Category Archives: Charlie

SAVIN’ CHARLIE (2010-11)

EPISTLE V

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Savin’ Charlie

October 2010 – March 2011

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I – Here we go again…
II – False Starts
III – Kali & Charlie
IV – Cyclone Jag
V – Sai Baba’s Butlins
VI – The Last Hut in Gokarna
VII – Bamboo Massage
VIII – S.O.S
IX – Tinky Disco
X – North Goa
XI – Stevenaged
XII – Hampi Scamper
XIII – L’ecole de l’echeque
XIV – Working Man
XV – Vizag
XVI – Blaggin’ Vizag
XVII – Happy Sankranti
XVIII – Grail Quest
XIX – Boneshakin’
XX – Crossing Orissa
XXI – West Bengal
XXII – Gorkhaland
XXIII – The Birth of Conchordia
XXIV – One Day In Kolkata
XXV – Home Time
XXVI – Almost Home

 

 

I Here we go again…

There are two types of people in this world, the workers & the shirkers. To conventional eyes it may seem I’m a bit of a shirker. Admittedly the last time I did a wage-day’s work was in September 2008. That got me enough for a ticket to India, where I translated the Tamil Bible, so that counts as work actually. Since then I’ve been ‘off sick’ & living on peanuts, but somehow karma’s taking me back over the mercurial Sea of Araby to the Raj. The reason being, I guess, is I need another 100 or so sonnets to complete my Indiad. It should be fun – mi mate Charlie has bought me my ticket. He’s on the run from practically half of South London, & I’m on the run from the Scottish winter, so a trip far abroad seems the right thing for the both of us.

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This’ll be my fourth trip to India. The first time I was getting over a bird, so I wasn’t in the mood to mess with the international army of bikini-clad vixen love-warriors. The second time I was seeing a bird, so I couldn’t. The third time I was splitting up with a bird, so I shouldn’t really. But this time, I’m single, so happy, happy days! The mission for this trip is to get my kural & sonnets published, plus fill in all the gaps with the places I’ve never been – like Gujurat, Kashmir, the North East states & the East Coast. I’m gonna hit Goa as well over the festive season. Last time I was there I took advantage of the DJ-ing oppurtunites, & I’ll also try & do my live tinky disco show.

At the moment me & Charlie are holed up in Edinburgh, but travel to London on Monday for the Wednesday morning flight from Heathrow. My lesbian friend from Todmorden, Fee, lands the day before, so after landing at Mumbai airport at 2.30 AM, we’ll simply get a taxi to our rooms. From there the fun should begin, so see ya next year & hold on to yer hats, cos this is gonna be some ride.

Edinburgh
29/10/10

II: False Starts

I’m still in Edinburgh, but just for an hour & a half. It is the most gorgeous day, so the length-long journey through Britain should be pleasing on the eye. My last weekend has been cool enough, a nice jam with the band around a piano to the roar of a blazing country fire last Friday, then Charlie buggared off down Brixton on ‘business’ to raise more funds for the trip. That gave me a little psychological breather to gather in some notes for my writing abroad. I mean, Charlie deals ketamine to half of south london normally, & on running out the other day he took a train to Leeds to get 30 more grams. Seeing as I knew a handful of folk who’d buy some, meant he had 25g to himself. As we were living in each other’s pockets this meant I found myself in his k-hole bubble all the time – & there’s only so many stories a guy can take about Elvis Presley & Jerry Lee Lewis b4 I guy goes in sane.

I also had the delight of a little farewell fling with an art-history graduate. I told her she was something of a champagne bottle that smashes against a ship’s hull as it sets off on its maiden sailing – with better curves.  She’s gorgeous, actually, with really curly blond hair & delectable lips. I’d met her at a hairdresser friend of mine’s house. She was trying to get a 60’s style bouffant, but I said it looked more like a volcano – this brutal honesty endeared her to me & we took it from there.

With the launch champagne flowing a little too heavily, however, I slept through yesterdays alarm, waking up at 4.55 AM. My bus was leaving at 5.10. Quickly gathering my things I thought I could flag it down on London Road on its way to the A1. I guess it took a different route, cos it didn’t come. In a way this was lucky, because I’d left a load of stuff behind in my rush to leave the house.

