"UK statistics show that traces of illegal drugs were present in 18 per cent of road deaths. Applying this percentage to the number of people aged 16 and over killed in road accidents in Scotland in 1999 gives a figure of 50."*
October 29, 2006
"UK statistics show that traces of illegal drugs were present in 18 per cent of road deaths. Applying this percentage to the number of people aged 16 and over killed in road accidents in Scotland in 1999 gives a figure of 50."*
October 11, 2006
August 19, 2006
June 29, 2006
"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind." -- Aristotle, Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)
"No, no, no, Lisa. If adults don't like their jobs, they don't go on strike. They just go in every day and do it really half-assed." -- Homer Simpson, Legend (1990-present)
Not long now till my 23rd P45, in a working life of eight short years, hits the doormat with a familiar thud. I know 24 jobs sounds like a lot for a 24-year-old but you have to bear in mind that some (like the double-glazing call centre) lasted for as little as two hours. In fact, two hours was a personal best (or worst. Depends on your viewpoint). Some lasted weeks, some months, but only BBC Information and the world-famous Oban Times, lasted more than a year.
In the mean-time, however, I'll have to settle for trade-plating up and down the UK, and occasionally into Europe, until I get 'spotted'. Hopefully, my constant itch to be on the move might make me quite good at my new job. Who knows? I might even last more than a year.
Not sure what I'm going to miss most about the old job though.
Perhaps, scurrying back from a fag break so as not to bust the 10-second rule. Or the sense of futile rebellion derived from timing all my breaks to exactly 15 minutes and nine seconds. The Devil makes make work for idle minds.
I've got particularly warm memories about the helpful Health and Safety notices such as "Warning. Kettle may be hot." Or an old favourite of mine: "Although this bin could hold much more, Annie's only five foot four."
I think I'll also miss the opportunities for brutal honesty (and outright lies) afforded by late slips:
I'm gonna miss the regulars too. Without mentioning names (coz that's bound to violate data protection regulations), I'd like you, my former colleagues, to relay the following farewells to some of our repeats who I haven't had the chance to talk to over the past few days. You'll need to figure out who gets what message yourselves:
"Sorry. I never did tell it to the regions but I'm sure your message will get through eventually you wily old fox. By the way, you're not Scottish and I'm not Irish. Honk Honk!"
(high piched) "Noone gives a shit about Palestine, much less your opinions you mad cow. Now piss off and drink some bleach."
"Slough deserves everything Ricky Gervias can throw at it - then some. Get off the gin you psychotic old tart."
"Awfully sorry darling, but Steve's kids never got their Christmas presents. In fact, Steve doesn't have kids. He's gay."
"The reason we don't have isobars on the weather forecasts is because you're the only person in the country who know what an isobar is and we delight in pissing you off you foul and obnoxious old prick."
"If you hate the Daily Mail so much, why don't you phone them for a change instead of implanting me with a life-time aversion to Geordies."
"The fact that you believe Princess Diana amputated your brother's legs before trying to escape in a cable car up Ben Nevis would be seriously funny if I didn't know that you live quite close to me."
"Andy. Rest in Peace dude."
June 16, 2006
- Ernie - Underground Supervisor. Used to be a policeman but got kicked off the force for downloading kiddie-porn on a work computer.
- Millie - IT Expert. Pretty - in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way. Blatant attempt to spark little girls' interest in scientific subjects at school. More likely to spark little boys' interests under the duvet.
- Mr Rails - Janitor. Village idiot. Only allowed to hang around because noone has the heart to tell him to fuck off.
- Bakerloo - (pictured left) Flat-cap wearing Northern train who must have come down to London to find work after Thatcher crushed the miners.
- Circle - Annoying middle-class college drop-out. Outwardly chirpy but probably quite depressed when home alone. One suspects she owns a cat.
- Hammersmith and City - Both immaculate with trendy specs and fancy hair-dos. One in ten. You decide.
