They’re going on my rocket, with or without a highlander to blast upon them. Or perhaps we can just position them near the rocket’s main window as we leave it open for a breeze.
Wind-chimes, meanwhile, will not be welcomed onto the rocket, as whilst there might be no more magical a sound than metallic wind-chimes doing what they do in the breeze as they introduce a fairy or a spell takes place, there is no greater relief than when the chimes are grabbed and silenced at long last.
Because it stirs us up from beneath the kilt and makes you wilt like the pansy alien you really are.
Plus tartan kilts.
Plus salted porridge.
These’ll need some development…but, yes, I am ultimately putting Scotland as an entity on my rocket.
And very few nations are going to get that good favour.
This is the series of articles in which I detail all the things that I feel deserve a place upon the rocket we send into space so as to impress aliens, for good and bad (below the waste or not). There are items and concepts that I feel represent us well as a species and as hosts of a planet, either by summing us up well or simply being awesome enough that I want aliens to know about it; which is why the Maori Haka and Abba’s Mamma Mia made it onto the rocket in the last article.
Tartan has a place aboard the rocket, in every single format that it could possible take.
The kilt (obviously), trousers, tea pots, tattoos, shoes, lingerie and total-tartan-suits…all are a bewildering exclamation of proud nationalism via a pattern resembling the London Underground map coloured in by Microsoft Paint.
It also looks like a futuristic and complex array of wiring/programming that would hopefully be as incomprehensible to aliens as the distinction of tartan from clan-to-clan is for me.
Perhaps we could have tartan rocket? Just crack open the tartan paint.
So, whilst the tartan might not be the most worthy of things on the rockets, it still fits in with the theme of today.
Look, I’m struggling to continue with this seeing as that although this article has this Scottish theme and its worthiness for a place on the rocket, I simply want to write about something else now.
I prefer to urinate in the countryside.
That’s what I’m writing about now.
I imagine it’s like golf – the main benefit being that it’s outside and one can enjoy the scenery whilst peeing in the sunshine or moonlight.
However, I have an ulterior motive for when I pee in my garden, and the woods, and the meadow and ever-elsewhere with particular focus on being near a fox den.
I believe we must take pride in our species in terms of output, essence and achievements, and promptly rub it in the face of all other life on Earth (before then doing all this again on a space-bound rocket).
So, I pee outside with the hope that a fox, or a deer or a badger might come along, sniff my abandoned puddle and realise in their mind: “Hmm. That guy…”
And whilst I enjoy being natural amongst nature, it’s mostly the fact that I want to be of some effect in the daily life of a fox I’ve never met. Perhaps they’ll pass the knowledge of that Sam-Man-Pee down to their cubs and I’ll become alike to the boogieman; which is fine by me.
I’d consider it a healthy level of respect for local foxes to sniff my pee and move on.
And nobody need nibble the other, I’m not eliminating the food source of discarded pizza boxes and stolen hats, and I don’t write disparaging comments about foxes on Facebook. It’s all rather mature and long may the pee sniffing continue – especially on the rocket (another reason for having the window open).
Wearing a kilt would make peeing outside easier. A pleasure even, though perhaps not a charming one.
The additional benefit of the kilt is the incredibly effective method of lifting it and waggling the highlander’s lowlands at opponents across the valley, causing both sides to become either truly enraged with a willy-inspired bloodlust that can only be satisfied with a nice bowl of cooling porridge to dip oneself in, or suddenly discovering that you have a tremendous amount of genital-respect for one another which can only be satisfied another cooling porridge dip, though this time without salt.
Drizzle would, I once assumed, be a natural soother of highland tempers and a subduer of spikey temperaments, until I realised on a drizzly mountain side one winter that I was going to severely impediment the progression to future birthdays of all those dryer than myself at that point.
Drizzle has a funny way of making the drizzled-upon people redheaded and tartan and the drizzled-upon flowers purple and spikey.
The Thistle will be the official posy of planet Earth, unless somebody can provide a Sunflower prior to blast-off, as I feel still that a Sunflower is the flower of Earth with the best chance representing flora in a fight against fauna (Venus Flytraps excluded owing to being sneaky and dishonourable). A Thistle might be a more honourable flower, but a Sunflower looks like a 3-year-old drew it and it could feed a family of 8.
The salted porridge deserves a place upon the rocket too, more so as a metaphor than as a meal in and of itself.
“Thank you, but does that house provide any salt to top with?”
“If you’d be so kind, as it’s just that I do so adore porridge, but I do too tend to find that it’s just not bloody horrible enough!”
Sometimes, it’s worth doing something hard purely on the basis that it’s hard.
I once carted a pumpkin around for a few days with the sheer hope that doing a tough-to-do thing would benefit me in terms of true-grit, but I forgot about the idea and left the pumpkin on the stairs (unaware that it had been penetrated and the snails I was saving to cook has escaped and had a jolly good go at it).
My forearm power grew and I’ll swear those snails tasted a tad of pumpkin, but on the whole I became (following many other similar contributions) perpetually prepared to have a bad time for no good reason.
Salted porridge is much the same.
Horrible now, not so horrible next time.
And the alien life would see this through our rocket’s open window, as we waggle our tartan erections out into deep space from beneath our kilts, a bowl of salted porridge somewhere near the mouth – making us grimace in drizzly determination; all to the tune of the magnificent bagpipes – making us grimace in ecstasy as we realise that Earth (in particularly Scotland) is better than your pathetic and weedy little excuse for a planet.
And now we’re taking Mars too.
You might be familiar with the entrenched British radio stalwart entitled: “Desert Island Discs” in which prominent folk from various fields are interviewed on the hypothetical pretence that they are going to be marooned on a desert island.
