Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Sunshine on Govan

When the result of the Referendum on Scottish Independence became official David Cameron telephoned her Majesty the Queen to inform her of the outcome. Such was her level of contentment at the confirmation of a no-vote her majesty was allegedly reduced to 'purring like a pussycat' - a response normally elicited by the royal rabbit. She was equally as enthused when the good people of Belize opted to keep her face on their money.

Most Better Together supporters celebrated the no vote with a content Tim Henman style fist pump. Others opted to dust off their Union Jacks and take to George Square for a good old fashioned riot - apparently getting the Referendum mixed up with the UEFA Cup Final.

Personally on the grey early-Autumnal day after the Referendum I marked the occasion by gloomily waiting in line for a consolatory, now discontinued, macaroni pie. While waiting I overheard two older people discuss their respective reasons for voting no; 1) "to teach these young people a lesson" and 2) "to remind these young people where they've come from". Granted in this particular provincial town in central Scotland young people knowing where they've come from would be considered quite the rarity, nevertheless it is this episode more than any other that sticks out as my abiding memory of the 19th of September. No amount of masquerading idiots on George Square could sum up the classically Scottish ideology these two old folkies articulated so perfectly. That's the way it was, that's the way it should be, that's the way it will be; complete, concrete, affirmation of the Status Quo. The faint smell of pish hanging in the air felt apt at the time - I'm not being ageist, I was in Greg's.

The Status Quo has however undoubtedly been rocked in the wake of the Referendum. There has been a shift in political voting habits, in the Scottish population's engagement with politics and their expectations of the people they elect to Parliament. Such was the level of global attention the Referendum attracted it is now engrained as a Scottish cultural curiosity. When I meet people from other countries the Referendum has climbed to the top of the ladder of those classically generic questions you get asked as a Scottish person, the answer to all of which is 'yes'.

The Referendum brought with it many firsts in Scotland. For the first time 16 and 17 year olds were given a vote. This was undoubtedly a huge boost for the Yes campaign, particularly in Dundee where the city's teenage population are famed for their inability to say no. The country was also exposed for the first time to a 'Scottish' version of John Barrowman. 'Big Tam the Shipyard Worker' was an inspired character act rolled out by Barrowan for the benefit of the Better Together campaign while simultaneously promoting his new musical 'Sunshine on Govan'. Barrowman's mastery of accents was really quite impressive, I can't wait to see his take on the Australian accent for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Most markedly the Referendum inspired political activism on a scale no one could have predicted. Whether it was on the streets, over the dinner table, during lunch breaks, on social media or in town and village halls, the Scottish people were immersed in the Independence debate.

The Yes campaign in particular utilised grassroots politics appealing to a large and previously politically-disengaged proportion of society. The message was one that talked up Scotland's potential and possibilities, forgoing the temptation to gripe about Westminster or foster any kind of anti-English sentiment and 'Braveheartesque' ideas of Nationalism. An Independent nuclear-free Scotland rejecting austerity, confident in itself and with a more representational government seemed like a no-brainer to me. Essentially the Yes campaign, from my perspective, was one fuelled by hope, hope for a more socially democratic, equal, and progressive nation.

The Better Together campaign, for their part, did a great job of bussing activists up from England.

*At this point I would like to make a disclaimer in case of any suggestion that this blog entry may be biased in any way. Let me assure readers this entry has been written in strict accordance with the BBC's guidelines on fairness and impartiality.

Better Together told us we were too small and too poor to go it alone. We'd lose the pound, be refused EU membership, businesses would leave and there would be uncertainty from everything from national security to mobile phone bills. If we needed an organ - we're Scottish, there's a good chance - we would no longer get it from English or Welsh donors. The oil would run out, and China would take back our f*cking pandas - or our 'non-f*cking pandas'.

The incessant negativity reminded me of being in primary two when our teacher Mrs Smart made a trip to a local farm more terrifying a prospect than getting lost in Jurassic Park. Mrs Smart, in a move not deserving of her name, decided to show the class a farm safety video to prepare us for our trip and I'd never seen anything more terrifying in my life. In the video foolhardy teenagers were being knocked off by the second thanks to their farmyard horseplay. Children were being crushed by tractor tyres, falling off trailers, getting limbs mangled in complicated machinery and finding themselves trapped in huge silos. If this wasn't terrifying enough for a class of six year olds to endure they threw in a ghost for good measure. The ghost would roam the farm repeatedly chanting 'never rest, never rest' apparently trying to warn the children and keep them safe, like a deranged version of Casper the friendly but f*cking terrifying ghost.

