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Chris Gained The Power Of Being Fed Up!

This week I finally got round to watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Edgar Wright’s screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s fantastically quirky  comic book series. Like the series, its a very funny, geeky gem and features some fantasitcally OTT action sequences that have been ripped almost right off the page.

One of my favourite moments comes towards the end of the flick when Scott “achieves” various emotions/states of being, which allows him to progress a level and also gives him a cool looking sword.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), and one badass blade

In a perfect world, this would happen everytime you got a new emotional response. And in the last week or so I’d have got the weapon of “Being fed up”.

This happened because work has been a major drag of late, the afterglow of good feeling from Sri Lanka has finally dissipated completely and I need a change of scene. In a way its a good thing because like the saying goes:

Contentment is the enemy of invention.

To tell the truth I’ve been fed up for a while, but in the last year or so I’ve at least become slightly more proactive about it. My lack of contentment and frustration with my crappy job have inspired me to try and make some changes in my life,  I’ve got some travelling under my belt and tried some new things (internet dating, actively trying to lose weight) and I plan to continue down this way.

I used to be happy unwinding after work with a movie or a few hours of hardcore internet pornography, but this wasn’t solving the problem, it was just giving me a break from it.

And my first idea was to have another break, going for a weekend away, preferably before Christmas. I drew up a shortlist of possible destinations (Dublin, Barcelona, Moscow, Hamburg, Prague) before a frontrunner emerged, a return to Amsterdam. An entire weekend in a weed-induced haze.

But at the end of the weekend I’d have to come back.

And then I came up with a new plan. Rich and Dan are off in China teaching English and both seem to be enjoying it, so I figure I might also go abroad to teach.

So I’ll do a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course and try and then start looking for jobs somewhere else. I don’t think I’d go for China, I’m not sure I’d fit in a country that strict and while I’d love to visit there someday I don’t fancy living there. So having looked at the website here are the 5 countries I’d most like to go to, in order of preference:

1. Japan
2. Thailand
3. Brazil
4. Argentina
5. Czech Republic

So hopefully this time next year I’ll be thousand of miles away in a foreign country and no longer doing my crappy job.

I have lots of stupid plans and crazy schemes but I will follow through on this, and even if it goes tits up and I end up loathing it, at least it’ll be an experience.

I might still try to fit in a weekend in Amsterdam though.

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Sri Lanka 11 Last Leg

Part One- Arugam Bay to Negombo

After a broken night’s sleep and a hasty last minute pack, I dosed myself with Imodium and clambered aboard our minibus. This is a summary of the journey-

I passed the start of the journey dozing, and most of the rest listening to my iPod.

We were provided with our last sighting of an elephant, as we passed a couple who lumbered out of the fields to graze on the trees along the road.

I listened to Ian Bell’s stupidity in the test, where he wandered off and India’s sportsmanship in withdrawing their appeal so he could continue playing after walking off before the session was over. I almost cheered when Tuffers put down an attempted Boycott interruption.

In a tiny, nameless town I saw a sweet and evidently universal scene. A pretty and nervous Sri Lankan girl chatted to a boy, the two chatting slightly awkwardly but exchanging frequent smiles, while her friends hovered nearby, whispering amongst themselves. Awkward teenage flirting is clearly the same all around the world.

As crowded buses whipped by I saw their dozing or staring passengers squashed against the window and decided, despite my regrets, that I had made the right decision in not travelling when ill.

Our lunch stop was at a roadside cafe, where we stretched our legs and I drank sweet tea and ate cakes. Our two drivers, dodgy looking cats who would have made great low level hoods on Colombo Vice, sat down and fell upon rice and curry. Our bill arrived but before I could pay there was some fussing and the bill was taken, our waitress chatted to the drivers and then returned, our bill was higher. They’d put their food onto our bill. It was a trifling amount, but it really pissed me off. They could have mentioned something, or asked whether we’d pay for it, but they just assumed that we’d foot the bill. I refused to, and would feel guilty about Laurence having to reach into his pocket, but like I said, it was a trifling amount, and my principles and anger wouldn’t let me contribute to it.

Three weeks had meant that we’d grown accustomed to the Sri Lankan’s crazy driving, there was an odd system behind it all, it worked. But then we were provided something that reminded us that even though the drivers seemed to know what they were doing they were still reckless, and their luck couldn’t hold for ever. A mangled tuk-tuk, the windscreen shattered and the flimsy frame bent out of shape. A crowd huddled around a woman lying on the ground, looking in a bad way, while her acquaintance let out a long, pain-filled wail.

We left the main road, avoiding Colombo and the madness therein. But the back roads were nightmarish, I wanted to grab every whinging Mail reader who complains about potholes in a headlock, drag them out and show them just how lucky we are with the roads in Blighty. It was a rough ride, and not helped by my paranoid fantasiesthat our dodgy drivers were about to jack us.

But, for an 8 hour ride, it passed fairly easily.

Part Two- One more, thing- Our day in Colombo

It may have been end-of-trip nostalgia, or my dread at returning to work. It may have been the warm glow I had from two cocktails and the beer, but whatever the reason. As I crawled onto the rock hard slab they called a mattress I couldn’t help smiling.