On this island they are permitted 8 songs (usually music), 1 book and a single luxury item; and this is to do them till eternity isn’t eternal anymore on this desert island.
A charming concept and a wonderful way in which to see more into a person as they unveil themselves via the vital songs in of their life.
A tremendous way to sum up a lifetime, but a hard task when summing up the Earth.
What songs could sum up the Earth and all its previous? Are we stuck with 8 songs to detail our planet’s past? Do the dinosaurs get any sway in our say?
It’s probably worth explaining why I’m bringing the planet into this.
I can remember being told that one day all life in the entire universe was going to end, but not before our sun gave up the galactic ghost and Earth went bang.
I was very young and slightly shaken (almost crapped myself) until it was explained to me that the Earth was not due to explode in a whirl of mountains and continents and pets until millions of years after my own comfortable bed-bound death.
Though quelled, I still held the knowledge that all this was temporary and that there was going to be a final day.
And so, from those young days to this, I have pondered at times about which things would be a good way to kick off the final day; activities and playlists, guest lists and buffet items.
And then, as my understanding of probable alien life came into being, I realised the need to broadcast our best and brightest to the cosmos; for a whole host of reasons including but not limited to: scaring the sweet shit out of Johnny Alien and ensuring they heard the lovely melodies of tales about getting-the-girl, being-so-glad and telling-all-the-world.
And I’ve been narrowing it down.
Yes, it’s another series from me, and whilst a new one comes, please don’t assume the others are dead. Perpetually IN is not quite out of vogue, Matters That Matter still matters and Brief…Therefore Witty still has some epigrams to launch before lunch, although it has become increasingly clear as to my answer in that famed personality quiz question: “Do you find it easier to start new projects or finish up the details that’ve been passed on to you?”
Never pass things on to me.
Especially a trumpet (I hate it when a person plays a brass instrument and holds eye-contact with me. Gives me the willies. Woodwind doesn’t seem to bother me though).
Especially when you’ve just blown it at a group of post-conch-blowing Mauri in the 1600’s.
Onto the rocket goes:
Having viewed much of the world with a fairly sturdy stomach, it was not till I watched true Maori of New Zealand perform the Haka, barely a few feet from my face, with as much intensity as a human can muster and hopefully as much as an alien can bare to stand.
The tattooed face isn’t really an important factor in this, because we’re talking about a wielding of the face that is such a tradition that I truly believe that it has become a genetic blessing on the traditional Maori people.
The bulging eyes, the enormity of the limbs of the ilk that might not grace the cover of GQ but would certainly cause a fellow to quiver in recognition that this is a matter of dashing brains upon the beach, and the tongue that whips with every sincerely meant gasping inhalation of the imminence of battle in which you simply can’t wait to take part.
The slapping/clawing of the legs and chest, the slight and delicate motions between in which genuine respect is given to some hairy sun-stealing deity, the waving of weaponry and the warrior’s deep-shrieking vernacular of a people that have no issue with your puny European musket because we’re used to hunting giant 12-foot Moa birds with huge glowing green rock-clubs, so beware me as I blow my conch (put the trumpet down).
There is something so utterly awe-inspiring about the Maori Haka that I truly believe it is amongst the best of what our species has to offer, and we must look at things in terms of an entire species from now on, otherwise the aliens won’t take our rocket seriously.
I can easily believe the Haka can make you fearless. For how can an expression such as that pictured (just look at the picture…) have any concern over so fleeting a complication as a Martian death-ray?
It is, however, crucial that this Haka be performed only by Maori. Even if they’re 1/24th Maori; that’ll do just dandy too, but it’s not going to be a European guy doing it.
I’ve seen the Kiwi rugby team with their Haka, and the Maori contingent is all of what I have expressed above, but the tall blonde guys joining in too – it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t believe their Haka. It seems too ‘awfully-hope-this-isn’t-too-much-of-an-inconvenience-if-score-a-try-awfully-very-much-sorry-thanks-sorry’. I’m sure they could do a marvellous Scandinavian/Viking battle cry, standing all moody whilst the rain runs from the battle-axe, plus I’ve never seen an Asian or African guy do the Haka, but I’m going to have to choose a Maori guy (and girl, sure) for the Haka here.
I’m not saying European guys shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying it’s not getting onto my rocket.
I’m trying to make inter-galactic friends here.
There is also that message of the Haka, which is the indomitable threat of an ultimate victory expressed via the eyes and lashing tongue in the Haka, but written here it is:
“The worst thing you can be is shit. And I’m going to defeat you in battle, kill you hence, I’m going to eat you, and I’m going to turn you into shit. I will turn you into shit. And I’m keeping your boat.”
A powerful message we can all relate to, especially since I’m in favour of eating some people. Not all people, but explicitly people who continue walking towards our planet once having seen the Haka (because we’d better eat them; they must be insane to keep marching after seeing that).
You might now be starting to see how Desert Island Discs and my rocket deviate from one another.
Next up, onto the rocket goes:
‘Mamma Mia’, by Abba.
Perhaps this is the battle cry the Scandinavians could be doing whilst the Haka’s happening next door?
Of course I’m referring to the single song, not the entire musical. Not the musical at all in fact, but undoubtedly that glorious piece of lyricised human condition known as ‘Mamma Mia’.
Crickey it’s a corker.
A tale known by those who have loved, lost, and rekindled, lost, loved some more, and therein having actually done loving properly; it is a shame of our childish species for which we are very happy to indulge in this equal to the many times we like to put that record on and get all excited at that opening piano staccato that is in imitation of a tick-tocking clock that only tick and tocks onwards and past you whilst you’re still standing there – very much so still fallen for that person and very much so still hopeless to do anything about it.