- Jubilee - (pictured right) Broad grin and dilated pupils are clear indication of heavy recreational drug use.
- Victoria - (pictured centre) Matriarchal figure now confined to a local authority old trains home. Was forced to sell the council siding she bought off Margaret Thatcher in the 80's to pay for her own care.
- Brooklyn - Annoying American exchange train. Probably fancies Circle. Won't carry Arabs so it's just as well that in Ernie's London, there are none. "Hell, freedom ain't free folks."
- Paris - Cheese-eating surrender monkey train. Nuff said.
- Sydney - Blond Australian backpacker train. Claims to go 'non-stop to the beach'. Other trains wish she would shut the fuck up and go 'non-stop back to Australia', preferrably via Iraq.
June 15, 2006
- I) A 'month' is about how long it's been since I last updated this blog. Shameful, I know.
- II) A 'month' is almost exactly how long it's been since our persistent friend Mr Honky Tonk phoned me in my capacity as a serf in the complaints department of a well-known broadcaster.
May 08, 2006
I'm levelling with you because I need to stress that this next bit is true: I just saw a Traffic Warden do something nice. Honestly. Standing on the street outside the office enjoying the glorious sunshine (which annoyingly disappeared on Friday afternoon and reappeared on Monday morning) I was pondering what next to write here when, as if directed by the almighty himself, a motorist in distress (female) got stuck behind a lorry and lo, a traffic warden came to her rescue.
April 10, 2006
Donkey's Ears (right)
March 12, 2006
Left to rely on a bunch of pansies, however, your everyday Englishman is up the creek without a paddle - or a knuckleduster. Don't laugh, some of my best friends are English.
February 20, 2006
Life for me is one long rollercoaster of sin and redemption (heavy on sin, light on redemption). I'm not bad to the bone but no saint either. I'm not even a monk. All the more so because monks, unlike me, don't steal strangers' clothes.
I no longer steal for fun so to understand why and how I came by my new coat you should consider the lyrics to the Fields of Athenrye. Particularly "Michael they have taken you away. For you stole Treveleyn's Corn, so the could see the 'morn." Set aside your love for the great Glasgow Celtic and think about Michael's motivation for stealing Treveleyn's corn. He, like me, had no choice.
Basically, I stole a duffel coat from a nightclub because someone else stole my denim jacket. I had put my jacket where I knew I would find it but when I came back it was gone. Some scum-sucking tea-leaf had pinched it and I can't figure out why. It was a pretty scabby piece with no value to anyone but me.
With no time to think I had to face facts: I was wearing a wet t-shirt and outside it was minus five - and falling. There was nothing for it. I had to lift the closest jacket or I was going to freeze; just another statistic levered off the pavement on Sunday morning, beaten by the elements on the notorious late-night crawl home along Woodlands Road. "Fuck the other guy," I thought. He can steal someone else's coat. We'll start a chain reaction; a cold and confused riot at 3am on the street outside the club.
What a jackpot. Miraculously, my new coat is a perfect fit and warm as hell. I did a deal with my conscience, resolving there and then to hand the coat into a charity shop or give it to a beggar as soon as practical.Fuck that though. I can't. Even though it makes me look like Badly Drawn Boy, (more so because I usually wear my Sambas at the same time) it's a wicked coat.
My only problem now is running into the rightful owner. Fear ye not; I've devised a cunning (and entirely uncharitable) get-out. I'm going to say I got it in a charity shop. This will be believable because nearly everything I wear either comes from a charity shop or looks like it did. Also, I happen to know that the particular nightclub in which I 'found' the coat sends lost and unclaimed property to the closest charity shop.
I therefore expect any conversation with the rightful owner to go something like this:
"Oi! That's my coat."
"No it's not. It's my coat."