That video scared me so badly it's about the only memory I have of primary two other than getting my head stuck in a chair.

Still, Mrs Smart showing a class of six year olds a farm safety video apparently directed by George Romero wasn't as ill-judged a move as Better Together's now notorious, 'The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind' television advert. It was aimed at undecided female voters, albeit the kind of female voters Tyson Fury would consider his ideal woman. The advert's depiction of a wife and mother too busy to listen to 'that guy off of the telly' was a real home-run for feminism and provided us with some quite hilarious internet memes.

David Cameron, Ed Milliband, and Nick Clegg then gathered in séance towards the end of the campaign to resurrect an ancient Goelm reanimated for the purpose of saving the No vote. Every time Gordon Brown appeared on the television my immediate and natural reaction was to jump behind the couch. I kept thinking it was the ghost from the farm video coming back to haunt me. You can understand my consternation, an old man desperate for rest but called upon at the last minute to save the day, it's no wonder I was confused and scared.

It wasn't financial doom he was delivering this time however, but a last minute vow signed by the leaders of the three 'main' political parties promising more powers would be delivered to Scotland in the immediate aftermath of a no vote. It was all a bit vague and confusing, a transparent attempt to sit on the fence that was more like political purgatory than compromise, and of course like purgatory it turned out to be total and utter bollocks.

In the end  the vow did just about enough to convince the Scottish people that a Tory Government and a war on Syria was worth sticking around for. Yes, it was a no. Ultimately the people of this country chose to stay in relationship for fear of something worse if they left as opposed to leaving one for something potentially better.

That's okay, understandable even, if undoubtedly defeatist. We stand alone as the country who opted to vote against our independence.  Nevertheless I feel like I've learnt a valuable lesson in the year and a bit since the Referendum. I've forgone some of my own Independence and, under the tutelage of Better Together, I now know if my girlfriend ever wants to leave me all I have to do is undermine her confidence, threaten her way of life, and remove any notion of any kind of credible, peaceful, or content existence without me. That way she'll be mine forever, or at the very least the question will be 'settled for a generation'.

If the Independence question has been settled for a generation then it will be years before either of the Westminster Better Together parties has even the remotest chance of making the people of Scotland 'purr like pussycats'. Squealing like pigs perhaps more apt for the current administration, and if Scotland really are the swine in this analogy then David Cameron will take pleasure in shafting us. I'm going to need to stock up on consolatory pies. Which leads us to the question, would an Independent Scotland have allowed the discontinuation of the macaroni pie? The answer may haunt us for a generation. My heart really is broken.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

If Looks Could Kill I'd be Dead by Now

When I was thirteen years old and I had the house to myself I would often rummage around the back of my brother's cupboard looking to see if he'd added to his collection of FHM magazines.  On one particular occasion while searching the 'top-shelf' of the cupboard I stopped suddenly in my tracks struck by a moment of pure clarity and inspiration.  As I returned the 'pop edition' of the magazine back into the far reaches of the cupboard I was overcome by a desire far greater than Rachel from S-Club 7, a desire to take everything in my brother's room and place it inside the cupboard.

I set about taking the sheets off his bed, removing pillows from pillow cases, CD's from CD cases, clothes from the drawers, the television from the wall, the 'super-woofer' stereo with three disc changer, the stressed out Pepsi bottle, the bedside lamp, the curtains from the window, the posters and pictures on the walls, the mirror, beanbag, even his swivel chair, everything from golf clubs to underpants I shoved into the cupboard until is was like a coiled spring waiting to expel it's bulging content of utter shite and tat.

That was when the devastating reality of what I had done hit me.  It was only weeks earlier I had a similar stroke of inspiration involving my brother.  While he was contently watching the Really Wild Show in the living room I planned a quite cunning and clandestine attack on him, I waited on the other side of the living room door - coincidentally, in much the same manor a predator may patiently stalk their prey - and waited for him to vacate the room.  When he eventually did so I smashed him over the back with the bamboo pot stand we kept in our hall.