It had been a good day.

It’d been a lazy start, a hotel down the road that was distinctly more up-market than ours had an internet connection and sent my mum a message to let her know we’d made it back to Negombo in one piece.

Another minibus took us into Colombo.

The traffic was horrific, real bumper-to-bumper stuff, exacerbated by all the drivers being obsessed with switching lanes so they could get a fraction of a second advantage over the other commuters.

Our driver, who’s English was nonexistent took us to the wrong place. Instead of where he was meant to drop us he took us to where we were meant to get picked up. It took a while but finally we got him to take us to the original destination, the train station.

We’d chosen there so we were in the centre and could have a wander.

A quick stop at the bank and we grabbed dinner at this cool little place, which according to Llyw’s Lonely Planet was used in the filming of the video for the classic “Hungry By The Wolf” by Duran Duran. I can’t say I remember the video, so its clearly not as iconic as the ones for “Wild Boys”, “Rio” or “A View To A Kill”, so I’ll have to YouTube it when I get back to the UK:

It was cheap, and the food nice, although our aged waiter was a miserable sod, although if I’d served Simon Le Bon and the lads I’d be fed up to be carrying rice out to some sweaty and wilting tourists.

That fat guy’s no Simon, he probably thought wistfully, he’s not even wearing sunglasses. And his hair’s not even slightly feathered.

The place also did cakes at ridiculously low prices so we indulged ourselves. I had a rum ball, and the maker had clearly been liberal with the rum, just the way I like it.

From there we wandered down to the market. The shopping district was a mesh of narrow streets, bustling with people and vehicles which beeped as they attempted to wind their way through the crowds.

Shops were tiny things with their wares stacked or hanging around the storefront, the proprietors stood outside calling out to passersby.

But there was no hard sell, after the offer was politely refused they let you be. And the offers were all polite and friendly.

I really dug this, the hustle and bustle, the items on sale ranging from fine fabrics to miscellaneous tat like head massagers.

I bought a cheap wallet and a fruit drink on the street. A literal fruit drink. The guy loped off the top of the fruit, crack a hole in it and give you a straw to drink the sweet, milky contents before ditching the husk. I was warned that I’d regret this purchase, but it was delish, and there was no fallout.

Laurence bought some fabrics so that he could make a suit on his return home. In one textiles shop I admired some bright, patterned cloth that would have made a pretty cool shirt and smiled at the cute shopgirl with big brown eyes, and a shy, warm smile.

We tuk-tuked to the Galle Face Hotel, Laurence and I unable to convince our driver to race the others. At the hotel we walked past a wedding party and took some seats out on the terrace, where we ordered some cocktails to wrap up our holiday.

The mood was relaxed, and we chatted and joked away, the feeling in the group was good. And the cocktails gave me a warm glow.

Long Island Iced Tea- The king of cocktails

Life was good.

The rest of the evening saw us bus back and have food before crawling into bed, happy and content.

Part Three- Up In The Air

We got up early, showered, packed and headed to the airport.

The first flight was okay, I read some of Keith and watched American Pickers, this show about two guys who buy people’s old junk and sell it on. Like Wheeler Dealers, American Hotrod and American Chopper its one of those shows where sod all happens yet manages to be utterly mesmerising. It seems like a cool way to make a living, trawling through old stuff and selling it on, hearing the old stories that go with the stuff and finding lost treasures.

American Pickers- Mesmerising mundanity

The only problem with the show is that the guys are dicks to the quite foxy woman who works with them who’s stuck back at the office while they drive around treasure hunting. Personally I wouldn’t mind having her along.

Danielle- Why would you not want her around?

Doha was just as hot on the way out, although the dry heat was a relief after the omnipresent humidity we’d endured in Sri Lanka.

The second leg, while longer, came with a choice of movies so I sat down to watch Rebel Without A Cause and Fast 5, and I may lose cool points for this, but I definitely preferred the latter. James Dean was no Rock.

We touched down, and it cloudy over Heathrow. I was in mixed emotions about being home. I’d missed the UK and its many charms, but I’d loved Sri Lanka and the relaxed pace of living. And there, I didn’t have a job I hate.

Sri Lanka 10 Okanda

August 2nd, 7:20PM

Today was our last full day in Arugam Bay, tomorrow we leave at 10AM.

I had, unsurprisingly, a lazy day. I read more of Keef’s book and did some crosswords, I know, how rock ‘n’ roll am I?

I’d thought Llyw was off with me, and tried to figure out what I’d done wrong to piss him off. He’s got a pretty long fuse and has put up with my innumerable faults for the 7 months we’ve lived together, so it must have been something bad, but I was damned if I knew what it was.

It turned out I was imagining it, and Llyw was just tired. This was probably due to my paranoia that the rest of the group was pissed off that they were forced to put up with me for 2 extra days, after the solo joint fell through.

Later on our tuk-tuk ride Llyw and I chatted away and he seemed cheery enough. I think his funk was just tiredness coupled with the fact that he has more to miss back home than I do.