I had to buy another ticket, so yesterday I sent m’lady a text saying I’d had such a good time I thought I’d stay on an extra night if she’d have me. ‘You missed your bus didnt you’ she replied, but admiring my attempts at romance she saw me anyway. After a night of wine & her fine efforts at cooking a steak, I woke up at hers this morning, & hit Ferry Road in Edinburgh, with a golden glow swarming over the city panorama like something out of fortress Rajasthan.

I got to Victoria at 8.30, & with our flight in the morning, & the expected heavy time-wasting security after last week’s terrorist threat, we’re gonna go straight to the airport. From there we won’t be going to Mumbai, as I thought, but Chennai. I guess in the desperation to get the cheapest flight, not really minding where we ended up, I got myself muddled up. Luckily, though, Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu, the state I spent a few months in last time round translating its Thirukkural. So that will be Friday’s mission, distributing manuscripts round the publishers of that mega-city.

Edinburgh
2/11/10

III: Kali & Charlie

Karma’s a wonderful thing, I think. Two years ago, I was having a few ‘problems’ with mi bird. I mean, we had the same argument for 6 weeks. Then it hit me – the Indian goddess of destruction, Kali, was using my bird as an avatar & summoning me to India. So I went & ended up translating the Tamil Bible. Back in Britain I tweaked & polished it a bit, then put it to one side, my prospective market being 6,000 miles away. Then lo & behold, I’m suddenly swept off to the capital of Tamil Nadu, Chennai, by Charlie – Kali & Charlie, its got a certain ring to it!

My journey began by walking up Leith walk in Edinburgh in flip-flops, to a couple of funny looks. Nine & a half hours later Charlie had met me at Victoria & we set off on foot towards Heathrow. I like to go pedestrian to airports, following the planes as they make their descent, as something of a pre-quest ritual. I found myself following the same roads that I had walked back in August as I wrote the Londiniad, reminding me that his was gonna be a literary mission & not just fannying about all over the place in search of ephemeral pleasures.

We got to Heathrow at midnight, where Charlie, going cold turkey off practically every kind of drug, started knocking back vallium like saspiralla tablets, washed down with neat vodka. Apart from being on the run from the poilce, his landlord, the CSA & a couple of crack heads, he’s also nursing a broken heart. She was called Ketamine Karen, & had bled him dry, emotionally & financially, & turned him onto smack etc. However, I know the guy’s got a diamond soul, its just been buried in a whole heap of shit, so whats a pal gotta do eh?

Charlie was well excited as we set off from the runway, he’s like a 53-year-old toddler, & demanded the window seat. Unfortunately, Europe was quiet overcast, but we just got on with enjoying the flight. They’re great actually, its like being served a 4-course meal by hot birds while you watch the latest movies or listen to your favorite tunes. Like going to a restaurant, but without the inane chit-chat. Talking of which, I finally had a respite from Charlie’s tales of Great Harwood Football Club. He also turn’d off the beer tap for us, for on staggering to the toilet the hostesses got scared of a typical ‘drunken-Brit- incident. I tried to explain that it was just the vallium making him fall into the laps of the other passengers, not the booze, but they didn’t bite.

We did get a break in the clouds, however, as we flew over Turkey & the southern shores of the Black Sea. We saw a coastal strip of towns, but the rest of the land was beautiful khaki-coloured hills, some of which were skipp’d with snow. In the distance I could make out the Caucasus, where Hitler’s Sixth Army was supposed to meet Rommel’s Eighth in 1942. Looking at the terrain below me I opined that even if Cairo would have fallen, Rommel would never have been able to penetrate this land of jagged peaks. Then came the Tigris, & I mused on the start of mankind, where Mesoptamia irrigated its plains between the Tigris & the Euphrates, from which culture rose the first city – Urduk I think – 8000 years ago. Today it is a world of very scatterd villages – from the air they looked like a few tiny sugar cubes cluster’d together, whose roads out of the settlements soon dissapeared into the dusty hills.