Mamma Mia – here we go again, a mantra for those about to whirl about in a familiar romance once more, as well as those about to put ‘Mamma Mia’ on again.
Here we go again.
Lyrically, it sums up the side of that human condition that the poets try to nail and the scholars try only to avoid, whilst musically it is simply very fucking-on-the-nose as a song everyone likes.
It could always simply be that I’m a tad of a nostalgic romantic at heart and this is sheer indulgence on behalf of myself, but I don’t see how that would matter either way as it’s my rocket and you’re all my species (I’m fairly possessive) and this is the way we’re doing it.
I just adore that moment of hushedness, in which the staccato returns and the humble “Mamma Mia, here I go again, my-my how could I resist ya” – in which the hushedness represents that intimate chat with oneself in which you’re too stupefied by love that you’re unable to answer your own internal monologue. And the culmination, the CULMINATION that …..CULMINATES to the point of saying simply: “I should not have let you go”.
I feel that “Awww” is a splendid way of summing this song up, and in doing so, goes a great length in summing us up also.
The human species: “Awww” and (Haka-induced) “Arrrggghhh!”
That’s what goes onto my rocket.
It’s time to travel.
It’s time to travel because you have time to read this and, whilst this might be shooting myself in the world-dusty foot, travel is far more worth your time than anything I have to say.
And travel is worth your time, because you are worth your time.
All you ever really had was yourself and the Earth.
I think I’ll try some larger font sizes to encourage you to do it; maybe if the writing is thuddier – you’ll get to it.
Besides the talent, brains, good looks and whatever else you thought others had to their advantage, you still had yourself and you still had the Earth.
So go plunder and soak-up the soak-up-ables of this world, because of the greatest regrets the occupants of deathbeds claim (other than not learning another language – which’d is hardly comparable to travelling: you’d just end up saying you regret not-travelling in stunted Francais) – the most claimed and most rued truth is the road most travelled having been merely stomped on by yet another.
These are the times you need to think back in history, when the Earth was slightly less ancient and joining/being press-ganged into the military was your best chance of seeing the world and therein giving some kudos to the definition of ‘living’.
‘Living’ isn’t in the cubical, nor is it the job title on the door to the office you’re yet to occupy.
Nobody looks back on their life wishing they’d played more Candy Crush, unless of course it were whilst whiling away the hours in the back of a tour bus – but that’s a real waste of scenery.
I’d done a fair bit of here-and-there-ing in my 27 years of life, and whilst those times were tremendous – it was my 7 months of travel through South East Asia, Australasia, New Zealand and North America that really sealed the deal as to how I felt about Earth and why I was strolling around upon it.
Get gone and (no offence) just go away.
Now I’ve been home for several months now and have gone about day-to-day life as best I can, and thus I’ve had the time to process the experiences of my travel and what they now mean to me.
And here’s what’s key in my thinking: travel is not my everything, but my everything is very different now I’ve travelled.
It’s hard to return to the corporate world and give two tupenny tosses about the printer machine’s new button and how only Bodoni MT Condensed is the only font capable of truly expressing us as a company.
Instead, I remember flying…on a bus.
It’s an easily achievable method of motion once your driver realises that (1.) he is incredibly late for the tour’s scheduled arrival and (2.) you get more job satisfaction when you’ve put your passengers in surreal danger and gotten them out from it because you were dangerous.
We were hurtling our way through some ethereal mountain roads in Vietnam – heading north to Dalat at speeds illegal outside of South East Asia.
The view was typical of Vietnam; four feet away and consisting of a thick grey mist that a bus’s headlights couldn’t penetrate (but the rest of it certainly could at top speed) – with intermittent splashes of wondrous valleys and awe-inspiring mountains of that dark green that speaks such a wealth of nature one can only feel a little hurt at how the Earth has got so much going on besides you.
And despite our 10-moutains-per-hour speed – some corners required the nuances instilled from days as an experienced mountain bus driver. It was on one of these two-minute turns in which the passengers clenched their stomachs, buttocks and Candy Crush drenched Ipads in preparation for the imminent through-the-floor pedalling that our driver was treating us with, that I looked out of my window to see what locals were nearing the bus.
Three young children, looking very cold and very wet, took steps towards us in crappy plastic shoes, their hands upturned and out-stretched in the international sign for begging, though with that hurried professional assuredness that comes from knowing the passengers on board had gold to spare and the indulgence with which to sprinkle it like fairy dust all over Vietnam.
We knew they would act upon our pity, big eyes and little feet in even crappier plastic shoes than the last sentence, calling to us: “Please!” whilst we did our best to ignore; knowing that a dollar now meant it was less likely they’d ever be sent into school and have a chance to learn their way out of those shoes and down from the mountain.
Seeing life like that makes you put down the donut.
But what I saw next as we sped away from these three children made me want to throw a donut into the sky, thump it with a baseball bat with all the strength I could muster into the mouth of anyone who wanted to join the game, all due to the sheer fact that satisfying hunger is fine, but some things are eternally fun.
Another corner, another three children come into view, utterly and completely uninterested in the potential for making out-of-school money from enormous tourists…because they were – gleefully as I’ve learnt only people doing this can be – playing with a fireball.
They didn’t have lunch, but they sure as sweet hell had a fireball. And it was satisfying.
I don’t know where they got it from, but they had gotten themselves a fireball and were being entirely appropriate with it – picking it up barehanded, throwing it at (not ‘to’; fuck ‘to’) one another (the drizzle cooled them down), kicking it up and down the mountain and smiling their teeth into another dimension.