We were tuk-tuking to Okanda, a little way down the coast where there’s a beach and a temple. Llyw and I in one tuk tuk, Laurence and Hannah in the other.

Halfway there, Fareek pulled up and offered us the chance to climb this big sacred rock. Were we up for it?

There followed a chorus of “I don’t minds”, the traditional British response when noone wants to make a decision that might inconvenience someone else.

Realising that following this course would probably take some time I decided to take charge and solve this, Harvey Dent style.

All decisions can be made the Two Face way.

Tails.

We didn’t go.

Okanda was, on first impressions a massive disappointment. A dusty little town where the road runs out. A Sri Lankan version of the kind of place the teenager’s van breaks down in horror movies.

We were also arriving just after a big Hindu festival, lending the place a “morning after” vibe. There was litter everywhere amongst the flattened grass, the place must have been bouncing.

We wandered to the temple, a big walled affair with intricate carvings, bright colours, gaudy plastic statues and fairy lights.

I really dug the kind of DIY simplicity of it, there was a feeling that it was much used and loved by the people, who’d really made an effort to decorate and maintain it. Back home a lot of our churches are drab and clearly unchanged for years, they feel like relics from a time since past, as opposed to a vibrant part of community life.

Asking entrance from a toothless local we recieved no reply, which we took as a no. It was one of very few instances of rudeness from a Sri Lankan.

Instead we clmbed up to a smaller temple on the large rock the village is built around.

A simple affair but in a fantastic location, the rock providing a panoramic view of the gorgeous bay.

I snapped a few shots and then descended. My flip flops almost sent me flying so I went barefoot down the rock.

Then we went to the beach.

The beach was lush, the sun shining brightly, the sea of blue, we’d seen it in the movies and now we saw it true.

The guys climbed over a rock to the next bay but after struggling up a few feet I decided to stop. I’ve always found that the things which are hard to get up are painfully easy to come down off.

And anyway, there was a way around.

The other bay was even better, fishing boats waiting to go out and the scruffy mutts you see everywhere here running along the shore.

I had a quick dip and then chilled on the beach.

We wandered back through the fishing village, a collection of simple huts in amongst the trees.

Back at what I suppose you could call the town centre, I wandered into a shop to buy a bottle of pop. An ancient woman sat behind the counter.

“How much?” I asked, holding the bottle.

She replied, at length, in a language I didn’t understand. I tried gesturing with my hands but this didn’t work.

I put down a note.

“Enough?”

Shake of the head. Another note.

“Enough.”

In response? The Sri Lankan head-bob, a combination of nodding and head shaking, which can mean any of numerous things- yes, no, maybe, I don’t know, can you repeat the question?

Another note, smaller this time. This must be enough, I thought.

More head bobbling.

The head-bob looks a bit like this

I turned to my fellow customers.

“How much is this?”

Blank faces.

Luckily at this point Ibrahim entered and sorted it, taking back one of the notes and I left glad I’d avoided getting shafted.

On the way back Laurence and Hannah decided to go up the rock, while Llw and I continued home.

It had been a good last day, I thought, with Eastern Sri Lanka providing some glorious sights and a wonderful, chilled out atmosphere.

But SL wasn’t done and had a couple more wonders for us.

About 5 minutes after the split, Llyw let out an excited “Elephant!” and there he was. At most 150 yards away, idly chewing on a branch was a juvenile bull.

We watched him for a bit, because he magnificent. I don’t think any animal is as oddly beautiful as the elephant. If you were to describe them they sound ridiculous (long, moving snout? Floppy ears? Grey?) but then you see them and they’re just majestic.

Buzzed we drove on. Our next sighting had a different effect entirely.

Crossing the road in front of us was a 4ft weaving black shape.

Cobra.

It was massive.

My attempt at a picture was awful but I was damned if I’d go closer. For once, however, I was the calmer of the two of us, snakes being Llyw’s major heebie-jeebie maker. He’d moved way over my side of the tuk tuk and on passing where the serpent had vanished into the undergrowth he asked Ibrahim to pull to the other side of the road.

Now we were filled with nervous excitement, and I unleashed my inner Steve Irwin (RIP) when I thought I saw was a croc. It was a fish though.

The late, great Steve Irwin.

The drive back I thought about the trip and Sri Lanka. While the list of things I missed about home grew steadily (family, friends, my sofa, cider, Subway, Friends repeats etc.) I’d be sad to leave, and would definitely like to return. I’d love to see the ancient cities and the hill country.

The people were lovely, friendly and polite. The countryside and wildlife is astounding. I love this place.

With the sun setting the drive back was idyllic. Lush green rice fields, kids playing, shrines and temples. Three young lads whipping by sharing the same motorbike, the phrase “riding bitch” and the attatched stigma clearly hasn’t been translated here, and maybe it never should.

Two soldiers at a checkpoint, looking like bored lads at a bus stop, one texting while his buddy lazily smoked. Women strolled at the side of the road dressed in saris, chatting away. Wonderful.

Later that evening Llyw and I blew away Crocodile Dundee/Steve Irwin fantasies we may have harboured out of the water.