While listening to Kasbian’s West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum we came into Abu Dhabi. This is a part of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, seven princely Trucial states who joined together about 40 years ago to exploit the petrol-guzzling nations of the world. Incidentally, the sheik of Ras al Khaimah, Saqt bin Mohammad al-Qasimi, had died the previous day, whose emirship had been one of the world’s longest, ruling since 1948. From the night sky, both desert & sea merge in a deep blackness, broken by golden beaming spiderweb lines of motorways, & illuminous grids of houses. The airport itself was a bit mad, full of guys in white shirts, sporting red & white chequer’d tea towels on their heads, fastened in place by two black rubber rings. There were models of formula one cars everywhere, & an amazing departure lounge that looked like the inside of a curling ball. The central pillar fanned out like a vase to merge curvingly with the roof, & all was patterned in hexagons. Then we were off again, for the three & a half hour hop over the Sea of Araby & the subcontinent, to the far eastern shores of India, to Chennai TN.

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Once off the plane, instead of paying the exorbitant taxi fares into town like an American mug full of dollars, we just caught a train instead, the station being a stone’s throw from the airport. Our tickets were 6 rupees each, about 8p. We quickly got a room, which after a few hours Charlie said was the worst he’d ever been in. I replied, trust me there’s worse – at least we have a western toilet, shower & TV (for a fiver). Admittedly, the area we are in is right next to a very busy, smoggy main road, & Charlie says its like holidaying in Wolverhampton. From there we wandered about a bit, but the jetlag & heat had wiped us out really. However, I did manage to print out 9 copies of my Kural, which I’m gonna distribute round Chennai publishers tomorrow. It cost me about 7 quid to do this, including getting the pages bound in a hard-back. I was going to do the distributions today, but most places are closed for the festival of Diwali. This is the great celebration of the god Rama’s victory over the Demon King Ravana, a ten-armed baddie had stolen his wife, Seeta, & whisked her off to Sri Lanka. Rama followed, with an army of monkeys led by Hannuman. All day & everywhere firecrackers & bangers are going off Vietcong style, to be followed by tonight’s fireworks displays, simulating the cosmic war. We’re at the vast, Indian-heavy beach at the moment, getting away from the ‘explosions’ but tonight we’re gonna hit our hotel rooftop & watch the city explode in light & magic, just before the same thing happens to Guy Fawkes over your way…

Chennai
5/11/10

IV: Cyclone Jag

The last time I signed out was Diwali – a total riot. Every twenty paces a family group were setting off all manner of fireworks, clutching their meter-long lighting stocks like little Lancelots. Occasionally you’d have a mother doing it, her wee babbie giggling in her arms. Then all of a sudden one hell of a monsoon struck Chennai, dampening everyone’s spirits & fireworks, the powder in them turning to an unlightable mush. Ten minutes later the flash-storm was over & the show somehow went on.

I’m in my total element here. Back in Britain I kind of dawdle about on the outside of society as a poet – I dont even do performance poetry so I’m pretty much on my own. Out here things are very different, I feel a part of the eternal, international poetic consciousness – with the added bonus of wacthing premiership footy live in my hotel room! A weird tangent-thing is that the last time I’d just arrived in India, Obama became president of the US & there was the Mumbai terrorist attack all in the space of a couple of weeks. Now, two days after arriving in India, so has Obama, whose first port of call was signing the martyr’s book at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai – weird synchronicities.

Yesterday me & Charlie hit Chennai on the book distribution run, cruising about by foot, train, rickshaw & bus. The city itself is just one massive heap of concrete lumped on the Tamil plain like a colourful pizza. No hills to break up the urban monotony, & very few parks. Albeit theres the sea, but even this is manky, fed by the black stinking sewers & even ranker rivers that flow through the city. The day began unconvincingly, with a wild goose chase to a non existant address. Well it might have existed, but nobody knew where the hell the street was. The second publisher was closed for Diwali & nobody would take my book to give to the guy. Getting on a bus, with Charlie, having a wee moan about everything from lack of non-sugary condensed milk to the bricklaying skills of the Indians (hes a brickie himself), to allay the growing sense of frustration I opened up my kural & found an appropriate pick-me up.

Working unswervingly against impossibility
Persistence’s first instance
Kural 153/4

Things then pick’d up a little, with the next two publishers having security guards, who kept my book in safe keeping til the staff came in to work on Monday. The fifth, however, was more promising, & open. I gave my book to a receptionist, who five minutes later summoned me to the boss’s office, through a maze of other offices. He was a lovely guy, smiling widely at the ridiculousnous of a Burnley boy translating his national epic, & after ten minutes of chit-chat I think I’ve won him over. He’s going to check through my interpretation of the Kural & I’ll hear from him next week if he’s up for it. This was quite a satisfying moment, so I called it a day there. I’m gonna post the rest on whenever I find a post office (no easy task).

