Category Archives: Wintering

XII: Admiral Akbar

How r ye doing mi old landlubbers? Just got off the ol’ boat from the Andamans & ahm tryin’ to shake off me sealegs – wobblin’ about all over the place I be.’ Just when I thought it was gonna be a pleasant voyage across the Bay of Bengal, who would arrive at the quayside? That’s right, the dudes with the liquid acid. I didn’t take theirs tho’, I took a drop (licked from the top of my hand) of Steve from Buxton’s & had a jolly trippy time exploring my ship, the MV Akbar. The Westerners were apartheided from the Indians & we had a huge bunk class amidst the pipes that threaded thro’ the bowels of the ship. It was painted Kendal green & with all the ropes & rigging seem’d like a giant Jungle Jims.

Day two of the voyage started off mellow, reading in my hammock as it swung to the ships swaying, so I thought I’d try a bit of the opium again. The voyage was slowly turning into one massive mash-up as the only option from hanging out in the cramp’d & claustrophobic deck was getting wreck’d – a choice most people made. After sharing some opium with this guy, he whipt out a bottle of ketamine (100 rupees any Indian chemist) & cooked it up right there in the bunk. I tried a line & this turn’d out to be rather erroneous as I had my first chundering whitey of the tour…

I recover’d from the mess my mind was in & had a much smaller line of Ketamine which turn’d out to be wiser as I then had a floaty few hours watching the ship scythe through the midnight sea. About 3 AM this morning the boat stopp’d & I saw we were at the mouth of the Hugli River. Around me ships-lit-up-like-space-stations were oozing thro’ the murky blackness of the night. Come dawn a pilot came to guide us upriver (which took the best part of the day), waving to the bathers on the banks as we pass’d.

So we came to Calcutta, a city virtually sweating humidity, a kind of permanent light mist hanging in the air. Tonight I find myself in a ‘posse’ with four cute Australian girls & two Austrian guys (one nice, one Nazi), taking over a corridor in a hotel. It feels strange again to be dwelling amidst the sensory assault of a crazy Indian city after the serene seclusion of Andaman. But I’m here now & I won’t see another beach til Bombay, so I’d better get used to it…

12/03/2002
Kolkata

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XIII: Another Near-Death Experience

You won’t believe this one. I had spent a buzzin’ couple of days checking out the very London-like Calcutta, including footy in the park & a trip to the races (didn’t bet just watch’d) – plus a very pleasant time with the three single Oz girls bare-chested on ketamine in a hotel room. However, I am a poet, & last Thursday morning I decided to take a trip to Plassey (xxiii), 150K north of here to check out the battlefield where Clive won Britain her first important slice of Raj cake. It was a cool trip & I hired a cycle rickshaw to show me what was left of any features of the field, all spent underneath a hot & shimmering sun. I’ve hit the Gangeatic plane now, & all one can see is alluvial flatlands at every turn. After a couple of hours pottering & musing on the dark dragonflies that darted hither & thither, my guide dropp’d me off at the bus stop where I hopp’d on a bus to Murshidabad, the capital of Clive’s opponent in 1757, the Nawab of Bengal. I noticed the driver was a bit reckless, but this didn’t phase me as I’ve gotten used to the crazy roads & nothing has happen’d… until now. I was happily cruising along in the middle of one of those days that makes life worthwhile when I black’d out. Regaining consciousness several hours later I found myself in a hospital ward, cover’d in blood & surrounded by my fellow passengers – some hook’d up to drips, moaning & in a pretty bad way. The fuckin’ bus had smash’d head on into a truck!

I took stock of my wounds… a face cover’d in minor scratches from flying glass (even my pockets had glass in them), two deep cuts to the temple (which still throbs painfully) & a completely fuck’d right shoulder. The hospital was pretty dire, & of course I have no insurance, so after blagging a sling I snook out the back (a burly security guard wouldn’t let me leave by the front) & caught a train to historical Murshidabad.  My first attempt at finding a hotel room failed – I was so tatty & torn & bloody they wouldn’t let me in. I was luckier the second time – a grotty pad in run-down place, I found a room & basically slept for 40 hours out of 48 – minor concussion I think. I ate my first food in two days last night & decided to head back to Calcutta to find a doctor as the one in Murshidabad couldn’t speak English & just gave me these drops – which are no good for a suspected fractured/dislocated shoulder.