"No. It's definitely mine. It's got cream paint stains on it from the time I was decorating my Mum's bathroom whilst wearing a heavy duffel coat. It got nicked from the *** ****"
"Well there's your answer. I happen to know that the cloakroom staff at *** **** take all lost and unclaimed property down to the nearest charity shop, which is where I got it."
"So it is mine. Give it back."
"Hold on a minute there Cowboy. I paid good money for this coat and, possession being 9/10's and all that, I'm going to have to insist that you reimburse me my Â£8 before I you get it back."
"Okay then. Here's Â£8."
See. Noone gets hurt and I absoloutely definitely honestly swear-on-my-pet-parrot's-life that I will donate the Â£8 to charity...aye right.
"COME ON BOYS, Lets get to the coast. We fought off the Hun - we can sure as hell fight off a bunch of lame Turkish chickens. One thing's for sure though, we can't trust a Labour government to do it for us. That swine Blair's sure to look out for himself. Don't worry though, those dirty little bastards won't make it this far. They don't stand a chance. It's gonna rain blood and feathers over the channel tonight. Bird Flu? HAHA! More like Fish Flu.
"Exactly. GOOD GOD MAN! Do up your dressing gown...that's better. Now don't let the side down."
ME: "Good evening, how can I help?"
February 06, 2006
Whole Muslims countries are "boycotting Denmark" so I figure the best counter-protest is to buy as much Danish stuff as possible. But what does Denmark really make except bacon? Should I buy more bacon? Muslims don't even eat it, so buying more than I already do would be a zero-sum protest. No. More pork won't solve the crisis. Lego is our only option. We need to go out and buy barrow-loads of Denmark's only other export.
"But," I hear you cry: "What will we do with barrow-loads of plastic bricks?" Well, followers, we're going to build a 100 ft Lego Muhammad with a children's chute spouting out of his turban like a bomb fuse. The slide will carry hollering kids snake-like round the prophet's body towards the ground. Better yet, it's going to be part of the new Legoland complex we're building to replace Denmark's burnt-out embassy in Lebanon. Amongst picturesque models of European capitals we'll have little Israeli bulldozers ripping through Palestinian refugee camps. Miniature buses will sporadically detonate around the park just to keep visitors on their toes.
At first, some will object - especially Lego executives. I understand. Afterall, it runs contrary to everything their founder Ole Kirk Christiansen stood for when he started out way back in 1934. His philosophy was that toys were "nutrition for children's souls" and consequently, his company was not allowed to make anything even slightly military.* His successors uphold that code to this day.
I think old Ole was a patriot though. He'd be cool with Lego suicide bombers: not spinning violently in his grave. They'd only have to put turbans on the little Lego guys and sit them in the firm's existing extensive range of toy planes, trains and automobiles. Rucksacks from the late '80s Lego Pirate range would double as backpack bombs and the "goodies" could be CIA agents in Lego Star Wars X-Wing Spaceships. No violation of Danish pride or Lego philosophy need occur as Terrorists aren't military - are they George? Otherwise there wouldn't be hundreds of suspects rotting in Guantanamo Bay. How could Christiansen be pissed at that?
Okay. So the Lego plan is a bit of fantasy. All my best ideas are. More productive, and safer, to stay in and get wasted on Carlsberg.
One thing though; The Danes hate to see it leave...
February 01, 2006
"Good evening, how can I help?"
"Are you watching the television?"
"Well, I'm trying to work but yes, we've got one on in the corner."
"Did you see that Starckey woman on the television?"
"Em no. I was actually busy trying to explain, in intricate detail, how the effects of high atmospheric air pressure on the terrestrial transmission network caused her to miss Coronation Street."
"I don't care about Coronation Street. Look, who is this? Did you see the Starckey woman on the television or not?"
"Well there's more guff comes out of her gob than even Blair's, whom, by the way, we no longer call Tony McWaffle. We now call him Tony McPuke. In fact, we say to the whole Labour party: 'Take a running jump New Labour- into the Thames, Tees, Trent or Severn, we don't care.' They'll know all about it when they've drowned for Britain. And you can tell that to the regions. Toodle-ooh, HONK HONK, byeee!"