I’ve never seen humans do anything better than how those little Vietnamese children conducted themselves with their fireball guest of gusto, their small bundle of vibrant, amazing joy that excited them so much that hunger could go and fuck itself.
Additionally, I promise you that this is not metaphorical. They were holding a fireball and lobbing it at their friends.
I wish I had a fireball, and sitting at a desk, reading a snooty email either complimenting or complaining (I can’t be bothered to find out which) about my choice of font, I remember the two trios I encountered in those Vietnamese mountains.
The three hungry children and the three fireballers. Both living total alternatives to the life of a typical Englishman, and now I step forward knowing of them both.
That’s progress, that’s healthy, that’s an experience you tell the grandchildren about and that’s travelling.
And again, this experience was not my everything, but now my everything means something very different to me.
Travel – either do that or cure cancer with video games; one’s more likely and one’s possibly even more enjoyable (not that I’ve cured cancer with video games).
Fireballs and hunger, hunger and fireballs.
In my travel about the globe I’ve had many marvellous encounters with animals of a wondrous array, from the soft-shell turtles of Laos, with the enormous dangling Flying Fox bats of Adelaide, to the happily splashing elephants in the jungle baths of Thialand, and every encounter has been more than memorable.
Some have been pleasantly engrained, whilst others have been permanently scarring; sadly not in the attractive/romantic sense. No eye-patches.
Two monkey attacks, one gorilla and one squirrel.
These are the animals that have taken to me via fist and tooth (amongst sundry).
That seems like a tad too many monkey attacks for someone who isn’t looking to be attacked by a monkey.
Let’s rundown the bitter, bitter memories.
Because I love apes (this reason is so applicable. Yes – I don’t have an example of how it’s applicable…because I love apes).
And I love monkeys.
And I was ambivalent about squirrels, until what happened in Central Park happened to me and now I really, really want to do all kinds of venting unto the squirrel population of New York. I wish they were vermin; then I’d hire a professional, not to exterminate on my behalf – but to teach me.
Onto the attacks.
Monkey Attack 1
Location: Dharamsala, India (Tibetan Government in Exile).
Here’s the scene.
Dharamsala is a mountain town in the foothills of the Himalayas, the home of the Dali Lama and the exiled Tibetan Government.
It is here you’ll find the views of the world that cause you to stop, say no words, and feel the beauty of where you are. The immeasurable enormity of the mountains, those shards of planet Earth that surround you, acres of snow and ice atop, with goats passing their time on the lower slopes as the brightest of sun rays lands upon them and their strange coats, eagles flying purely because it is appropriate, the bustle of the market filled with the indomitable monks, vibrant locals and in-the-know tourists of all varieties…and a background hush; as though every sound and every moment is echoing through the valleys and the mountains – making all so clear and yet so fleeting.
In Dharamsala the air is exciting, the people are even more-so, the world-shattering explosions in the night that everyone else seems fine with (I still don’t know what they were but I genuinely feared the Chinese were coming) are only another aspect of typical wondrousness and the monkey blowjobs are everywhere.
In the taxi to the town from the airport, up the mountain slopes; monkey blowjobs on route.
Outside the restaurant where the monks pass to turn prayer wheels and the youths race ancient motorbikes high and low through the streets; the monkeys are blowjobbing.
And right on my balcony, the view that broke my heart as it was so beautiful; epic insignificance of little old me whilst the mountains continue as they were, the snowy peaks glistening, the prayer flags fluttering, and the monkeys blowjob on my balcony.
Here’s an important fact regarding Yours Truly.
I’m a Sthilly Goosth.
And I get involved in things that are really none of my business.
(E.g. A hotel manager smashing up his Lovely Jubbly Hotel and putting me off my drink. I got involved. My fiancé is still angry with me over this but we were staying there that night and I didn’t want the owner waking me up and taking his anger out near my pillow.)
One such thing that I shouldn’t get involved with, and I can’t state strongly enough that you also don’t get involved with, is a monkey blowjob.
But it was on my balcony.
And in my world, a balcony is a sacred place (don’t say bad things about balconies near me; just don’t – please).
There is an alpha male, with greater fur around the head and neck, reclining back on the balcony wall, enjoying the view even more than I was I’d dare say, whilst a younger acquaintance of his saw to his genital dryness.
To which…I immediately leapt out onto the balcony, waved my hands in the air excitedly and growled happily: “MONKEEEEEEYS!”
Having made this experience of monkey oral sex an interspecies situation all of a sudden; both the monkeys acted accordingly.
The male, one of those baboon-looking sons of bitches, rolled onto his side, appeared to suddenly grow by about a foot, and then, seeing as he wasn’t needed here (and perhaps he’d heard the monkey blowjobs were preferable higher in the valley) strolled off.
I, meanwhile, was in a terrified stamp-battle with the screeching, screaming, clawing, gnashing female that had only seconds early been, to at least one living being, the loveliest thing in the world.
When I say “stamp-battle”, this is due to two things.
The female monkey was venting largely (albeit with a few swipes involved – thankfully missing) by hammering the ground at my feet – a condition wittily brought on by the removal of my feet from said area only a fraction of a second earlier.
As a result of lifting my foot out of the zone of conflict, I was perched upon one foot, looking rather zen for a fellow seeing his life pass before his eyes (featuring far too many monkey blowjobs).
That is until the female monkey, having seen the object of her masticating affection slip away, realised my remaining balcony-based foot was fair game for some further mastication (this time with a good deal more chewing).
She swiped again, I removed my foot again; resulting in my previous foot having to stamp down so as to regain balance…near the female.