Llyw moved a chair, displacing a large cockroach which took flight, prompting a startled yelp from Llyw. It then landed on my notepad and I let out a girlish squeal heard right across the compound.

Yeah, we truly were rugged adventurers.

Sri Lanka 9 Stuck

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans“- Woody Allen

Part 1- 1st August, 11:21am

Arugam bay, s***, I’m still only in Arugam bay.

I thought my next entry would Batticola, Pollonaruwa or scribbled on a sweaty bus journey.

But I’m not. I’m lying on the balcony of the cabin.

I have been struck down.

It started yesterday afternoon with a slught grumbling in my guts. I ignored it- spicy food and I’d been loose for a while.

But by the evening it was worse and this morning I was forced to abandon my trip North.

I’m really gutted about it! The feeling in the camp has improved after a few minor falling outs last week, but still I was looking forward to lighting out on my own and seeing the ancient cities of Pollonaruwa and Anuradhapura.

It’d give me a chance to see more of the country and break out of this kind of loafing, beach bum existence I have here in Arugam Bay, which while fun is starting to feel like a wasted opportunity.

Also I kind of wanted to get away and having some time to myself.

But feeling this rough I didn’t fancy a long bus ride. So the plan changed today I would recuperate- sleep, lots of water, read some Keith Richards, listen to podcasts and scribble away in the hope that by the evening I’d be feeling better.

And so I am living by one of this trip’s oft-repeated phrases:

Make a plan, change a plan

So tomorrow if the PTB smile upon me I will go to Ella and then Kandy before reuniting with the guys in Colombo.

Hopefully next time I write I’ll be up in the hills.

Part 2- 1st August, 5:35pm

Well, the proposed Ella-Kandy trip has bitten the dust. There’s only one train and it arrives in Kandy at 2:30am.

Hmmmm, I’m out.

So no solo jaunt on this trip.

Okanda with the guys tomorrow and then bussing across on Wednesday.

Hopefully the full day in Colombo will make up for it.

Random Musings

As this is a bit of a short post and I want to get the Sri Lankan ones out of the way, here’s a bunch of random things I scribbled during the trip:

20/7

Who in the hell would by condoms called “rough riders”? Its a truly hideous connotation to apply to them? Seriously, just a stupid name. Although, thinking about it I’ve never seen why they picked Trojan either, as isn’t the entire point of Troy was that the Greeks got in. I just have the image of sperm sawing and hammering a wooden horse together to trick the rubber.

* * *

The Boss’ original of “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” is nothing like the Rage Against The Machine version, but both are brilliant. The Boss’ has a kind of simplistic beauty and captures the desperation, which the RAtM version does as well but adds anger and turns the “I’ll be there” refrain into a battlecry.

* * *

Sign that it’s been too long since I’ve had sex- listening to Gillian Anderson’s Desert Island Discs episode I got a little thrill, that voice!

Gillian Anderson, be still my beating heart.

* * *

George Foreman will now be my hero and inspiration. This is due to hearing about his come back to boxing to be champ at 45.

Foreman becomes World Champion at 45 and gives Sports Illustrated to use an extremely cheesy headline

* * *

A week of no TV and my mind is constantly replaying a scene from The Big Bang Theory that I watched on the flight. Here you go:

Sri Lanka 8 See-Saw Safari

Another day of ups and downs.

Possibly a large contributor to this was the fact that I had to get up at 3am as we were heading down to Yala National Park. I’d had a bad night sleep to begin with, filled with more crazy, heat induced dreams. Also adding to the fun was some idiot down the beach setting fireworks off until the wee small hours.

2:30 rolled around and I showered, chowed down on some Fruit & Nut and we all piled onto our bus.

Our driver bombed along the darkened roads at speeds approaching insanity, halfway there having to swerve violently to avoid an elephant. Yes, we finally saw one of the famed night elephants of Sri Lanka. But just two, another elephant was in the fields so it wasn’t quite the hordes we’d been warned of in Badulla.

I dozed for a little and finally we arrived at the halfway point, where we bailed out of the bus and onto the jeep.

I loved the jeep, the rugged simplicity, a dashboard pared down to the bare bones and I took up my seat in the shotgun position.

We arrived at Yala and I was buzzing, I’d never been on this kind of safari before, as I’m not sure Longleat counts.

Barely through the gate and we saw water buffalo and a wild boar drinking at a waterfall, suddenly the boar got jittery. And then we saw why. The muddy reeds shifted and breaking the surface was a long line of spines, a crocodile. The croc froze and seconds later the boar returned to the water’s edge, again the croc’s edging forwards spooked the boar but as our jeep moved on the dumb pig was again trotting back for a sip.

Driving around the park we saw more buffalo, a few more boars, deer, pelicans, storks, more crocs, an elephant and jungle fowl, which our guide explained were the national bird of Sri Lanka.

We drove on and on, and at this point my mood dropped.

I blame the tiredness, and the heat. The front seat had no cover and we seemed to spend most of the morning driving directly into the sun, meaning I roasted. It didn’t help that the engine by my feet was emitting massive amounts of heat. I was hot and crotchety.

It didn’t help that along with heat the engine was also pumping out unhealthy belches of petrol fumes.