Line goes dead
January 26, 2006
Who left the asylum door open? Fools! He's escaped. Lock up your daughters and bury your LibDem party membership card, the hit-and-run Tory nut is at large and dangerous. Hostile embassies and government departments be warned, your time is up...
"Good evening, how can I help?"
"We want Blair off all our screens up and down the country. He is a silly twit. We call him Mr McWaffle - TWIT TWOT TWOOP. The man is a donkey. EEH-ORR, EEH-ORR! and no use to anybody. Toodle ooh, HONK HONK!"
Line goes dead
One day this old cracker is going to fade away and my days will become much longer.
Awrite ya dobbers. We hud this Euro burd kippin roon oors a cuppel o weeks back, bytheway. Wu hit the toon n got pure pished, like, 'n it went a bit radio rental. She sent us wan o 'em emails saying cheers an aw that. Here's whit she sez, bytheway:
"Hey there guys,
Thanks once again for letting me stay, giving me some to-do recommendations, and showing me a good time . I hope you enjoy the rice cakes - never had them before but they looked interesting.
Quick question - besides alcohol did we have anything else the other night? I can't really remember... I missed my plane this morning by the way - turns out I had to go to the Glasgow International Airport not Prestwick... so found myself at the wrong airport with no money and still quite tipsy - luckily a woman who worked their gave me some change so I could connect to the interent and transfer money into my account and I eventually got to the right airport. Not so cool: I had to pay a little over 180 pounds for a new plane ticket - na ja, c'est la vie - now I know there are 2 airports in Glasgow and I probably won't be forgetting that.
If you guys or your friends are ever in the Netherlands (or in Berlin in the summer), you're definitely welcome to drop by."
Steambots man! ats Glesca for ye, fanny baws!
by Ben Dowell, Thursday January 26, 2006
THE BBC plans to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ this Easter with an hour-long live procession through the streets of Manchester featuring pop stars from The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and featuring songs by The Smiths and New Order.
In the programme, called Manchester Passion, a character representing Jesus will sing the legendary Joy Division anthem Love Will Tear Us Apart before dueting his arch-betrayer Judas on the New Order hit Blue Monday, according to senior church sources involved in the production.
Mary Magdelene, the penitent whore of the New Testament, is also getting in on the act: she is being lined up to sing the Buzzcocks hit Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn't have) accompanied by a string band.
Former Happy Monday and Celebrity Big Brother winner Bez will play a disciple.
The climax of the event sees Jesus sing the Smiths classic song Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now as he is being flailed by Roman soldiers. He will then come face-to-face with his Roman prosecutor Pontius Pilate with the two of them singing a duet of the Oasis hit Wonderwall and its chorus:
"I said maybeYou're gonna be the one who saves me?And after allYou're my wonderwall."
The broadcaster, which plans to show the event live on BBC3 on Good Friday, insisted the event was inspired by "the way Bach and other composers fused music and the Passion story".
The "contemporary retelling" of Jesus' last hours will begin with the messiah - who is yet to be cast - singing the Robbie Williams hit Angels, which will mark his procession into Jerusalem.
In this case, Jerusalem will be represented by Manchester's gay and red light area near Canal Street and the Passion scene will pass via Chinatown and St Peter's Square to culminate in Albert Square.
The march will be followed by members of the public who will be encouraged to join in the singing of relevant anthems, which include the M People hit Search for a Hero Inside Yourself.
The crowd will carry a large white cross and the public will also be asked to bring a symbol of their own burden - "something they are personally concerned about" - according to senior church sources involved in the programme.
The crowd will be joined by Bez - the entertainer famous for bashing his tambourine on stage with the Happy Mondays. He will be accompanied by former Stone Roses frontman Ian Brown and Black Grape saxophonist Martin Slattery.