And that really pissed her off.
So much so; she swiped at my offending foot, causing a cyclical circumstance that was only resolved with the introduction of the House Maid who saw the female monkey off with a tea-towel.
This was all my fault entirely.
Monkey attack 1: Complete.
The Gorilla Attack
Location: Denver Zoo.
Cause: I teased it and it charged me. Peakaboo with a Silverback Gorilla, through the ape-proof Plexiglas, whilst it is in its home of straw, females and unfathomable testosterone, is a cruel and bad idea and I wish I hadn’t done it.
But there was absolutely no denying that this gorilla didn’t like me anyway.
HE STARTED IT with the eye contact; I just escalated it with the raspberry blowing whilst peeking out from behind walls and columns.
Ultimately, with a sudden charge and a thud the likes of which I have never felt before (and it wasn’t even on me – he’d clubbed the glass) this gorilla taught me that he was pretty angry with my joviality and the difference between this and the Dharamsala incident was: he couldn’t walk away.
He charged, thumped, walked away without looking at me and then attempted to hide himself under a handful of straw whilst he ate a banana.
I feel bad about the whole thing and would like to buy him a banana someday to make amends.
Sad story, really.
But to this day, the power of the attack, such as it was, shook me. I am a flimsy, dainty, la-de-dah human and that testosterone-filled living erection would have buried me with one thump.
Monkey Attack 2
Location: Laos, near a dried-out river, near a forest…geography isn’t my forte, whilst the English language deffo-proper-is-like, y’know?
Cause: Monkeys are bastards.
I fell asleep that night with images of an ever widening monkey mouth, filled with darkness, blood and banana, consuming all of everything whilst I lay there; feeling rather irritated.
I’d been bullied.
Bullied by a little monkey that I’d given so much to and had proceeded to be embarrassed by it oh so thoroughly.
As part of the tour, we had stopped in a village who’s economy, colour, flavour and identity was bananas.
Bananas further than you’d want the human eye to be able to see, and not a typical bunch either.
Like the fingers of a particularly swollen child; plus jaundice, with each entire banana amounting to one single mouthful, for man and monkey alike.
Having loaded up on these bananas, something like 20 for the price of half a brown and pre-peeled English-shop version, we made our way to the river bank, keeping eyes peeled for the soon-to-onslaught monkeys, as well as the plethora of creepy crawlies emerging from our banana bouquets.
One monkey, two, then in the collective plural of monkeys – the term of which I am unaware of but I’m willing to bet in called ‘an unneccesary of monkeys’.
These were the darty variety, the type of that steal your wallet, girlfriend and pride, yet is still somehow endearing to people still waiting to be attacked by them.
We disembarked the bus, walking down into the forest and keeping to a dirt path well-worn by the feet of multiple species, whilst our guide encouraged us to make hooting and squeaking noises (we excelled) in response to the odd shake of foliage and light-brown blur across the path ahead of us.
And then, having reached a clearing in the forest, we were massed-upon by the pack of monkeys that came meandering out and up to our shins; whereupon they were met by what they expected – a proffered banana – which they took off with by a few yards and quickly peeled open and devoured.
Being me, I met the alpha – the biggest fellow there and the one with that ‘fuck-you’ footfall, taking my bananas without even looking at me and, suddenly, seeing off nearby monkeys that were decidedly smaller than this big guy.
It was becoming apparent that this monkey was an unpleasant one, but I was still enthralled by the experience and proximity to these incredible little beasts and so kept proffering bananas that were continually accepted; for a while.
I crouched, keeping the bananas coming, ignoring the sudden dashes a weaker rivals, ignoring the rudeness of taking the fruit without so much as a look in my direction, and turned to my fiancé who was ready with a camera.
Saying my name was meant to alert me, but was said in a tone that seemed frightened for herself, understandably, and I switched my gaze to look to where the monkey had been cheerfully munching bananas…no longer.
Too much eye contact, too near bite-level, (too much beard?) too close to a monkey for a monkey’s comfort and my health, and a mouth that was widening like an endless black hole, filled with consuming nothingness and blood and banana, eyes staring deep into and through mine, about to teach me a lesson by eating me.
Why was there blood? I still don’t know; maybe it was an opened cut on the lip, but it sure as sweet heck added to the drama of the scene.
The full force of an alpha monkey flying towards me, covering entire body lengths in a single bound, has been the cause of tremendous embarrassment to me in all these months since.
Remember that my fiancé was standing there to take a picture. She did.
And we are left with a blurred photo of a light brown hell springing towards me with canines extended eagerly, whilst I, with my shoulders hunched and knees together, am vaguely turning my body away from the mental mass of monkey unpleasantness (incidentally – completely successful).
With some scratches to my clothing and – thankfully – none to my skin, I scurried away like a monkey should, my bananas snatched like my school dinner money and my shame riding how in red upon my face, whilst any remaining pride I had remained dead in the dirt where the monkey still stood; eating my bananas and looking smug in the canines.
I wouldn’t say I’m a petty chap, but I sure as sweet heck did launch a banana directly into the central back of that monkey from a distance of 12 feet, eager to show him that now, having smuggled my courage past my brain and out into my sleeve-living heart, I was ready to tangle in the Laos forest.
And the banana bounced off, of zero effect to the millennia of genetic insistence by nature that this monkey was made of sturdier stuff that can withstand a blow from an Englishman’s fast-bowled banana (he didn’t even turn his head), and it was promptly scooped up by monkey-minor and I never saw it, the minor-monkey, nor the bullying alpha again.