While we were walking the streets, me & Charlie kicked off our own version of the East Lancashire cricket league. Apparently, he played for Read CC, & I used to watch Lowerhouse CC as a bairn. Anyhow, on coming across a couple of kids playing in the streets, we found ourselves using a tree for a wicket, & the kids for fielders. Charlie batted first & got 7 runs before I bowled him plumb LBW, much to his cocky annoyance. However, I only made 5 runs before one of the kids gave me a wicked googly & Charlie gave rather a too triumphant cheer. His smile didint last long though -later that night he got himself lost. I think he went off hunting for ketamine while I was in the internet shop. An hour after our appointed rendezvous I went back to the hotel – three hours later a flusterd looking Charlie turns up, without any K (thank god) several hundred rupees of taxi fares down. Apparently he’d driven past the hotel several times – funny as.

This morning we woke to proper Pendle weather, with Chennai like a late auntmnal Manchester. Apparently a cyclone called JAL is coming on from the Bay of Bengal to devastate fisherman’s lives & all that – which finally gave us the kick up the ass we needed to get out of Dodge. Three hours of train ride later, sitting in front of a baby with massive brown eyes & an even bigger brown splodge of paint between them, held by a guy listening to bangra on his mobile, we’ve come to Tirupathi, a not particualrly pleasing town at the foot of a sheer range of hills. If Chennai was Wolverhampton, said Charlie, this is definitely West Bromwich. Our reason for being here is the temple of Tirumala, up on the hill range. It receives more pilgrims each year than Mecca & Rome put together, with most of the young guys shaving their heads – giving the appearance of a mass rally of the asian wing of the BNP. We’re gonna join ‘em about dawn tomorrow, when hopefully the weather would have cleared, before travelling a few hundred K to stay a night at this very holy ashram – I can’t wait to see charlie’s face when we get there & he ca’nt have a fag.

Tirupathi
7/11/10

V: Sai Baba’s Butlins

Today was a great way to start a journey. Instead of waking up shakey in a head-f**k of a city, I found myself in an imperial Raj-era villa on the top of a gorgeous mile-high hill. Me & Charlie had been staying there a couple of nights as a wee respite from the hectic travelling. It is called Nandi Hills, the foremost of a wee range that tower over the Deccan plateaux. At the top of our is a 90-acre space, filled with glorious fauna & vegetation. There is a cool water tank & even the hunting lodge of Tipoo Sultan, the Tyger of Mysore. During the Karnatakan wars, when Duke of Wellington slew this thorn in the imperial side at Sriringapatanam, Lord Cornwallis took over the fort & before long a beautiful villa had been built at its top for the area’s residing British officialdom. Today it is a salubrious ‘hotel,’ complete with room service. There was even a meeting held there yesterday by the horticultural minister of Karnataka, a fat looking fellow draped all in white walking through the woods with a clucking gaggle of middle-aged, bemoustached men.

I’ve been loving the colonial flavour, & the walks among the trees. There are stunning viewscapes, armies of dragonflies, cheeky monkeys which the locals scare off with catapults – one stole an apple & crackers from our rooms – plus this cool gang of stray dogs. It is basically a canine lion-pride, with one butch male & three females, plus attendant pups. There are three restaurants to cater for the occasional loved-up couples that wander around the scenery hand-in-hand, plus a quaint Hindu temple full of the weirdest knee-high wood carvings I’ve ever seen; all sorts of grotesque creatures, as if plucked from the mind of Baudelaire. It has been good for Charlie too. These two days are the first in a very long time he’s had no drugs/alcohol – & he even read one of my books – apparently ketamine makes the words all blurry. He’s also finally realised that being on K makes him forget stuff, repeat himself & talk a load a shit – ya joking I replied!

Our route to the hills began last Sunday, & I thought I’d try & get spiritual on Charlie’s ass. We got up early, at 5.30 AM, to try & squeeze in a visit to the worlds most visited temple at Tirumala. Unfortunately, during the night both me & Charlie got our first bout of Delhi Belly, & ten minutes into a bumpy ride decided it would be best if we get off & find some bushes, pronto. We did, & walked back into town, picking up some ‘stabalising’ medicine en route. At 9.30 am we caught the bus west. This was a nine-hour journey across the otherworldy landscape of the Deccan plateaux. It is basically a vast plain, peppered with bouldery hills, whose rocks seem to defy gravity as they balance at strange angles. The journey was broken up by the occasional crazy town & the growing feeling I was yet again in ‘endless India.’ I mean, we travelled about 350 k today, & hardly made a dent on the subcontinental map.