The event will end with the resurrected Jesus singing an as yet undisclosed song from the top of Manchester's town hall.
The show is being made by the corporation's classical music television department, which has won plaudits for its experimental music and drama work overseen by its head, Pater Maniura.
These include Flashmob: the Opera - a live opera event staged among commuters at Paddington station in London in which members of the public performed a song inspired by the Orpheus legend - and the forthcoming Riot at the Rite, a dramatisation of the notorious first performance of Stravinsky's ballet the Rites of Spring, to be aired in March.
While the event is likely to raise eyebrows among more traditional-minded Christians, it has the broad support of both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in the area.
Church of England spokeswoman Gillian Oliver said: "We are working with the BBC on this and are very pleased to be taking the good news of the gospel onto the streets of Manchester. If anything, something like this can translate the old story into new terms."
Canon Robin Gamble, canon evangelist at Manchester Cathedral, has been tasked with encouraging churchgoers to attend the event.
"I wouldn't know a Buzzcock from a ballcock so I couldn't really comment on the music. All I can say is that they are not doing a Christian service, it is a piece of contemporary theatre and that is going to get people to think about the story in modern terms," he said.
"It is going to come from the streets, with the sounds of traffic and people bustling around and it will make people think about this story in a new way. It is going to be challenging and shocking and is going to get things rumbling - it's going to be brilliant."
A BBC spokeswoman declined to comment on the details of the line-up but promised that the event would be "exciting".
January 20, 2006
Overnight, our hero has veered wildly from coherent to raving-lunatic. Another guy in the office took this call earlier today:
"Good afternoon. How can I help?"
"The Brazilians are nosy parkers. We like Brazil nuts though."
"Yes. And tell your Chairman to stop cavorting around like a gazelle. Okey dokey? Toot Toot."
Line goes dead.
January 19, 2006
Honky Tonk's on the prowl again, terrorizing bureaucrats and telephonists the length and breadth of this soggy little island we call Great Britain. He's concerned that the trial of terror suspect Abu Hamza al-Masri (accused of inciting racial hatred and soliciting for murder) might not go his way:
"Good evening, how can I help."
"Are you Irish?"
"Good man. Don't think much of the Irish, you know."
"What can I do for you."
"It's about this Abu Hamza chap - he's a rat and we don't like rats. We have to send him back from whence he came and pronto! There's no time to waste."
"Afghanistan, I'd say."
"And you're telling me this because..."
"Because you're going to tell the regions of course. Why else would I phone you? Silly willy."
"Of course. I'll get right on to it."
"Good man. You do that and I'll ring up the Home Office again in the morning and tell them too. We'll give them till midnight tomorrow."
"Excellent plan sir."
"This Hamza chap has to leave at once. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say, and I think the Archbishops of York and Canterbury will agree. Toodle-ooh."
Line goes dead
January 16, 2006
Backpackers are always looking for cheap digs so www.couchsurfers.com is the perfect resource for skint nomads. The site puts 'Couchsurfers' in touch with like minds and a place to crash for a night or two. It markets itself as a unique way of discovering the 'authentic' culture of the host Couchsurfer.
January 12, 2006
"Good afternoon, how can I help?"
"Let's poke a snoot at the Labour Party and throw rotten tomatos. We'll give Blair a New Year splatter. Googlie wooglie wooglie! Toodle-ooh! Honk honk."
Line goes dead.