Also up front I felt isolated, the guys were all in the back (in the shaded back, the bastards!) and chatting away, while all I had for company was our driver, who while nice enough wasn’t a great conversationalist.

It didn’t help that the main event of the park, leopards, were not forthcoming. We saw none. We did get into a minor traffic jam with the other jeeps because someone thought they saw a puddy-cat.

By now, I wanted to get out of the stupid jeep with the lack of anything car-like, the faulty dials and loose wiring on the dashboard and the boiling, fume belching engine.

Our driver provided a commentary on the animals we saw but I think David Attenborough’s job is safe “Big bird- Pelican” or “Coloured bird- Painted heron”, were the extent of his insight and repeated several times. If we had seen a leopard what would his comment have been? “Spotty cat”?

The heat was wigging me out. I tried to sleep and quite frankly, was on the verge of screaming if I saw another jungle fowl, which basically look like Elton John’s version of a chicken.

A dark thought entered my mind- I bet these trips were more fun when you could shoot things.

Kraven had the right idea.

Finally we left and were dropped back at the restaurant where we’d caught the jeep and obviously where our minibus driver clearly recieved a kick back. We grabbed food and with some pizza, tea and coke inside me my mood quickly improved. Chatted a bit and then we got into the minibus.

My mood was buoyed by some  Theroux and then I heard some familiar words- “Grease is the word”. Yes, our minibus driver was playing the Grease soundtrack, I sat there fighting the urge to sing along to “Summer Nights”, “Greased Lightning” and “You’re The One That I Want”. After these were various 50s songs, which is a type of music I love.

Grease. It IS the Word

We grabbed a bottle of water at a roadside shop and with the CD over our driver switched to an easy listening station where seemingly all the music played was classic hits covered on a casio keyboard. Bizarre.
But even with the odd soundtrack I enjoyed the ride back, chatting a bit, reading a bit of the Australian version of Zoo magazine (which unsurprisngly given that Zoo isn’t that classy anyway and this was in the hands of Australians was pure trash) and enjoying the stunning landscapes that had been shrouded in darkness on the drive out.

Sri Lanka 7 Troppo

Going Troppo- Australian term for going crazy due to tropical heat.

Kurtz- Textbook Troppo

Night Moves

It must have been about 2AM, and I was awoken by a grumble in my stomach.

Fighting my way out of the mosquito net I scuttled down the ladder and shuffled through the darkness to the bathroom.

In my urgency to answer nature’s call I sat and went about my business without checking the toilet paper situation.

There was none.

I eyed the Sri Lankan option-

A hose.

Now, I love traveling and intend to do a whole lot more, and part of that is experiencing new things and other cultures. But now and then you reach a line you can or will not cross.

And while I might not be the classiest fellow, I just can not bring myself to use a hose to clean myself up.

I’m not a convict or a zoo animal to be hosed down. I still have a little dignity.

I am not a beast!

Or I did, but as you’re about to read, I sacrificed that with my alternative plan of action.

I was going to have to cross the compound and get some toilet paper.

Carefully pulling up my boxers and tugging on a shirt I crept out into the black.

The kitchen was locked and the serviettes had been hidden away.

Dilemma.

And then I remembered that the Swiss’ toilet was around the back.

But could I really sneak in there to steal toilet paper? While the bathroom opened onto the ccommunal area it was technically their house, so I was about to enter somebody else’s house to steal toilet roll.

I considered what might go wrong, if I got caught it would be hard to explain.

The kids would freak out.

Winnie would kill me with his bare hands.

Simmy…Lord, that’d just be mortifying.

I waited. Silence.

A sneaky glance.

I could see two plump toilet rolls sat atop the toilet.

I ran forward silently, snatched a roll and sped back into the black.

Stealthy like a ninja

I returned to the cabin and took care of business.

The next day my actions were lambasted, but really it was merely a longer version of the waddle to get another roll when you finish a roll!

And I kept to my principles and didn’t get the hose.

* * * * *

The Tunstall-Macdonald Dispute

We were dining in the Gekko, a restaurant owned by an Anglo-Sri Lankan couple, the Anglo half being Liz, who the previous night had chatted away to us, amusing us with tales of island life as her staff kept her G+T’s flowing.

Tonight there was no Liz, and for the second night in a row, no beef burgers.

So chowing down on a chicken burger I enjoyed a chilled evening, although our conversation topics were oddly heavy, criminal rights and so on.

We’d segued to rugby (I don’t know how) and I mentioned London Welsh, prompting Hannah to provide the genius quote:

Is there a London English?…Or is that just London?

The background music was pretty dire, mainly bland female singer-songwriter stuff.

“Who is this?” Someone asked.

“KT Tunstall” I replied.

KT Tunstall

But at the same time Hannah had answered with “Amy Macdonald”

Amy Macdonald

“Its not KT Tunstall!”

“It is” Said I. “I’ve never heard of Amy whatsherface!”

“No, but you’ve heard her music- like this song!”

This quickly became heated in the way trivial disagreements have a habit of doing and 100 rupees (about 60p) was staked on the singer’s identity.