That night, thoroughly bullied by a monkey and wishing for a round two, I was ultimately thankful that I hadn’t fallen into that gaping mouth with hideous eyes, and not only been eaten but been rabies-eaten (the kind in which your dinner starts to foam).
I can still see that all-encompassing darkness of mouth, tinged with red and yellow.
The Squirrel Attack
Location: Central Park, New York.
With the most recent monkey attack a fair few months and many thousands of miles behind us; what could be finer than a sunny day’s stroll through Central Park?
And, in all eventuality, it was still a lovely day for an afternoon walk through New York’s enormous greenery, although there was the issue with the squirrel.
I’m an adorable kind of guy, I rock (placidly) babies to help them sleep, love giving a dog a good old belly rub, and buy my Mrs flowers every now and again (especially after a few romantic lonely drinks).
I see a squirrel, and I get involved; as you might expect of me at this point.
A very hithery-thithery species are squirrels, and they seeeeeem like they’re approachable.
Almost as adorable as me, we watched them bury their nuts and nestle up and into one another, shake their big bushy tails and scurry in a fashion that isn’t derogatory. Maybe even ‘scampering’…
So, I feel just fine about kneeling down by the pathway’s caged fence, and poke a pinch of the contents of my fruit and nut bag through it, initiating those calls that, only in the moment, one feels are somehow effective in gaining and animals trust beyond any circumstance such as sheer luck or the fact you’re waggling food at it.
I proffered nuts to the big bushy grey squirrel (aren’t I adorable?) and committed to those petit squeaks and kisses and waggles and so-ons-and-so-forths, watching the squirrel catch my nut’s eye and edge closer, and a little closer…and then too close.
This was a large chunk of fruit and nut, the sort that can catch a squirrel’s attention and, apparently, rage, and whilst I must have subconsciously thought of it as some form of buffer between myself and the squirrel, it was – in the moment – all too easily brushed aside (actually, more like ‘fucked’; ‘fucked aside’) by the squirrel.
And then I was witness to the most horrific mauling I’ve ever witnessed; at the end of my finger.
The squirrel, with clawed feet clenched upon the wire of the cage, kept my finger prisoner whilst it gave a retaliatory waggle of its own; this being of it’s head rapidly side to side as it burrowed its teeth deep into my fingerprints.
And then I made that sound I make when something particularly upsetting and even more so uncivilised is happening.
A brief, short and sharp, “GGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRRR”.
This might seem like a growl in text, but its not when truly verbalised and you actually here me sound it. Just imagine the sound of a growl, only with the octaves varying all over the shop from high to low and back and forth again.
From what I’ve learned, whatever I’m trying to do by making that sounds; it doesn’t work.
I was realised by the grip of squirrel tooth to survey the horrid sight; with blood all over its bushy tale and my finger pulsing blood like it was entirely entitled to on such an occasion, fruit and nut here and there, with all the surrounding people and squirrels having hushed themselves in response to my own strange noise and the visuals that accompanied it.
Having sounded-off and given the end of my finger a good staring, I decided that revenge was the best option.
Only, I’m not very good at revenge owing to being such an adorable fellow; and I only really tend to end up giving those who have wronged me a break as I always try to see through to their dainty side.
This, plus the fact I was lacking resources of combat, chose to douse the little grey bastard in all that I had; the entire bag of fruit and nuts.
As I began pouring the contents over the psychotic squirrel, I realised that this was essentially giving it everything it had likely ever wanted from its life up till now…and this wasn’t necessarily a happy thing for it.
Looking up and seeing a blood soaked fist pouring forth an eternity of dried fruit and varied nuts was quite a revelation to the critter, raising its little arms high and opening its mouth wide like all its dreams had come true in some nightmarish form, with the hail of the bag’s contents causing it to flee, constantly hounded by the pelting of the delicious healthy snacks, it finally scurried beyond my reach.
Here, I made my way with my fiancé to the nearest McDonald’s, using the free Wi-Fi to quickly research how prominent rabies is in the New York squirrel community.
Thankfully, rabies is not flourishing through the city’s population (of squirrels at least); a fact that caused us great relief so that we wouldn’t have to explain to our insurers how I’d taken a tumble onto a yawning squirrel whilst enjoying a jolly good bit of pointing.
Every website we checked stated: “No. Central Park squirrels do not carry rabies, though we do get over 50 cases each year of patients desperate to know. Please stay away from the squirrels.”
I now shall.
And through monkey attacks, gorilla charges, more monkey attacks and a psychotic squirrel; I’ve one rounding question that might bring some insight into why this keeps happening to me.
Is it the beard?
This old friend on lower half of my face has been a real source of comfort over the years; something to stroke, something to feel total lack of concern as to manliness, and something which is also handy for getting the attention of furry folk from around the globe.
Could it be the beard; this statement of masculinity, dark black and thick to the degree that it could be legally considered to be rude?
If so…I’m keeping it.
I’m no fashion king, but I do know that nothing goes finer with a beard than a fair few jostles with an animals of some variety.
And there is no doubt in my mind that close calls with animals are very much so ‘in’.
And hopefully, soon, squirrel fur hats will suit it too. Maybe with some fruit and nut to accompany it throughout my hat and beard.
No, that’s silly.
There have been other animal encounters, other close scrapes, other incidents in which I’m sure you’d find some enjoyment in reading over, but they’ll stay for next time.
Stay indoors perhaps; but DO NOT SHAVE.
I still need to write a great deal of my travels, from the time I completely devastated the good-grief out of a completely innocent squid aboard a boat in Hao Long Bay, to the time the Lady Boys of Chiang Mai dressed me up and very much so down again.