I caught the 6am train back this morning, which took 5 hours. En route I spoke to a geezer. It turns out the crash was big news & there had been two fatalities. My second near-death experience in a week – I hope these fuckin things don’t come in threes! After a couple of days R&R I was feeling better ‘til I hopp’d in a rickshaw pull’d solely by a man who managed to find every pothole between the station & my hotel. However I’ve landed now & the geez on the train has given me the numbers of a couple of good doctors, so that’s tomorrows plan. Tonight, however, my favorite of the Oz girls (who are still around) is coming to mine with her weed to watch satellite TV & nurse me thro’ my pain (hopefully naked but for a very skimpy apron)

17/3/2002
Calcutta

XIV: I Can See Dead People

 

I’m not dead, which is pretty fly if you ask me. The doc in Calcutta said its muscle damage & a dislocated shoulder, gave me a sling & some medication & I have recently felt a little better. The headaches have gone & I’m startin’ to get back into the swing of things. It’s been pretty weird the past week or so as I’ve been full-on zombiefied & it’s not that appealing a thought when you realise you are ten thousand miles from home in the middle of a crazy country like India.

After three days in Calcutta being nurs’d by one of the Oz birds (unfortunately my libido had completely disappeared in the smash, so no action – but she did wash all the blood from my hat) I got on a train to Varanasi. I am never gonna complain about the English network again. My journey across those endless alluvial flatlands took 20 hours, it seem’d to stop and wait 20 minutes at every minor station & even a few that didn’t exist. But I got here early yesterday morning & boy am I impress’d.

I took my first glimpse of the Ganges as the train roll’d over it on its way to the station… a breathtakingly romantic river, cushion’d in a hazy mist & flank’d by some of the most gorgeous phantasie buildings I have ever seen. After being rickshaw-whisk’d to a hotel I took a stroll thro’ the city’s narrow streets – very Italian. Varanasi is the holiest site in India & there are temples at ev’ry turn. Also, if you die here you are known to be bless’d & this brings me on to one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. At one of the Ghats corpses are draped in silk & flowers & placed on funeral pyres of bamboo bier. Their souls fly to the sky, their ashes sprinkle in the Ganges & their bones return to the soil – very trippy.

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I found a much cheaper hotel today, & have unpack’d… my library lines the shelves, my weed is looking good & there are monkeys masturbating at my window. I think I’ll stay here a few more days as you can hire boatmen to row you up & down the river which sounds perfect to do some writing, lounging around a boat with some nice charas & a pencil. Tho’ a place of death, the place is also full of life – from the water buffaloes that wander up & down the riverbanks, to the huge snakes hanging from the old geezers necks. However, unlike many of the hippies I don’t feel exactly ‘comfortable’ here, so I’ll soon head up to the mountains before turning south for the trip thro’ Delhi & the desert to Bombay – where I’ll be taking a plane home on April 17th, which is just enough time for an ecstasy-fuell’d whistle stop tour of the UK before arriving in Burnley to see Gazza score the goal that clinches automatic promotion.

Varanasi
23/3/2002

XV: High

Hi… I’m high…up in the Himalayan foothills. Just got here & my shoulder is still fuckin’ killin’ after some hard, bumpy travl’in… but I’m getting’ ahead of myself. Varanasi was cool, one day I got a boatman to row me up & down the Ganges while I skinn’d up & wrote a sonnet about the birth of Buddhism, which happened under a tree here round these parts. It was pretty special til we drifted past the burning ghats & the smell got up my nostrils. Another incident sticks in my mind. It began when a young monkey got struck by a car. Suddenly there was a huge kerfuffle as all his tribe turned up to rescue him, stopping the traffic for a good thirty minutes! Finally, my last night in Varanasi was spent watchin DVD’s on an Amstrad green monitor – very weird indeed.

I took another massive train ride (8 hours) to Lucknow, where I was soon book’d into a plushish hotel & wandering about the ruins of the Residency, epicentre of the great Indian Mutiny in 1857 (xxiv). The next day I caught a sleeper train to the mountains. The gauge is narrower in the north, meaning less space in the carriages – we were pack’d up like sardines in a Kwik Save tin, mate! This morning I had to travel by cycle rickshaw & jeep to Naini Tal. It was cool entering the Himalayas, when all of a sudden the plains gave way to lofty peaks – a mixture of English fells & Alpine heights. After another 45K we arrived in Naini Tal; it is like the inside of an ancyent volcano, with a lake & surrounded in forest.  I’m not gonna be too active, no treks or anything, on account of my injuries, but I’m gonna go on a trip to gain a glimpse of the Himalayas at a place called Almora. By coincidence the guy who I bought the liquid acid off on the Calcutta boat is gonna be there. Now that is interesting…

Naini Tal
29/03/2002

XVI: Mountain Stuff

So the old lady has popp’d it at last – I knew I should never have left the continent. An England without the Queen Mum will be like an England without spam!