Now I’ve made many a drunken bet over this kind of thing and part of the fun is the trash talking and banter that accompanies them.

However, my enjoyment was tempered due to the constant interjections from Ashley, who by this stage in the holiday was irritating me more than the bugs and gormless crows combined. I get the feeling she doesn’t like me, and sees herself as being above me. But I can’t say I care that much, as the more time passes the deeper my contempt for her grows. Dull and whiney she is making my decision to go on a solo trip on Monday seem like even more of a good idea. I think if I was to stay here until the end, I’d wind up slapping her or saying something the others would expect me to regret.

It didn’t help that I’d entered the 2 Lion belligerence zone.

My resentment grew when it came to paying the bill. Due to rupees and the I’d thrown in 2000, when my share was around 1450, I’d taken 350 in change out, meaning I’d contributed about 200 in tips.

But with everyone’s cash in the pot we were still 300 rupees short.

The previous night (when it had just been Llyw, Hannah, Ashley and myself eating)  Llyw had been forced to pay more than his fair share, and now the girls stood gawping at each other. No one seemed to be in a rush to put their hand in their pocket.

“For f***’s sake!” I growled, throwing down the 300 which was my change. “Brilliant, I just paid 2000 for a meal”

And with that, I turned to storm out.

But my drama queen moment was ruined by the fact as I turned my size 12 flip flop came down not on the floor but on a sleeping dog, which let out a surprised yelp. “F*****g dog!” I yelled and completed my storm out.

I made my way back alone and sat reading Theroux until I calmed down.

Oh, and it was an Amy Macdonald song.

Sri Lanka 6 Marooned

21st July, Afternoon, Arugam Bay

Its not been a good day.

Yesterday I burnt my feet on the sand, it was about midday and the sun had been cooking for a few hours. With my experience of beaches being on the Welsh coastline I was unaware of just how hot sand can get so I just wandered out barefoot.

Sheer agony.

I only had to walk about 100 yards, but it turned into a bit of an ordeal.

It was basically indirect sunburn on the bottom of my feet, which must be the body part least equipped to deal with sunlight.

I suppose I could have just started running which would have (slightly) decreased the time my feet were on baked grains.

But I was carrying my laptop and I didn’t want to drop it. Hobbling around for a few days I can cope with but no tweeting or blogging for over a fortnight? Never!

Twitter, The Crystal Meth of Social Networking

So my feet blistered and walking on them was very painful.

(I’m currently reading Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About The Bike” and the nightmarish chemo he has to endure, so I’m wary of exaggerating my own trivial complaints, although as Lance goes on to be a Tour De France champion and hook up with Sheryl Crow, so I think long term I may have the harder life)

Today I bandaged myself up and decided to wander up to the shop with Llyw and Hannah. Its only a few hundred metres up the road but less than halfway and I was shuffling like a man three times my age. Llyw flagged down a tuk tuk and later explained he did this because it was painful watching me hobble along. I’m glad he did because I really didn’t want to have to ask.

Returning to the cabin I was put on rest for the remainder of the day.

Which has been soul destroying.

I’ve sat here all afternoon, while the others have gone swimming and stuff. I got so fed up at one point I crawled back into bed.

I tried writing earlier but the heat made it tough to focus.

I’m hot, sweaty, hassled by bugs and generally being a bit of a miserable sod.

Making it all worse were the bloody crows.

I’d thought the trees would be full of the full spectrum of parrots but all we seem to have are loud, obnoxious black crows.

Lots of crows.

Creepy crows.

One in particular has been singled out in my wrath. Its beak is constantly hanging half open, giving him a gormless expression that infuriates me beyond all rational explanation.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they creeped me out and cawing continuously, but the feathery c***s then went and stole my biccies!

As I lay inside I heard a scuffle and saw one of the avian c***suckers swoop off with my pack of biscuits in his beak.

I hobble out, cursing a blue streak but the winged w****r was gone.

As I sit here writing some of the bastards have come back eating the scraps I couldn’t retrieve and bin (I’m not risking bird flu for a pack of sickly sweet strawberry puffs). I appreciate they’re scavengers but really there is no need need to return to the scene of the crime and (PUN WARNING!!) crow about it.

For the first time I can totally understand Hunter S. Thompson’s obsession with guns.

Hunter S Thompson

A high powered revolver would’ve improved my mood immensely and helped pass the time.

I know I’d have had a massive grin on my face if I’d sat here surrounded by scattered feathers and bullet holes.

I’d like to point out that my mood had improved by the time I finished writing this and listened to some Springsteen. I still wouldn’t mind a gun though.

* * * * *

See-Saw

25th July, 8:37AM

Yesterday I had a day of ups and downs. Perhaps the clearest indicator of this are the 3 songs that at different times were stuck in my head.

First up it was Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” a wonderfully melancholic song about getting trapped in working class drudgery (“A dream of life that don’t come true”) which was replaced by “Going Loco Down In Acapulco” and later by Sum 41’s anthem of my teenage years “Fat Lip”.

Why was I so all over the place?

The morning had passed in the usual way- dozing, reading and general loafing.

I’d wandered across to the sensitively named Tsunami Hotel to use their internet and for the first time communicated directly with my family on Skype.