January 10, 2006
Here's the trip in a nutshell. I didn't think I would write nearly this much and this is barely half of what happened. Perhaps I should write the rest down before I forget. Here goes:
Hertford-shire is an unlikely place for a travelogue about Brazil to start but it's where the journey began so it's where this piece begins too. For four or five years now, Dave has been banging on about his local, The Lytton Arms, so I was quite keen to see it. First we had to nip into Luton to get some Brazilian money or socks or something. That place sucks. Here's a free piece of advice: If the bombs come down and Luton becomes the last habitable place on earth, avoid it. It's ugly and it's where all those dickheads on Holiday Reps: Uncovered come from. We scarpered to the safety of Old Knebworth where Dave reversed into a tree. "First one this week", he told me. (Dave's car looks like the one in the Peaugeot 206 advert where the Indian guy makes his own car with nothing but hammer, some pig iron and a glossy Peaugeot advert he's cut out of a magazine.) Dave's auntie stuffed us like turkies then we hunkered down with a bottle of whisky. The next day we ate bacon. All day long. My host was trying to run down his burger van stock so we had to eat it or it was getting chucked.
"How many rashers do you want in your bacon buttie mate?"
"I don't know, six or seven maybe? Surprise me."
We'd eaten as much bacon as any human could so we set off for Heathrow. It's pissing distance away but we had to sit on the M25 for two hours. I swore there and then that I would never live anywhere that required a journey on the M25 to get to it. Tooled up, we got on the plane had a drink, slept and woke up over the Brazilian coast.
Arriving in Sao Paulo we had stinking hangovers. Dave, henceforth known as 'The Englishman', couldn't fill in the blanks so I did it for him:
"You don't remember singing 'Rule Britannia' at the top of your voice while we watched Last Night of the Proms on the in-flight entertainment?"
"No. That didn't happen."
"Yes it did. And you spent two hours down the front of the plane chatting up the fat air hostess. That's why she winked at you when we got off the plane."
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did. And you stole several bottles of wine and stashed them under our seat and behind the flight safety card."
"Don't be daft. I didn't do that."
"Yes you did. I just drunk them half an hour ago. That's why I'm still pissed and you feel like shit."
We knew we were about to have a decent trip when we got picked up at the airport by a guy in a suit with a slick blacked-out car. This was one of Gabriel's 'people'. He took us to a hotel (courtesy of Bernie Eccleston) complete with our own rental car (cheers again, Bernie). If anyone asked we were to tell them we were British consular staff (the real British consular staff are going to have fun trying to check into that hotel).
Gabriel, henceforth known as The Brazlian, met us for lunch that first day and took us to a barbecue place where an army of Goucho cowboys run round with spits of meat, filling your plate 'til you can't eat anymore. What impressed me most was when I put a cigarette in my mouth, an arm suddenly appeared from my peripheral vision with a lit match. Real fuckin' service. Nobody pisses in your milkshake here. I kept stubbing out my smokes then popping new ones in my mouth just to keep the cowboys on their toes.
Gabriel had to leave again so the Englishman and I found ourselves in down-town Sao Paulo trying not to look like Gringos. Picture him in Union Jack shorts, a straw hat and deck shoes constantly telling me in a loud public-school English drawl that we have to try and "blend in" so's not make ourselves targets. I wasn't much better. I had harboured this notion that I was some kind of Man from Del Monte so was wearing a jeans, a beige sports jacket and a light cotton shirt and pale white skin - every inch the gringo.
"Tell you what Dave; Let's change all our money into $1USD bills, loosely stuff it in our pockets, blaze a trail of green all over this city and see if we don't get our faces kicked in."
I won't bore you with the details but the night ended with a high-speed car chase through Sao Paulo. We were yelling: "faster, faster, undalay, undalay," waving lots of dollars at a taxi driver who seemed used to this kind of thing. On our tail were three fat gangsters in bulging suits, a greasy street-kid and a sweaty queer all crammed into a tiny Fiat that clearly wasn't designed for high-speed chases. We thought we'd be fine when the police got involved but those bastards were worse. They just smiled and waved us off. I learned a thing or two about South American Policemen on that trip. One; they are best avoided, two; when they're unavoidable they are very expensive.
The F1 passed off without major incident (unless your name is David Coulthard). The food was excellent as was the drink (all free). The guy on the next table was the Minister for Sport but I didn't know this till I saw his face on the front page of all the papers next morning because he was in the middle of some corruption scandal - scandals are all the rage over there.
