Retail therapy

Sunday 30 September

Feeling able to stray a little further from the comfort of the WC, I decide it’s time I updated my wardrobe a little and picked up some toiletries.  I’ve fallen into a handy, if slightly expensive pattern of running out of everything all at once, so I literally need to replace the entire contents of my wash bag.  I know this makes for gripping reading.  I’m also down to two pairs of underwear for some bizarre reason, and I’ve needed a decent pair of new jeans for a while.  I take the free shuttle-bus to the out-of-town mall at indulge in a bit of retail therapy.

I’ve managed to have a shower this morning, but I’m still looking like a half-shut penknife.  I huddle next to the window with my hood up and arms folded.  What I can never understand is why women (and many men) get glammed up to go shopping.  I’ve seen some crazy outfits and make up jobs in my time only to be visiting Marks & Spencer.  These people look like they’re going clubbing at 1pm.  They’re the same people who get dressed up to go to McDonald’s.  Have a word with yourselves.

Once again I’m left longing for one chance at shopping in Glasgow.  It takes me an age to find a pair of jeans my size without paying through the nose, and once I do, the card machine packs in, one ATM is out-of-order, and the other doesn’t accept my card.  I leave the centre with shaving foam, shampoo and toothpaste.  What a wildly successful day.

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Not moving

Saturday 29 September

More of the same today dear readers.  I’m shivering and cowering under my blanket for most of the day, with frequent visits to the bathroom.  Only a couple of hostel dwellers are feeling 100%, and I do feel sorry for the new walk-ins unknowingly entering a biohazard.  Still the encouraging sign is that I’m forced to have another night off the drink, which can only be a good thing, and I’ve taken to reading more since I can’t waste hours playing chess on a broken laptop.  I’m seriously living on the edge.


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One year away and hugging a toliet

Friday 28 September

Today sees the first anniversary of my world travels.  This time last year I was sitting on board a flight to San Francisco with everything and nothing stretched out before me like an unwoven tapestry you attempt to complete after several tequilas.  A Rainbow-Bright colour-in felt scene where you’ve scribbled over the lines.  A paint-by-numbers completed with a masonry brush and a blindfold.  You get the picture(s).  I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, who I would be meeting, what glorious sights and experiences would enthrall me, or how many times I would be sitting on the toilet pissing out of my ass.  Today was one of those days.

Sometime in the middle of the night I’ve woken to the unmistakable death-throes of an infected stomach.  A beast is gnawing at my gut from the inside, desperately trying to regain its freedom.  It’s literally seconds before I realise I need to make the bathroom and right on cue, a friend has exactly the same idea.  We’re in tandem for most of the night, the usually quiet hostel corridor enriched with a cacophonic symphony of violent retching.  After about the 8th time, I feel I have nothing left to give and long to shuffle off the mortal coil and be at peace.  It’s then it begins at the other end.

I won’t go into the gory details dear readers, lest you’re eating Coco Pops as you peruse my warblings.  Did anyone else find that whenever you sat down in front of the telly with a bowl of your favourite milky cereal, that an advert for babies nappies would come on?  Either that or some kid has just managed to drop a foul smell and a Glade Plug-In was coming to the rescue?  Anyway just a case in point.  I return to my bed to be subjected to my stomach talking to me for the rest of the day, interspersed with snatches of troubled sleep.

So there it is really.  My one year party plan put on ice as I attempt to recover from a mystery hostel illness.  Just about everyone has been or is struck down with it, and contrary to what you may perceive it has nothing to do with booze.  This time.  Granted the 52% alcoholic tea might not have done us any favours, but we’ve all definitely contracted something dodgy.  I’m betting my bottom dollar a kebab is involved.

Anyway nasty fever, cold sweats and shivers aside, a big thank you to everyone who made this year what it was.  It would take me a long time to pick individual moments, cite special people, or detail particular epic experiences, but suffice to say it wouldn’t have been as incredible without you.  I didn’t realise I would ever gain so many lifelong friends from just setting foot outside the door.  Here’s to the next year, and you’re all still with me every step of the way.  Including in the toilet.