Perhaps that was the start of it. Speaking to them was the 1st time on this trip I’d experienced homesickness.

By the time I get home I won’t have seen my family for a month. And while moving out wasthe right thing to do, I still like that I see them fairly regularly.

That was probably at the root of the slump exacerbated by my quick necking of 2 Lion beers that seemed to make me belligerent. This is the “Loco” phase of the day.

Throw in some bad luck at cards and the smouldering annoyance with one of our group that had been growing for days caught fire. My inner Sam managed to control the flames and I kept myself from shooting my mouth off.

You have 2 more weeks with this lot, a calm inner voice whispered, there’s no point making them awkward and miserable for everyone.

Then I hit the water.

Somehow, splashing about and getting knocked about by the waves cheered me up despite the gallons of salt water sloshing around in my stomach.

Hopping in the shower my mood was bright and Sum 41 popped into my head:

“Storming through the party like my name was El Nino

(I decided to end with the first line of the song and that’s what a google search threw up, but I’ve always sang “Stroll into the party like my name was Ali”, well, live and learn.)

Sri Lanka 5 Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

19th July, Early, Arugam Bay

In the early evening Llyw and Laurence decided to go for a surf down at the point and I decided to wander down with them and have a swim.

The girls were already swimming just a little way, but I decided to go with the guys, because I figured it’d be awkward with the girls. Awkward because I’d be self conscious and also awkward because I’d worry that I was making them self conscious, and fearing I’d look like a perv or something. If they were to discover my pervyness let it be a slow revealation, we had 3 weeks for them to discover my depravity, best not to rush it all out in one go. I’d drip feed it out.

The trek up the beach was tough going because the sand was constantly shifting. It wasn’t long before the guys built up quite a lead and I dawdled behind.

I didn’t really mind, the beach was gorgeous and I strolled along people watching and exchanging “Hellos” with the local fishermen.

The point was buzzing with surfers and bathers. I walked past some locals who were drumming in a circle, who knows why, but a lifetime of old movies made me wary. Can you remember the last time good things came after tribal drumming in a film?

I ditched my flip flops, glasses and, after a quick glance around, shed my shirt and hurried into the water.

Too rocky to swim I hurried out, quickly tugged on my shirt, now filled with sand (lovely!) and moved along the beach, looking for a quiet spot where there weren’t too many people around.

I knew I was going to make a fool of myself but I prefer to do it in front of small, intimate audiences, not vast hordes. I’m more like the Richard Herring of making a fool of myself as opposed to the Michael McIntyre.
I swam for a bit, but felt uncomfortable and so redressed and wandered back to the cabin.

Its weird how this holiday has bought my self-consciousness to the fore!

Usually it doesn’t bother me that much but I realise how much it sucks. I mean, on a logical level I know that nobody on the beach was going to be looking at me, and if they did, so what? It wasn’t as if everyone on the beach was an Adonis/Venus.

Also, I remember a time before I got bashful. I remember getting a laugh doing a Whigfield impression when I was around 9 years old, naked except for a towel on my head. Its a world away from who I am now.

I like making people laugh but I’m not that willing to push myself into the spotlight now. And while getting my cock out would guarantee a laugh, its a line I won’t cross. Unless the money was right.

I suppose I could overcome my self-consciousness.

Or eliminate what I’m self-conscious about? My slow, lazy attempts to lose weight are bearing some small fruit, like grapes, I’ve dropped two belt notches since Amsterdam, and I hope to intensify my attempts in the coming months.

As for my other insecurity? Well, maybe I’ll answer one of the thousands of e-mails in my junk folder.

Sri Lanka 4 Badulla-Arugam Bay

Part 1: They Mostly Come Out At Night, Mostly

Badulla, 17th July
We strode out of Badulla station, and I was still for pushing on right through to Arugam Bay.

There was a solitary minibus tout and he offered to drive us for $50. Each.

Llyw quickly shot this down, at which point the fella, who exuded dodginess from every pore, explained why a night time voyage was so expensive-

Nocturnal elephants.

Apparently, after dusk the road to Arugam bay becomes chock-a-block with insomniac elephants who decide to wander the roads. Hence, travelling there is dangerous.

The price would be less in the morning, although still unfeasibly high.

We’d be spending the night in Badulla.

To get there the five of us, along with luggage and two surfboards piled into a tuk-tuk. It was a little cramped, with people on each other’s laps but sitting in the rickety 3-wheeler I could see why they’re so popular in Asia- cheap to run, quite handy for weaving through traffic and cool in the heat. At the same time you could see why they’d never catch on in Europe- one collision and its game over.

Our hotel was extremely spartan but relief came in the fact that the bed was merely a mattress placed on a concrete slab. I was sure I wouldn’t break this bed. Fairly sure.

We decided to wander into Badulla to find some grub and discovered that the town was a dump, I can only assume that “ulla” means “beyond belief”.

Everything was closed but we found a cheap restaurant where we tried kotti, which was lush, and also the guy working there showed some true class by informing us that we didn’t need to order 5 portions as 4 would suffice. He was not wrong and the four stuffed the five of us completely.

