’

‘But he gave up on life’ he said quickly, ‘he wanted this.’

‘Who had dementia in the family?’ he demanded.

‘My grandmother’ I offered up.

‘You must watch for this – and lung cancer. You must stop the smoking!’

This confounded me. As I rarely smoke – and then only in a secondary fashion!

The spiritual meeting had gone on longer than I’d anticipated, and the confusing information I was being given made me unsteady.

The session was completed with me being asked to hold a green stone in the palm of my hand and keep my eyes closed. After some time I timidly opened my eyes to see a larger version of the gemstone I was holding laying on the desk in front of me.

‘This is an emerald. It will unblock your heart chakra and help you achieve all you desire’ the guru, who I now knew to be called Ajay explained.
‘I can sell you this stone for 320,000 rupees.’

‘Oh’, I said, slightly aghast, ‘and what is that in English money?’

‘340 quid’ said Ajay, quick as a cobra.

‘We’ll, I don’t think I can spend that kind of money, I’ll need to speak to Andrew and if he ….’

‘This is a smaller stone, with the same power’ said Ajay, pouncing like a mongoose, ‘you can have this for a hundred and forty quid.’

I stared at the green stone in front of me, wondering what Jan Leeming would do.  As if he read my mind, Ajay suddenly explained,

‘You can get these stones cheaper, but I charge this for my institution. To help poor children. All the profits go there. You know Jan Leeming from the BBC, she works for my charity now.’

‘Jan’s a very kind woman’, I said, as if I knew her personally, ‘I’m sure she’s wonderful with the children’, but I’ll still need to talk to Andrew.’

‘OK’ said the guru, ‘then send him in.’

He smiled, told me I was very special again and to stop hurting myself, not only with drink and drugs, but mentally. We shook hands and I left, slightly shaken. And in need of a drink!

I found Andrew outside, not sharing his final cigarette with one of the shop assistants.

‘You can go in’ I announced, emotion making my voice quiver, and tears welling in my eyes.

‘Jesus!’ He exclaimed, ‘what’s up with you?’

‘Oh my God’, I told him, ‘he was so good’.

‘How?’ Andrew asked.

‘Just go in’, I said, ‘you’ll see.’

I waited outside with a charming Croatian jewellery designer as Andrew went in to see the sage.

After a much briefer period than I had spent inside, Andrew and Ajay came out of the shop, just as the charming Croatian was telling me far too loudly the name of the Indian whisky I’d asked her about.

‘It’s Royal Stag’ she announced firmly, ‘it’s great. And no hangover!’

I don’t think Ajay was impressed.

Andrew was fingering a stone whilst the guru told him to hold it in the sun. They then returned to the back of the shop, and I thanked the Croatian for the alcoholic tip.

Two minutes later Andrew made his exit. He looked distinctly unemotional and completely dry-eyed.

‘I’ll think about it mate’ he shouted behind to the guru as we climbed back into our rickshaw.

‘Well’ I asked, ‘what happened?’

‘Nothing much’, my partner said blankly, ‘he told me someone in my family was diabetic, I had possible bowel cancer and you were special but annoying.’
I wasn’t quite sure whether he’d added the last bit, but didn’t pursue it.

We shuddered along the slightly squalid streets discussing the details of our respective encounters. Andrew knocking away any thoughts that he might be suffering from bowel cancer, and me wondering what to forgive my mother for, as she’s always been quite exemplary as a parent. Perhaps her choice in men has on occasion been troublesome, but I could hardly blame her for that. I have the same problem.

I also went into deep contemplation – wondering just why I was so special, and how had he known of my aching ambition to write some day. My ego ballooned becoming as large as an Indian elephant – that is until we got back to our hotel.

Then Andrew decided to look up the guru’s credentials on the internet, and promptly shot my elephant stone dead!

Post after post online, revealed the man with the magic calculator to be a charlatan. There were a few egotistical idiots, like myself, who had believed some of the fakir’s fakery, must most had seen through it straight away – just like Andrew!

‘But what about the calculator’ I asked desperately, ‘how did he do that?’

‘For fuck’s sake darl, even Ian Mckellen can do that!’

He’d lost me for a moment.

‘What? As Gandalf?’

Andrew looked blank.

‘No. Not him. I mean Paul McKenna.’

We laughed.

And then I remembered another television special when Mr McKenna, the famous mentalist, proved exactly how easy it was to be a guru, without using any special powers at all. Less hocus-pocus, more hokum poor us!!!

Andrew then began to read me the comments from a blogging site he’d found. It was uncomfortably uncanny to learn how many of the poor creatures were told they were special, had been abused, someone or other in their clan had been suicidal and nearly always an older member of the family had dementia. Most of them were also assured of their creativity and told to stop self-harming. All of them were advised that the way to deal with these issues was to buy an overpriced emerald to unblock their heart chakra.

Some even did!

When sanity was restored and my ego had partially shrunk back to it’s usual inflated size, I wondered how the faker had known about Spain. I then remembered I’d spoken in Spanish to happy Hussein, our charming chauffeur, after he told me he had an Argentinian girlfriend. I even told him Andrew and I were performers –  and that we were together!

So it turns out Ajay was a psychic with a sidekick. More fucker than fakir!

‘At least he told me to pursue my writing’ I said desperately to Andrew, who was still busy on the iPad.

There was a loud chuckle.

‘What’s so funny’ I asked.

More laughing.

‘What?’ I insisted.

Andrew continued to read out some of the blogs in a highly amused fashion. They all finished with the same kind of sentence, which read along the lines of,

‘I’m just so grateful that at least he told me to continue with my writing’.

What an idiot.

I’ve never liked Jan Leeming!

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Silly cow!