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Project Mayhem

Thursday 27 September

The first rule about the apocalyptic party is, don’t talk about the apocalyptic party.  That’s about as far as I’m allowed to go with that, otherwise I could potentially get a friend into trouble.  Perhaps if I publish a book at some point I’ll get round to telling you about it.  What I can say is in no way did it involve getting drunk in a cold war nuclear fall out shelter.  At no time were we dancing to Call Me Maybe? in an underground radio room.  I was never jumping around having my picture taken with a gas mask on.  I assure you it was much more sensible than that.

Instead we’re in our local watering hole celebrating the end of prohibition.  It’s not quite taken full effect, but it’s on its way out, and certain liquors can now be bought over the bar.  You can imagine it’s getting rowdy as the boot has been lifted and held tide breaks through.  The Cat has decided to join us, but for all my attempts, and in spite of appearing to blow hot once again, she’s just toying with me.  A little dangled Stuart on the end of a string, its sole function is to entertain the claws of the feline.  She has demanded that the only way I can take her out for a meal is if it’s at the most expensive restaurant in Olomouc.  Then she changes her mind when I say that it isn’t a problem.  She’s also taken an interest in giving me chinese burns on my damaged arm for some reason, and slapping the scars from my penis fall two nights previous.  After trying to the last, I decide enough is enough and I leave for the more welcoming prospect of my bed.  It’s there under the weighty duress of alcohol that I finally choose to give up.  Nobody should be this much hard work, especially if I am already.


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Making things up

Wednesday 26 September

James Peter Alden supped tentatively on the sharp beer and coughed.  It wasn’t the best ale he’d encountered on his travels, probably as a result of the establishment.  There was little else to do on a chilly midweek evening but attend the debaucherous shenanigans kicking off in a local student bar.  It was the kind of raucous environment he outwardly condemned, but perhaps conveyed a love for, not as clandestine as he would have liked.  A last grasp at youth.  There was no lock on the toilet cubicle and your shoes stuck to the dance floor.  Someone was dribbling on the carpet.  Push up bras and checked shirts at every turn.  Old men on their own.    The perfect locale to meet someone new.

He’d done the relatively easy part.  Diverting his friends amorous attentions from their only female companion, he’d strategically positioned himself between the two, in spite of vague protestations.  Although he felt a pang of guilt, if you’re not fast, you’re last, and he’d recognised his type early.  Seizing on the opportunity to instigate the manuvre and noting a look of disappointment adorning his friends’ bearded face, James expertly slid next to his quarry and into a conversation about dancing.

“I’m learning to Tango”, she smiled playfully.

“I’ve been trained in it” James shamefacedly lied.  He felt he could come clean later if it got him anywhere and she wouldn’t have minded.  Perhaps she would even think it cute.  Recently being in Argentina he could claim knowledge of steps from a Tango show he was too hung over to attend, just as much as he could speak Spanish by proxy.  What the remainder of the discourse regarded he would later not remember, but that was to become a moot point.

She had a quirky, almost bird-like inquisitiveness in her beauty.  Her bright, dark eyes shone under the kind of garish light you hide from if you have blemishes, and indeed James was eager to elope to the corner, his imperfect skin in danger of betraying a schooled confidence.  Nonetheless it wasn’t long before she’s suggested they get out of there, and take a midnight stroll in the park.

Kissing and laughing in the glow of the spherical lamp and James felt a giddy childhood he’d never had.  The grass was cool in the dark, but it didn’t matter to the couple wrapped in each others probably misplaced affections.  Paying little attention to the charmingly shadowy foliage, they spun to a worn bench and fell into each other, elated at what could surely only be a one night affair, fueled by cheap beer and hollow words.  A poorly rolled cigarette momentarily interrupted their passions, and James drew the smoke at length.  Hardly a word was spoken.  There wasn’t any need.

“I hope you treated her well” demands a friend as they return to the bar a short time later.  “Now give her a goodbye kiss as we need to go”.  He didn’t need telling twice and enfolded her in a last embrace.  He’d only the nonchalant promise that she would contact him tomorrow, which he’s never had much luck with in the past.  Still, turning to walk on air back to his apartment, he felt that this was one such meeting he could give to the night, a perfect collision alluding to a pseudo, serendipitous romance.  Hollywood be proud; he clicked his Converse heels together and danced in the direction of home.


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