It was a beautiful moment, he was completely unsuspecting.  When I whacked him over the back with the bamboo stand I even managed to break it - the pot stand that is, not his back. While I lauded over my brother I  suddenly became very aware of the imminent retribution he was about to seek.

Instinctively I made for the back door, making it just in time to lock myself out and more importantly him in.  For hours I sat on the back door step waiting on mum to return from work while my brother stewed inside working himself into a state of frenzy.  So eager was he for revenge at one point he even made an awfully transparent attempt at diplomacy.

Of course the fallout from both of these incidents was pretty brutal.  The first was a simple beating, the second was a beating combined with me actually being made by my brother to move all of my own worldly possessions into my cupboard.

That's the beauty of thinking like a thirteen year old boy, the means justifies the end.  It's a wonderfully reckless way of thinking.  At no stage during my plant pot attack, or shoving everything into my brother's cupboard, did I consider the potential ramifications until it was either too late or I was too committed.  It was thinking in this way that led to oven glove boxing matches, washing machine football, chop fights, and the freestyle harmonies and rap styling's of 'Bob Oxygen featuring Dr Pete Zelenzy' a duo that consisted of me and my mate Billy. Our first, and to date only, album was entitled...

He was on a desert island because no one wanted to speak to him - on account of his buggering stupid name.
Billy - Bob Oxygen - and I had loads of hits, and 'The Man With the Buggering Stupid Name' went platinum in Dingwall.  It contained bangers such as 'Dog in the Mist', 'Cheese', and 'Everybody in the House is Gay', but by far our most popular hit was 'George' a song about being accosted by George Michael while defecating.
I'm not sure what my parents thought, I imagine it was quite disconcerting having a thirteen year old rapping about being approached by George Michael on the toilet.  It must have been tough for them at that time as my brother and I were regularly launching assaults on each other.  My attacks were far from unprovoked however, that f**ker had it coming, for years he had been excelling in being a wee dick.
There was one Easter our parents took us to Wynn Park in Inverness which is a fecking great park with a rope climbing frame, rowing-boats, and one of those wee trains I can never remember ever being small enough to actually ride.   After a thoroughly enjoyable day at the park the time came for us to roll our eggs - when I've mentioned this to people in the past they have often furrowed their brow and looked at me as if I was describing some kind of pagan or masonic ritual, I genuinely thought egg-rolling was pretty common practice but if you're unaware I'll explain, egg-rolling is when you hard-boil an egg, decorate it, and roll it down a hill until it breaks, we did this every Easter when we were kids.  Wynn Park has the perfect hill for egg-rolling. My parents positioned themselves at the bottom of the hill ready with the camera, and as my brother and I ascended he turned to me with a suggested alternative to rolling our eggs.
Our parents were, on the whole, pretty good at dealing with situations such as this.  One of my mum's specialities was to give you enough rope to hang yourself with.  It was a battle of wills and a battle of minds that more often than not landed me in double the amount of shit I had bargained for.  There were many a school day I would return home to be greeted by my mum asking a familiar question.
I'd be left to take a stab in the dark and opt for the misdemeanour I felt she had the most chance of knowing about.
Far more effective than this however was my mum's, 'you're in serious shit when you get home' stare.  This simple look would leave me paralytic with fear; to this day it sends a shiver down my spine.  The stare was usually dished out when we were visiting granny and granda and my brother or I inadvertently disclosed something we weren't meant to, rendering the rest of the visit a terrifying countdown to the unavoidable shit-storm that awaited us on the car journey home.  Often my mum would make bizarre threats of things not to mention to my grandparents before we visited them.  One such threat I remember was not to announce to everyone in the room when I farted.  I don't ever remember publically announcing flatulence, and it certainly never occurred to me when visiting my grandparents to say...
What my mum had actually done was offer up a great big fart carrot.  The fact I had been forewarned not to tell my grandparents when I passed gas meant the urge to do so was almost unbearable.  This kind of admonishment was consistent with my mum's thinking.  Prior to visiting my grandparents she would have been going through a list of scenarios, visualising the sort of thing I was likely to say or do and felt compelled to pre-warn me against something I had no conscious knowledge of, or desire to do.  My poor wee granny passed away never knowing the exact time and dates of my farts - except for when she smelled them of course.