Then we hit Puttupathy, passing the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital as we went in – a gorgeous pink Taj Mahal of a thing. We soon found ourselves in Sai Baba’s ashram called the Prasantha Nilayam, or hill of peace. On the way in there was a security check, & they took Charlies fags off him which really upset him, it was hilarious. On the brighter side, we got a bed in a dormitary full of internationl devotees for only 20 rupees – about 25p. The food was just as cheap, & we finally had a few western birds to check out. There was obviously no chance of getting laid, like, especially with a still brooding Charlie in tow. Outside the ashram we found your typical traveler world – loads of shops selling jewelry, clothes & sitars, mingling with internet joints, hotels & restuarants, between which roamed a wee posses of beggars. It is a weird contrast – on one side of the street there’s this big meditation centre, & on the other a great cathedral to capitalism. If you ask me, Sai baba’s raking it in like a modern-day Idi Amin. We even passed his private air strip as we arrived. Plus, as we ate our food in one of the several halls, this sign looked over us with just his hypnotic eyes staring down, reading

WHY FEAR

WHEN I AM HERE

Trippy shit – the whole ashram reminds me of a holiday camp – there’s loads of accommodation – the westerners get bunk beds while the Indians sleep on mats on the hard floor. The night’s sleep reminded me to get some earplugs – Charlie’s bad enough, but nothing to the Russians. I kept moving about the dorm from bed-to-bed avoiding a snorer, but as soon as I’d settled, the guy next to me would start – proper did mi head in. In the end I got an hour’s kip, & with Charlie’s arms bitten to a volcano range by the local mozzys, we left the ashram, passing a mini-darsan on the way. This took place in a great ballroom style area, with chandaliers draping down & a couple of hundred white-clothed devotees sat on a polished silver floor, singing along to this guy at the front chatting through a PA.

From Puttupathy we headed towards Nandi Hills, where after a chaotic hour at the bus station where we were the focus of everyone’s attention, we caught a bus to the foot of the hill. There we boarded a rickshaw with seven other people & pulled into the fortified walls of our destination – where I slept for a good 14 hours.

After our two-night stay at Nandi, earlier today we meandered to the great green garden city of Bangalore. I had never entered from the north before, usually coming from teh east along the industrial MG road. Today’s way was most pleasant, actually, a six-lane throughfare that feels like driving into West London along the A40. We passed a golf course slap bang in the city centre, protecting pedestrians by giant nets that ring its monsoon-lush greenery. Lining the route were loads of billboards & brand-new apartments, signs of Bangalore’s status as the most western city of India, growing fat on the IT & telecom industries. Somewhere within its confines I am writing this on my own in a fan-swept internet joint – Charlies stropped off in a huff – he wants to use his facebook but is completely computer illiterate. We’ve dropped our bags off at the train station lockers for a few hours, before this evening’s bus to Gokarna & Paradise Beach. I think Charlie deserves it after being plunged head first without a paddle into the ocean of humanity that is India (poor lad)

Bangalore
11/11/10

VI: The Last Hut in Gokarna

The sun is just setting on Paradise Beach, an orange sphere lending the Sea of Araby an oriental glow. This is being accentuated by Nedev, one of the annual ‘family’ that spend some of their travelling days in this place. He is playing a 72-string persian instrument called a Santur – each of the eighteen main channels is split into four steel wires as the western 12-strings are split into two. He is playing them with two metal sticks & the sound is just divine. I’m sitting in Muli’s restaurant, which dominates the central rocky outcrop that divides the beach. A couple of years ago I was here & really loved his chubby wife’s prawn curry. ‘How is your wife,’ I asked respectfully – ‘O, she died in a house fire in September,’ he said solemn faced, & proceeded to show me the scars on his hands & belly. I didn’t know what to say. I just gave him a wee hug. Then my mate Fee tells me that he’d probably kerosened his wife cos he was fed up with her, apparently a common event on Gokarna! Either way, the moody fat controller that I encountered two years ago is like a little lambkin, happy as larry.