The issue is that these experiences have become like cardboard boxes in the house of hoarder, mounting ever higher and further to the point of which I don’t know where to begin.
Some might say beginning at the beginning is the natural place to take the first step, but the natural thing to do is simply not how I write.
Being home is still yet to stimulate that strange sensation of ‘home’.
It is as though the my travelling never took place and I am simply as I was, 7 months prior, with relationships and routines falling right back into place like a two-piece jig-saw.
There are sure as heck some pleasant benefits to being home.
Clear, clean, unoccupied water out of a tap, merely a matter of feet away, in multiple locations throughout my house, with the possibility of fruity squash cordial as an option; is a delight of a right (well – perhaps there is no ‘right’ to tasty fruit cordial, but imagine the effects of a proletariat without taste-bud stimulus; the world needs tasty).
This, added to the fact that the merciless heat of Oz’s red-centre and the suffocating humidity of Vietnam’s jungles are but a memory that causes me to sweat in only a few regions, means that I wander around feeling hydrated; and this is dandy.
I dehydrate and overheat easily; a problem I’ve suffered since turning all-apey as a teenager, with hair sprouting all over me whilst a thick frizzy mop of the stuff rides my head and keeps all that heat in (unfortunate in that I’m largely sane and see no benefit to keeping alien mind-probes out).
I recall terribly (in that really I wish I wouldn’t recall but YOU brought it up) an occasion of heat stroke as I leaned against the wall of the Vatican, wondering if years of devoted atheism were condemning me and, should that be the case, was I now a believer and so free to walk?
Heavy sun, penetrating heat and really far too much hair for a gentleman to be able to hide beneath anything less that poncho and parasol, I suddenly staggered towards a lamp post, clutching it and feebly fondling the idol of Baby Jesus I’d liberated from a shop’s wicker basket (like a battery of mass produced Messiahs all wishing someone less meek would come along to break a commandment or two) and held on.
The world swirled as it feels when one is drunk and in love, though on this occasion I was touched only by the sun on my overly exposed brain, confusing me via heat, rather than love’s devastating effect on via chemicals of the swooshing and panging nature.
I hailed a cab and escaped the Vatican, the near 40 degree heat have defeated me so that I was humiliated by it, with the sun having it’s hat on and then taking it off owing to it being such a scorcher of a day (I’ve always though the sun a tad slow. The moon seems far more with it, more subtle, more nuanced. I’d definitely rather take the moon to dinner than the sun. In Paris. The sun deserves fast food and wheat, whilst the moon is quite appetized by the mere glory of wine and music. The moon drinks red, or an ‘eau-de-vie et limonade’, can’t dance but does, a wears killer shoes as a matter of morality. I feel I’ve found in myself a most wolfish adoration of the moon this evening – how appropriate – or perhaps I’m simply to grudged-up about the sun and that sweltering day in Rome).
Scarcely returned to the room, I spun a dial to bring the room to a more pleasing freezing temperature and stationed myself in the shower for what was then the foreseeable and what became the rest of the day. Still swirly, still delayed in vision and thought and speech, I just wanted to be laying down in the Antarctic, with my head in the soothing cool jaws of some abominable snowman.
I don’t like the heat.
I do, however, adore water.
Water is medicine, cures when you’re ill and saves when you didn’t realise you were ill.
I feel water could honestly raise a fellow’s IQ and improve his standing in life; such is its power.
Therefore it’ll surprise none that on many days, through jungle and desert and canyon, beach and mountain, city and hut; that I longed for a tap’s worth of easy, bargain priced water.
Slosh me with it.
Drown me slightly.
All I wanted so nearly every-single-moment was nought but a familiar glass of the delicious tasteless water that is home to me.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about squash – or ‘cordial’ to those who wish to continue a use of a fine word that isn’t in much use unless supping the elderflower variety.
Whilst I might love water as a matter pf product and principle, I’m afraid I’m a terribly 21st century boy and I tired of the taste of water decades ago. I need a bit of jazz in my glass to encourage it down; otherwise it can become just a tad too dull to really become an option.
That is, unless of course you throw me into a large Mekong-sized river of the stuff (such as the Mekong River). There – with floorboard-stiff dogs floating past you, bloated enough to really flatter your own figure, and with waterfalls strong enough to take your spectacles from your face (as happened to my good pair) so that they might wander down stream and inadvertently choke some innocent swimming dog, there – with squid hunting your fishing line and then becoming latched about the hook, through the brain, before being accidentally spun by in attempted to release so that it should revolve like a frigging roulette wheel as it ejaculates ink over everyone there but me….in these cases water can be a little more fun than a tasty fruit cordial; although it is the latter you’ll when reading a sentence this long out loud.
What else am I glad to be home to?
I think that might be it.
Although I do miss the bum guns.
My issues with monkeys and apes (I think it might be the beard).
To begin with, you can call Australia: ‘Oz’ (not that you needed my permission). It seems to mean a lot over there, and reading further will divulge reasons why.
In Australia there’s not much to do but be very alone in Asia, pretending that you are a continent nearer to Europe that it actually is. And since it isn’t, you have to insist that you are Australian at every turn.
I can only imagine that it is very lonely being so far from the rest of the white people, and so acting as though you are a people unto your own is possibly simply a means of coping.
Or maybe it’s the heat.
Either way- referring to this place as ‘Oz’ is smiled upon by the more-recent of the local population.
In ‘Oz’ you also have the option of insisting.
Insisting on history and insisting on identity. In my opinion, although this might seem absurd to some, in life you need more than Steve Irwin to know yourself and get ahead.