Lindsay and Katie set out, as is their style, by consuming huge amounts of alcohol then fighting or collapsing. The Englishman also stayed true to form, walking around like a dog with two cocks. "Mike, take my picture with her...quick, there's another fitty - get her picture"...and so on. No girl was safe - or interested - but that didn't deter him. Embarrasing to watch but, in a way, you have to salute him.
Straight after the race everyone was pretty keen to get out of the city - especially Gabriel, so we drove up to his father's farm. The drive itself would have been okay if not for The Brazilian's South American driving style. God knows where he picked that up because he's spent his entire driving career in the UK. He had a new car and there was just no explaining to him that cruise control is really intended for motorway use. He was well delighted with this new gizmo though, so all we could do was grip the Jesus handles and pray. Round winding mountain roads we flew, at 70mph - no more no less. We made it to the farm - just.
The farm is something else. Several buildings set around three lakes, a pool, cattle and many thousands of coffee trees. Bizarrely, they also have emus (yes, the big birds). Apparently they were delivered by a farming friend who arrived without warning and dropped them off as a gift then left. They're a tax scam if you ask me but I won't squeal.
Those days were spent completely relaxing. We didn't lift a finger. Meals were made for us and maids cleaned up after you. Felt weird at first but I could have got used to it. Lunch was just like the barbecue in Sao Paulo on the first day. They have a real Goucho who's role in life seemed to be cooking cows on a huge outdoor barbecue. Joam was impressive. His real job is looking after the farm but he insists on cooking the barbecues too. Who's gonna argue with that? For Joam, it seemed to be a matter of pride. I guess the bond between a man and his barbecue is universal.
Alan: "What's this red stuff?"
The Englishman: "Ketchup, mate"
Alan: "(gulps it down)................. BASTARD!"
The Englishman: "(tears running down cheeks) HAHAHA"
Got him every time. After chicken hearts Joam would barbecue some Brazilian sausages and large chunks of cheese. This was all before main course. On offer, as is typical throughout Brazil, was an amazing variety of beef. Sirloin, top sirloin, fillet and rump steak all flame grilled and bloody as hell.
Great so far but the weather had been decidedly Scottish since arrival. I've started calling this the Curse of Fort William, after my hometown. I call it this because even though I've made a point of visiting some of the hottest and driest places on earth, it always pisses down. The desert in Spain's South Eest only gets four days rain a year and I got three of 'em. Rainfall levels in the Mojave Desert are similar to Spain's yet it pissed down when I turned up. So it came as no surprise when it I arrived in Brazil that it rained there too.
On my travels across three continents the locals always remark how on unusual it is for there to be so much rain. I used to think it was coincidence but now I know it's the curse. The Englishman, The Brazilian, Al, Katie and Lins all thought I was joking but everywhere we went the locals would say: "That's funny, it was sunny yesterday, very strange for this time of year," and when we moved on we would later find out that the Sun had indeed come out right after we left.
More barbecues. They don't have little barbecues like us. The minimum seems to be; half a cow, 30 sausages, a kilo or two of cheese and the vital organs of 20 chickens. Nothing much to report here. The village had sand for streets and we just chilled out on the beach for a couple of days. We needed to go back to Sao Paulo for me to get my flight home and all the others to head off on the rest of their trip.
Eventually we passed a Ferarri dealership and remembered that we had met the owner at the F1 so we stopped in and asked for directions. Mad Frank didn't have a clue who we were. He's a wiry hyper-active little guy who, I'm told, started out selling vegetables from a barrow. The last time we had seen him he had a six foot blond on each arm and a curious white powder streak on his upper lip. We explained ourselves and he nobly pretended to remember who we were and gave us directions to the hotel - though not before someone tried to sell us a helicopter.