Dad relied on a more traditional/old school means of discipline.  He didn't have a stare but what he did have was an itchy hand.  The 'itchy hand' was a simple pre-cursor to a spanking.  If my brother or I were f*cking about to such an extent it warranted a spanking Dad would fire the 'itchy hand' warning shot.  There was one dinner time where my brother was, as usual, excelling in being a wee dick, and so my dad offered him the appropriate warning.

It's difficult to get across just how brave a move this was, even harder to portray the state of absolute bewilderment we were all in.  There was a solid five seconds of palpable silence in which all of us waited on dad's reaction to my brother's boldness, and by extension his fate.  When he started laughing, my brother knew he had been to the edge and back.  It is the most dam impressive thing I have ever seen in my life.

Between mum's stare, and dad's itchy hand, the two of them could be really quite a formidable and intimidating duo.  Of course that never stopped us from lobbing eggs at them though.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Lion, The Beach, and The Wankbox

A few years ago I wrote a blog entitled 'My Dad's Lesbian Ex-Wife' which was admittedly a little misleading on account of the fact they weren't actually married only 'engaged to be'.  But expect no such hyperbole this time round, I have promised a Lion, a Beach, and a Wankbox, and on this I will deliver - in keeping with the Narnia inspired title I should point out that when I say 'Wankbox' I don't mean just having a tug in the back of the cupboard, although if you're thirteen and you're reading this that's probably not a bad spot.

I came across the Wankbox in Montreal Canada where of course they call it 'le Wankbox' on account of the fact Montreal is in the French speaking province of Quebec.  'Le Wankbox', as I'm sure you can guess, operates on a fairly simple premise.  Allow me to put it in context for you, perhaps in one of your weaker moments while going about your day-to-day business you have been struck by a sudden and quite uncontrollable urge for self-gratification.  Well in such a case you might nip into the toilet or on-site portakabin like the filthy wee cretin you are, but if you were French-Canadian you'd just step into the box.  Outside of an NCIS crime scene it's the single greatest concentration of jizz on the planet.

Montreal wouldn't strike you as an obvious setting for the Wankbox it's regarded by most in Canada as its cultural capital, the beating heart of French Canada with its striking architecture, plethora of concert halls, art galleries, restaurants, its wonderful night life and cosmopolitan inhabitants.  I certainly wasn't struck by the need for a wank on my walk to the grand Basillica and if I did I wouldn't consider that shining beacon of dank self-deprecation to be my preferred spot, I'd go as far to say I'd probably rather have a wank in Oscar Pistorius's toilet than 'the Box'.  Although I didn't actually frequent the Wankbox I can say with relative certainty that it's a pretty disgusting and unpleasant place.  And that's the point, because a year later myself and my travelling companions on that Montreal trip arrived at a fustie, damp, crusty, filthy, crawling, 'Fritzlesque', hotel room in a certain Spanish resort.  We all agreed that a night in the Box would be preferable to the week we faced in the hotel, and so it was our residence from that moment on was forever referred to as 'The Wankbox' - or 'el Wankbox' if you prefer.

You know that old saying 'every Wankbox has a silver lining' well for us it was the glorious, golden beach packed with the most beautiful girls the Mediterranean had to offer.  The sheer volume of gorgeous girls was almost unnatural, every day we went to the beach expecting the previous day to have been a fluke and each day their ranks swelled.  It certainly made the Wankbox more bearable.  We had sunshine, inexpensive booze, beautiful women, and incredible nightlife.  These things should have equated to success but when you're travelling with three pasty-white teuchters they are of course more likely to be the architects of your downfall.