Got to Almora yesterday, but no sign of the acid, tho’ that’s probably a good thing. I left Naini Tal following the Holi Festival. After taking myself on a walk round the delightful lake, I was persistently assaulted by paint splattering Hindus. They would wish me a happy Holi then proceed to throw paint dust over me. To top it off, the kids would throw water on me as I passed their house. These are no conditions to compose poetry in, so I set off the next morning. However, I got my revenge by throwing water from my balcony on the kids next door to the hotel – great fun.

The Himalayas are weird. As soon as the sun drops behind a cloud or mountain the temperature plummets. By night it reaches as low as 13 degrees! I’ve had to shell out for a jumper, but it’s OK as I’ll be home soon & I’ll need it. Also, I’ve only got a pair of sandals now so I’ll probably have lost a toe or two by the time I get back – if anyone comes across some spare shoes I’m a size eleven.

The bus from Naini Tal wound me further & further into the Himalayas, & after a couple of hours I won my first glimpse of the mountains & my first real snow since Xmas. They are very cool indeed, rising out of the foothills & reaching for the heavens – a sight to wonder at. The valley mist soon reclaims the skies so you can only see them in the morning, but I think I’ll take a trip closer to them one day this week. I’m in Almora now, & it’s off-season at the moment (it gets busy in the summer when the rest of India tops 40 degrees), so I’ve got an entire hotel to myself. For 150 rupees I’ve got a double bed, colour TV, my first towels since England & a great view of the mountains – perfect poetic conditions.

31/03/2002
Almora

XVII: More Mountain Stuff

So I found the guy with the liquid acid. Didn’t take any tho,’ didn’t need to. Nine kilometers above Almora on a ridge nestles the hamlet of Kasa Devi, a true poetic paradise, the blooming spring enough to bring on my hay fever. I trawled up there on an expedition in a jeep & stumbled upon a hideaway for serious Western smokers. Some guys have been here for years! It turns out this is where the geezer who became the Beatles Guru is from & he used to bring them up here back in ‘66. There’s one good reason why – marijuana grows in the street. It’s true! I’m just walking around checking out the view & stumbling across ten thousand pounds worth of ganja crop. It’s crazy! The Females aren’t cultivated so they are not full of bud, but it’s still an awesome sight. No wonder the Baba sold me a bag for 10 rupees back in Naini Tal. I stayed a couple of days up in Kasa Devi, sharing a house with some dudes I met on the boat. It’s all very chillin’, surrounded by breathtaking views – especially early in the morning when the five peak’d Nanda Devi range – the highest mountain claim’d by the British Empire – is resplendent in all its towering, snow-capp’d glory. I hired an Agatha Christie book for 10 rupees, bought 10 grams of charas for 2-pound-fifty & chill’d out in the sun. The one drawback was the chilly nights. My housemates had all the gear, including thermal socks, where all I had were sandals & a hammock for a blanket.

Came back down to Almora on the 4th, with one of the guys in tow. Book’d in to the same hotel as before & we had a real lad’s day. Beer, weed, two Champions League matches & pool. There is a cool snooker place in town with two swish baize tables & our playing pool on a full sized snooker table led to quite a crowd watchin’ the games. Despite my fuck’d shoulder (the exercise actually did it some good – 60% heal’d) I won 2-0, the third game being abandon’d because we were too stoned. Caught a sleeper bus straight to Delhi last night & got in about 5. It has taken til now (11 am) for the sun to break thro’ the clouds of smog that hang over the city. I’ve taken a reasonably starr’d room (200 rupees) for tonight but move into a cheaper one tomorrow (100 rupees). There are a couple of things I want to see here, being all the British shit at New Delhi & the ruins of Tuqluquabad. Apparently the capital is thick with thieves so wish me & my wallet luck.