I met Fee, or fi-asco as her friends call her, in Goa two winters back. She’s a mad wee lesbo & a founder member of the hippies that first came to Paradise, ten years ago. Arriving with her I’d felt like royalty, & this time, arriving without her, was no different. The Indians here who run the restaurants & beach huts are proper sound people, & all of them have shown me a strong familial warmth. We are staying in a large round hut that stands at the far southern pioint of the delicious beach, & is in fact the last hut in Gokarna. Me & Charle have matresses on level areas hewn from the rock, seperated by this main mountain range painted white. Fee has slung up her hammock from the central pole, & sleeps in its lazy arc like lavae in a split cocoon. It has been great getting to know Fee – she lives in Cornholm, a 6-mile hike over the Redrose moorland borders from my dad’s pad in Burnley. This also puts her within a late-night drunken walk home from the women’s disco in Hebden Bridge, Britain’s top party destination for lesbians.

The whole island is about 6k-3k square, half of which is luscious jungle & the other rough red scrubland peppered with black volcanic rocks. The coastal strip is dotted with coves, from the huge boob-shaped expanse of Om Beach, to the quietitude of Half-Moon Beach. They are fill’d with scantily-clad ladies, hung like flocks of the golden fleece, daring argonauts to pluck them as we pass. The beaches spread out from Gokarna town, one of the holiest spots in India. Yestreday, after following Fee through half-lost paths in te ejungle, we came across the town & its wonderful water-ghat which I’d missed last time. Sat on the steps were four young Brahmin adepts, knelt cross-legged, their right hand on the guy in front of them’s shoulder, & all four were repeating, word-by-word, the song-chant of their bearded teacher. A very amazing scene.

I’d swam to Half Moon today from Paradise, with an Israeli lady called Suree, who proudly states her age as 38 & a half. Her Jewishness is apparent in both her bisuness acumen – renting out properties sends her round the world – & her nose. She is a very warm lass to be around, smoking weed & playing chess furiously. So I played her, beat her & agreed to become her teacher, Karate Kid style. Today’s lesson involved a kilometer swim round the green warm waters that fringe the coast – she was third best backstroke swimmer u-15s in Israel, apparently – & I was amazed at her practically effortless stroke, especially as she had a plastic bag with chess pieces, board, weed & water tied to her legs. Its great fun swimming with a lady in a bikini, stealing furtive glances of her breasts or watching the watre roll off her sinewy back. At Half Moon the restaurant was being built, a 60-year old landlady smoothing off the cement that gets ruined with each annual monsoon. In fact, most of Paradise is still being built, & its nice to have the place at such an easy pace.

After the chess, the swim back was lovely; doplhins flipping flippers, lone butterflies fluttering over the waves, sea eagles skirmishing above us & out at sea the lightning bolts of a distant storm. Great conditions to write in, with the seawaves accompanying every sound. Being here has chilled me out big time, & what was a couple of weeks ago going to be a furious writing expedition, has now turned out into a sonnet every few days – its gonna be good to digest the food, like these wicked coconut lassis I seem to be addicted to. After getting over the initial shocks, even Charlie’s starting to mellow out & is smitten with the sheer gorgeousness of the place…

Gokarna
14/11/10

VII: Bamboo Massage

Not so long ago I always stood up to bullies – it was a Lancashire principal instilled in me at a young age – hence me spending most of my chemistry lessons outside Mr Mansfield’s classroom. Anyhows, two months ago I was at a festival in East Lothian, stood up to the local steroid-addl’d bully of Haddington & got a smack in the puss to show for it. The festy owner decided to press charges on my behalf & I guess I should be in court as a witness at some point in the future. I even got ‘victim of crime’ material thro’ the post. Unfortunately I’m now in India, which throws a bit of a spanner into the British wheels of justice – I guess they’ll have to wait ‘til I’m back.

So, I’m just about to leave Paradise Beach, when I go to check on my bill at Muli’s restaurant. Suddenly my two bottles of rum had turned into 4, I disputed the fact & on doing so was thrust into a hornet-swarm of threats, including bamboo massages & my severed hands being thrown about the beach. At first I stood up to him, saying ‘go on then & do your worst,’ kinda stuff – then remembered mi smack in the puss, the fact he’d just killed his wife & it was only £1.50 for god’s sake. So I paid up, which was good really, cos it means I can go back.