Day four of the holiday was a biggie, new up-coming superstar DJ 'Avicii' was playing in one of the clubs; it was going to be a huge night.  During the day everyone congregated on the beach making it the perfect place for the nightclub to promote their clubnights.  They would send their club-reps out during the day to hand out flyers and invitations, huge, muscle bound, tanned, Abercrombie looking guys with perfectly chiselled good looks and aviators.  They had the easiest job going convincing everyone to go to a party they all wanted to go to anyway.  They strolled up and down the beach joining in games of football, paddleball and Frisbee stopping to talk with groups of girls and picking up numbers with a near 100% success rate.  Every group on the beach, boys and girls, were invited.  I wasn't so confident though.  As the posse made their way towards me I turned to survey my travelling companions, one of whom was lying face-down in the sand surrounded by sixteen cans of Estrella, one was vomiting in the sea, and another was lying on a sun lounger at an advanced stage of 'Lobsteritis' - a condition that severely reddens Scottish skin when exposed to the sun.

We were the only people on the beach not to get an invite to 'da club' that evening.

The resort was full of Dutch and Spanish people which was good at first on account of how attractive they all were but in the end was a bit of a sticking point because we couldn't really speak to anyone.  My interactions were restricted exclusively to my travelling companions most of whom were rarely in any condition to even make it out of the Wankbox.  There was an upturn in fortunes on our penultimate night when we met a Hen Party from the North of England.  They were great fun, and as we all got drinking and became friends we basically interposed ourselves into the group following them from bar to bar and jumping in all their photos.  The Hen Party had a circus theme complete with some fantastic outfits, there were Ring Masters, Clowns, Acrobats, and of course a Circus Lion - who I was trying my very best to chat up.

One of the boys who was on this holiday is always particularly exuberant when it comes to fancy dress and on this evening he was deriving a lot of pleasure from acquiring as many different items of fancy dress as he could.  By the end of the night he had enough make up and accessories on to resemble Boy George - if Boy George decided to run away and join the circus.  Amongst his most prized possessions were the lion ears and claws he procured from the lioness I was still busily trying to chat up.  Now what happened next depends on which of my friends you decide to ask.  I'm not sure who to believe but as the boys left the club they encountered another gentleman who was apparently as equally vehement about fancy dress as my friend.

Account of Friend No. 1

I'm not sure why he was so opposed to giving the claws away, or why he valued them that bit more than the ears, but anyway here is the Account of Friend No. 2.

Like I say I don't know what to believe.

While my friends were being accosted on their way home by an angry Mr Ben, I was enjoying a romantic stroll down the beach with my lovely lioness.  We walked, and frolicked, and waited for the glorious Mediterranean sun to rise.  When we left the beach at silly o'clock in the morning and made our way back to her hotel we were greeted by quite the unwelcome welcome party.

It was quite an experience being shouted at by angry women dressed as circus performers and foreign police, but I suppose mishaps are inevitable on any 'boys holiday'.  My advice to any young bucks embarking on a holiday with as equally irresponsible people as myself and my friends would be to buy insurance.  I've been on three boys holidays during which time I've spent a total of six days in hospital, been robbed twice, gone missing for twenty four hours, and reached a disabling level of 'Lobsteritis'. 

Thankfully I'm too old for the boys holiday these days, although in truth the boys holiday never really dies it just evolves into something as equally unpredictable and irresponsible, the 'Stag Doo'.  All Stag Doo's are of course afforded the essential anonymity needed thanks to the age old rule of 'what happens on the stag stays on the stag'.  This makes it impossible for me to disclose any sensitive stag information on this blog site - although like any good Ryan Gigg's super injunction who knows what will end up being on here in the future.

In the meantime I hope I have managed to deliver on my Lion, Beach, Wankbox promise, if the only reason you read this far was to find out more about my dad's lesbian ex-wife/fiancée then I apologise, here you are.....

One last thing has occurred to me, maybe I'm completely wrong about the Wankbox, maybe it's purpose is for something completely different, I mean 'le Wankbox' that could mean anything couldn't it...???

Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Flamingo Diaries

Have you ever received a strange birthday gift?  Someone's named a star after you, donated in your name to charity, or, even worse, you've been forced to shop in Topman?  This year I was left feeling fairly incredulous at my thoughtful if slightly perplexing gift of a rabies injection.  Granted in a life or death situation, that situation being an attack by a rabid animal, this gift would potentially save my life, I say 'potentially' because in said event the injection doesn't actually prevent the infection or onset of rabies it just means you don't die immediately, it's a purely preventative measure - it's like wearing two condoms when shagging someone from Fife.  Still at least I will always remember this year's birthday as the year my parents - mum - got me a rabies injection.  For Christmas I'm getting an epipen.