06/04/2002
Delhi

WINTERIN’ (2006-07)

EPISTLE III

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Winterin’

September 2006 – May 2007

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I – Rocking & Roland
II – Zut Alors
III – Internationalist
IV – Stoned Immaculate
V – Desert Ranger
VI – A Narrow Escape
VII – Bundi Bindi
VIII – Hari Rama & His Magic Karma
IX – Taj Mahal
X – Nearly Home
XI – Fanny & Medusa
X – Marettimo Merivigliosa
XI – When Glenda Fell off her Chair
XII – Sicilian School
XIII – Mafialand
XIV – Maltese Falcons
XV – Gonzo Gozo
XVI – Maltese Postcard
XVII – Scouseland
XVIII – A New Home

I: Rocking & Roland

Basking in the Basque country at the moment. It’s a bit like North Wales; with an independant streak & a crazy language full of K Z X & G.  I wing’d my way here over the dusty sierras, by the majesty of the Pyrenees, very tranquilo for my coming adventuring. After checking out Britain, the Baltics, Holland & central-eastern Europe I feel that only the dusky continental south-west remains to complete the picture. So I landed in Vittoria – classy shops & bars, clean streets & not a smelly kebab shop in sight. Spent my first night in a hotel & wandered round the old city, a fair place indeed, where kings & popes have slept & Wellington won a famous victory way back in 1813. English is hardly spoken here & my Spanish is terrible. However, I did get an e-mail off my very fluent girlfriend, Glenda.

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Glenda in Scotland Street, from where we will be moving out of soon

A few years ago she had spent a cocaine-fuell’d couple of years in Peru & was now fluent. However, she was winding me up a bit & on one occasion I was trying to flirt with a bonny local lass, but Glenda exacted her pre-emptive revenge. I ended up saying things like ‘Desculpa mi, soy un homosexual, no me gusta mujers’ (excuse me, I`m gay and don`t like girls), ‘teinnes un coolo gordo’ (you`ve got a fat arse) & ‘estoy feliz y contenta y tengo una novia bonita quien me estraynya ‘(I am happy and content and have a beautiful girlfriend who misses me). I guess birds are a bit like Big Brother – eyes everywhere!

This morning I set off east on a seven euro coach, coursing like a river thro’ an oval shaped plain, peppered with little villages & their barn-like churches. ‘Good cavalry country,’ I thought as I read thro’ an internet print-out on those Napoleonic battles of the Pyrenees, when Wellington kicked the French out of Spain. An hour or so later I arrived in the tall city of Pamplona (high rise after high rise), famous for its bull-chasing tomato-throwing locals at the annual festival. Spent a couple of hours dining in the grassy centre of a massive starry fortress, a legacy of its vital strategic position at the foot of the Pyrynean passes. Idled the time by reading the Song of Roland. It is the French epic poem & the chief reason why I have come to this part of the world. It tells the story of the nephew of Charlemagne (Roland) & his death at the hands of the moors. It was primarily written as a piece of crusader propaganda – but in this world of post 9/11 it still holds great relevance – as well as being cool as fuck! The poem & my path led me out of the city on another coach which began rising into the green mountains. I was surprised to find that every now & again the terrain would flatten out into farm country, not what I had imagined at all.

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I finally arrived in the religious hamlet of Roncesvalles. There is a large abbey & a very pretty panorama, all refreshed by a cool mountain air. It is the second port of call on the pilgrim pathway called the Camino de Santiago, after it begins in France. Apparently Saint James’ bones are in Galicia (N. Spain) & Europeans would flock down this valley towards them in the medieval age. Today, the route is still popular with hikers, with places to stay along the road from as little as 3 euros a night. I paid 5 & will be sharing my sleep tonight with about 100 snorers – so wish me luck!

Roncesvalles
26th September

 

II: Zut Alors!

I suddenly find myself surrounded by the French? Luckily this part of the world is still Basque Country; marked by its curious Union Jack like flag of green, white and red. I arrived in the land of the old enemy a few days ago, after traversing the pass of Roncesvaux. At the head of the pass, when you can see the plains of France beyond the mountain valleys below, stretching into the milky distance, I rested for a while and read thro’ the Song of Roland. I ran thro’ the pages sat by the monument which reputedly marks the battlefield. Thirty kilometers of idle forest pottering later I had walked down into France, picking up some duty free gin for five euros at the border. Spent a couple of nights in the fortress city of St Jean Pied Du Port; a charming castle-dominated place nestled at the foot of the Pyrenees – like Kendal is the gateway to the Lakes. To take advantage of the cheap accommodation, I continued my pretence at being a Catholic Pilgrim, including a trip to church.