The man is idolised. His figurine is adorned in gold and made for taking the pride of place upon the mantle-piece of all those that visit the continent, because…why wouldn’t you want to have a golden Steve Irwin on your mantle-piece? I do believe that was his true message: ‘buy me’.
I feel that the people of ‘Oz’ want to be associated with the man in the same way that most British people don’t want to be associated with the Queen- in case Americans ask if you know her.
However, there’s not a lot of Australians, so in his time, you probably did know him fairly well.
Australians know how to accept company. They are a nation built for two things: tourism and trying to find the other thing. When they’ve found it, you can be sure that you’ll be able to purchase a tea-towel that sums them up perfectly.
Australia also has Aboriginal people and, as a people, those Aboriginals really could not be more fucked. Even more fucked than Native Americans, which must really sting after a while.
In terms of a national outlook they really aren’t fitting into the traditional and successful European franchise. For example, just take the previous sentence- “in terms of a national outlook”- Aboriginal ‘Ozzies’ were never a nation- they were a bunch of people that came from a place, having no idea that there were other blokes at either end of where they came from.
Poor buggers. They just don’t fit there anymore, and regrettably, they have to, and…currently…they never will.
This is extremely similar to the First Nation people of the US- everyone but them assumes that they aren’t around anymore.
So here’s an evil truth- the Aboriginal should be dead for the ease of the actual Australian people (Aboriginals are NOT Australian in the same way that the French are not German- they are simply near one another).
The injustice should have finished by now, the lingering of the race is against the benefit of the Australian progression and that progression is to sell, sell, sell the national identity. It would be much easier to sell some of that identity if the Aboriginals were all gone so that (1.) they could indulge much more heavily in the bullshit that equates to a paying audience and (2.) people wouldn’t see how poorly the Native people are currently handling themselves.
This is common knowledge- if the native people weren’t around- it would be much easier to get along with them. Aside from what is listed above, you have to consider that if the True Locals were already dead and gone, the white people wouldn’t feel so guilty, and they could make up some mysterious shit about who they were and how their souls are still ‘blood in the land’, ‘voices on the wind’ or ‘semen in the billabong’. You can make what you want of the dead. They’re dead- fighting back is a little beyond them.
As for the actual Aboriginal folks, I think they may be even a little more doomed than they were prior to the recognition of their ‘cultural contribution’. Before the assimilation of their art and history in the European selling machine- they were seen as a sub-race requiring decimation on the grounds of there not being enough room…in Australia. Following this process, the True Locals are now seen as a people…well…not quite a people- more of a ‘cultural aspect’ that offers the chance to demonstrate aspects of modernity, such as political correctness, and flogging didgeridoos.
Ultimately, the Aboriginal Natives of this continent are a property of the Australian nation. Not slaves, but their image is owned as much, and used in the Australian identity to suggest that there is more to it than is really there. Aboriginals are their own, and are much left to their own historically crippled devises, whilst their history and culture are assimilated into the Australian output that can be snuggly fitted onto that afore-mentioned tea-towel.
The insects are also really something else on that continent.
They regard you.
When I was out walking one day, a bug paused to let me pass before it went off on its way. I’m not saying that this beetle-like little boulder of a bug was being polite, but it had the worldly know-how keeping out of the way of the bigger guy.
Not that it would have been squished if I’d have trodden on it. It would probably have made a rude gesture and walked away from me, swaggering as it actually seemed to. That’s the kind of intelligence that comes with size, normally because the brain just follows along in the fashion of the rest of the body. This is in the same way that elephants and dolphins are witty- owing mostly to the rest of them being fairly large.
Humans, however, are ahead of the fashion curve in terms of brain size- clever enough to presume a beetle might have good manners.
It is undeniably odd that to reach this country, you have to cross many social, cultural, political, religious, geographical and actual borders- the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
It is strange to pass through a country that forbids music and dancing, to then arrive in a nation extremely similar to your own, just…as it is…on the ‘other side’.
I think that the problem might be that Australia doesn’t contain enough Australians. Perhaps if there were more people, and perhaps if there was therefore more history- there might be a little more of everything that I’m looking for here: The Confidence of Culture. The balls of history being in your favour and fearing no future that could be worse than the worst that most societies have already suffered.
Australia has strived through colonisation, exploration, immigration, racial injustice, ethnic cleansing, two world wars, yet throughout all this the overwhelming suggestion from the national Australian demeanour is the insistence on their being something in the culture worth your time and money of visiting and, once again, that bloody tea-towel. As opposed to their being able to relax to the degree of self-assuredness that comes with having a hell of a past that has a ‘you’ve probably heard of me’ attitude (e.g. the entirety of Europe), Australia has an attitude of swelling itself up to appear storied and historical, therefore bringing about a means by which actual stories and history do not happen.
Aside from this one.
Imagine if there’d never been Steve Irwin or Crocodile Dundee movies.
Maybe you’d be thinking that Australia was that country near where ‘Lord Of The Rings’ was filmed.
So, I guess entirely, what I’m saying is…watch out ‘Oz’…New Zealand is coming.
But, if I were to permit this nation of good, bright and adventurous people one reason as to why this is how they are, it would be TIME. Or rather the lack of it.
TIME is the thing that made Britain a little country that was known simply for being a place that Julius Caesar wanted to have for himself.
So, after only a few hundred years of colonised history, when ‘Oz’ has a couple hundred more- it will be a place that no longer feels such a desperate need to ask you to visit.
I truly hope that one day I shall hear a recent-local of Australia utter the words: “Yeah it’s a kangaroo. So fucking what?!”
P.S. You are a beautiful country, filled with fun, clever, hard-working and exciting people. Keep it up and you’ll rule your world, like the Aboriginals one did.