My parents - mum - gave me the money for the injection on account of a trip to South America I made over the summer.  In order to appease my parents - mum - I also got myself immunised for Hepatitis A and B, Yellow Fever and Polio, with an old fashioned tetanus boost and a shit load of malaria tablets to boot.  I was so well immunised when I eventually landed in South America I was determined to get bitten by as many animals and share as many dirty needles as possible just to get my money's worth.  And I hate injections; my friends are always teasing me for choosing to smoke my heroin.

Purchasing injections, Spanish lessons, travel insurance, and my base tan from 'Tanz' on Granton Road Edinburgh, left me in a fairly precarious financial state before I had even left the country, even my Lonely Planet guide 'South America on a Shoestring' cost me £22 - a little paradoxical I'm sure you'll agree.  Still it was important to my parents - mum - that I was prepared for every eventuality.  I did find it a little strange I was traveling to an inherently dangerous part of the world with some of the highest rates of violent crime and terrorism on the planet and my parents - mum's - greatest concern was that I carried enough plasters and savalon.

This was the first time I had ever undertaken anything like this before.  I had travelled previously, two summers working and travelling in America and one summer inter-railing through Europe with an ex-girlfriend.  Those trips taught me a valuable life lesson; travel may broaden your horizons but it does nothing for your bowels or liver.  When I leave the safe haven of home and head out into the great beyond an even slight departure from my normal routine tends to turn me into a boarder-line alcoholic with bipolar bowels that switch from chronic constipation to devastating diohera.  It pretty much limits your trip itinerary to drinking and shitting - and usually in that order.  When I was in Ecuador I couldn't go on an excursion with some very attractive Dutch girls...

I had even greater reservations over my mental health.  I suffered not so much foreboding or a fear of loneliness, my greatest concern was other people.  That's why I hate hostels.  The last time I stayed in a hostel I was welcomed by a perfect pile of hair on top of the plain white sheets that comprised my bedding, it looked like a pubic hair clitoris.  Hygiene is a concern anytime I stay away from home but even pubey sheets aren't as worrying as the people who stay in hostels.  When I stay in them I tend to get into arguments, sometimes altercations, usually over the issue of acceptable social etiquette.  Maybe I'm 'square' but I don't think it is appropriate to shag your big fat German missus at four in the morning with the light on, use the toilet of a room you're not staying in at silly o'clock in the morning - I said 'if you're going to use someone else's toilet at least flush after yourself', he said 'there's a water shortage in California', I said 'go fuck yourself' - or cheat at beer pong.

Despite the concerns over my physical and mental wellbeing when I arrived at my first destination - Lima, capital city of Peru - I felt chipper, optimistic even.  I was untouchable, and anything that did touch me I was immunised against.  It didn't matter I was travelling alone.  I was mature, street wise, and my Spanish was tip-top - this I based on my ability to follow the inflight movie, an old black and white film about a female matador avenging the death or her father, I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, that was until I arrived in Colombia where all the girls look like female matador's avenging the death of their father, ie breathtakingly beautiful but also look like they could kick your c**t in.  This sense of optimism barely made it out of the terminal door before I was reminded I wasn't streetwise or savvy at all.  My first conversation in South America, perhaps unsurprisingly, was with a coke dealer, a coke dealer I tried to buy chewing gum off.  He wasn't an obvious drug dealer - well, actually, he probably was - because he carried with him a tray of chewing gum and lollipops as a rouse to any watching policia.


I did find it a little strange they sold chewing gum by the gram in South America, he was f*cking delighted when I offered to buy fifteen grams.