When it comes to jumping trains in Europe, The Austrians are Nazis, the Dutch are porn stars, the Italians are asleep and the French, however much it pains me to say, are the perfect gentlemen! In France, you are supposed to punch your ticket at a machine before boarding, and if you don’t you get fined. However, knowing I could plead ignorance with ‘Je suis Anglais,’ I didn’t get a stamp, & once I had arrived in Bayonne, via the last rippling rises of the Pyrenees & the valley of the jade river Nive, I went to the ticket office and reimbursed my eight euro ticket, saying that I had walked instead… FORMIDABLE!

I am now in Anglet, with the Atlantic in my ears and the scent of forest in my nostrils. I have hit surf country, the Newquay of France, and the place is full of bronzed, long haired, intellectually-challenged dudes from all corners of God’s globe. It’s really relaxing watching them have a pop, with the mountains of Spain and the Atlantic horizon as a backdrop. I was told a story about the place… a couple of summers back a South American boat was halted by customs… resulting in thousands of packets of coke being tossed overboard. These would then start to drift ashore right into the middle of the surfers.

Four kilometers around the wave-swept coast lies the grandiose millionaire’s playground of Biaritz… it cost me thirty euros just to ask someone where the toilets were! Four K in the other direction are the tall buildings and narrow atmospheric streets of Bayonne. The whole area is remarkably cool and now my mind has caught up with my body I am beginning to settle in nicely, musing on my coming sonnets, speaking schoolboy French, wandering the forest, challenging the waves & knocking back the cheap red wine.

Anglet
30th September

III: Internationalist

Left glitzy Biaritz a few days ago, my plane climbing over the sea with the twin-spired cathedral of Bayonne glittering heavenwards in the distance. I landed in Dublin, staying with Mike, a cool guy I met on my mission here a couple of years back, whose band came to play at our JockStock festival on Glenda’s dad’s land. Also with me was, of course, Glenda. It’s quite poetic that before I fly to India, & after my trip to Roncesvalles, she meets me in Dublin. Full of PMT of course, but that’s the story of my life!

So we spent a couple of jolly days in Irish transit before my journey to Delhi began, watching an emphatic Burnley victory away at Norwich in a Dublin pub with a few of our inbred Norfolk cousins. This has given me a positive buzz for the tour. Next up was a Hare Krishna festival just a few streets away in the vibrant Temple Bar District. There was Indian dance, some amazing swordsmanship from an Estonian devotee, followed by two twins perfuming the most masterful (& painful-looking) yoga I have ever seen! Then came the speaker, who could waffle on about reincarnation & karma for hours, but thankfully spared the pin-dropping audience after forty minutes, when the mad dash for the free curry turned into a Hare Krishna rave! By the way, the Krishna’s don’t advocate eating meat, getting drunk, gambling & casual sex – so that’s me out then.

Glistening from this brush with Indian culture I said farewell to Glenda & walked the seven miles to the airport. En route there were several vantage points which afforded a splendid view of the Dublin sprawl, with the sea to the left, & the two giant, red, upturned tablelegs that mark the Docks. Behind stood the misty Wicklow hills & to my right the central Irish plains stretching as far as the Atlantic.

Flying back to evergreen England & Stanstead, I had found two weeks of travel had sharpened up my instincts, & the train jump into London was a doddle. Spent the night at Duggie’s (cheers pal) before meeting Charlie for a few beers down the heavy bass-bars of Brixton. Turned up steaming at Heathrow on the last tube, caught a couple of hours of sleep, then caught the first plane out that the morning. The flight to India took me first to Milan for a spot of pizza-fuell’d transit, with a blanket of fog crawling & hugging the fertile plains of the Po.

Eventually we were dropping into Delhi – another galaxy of stars in another corner of the universe. One crazy, cow-dodging taxi ride later I was booking into a hotel for less than two quid. It’s not exactly the Hilton, with a bucket for a shower & an army of ants dragging away the crisps. Anyhow, it was only for one night & later on I’m off into Rajasthan on a night bus. But first I am hiring a rickshaw for the day to show me the sites & see how much it will cost to get my mate Charlie’s teeth fixed – its five grand in the UK & just gotta be cheaper out here. The last time I was in Delhi I was recovering from a bus crash with a dislocated shoulder, feverish with salmonella & with palm-sized mosquito bites on my legs, but today I am healthy, four years wiser, & well up for whatever this madhouse of a country can throw at me…

Delhi
5/10/2006