So, me & Charlie left Gokarna… he hadn’t gone down too well with the hippies & I’ve been urged to return without him soon – but fate has some strange twists for me & Charlie yet, I am sure. We caught a train to South Goa for the ridiculous price of 15 rupees, & all of a sudden, one & a half hours later, we were in the Palolem/Patnem area. Charlie immediately lost his phone on arrival, total nightmare for the lad & with it lost footage of my argument with Muli. To cheer Charlie up I took him to a certain chemist in Goa where I’d scored some K myself a couple of years back. The same folk still ran it & before you know it charlie was queuing for about an hour to buy a metal tin & some candles. The rest of the night’s a bit of a blur, but I did manage to swagger into this wicked beach bar, blag the owner Raj for a Saturday night set, play some dodgy disco (which went down very well) & afterwards going racing around in rickshaws with two 23-year-old English lassies, interspersed with dips in the sea – they’d jut arrived you see. The rest of the Goa-Glam set ladies frown’d on their straggly hair & lack of make-up, but I just found them cuter.

That was in Palolem, a mile-long chain of restaurants & bars which at night become one multi-coloured ribbon of neon light. 4K to the south is my beloved Patnem, a magic little beach where the days laze by & seem about 75 percent English. The waters, tho’ cloudy, are silkily dive-in-able; warm & wet 24 hours a day. On the beach, there’s a herd of about 20 cows. On the back road near the beach there’s another herd, haunting the rubbish dump for snacks. In my head the two herds are the Montagues & Capulets of Romeo & Juliet, & there are two star-crossed lovers in their midst – there’s gonna be a bloody goring I tell you that.

This morning I went to sort my hangover out, met this lass who looked proper rough – like I felt – & invited her for chai & ended up growing ‘close.’ Friendships bloom & blossom in an instant when ya traveling – especially in a place like Patnem. Anyhows, there’s a good chance she’ll make up the third party on this house I’ve discovered here – you can take a three bedroom pad – with kitchen – a wee stroll form the beach for nine pounds a night total – 600 rupees. When people pay about 750 for a simple beach hut, its a done deal really. So it looks like I’ll be in Goa for a month or so… could be fun

Patnem
21/11/10

 

VIII: S.O.S

There was an episode of Eastenders a few years back – I remember it distinctly – when Alfie Moon turn’d up at the square at the beginning, & by the end of it was behind the bar of the Queen Vic. A similar thing has just happened to me. By a blend of timing, tenacity & sheer front, I am now a Goa DJ. There are two venues in south Goa that host the silent discos that allow the Goan rave tradition to continue. At one venue there are three channels going on at once, & at the other – the Alpha Bar – there are two. Next Thursday I will be sharing a channel with this sound New Zealand fella I’ve met – & getting paid fifty quid for the privelige of playing my own disco tunes to 300 punters, half of which will be birds in varying degrees of hotness.

I’ve settled reyt well into Patnem, buzzing about on my scooter in the mornings, finding idyllic spots to compose my Indiad sonnets, then spending the day relaxing, swimming & messing about in the giant adult playground that is Goa. It reminds me of the Shelleys/Byron mentality as they lived in Italy, something which has always inspir’d my life. Being here has echoes of when the Shelleys hit Bagnia di Lucca & declared it quite sardonically to be full of the English. Palolem & Patnem form a little colony of constantly changing ex-pats. Its kinda fun, tho, especially as we outnumber the Australians. It’s the Ashes y’see, & I’ve been loving waking up at about 7am, switching on the TV & settling down to chai & breakfast wishing the boys well Down Under.

Next to where we live is a restaurant called Capital, an organic affair, where the top djs & party organizers meet every day. This is how I got my leads to the Alpha Bar – some of them were keen to hear my disco, but I hit a brick wall of apathy with their own disco dj, especially when I declared that most disco was dodgy. However, he had the decency to point me in the right direction & I found the Alpha Bar – an open-air affair with great aesthetics & a stage. After a few business –like chats with the boos, sat on chairs drinking chai & arguing over prices like any other Indian transaction, I pulled the thing off. God bless Saraswathi!