My rendezvous with the minty-fresh drug dealer or even the taxi driver who charged me the equivalent of a Peruvian mortgage payment wasn't a concern, my biggest worry of course was the hostel, my first South American hostel, which fulfilled all my pre-conceived anxieties.  It was a hedonistic cesspool swarming with hippies who never got out of their pyjamas no matter what time of day it was.  Within two minutes of arriving some Canadian girls asked if I wanted to hula-hoop and watch the sunset.  Being a competent hula-hooper and avid fan of sunsets I agreed.  So it was I watched my first sunset in South America while hula-hooping for the first time in fifteen years, I even taught some local primary school children how to hula-hoop - failing to notice the wee shite bags were simultaneously stealing my booze.

After the sunset we went to a flat party.  Sitting nursing a beer I pondered how little time it had taken me to become engrossed with this eclectic group of Canadians, Americans and Israelis.  As I sat contemplating all I had gone through to make it to this point, how far I had come, and the incredible journey that lay ahead of me, I began to panic, not through a sense of unease or nervousness but because it was at that moment I realised I had made the classically Scottish move of trapcing dog-shit all through the flat.  Aware of the ticking social time bomb on the bottom of my shoe I made a clandestine move to the toilet and discarded it like a shitty Cinderella.  I was devastated to find a lack of toilet paper, towels, or anything that could dislodge the ungodly amount of dog-shit from my shoe.  The only available shit-flicking instrument was the toilet brush, which, after the sheer volume of excrement it had to displace, was left un-useable even after a thorough rinse under the flush of the toilet.  Not wanting to finger bits of dog-shit down the plug hole or compromise the health of the guests in attendance by rinsing the toilet brush in the sink basin, I opted for the only option left available to me and lobbed it out the window..

They lived on the fourth floor.

Hula-hooping hippies and dog-shit you may think constitutes a pretty unsuccessful start to the trip, importanatly however it was on that first night I met an Aussie bloke with whom I would travel for the next twelve weeks.  For the remainder of the trip we were like a Celtic-Antipodean Che Guevara and Alberto Granado - if Guevara and Granado went everywhere with a surfboard and frivolous use of the 'c-word'.  Over the next twelve weeks we would explore five countries, visit cities dwarfed by smouldering volcanoes, trek through dense jungles, deserts, and endless salt flats, raft down Andean rivers, marvel at thousands of Flamingos', snorkel with sea-turtles, sea-lions and sharks, race one hundred year old tortoises, join in noisy football celebrations, salsa lessons, and never ending fiestas using ropey Spanish chat-up lines and travelling on even ropier buses, we would drink copious amounts of rum, visit ancient Inca and Mayan ruins, and live with Indigenous peoples, all the time picking up some of the best travelling companions you could hope to meet and getting higher than either of us had ever been in our lives - over 5000m in Bolivia.

When the time came to part ways my Australian soul-mate and I decided to 'mark' the occasion by taking the classically stupid move of getting matching tattoos - I still hadn't made use of my hepatitis injections.  I'm not sure how Guevara and Granado decided to mark the end of their trip, but just imagine for a second how much more powerful the socialist revolutionary movement would have been if it was headed up by a man sporting a giant pink Flamingo tattoo.  We opted for Flamingos because they are quintessentially South American animals: proud, colourful, flamboyant, social, just a little aggressive, and in no way camp - although I have to say when I was brandishing my Flamingo tattoo around Rio's gay district at silly o'clock in the morning while wearing a floral shirt and white cowboy hat it was difficult to reaffirm my heterosexuality.

South America took my breath away - and not just because so much of it is at altitude - it boasts unforgettable scenery, history and culture.  Never before has somewhere struck such a cord with me, never have I felt such an affinity to somewhere that wasn't home.  Since I've returned I feel more open-minded, altruistic and cultured - and my pals just can't get enough of it..


I've talked a lot about South America without really describing any of the things that I did when I was there.  Despite this and the fact I've chosen to talk mainly about dog-shit and injections I can assure you I was actually there, it's just really hard to try and condense the trip of a lifetime into a single blog entry.  I could write 1500 words alone just describing the view from machu picchu mountain. I can however sum-up the whole trip in one word with relative ease. Amazing.  Quite simply it's the best thing I have ever done.

I left my heart in South America and one day soon I hope to go back and fetch it.  In the mean time I'll practice my hip rotations - for hula hooping, obviously - flick through my photographs, and allow my bowels to recover in a country where you're allowed to flush toilet paper down the pan - it still just feels so decadent.