We checked into the Hotel Trans America (thanks again, Bernie) where the drivers had stayed during the race. It was super-duper nice but devoid of soul or character so I decided to go out and get in touch with the real Sao Paulo. I wish I hadn't. I bought a hot dog from a street vendor outside the hotel and spent the next 24 hours with vomit and shit spraying out both ends.
I was also due to go home the next day (October 3rd) but I couldn't face it, especially not with all the others staying. I made many phonecalls to the airline. The Brazilian AA staff, like anyone in employment in Brazil, were useless. I eventually got through to one of those uber-efficient American pricks who said the next available flight was on the 17th. "Screw my job. I have to do it," I thought, then went back to the shitter.
Was fairly glad to get out of the city again but it meant a 26-hour bus journey to the North Coast. I was worried but I needn't have been. Long-haul bus travel in Brazil was like Business-class air travel with BA. A few beers and a bottle of sleeping pills made the trip fly by. We got off the bus in Porto Seguro and it was like a different world; hot, lots of palm trees and very, very laid back. The Brazilian couldn't bring himself to get on the bus though so we had to wait for his flight to arrive before checking in to the Shangri-La. Don't be fooled by the name. The Shangri-La was awful. At £4 a night we shouldn't have complained, so we didn't, but we did check out and get a Corran-type RoRo ferry to another village called Ariel d'Ajuda.
I would happily still be there. People we met who had also been to Goa said it was just like Goa but unspoilt. Some people go on about the Spanish 'manana' attitude but they haven't been to the Brazil Bahia. The preferred mode of transport is riding pillion on a moto-taxi (Honda CG125s). I used them a lot thinking: "These guys are obviously expert riders being used to such terrible roads and chaotic traffic." I later met an Argentinian settler, however, who explained that Honda had actually just opened up a showroom in Ariel and had offered these bikes for £25 deposit and 0% finance. Therefore, every kid in the village had one a bike but no licence and no riding experience. I stopped using them quite so often when I found this out although the more I had to drink the more sensible an idea they became.
I used a moto-taxi to get back to Porto Seguro airport when I left the others. I didn't get a photo but picture, if you will, a fat Scotsman, all my luggage and a wiry Brazilian Indian on a bottomed-out CG125 riding through congested Latin streets at 11pm. To get back to the airport I had to go back on the ferry and I've never seen a ceilidh like the ceilidh I saw on that boat. Brazil is a seriously musical country. A little old man we had seen around before and had dubbed 'The Orangeman', was banging a drum and singing his heart out. About 150 local teenagers were dancing around him. An original Pied Piper of Hamlyn, he led us up the slipway to the bar-strip on the other side which seemed to me like an eminently more sensible place to spend the rest of the night than the airport floor. A few rums worse for wear I hit the airport for the flight back to Sao Paulo and passed out in a quiet spot. I couldn't have picked a better place. I woke up at the front of the check-in qeue. Must have saved myself about an hour of check-in time.
The Brazilian had left Porto Seguro before me and picked me up in Sao Paulo. We headed straight back to the farm where his family were spending the weekend. TB's stepmother, was running late for dinner so she arrived by helicopter (as you do). Lots more eating and relaxing ensued before The Brazilian and I went back to Sao Paulo a day before my flight. I stayed at his flat in the city. It's actually sickening to see how much cheaper it can be to live in a place like that. The same money wouldn't get you a shitehole with rising damp in Glasgow but over there you get a view and underground parking. I don't think Gabriel dreams of a life in Sao Paulo though. He says he wants to be a coffee farmer and, to be honest, so do I now.
The flight back was uneventful. Managed to sneak into business class while none of the air hostesses were looking so I was quite comfortable. The last thing I remember about that flight was a concerned Scouse stewardess asking me if I felt okay and me replying: "Why wouldn't I be? By my reckoning I've just had a bottle and a half of your best red wine, half a pint of Johnnie Walker and six sleeping pills." Bye bye Brazil - hello Blighty.