The family we are staying with are lovely. There is a wee woman called Antonetta – they are Christian – whose husband passed away only in September. She is regurlaly bring us food & is as sweet as a button. She has two sons in their twenties – Joel & James – who seem happy to have me, Charlie & our dreadlocked female friend staying with them. We have the majority of this rather large villa, while she stays in a shack outside it & the boys sleep in the last room. The house is set in quite spacious grounds, where a pig, two dogs & a family of crows all vie for our scraps. Joel’s cool, & took me & Charlie on a fishing expedition two nights back – we caught some eel, which the new Gordon ramsey – Charlie – cooked up & instantly declared to be too bony & never again. Even so, both mine & Charie’s cooking is increasing in quality every day. We basically drive up into Chaudi – the nearest town – shop for fish, veg, chicken, fruit & spices & ask Antonetta what to do with tem.

I’ve also met an old mate. I was sitting in a chai shop when I heard ‘I think I know you’ – I turned round & there was Danish Rita – she used to see my mate Baldy – clutching her new born baby. It tunrs out shes married now & has two kids, & has the ability to heal people through her hands with ‘the light.’ Her husband is cool, despite not having a drink in ten years, & its been lovely getting to know them. It turns out they love Thiruvannamali – the place where I began translating the Kural two years ago – & are hoping to move there.

Time in this little bubble of pleasure is flying – as was I the other day when I learnt the lesson that drink driving is fine if ya going slow, but drinking, driving & smoking charas is a definite no-no. I almost ran into this group of Indians – not touching one mind – when all of a sudden each began clutching mythical broken shoulders & screaming in agony. Last night I saw one of ‘em, who declares he’s been to hospital, it cost him 6000 rupeees & he’s complained to the police – apparently he took my photo & registration number – if I give him the 6000 rupees he’ll take back the complaint. ‘Mate, I’m from Burnley,’ I replied – he didn’t understand what I meant, but he got the intent – you can’t blag a blagger, end of. I mean, I’m a top Goa Dj now & I’ve only got Kylie Minogue’s ‘I Should be so Lucky’ on my ipod.

Patnem
2/12/10

IX: Tinky Disco

There’s something about being a DJ which is an aphrodisiac for the ladies. Last night was the official debut of Alpha Bar’s Silent Noise night – the flyer says Palolem’s premier outdoor nightclub. It was wicked actually, a really lovely space illuminated by purple laser beams. Earlier in the day I’d been handing out said flyers along the beach – a great way to get chatting to folk actually. Come 8.30 I was the opening act, & for two hours played mi tunes loud thro’ the speakers before the 10.30 watershed when Goa tunrs its music off. Then the headphones come into play & as the venue filled up people began dancing. I couldn’t tell if they were dancing to mine or the guy next to me. He was a nob actually, proper DJ ego, which I laid into big time. I think it was something to do with the 5-rupee sachets of 80 cl whiskey I’ve discovered – that 8p for a treble.

My compadre is this New Zealand lad – a good kid called James – who followed my disco with some New Zealand drum & bass – its not like jungle or owt, & doesnt sound like someone kicking a drum kit down the stairs, & we complemented each other finely. It was great to see folk dancing & having a good time, & singing along to the classics I squeezed in among the disco. Because its all silent, its a bit like Weatherspoons with everyone having epileptic fits – the only music one can hear is the cricket opera from the surrounding jungles.

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After my set I was ‘pulled’ by this hot Dutch lady, & after a skinny dip at dawn I woke up by her on silky white sheets at her mate’s gorgeous Portuguese villa. ‘So do you have a boyfriend at home?” I asked – it turns out shes married. Apparently she’s never done it before or ever will again – it was a lot of pressure to be a charming young plaything actually. Still, proper funny. I read her a little Keats & sang a song or two like a proper cavalier servente. She’s also a top film-maker, highly respected in Holland & beyond, & with the cutest english accent I’ve ever heard. If this is what happens when ya a DJ I’m gonna think about packing in the poems!

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Back at the ranch its just me & Charlie now. Fim went to Gokarna on Wednesday & the house feels a little empty. Despite starting his book about life as a London ketemine dealer, & the football games we’re playing with the kids at the school next door to us – with Charlie wearing his 1966 england world cup shirt – Charlie’s getting itchy feet. With my Dj mission in Patnem ending on a high, we’re gonna move on to North Goa.

Patnem
10.12.10