Wandering back to the hotel we passed what was clearly a pimp with his two distressingly young employees.

I couldn’t wait to get out of this pit, I didn’t care what kind of elephant horde we’d have to weave through.

Part 2: Journey’s End

Badulla-Arugam Bay, 18th July
Badulla was infinitely improved by dawn.

Opening the door to the balcony we discovered that the dark empty space of the previous night had been replaced by a beautifully captivating view.

An open field stretched across the valley floor, a few horned cattle slowly wandering about munching the cud. The plain stopped abruptly on the far side where the jungle had been restrained. The dense greenery swept up the rest of the valley floor and up the towering hills beyond.

We ate breakfast on the street- painfully spicy rottis and another cup of sweet, milky tea.

The town buzzed with activity and the lack of tourists meant it felt like we were seeing the average everyday life of Sri Lankan people as they hurried to work or shopped for food.

And then, out of place on a stall selling clothes and bandanas a picture of 50 Cent glared out at the world.

The minibus was cramped, the boards took up a lot of room and totally blocked our view out of the left side of the bus, although given the ride to come this was a good thing.

My open window seemed to only serve as a funnel, directing all of the hot, dusty air right into my face.

At a consistent speed our driver thundered along, overtaking and blasting past tuk-tuks and cyclists, weaving along the mountain roads, seemingly oblivious to the sheer drop off the side of the road.

We passed massive tea plantations, moving down through the hills to flatter land until finally we reached the coast and were rewarded with the sight of the blue Indian ocean.

Finally we reached Arugam Bay, a beachfront collections of shacks and hotels, stretching around the bay.

And then we were there, the place that would be our home for the next few weeks- Watermusic.

We were greeted by Simmy (Simona) a toned, tattooed Swiss surfer girl in her late 20s/early 30s with a relaxed demeanour and quick smile. I developed an instant and intense crush on her.

The place was lovely, mere feet from the beach and sea, with palm trees and plants all around our cabin. A delightfully rustic looking one room structure with an adjoining bathroom, which while enclosed was open aired. There was a shaded porch out the front, which is where I would spend a vast amount of time reading and writing, and an upper balcony where we could sleep if we chose to.

Magic.

I changed quickly and rushed into the sea to refresh myself.

Our hotel is owned by SImmy and her husband, Rolly. They’re both super-cool and relaxed. Along with them and their kids were an assortment of their Swiss friends and their families.

These included the inappropriately named Winnie, a muscled beast of a man who looks terrifying but would prove to be wonderfully warm, friendly and easy-going.

They all look like a surf magazine crossed with a poster about Aryan supremacy- toned, fit, blue eyed specimens with healthy tans that made this red faced, chunky Celt feel a little inadequate.

Sri Lanka 3: Getting my Theroux on.

17th July, Colombo, 9:45am
Badulla? Its over halfway there, why not? It’ll be an adventure, an 8 hour train ride where we can meet some locals and see the country.

17th July, Badulla, 8:30pm
Urghhh.

Here’s what happened in between:

Second class was rammed, and with no available seats we set up a base in the dining car. I stood in a doorway as the train set off, waving at locals, full of life and optimistic, grinning like an idiot in the light rain shower.

Soon we left the city behind and chugged into the jungle. I glimpsed a monkey disappearing into the trees, or its tail at any rate.

I drank sweet, milky tea which is how it was brewed, all the ingredients thrown into one big pot and boiled up togethere. Its almost sickly sweet but over the course of the day I’d pound down half a dozen or so.

Snack wise I scarfed down some rottis, a samosa like pastry filled with spices and veg.

The locals seemed quite fascinated with us and made friendly conversation. They’re very polite and not intrusive, asking a few questions and seeming to sense just how long they can talk before outstaying their welcome, at which point they say goodbye, wish you luck on your journey and then move along.

The children were even more interested. A young girl looked at me with a kind of bewildered fear. I suppose I did look a bit scary- a towering, sweating, pale-skinned, long-haired beast.

Llyw picked up two sidekicks for different stretches of the journey. They perched next to him watching him intently, grinning and wearily acepting the biscuits and sweets we passed around.

But you still have to keep your guard up. A cute little tot sat on the table opposite and when I smiled at her she began to rub her stomach and grimace in such a theatrical fashion that I couldn’t help but laugh.

The train rolled on.

Reading, dozing, cups of tea, swigs of water. And repeat.

An endless cycle of monotony.

I broke up the journey and saved my numbed arse by wandering about, going to stand in te doorway and lean out and watch the gorgeous Sri Lankan countryside pass by.

Lush green jungle and towering, mist-shrouded mountains. There was part of me tempted to hop off and explore this wonderful part of the world, but the train rolled on.

I started to flag.

We all did.

And then, bizarrely, brilliantly, we all hit our second wind at the sam time.
Chatting and joking we broke out the cards and under the gaze of a bemused German we played chase the ace and cheat.

Buoyed up, the next section of the journey passed easily.

But then it got dark, and it got a lot harder. I lost all concept of time and distance. Drifting in and out let me confused.

Finally, tired and hungry, we pulled in to Badulla.

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