Welcome to Cairo!

You arrive in a strange new country with a wad of bank notes and nothing much else. You’re desperate for the toilet and thankfully an airport urinal relieves your pain. After your business is finished you decide to wash your hands – it’s the civilized thing to do after all – and as you look around for a way to dry up you see a kindly Arab man holding out a paper towel. What do you do?

A/ Wipe your hands on your pants – aint nobody handing me a towel.
B/ Thank the kind Arab gentleman before you, take the towel and dry your hands before leaving.
C/ Unroll your pile of new currency – realising you only have large notes – then throw the lowest note in the man’s face, running from the room and losing 10 English pound in the process.
D/ Dry your hands, calmly shake one of your valuable notes into the man’s hand and strut from the room with a wink.

If you answered D then you are well on your way to happiness, the man is satisfied, he got his money and you are content because you managed to leave the bathroom without making a scene.

Continue reading Welcome to Cairo!

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Stuck In Casablanca

Our flight is cancelled, rescheduled. We’re stuck in Casablanca for one more day, which is 24 hours more of excruciating pain.

Thirty seconds in Casablanca is long enough to make even the most positive of people depressed – so it’s no surprise that after 3 days I want to strangle my friend. So little is there to see in Casablanca that you search inside yourself for beauty and look to others for stimulus. Unfortunately this analysis forces you to notice that your travel partners once endearing qualities are now actually TOTALLY FUCKING ANNOYING!

Remember the way your friend used to say funny, random things out loud? Remember how you used to laugh? Those funny things no longer amuse you, your friend is now just talking aloud, saying random phrases – babbling like an idiot. Why wont he just shut the fuck up? Tell him to shut the fuck up. Just do it. Go on. Might make the day go by quicker. “Shut the fuck up!” “Fuck you, you twat!” “No. Fuck you!” “Fuck YOU” “FUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCK YOU!” After 10 minutes the words “fuck” and “you” have no more meaning and you both stop speaking and start sulking. The sulking ends when your friend rebuilds his confidence and starts to talk bollocks again. Then the whole cycle restarts.

The only thing preventing Porter and I from strangling each other is the fact that neither of us snore. If I snored I’ve no doubt I’d wake upon being smothered by a pillow. I’d be happy to die though as upon waking up I’d have still been in Casablanca.

Casablanca sucks away your spirit, you dream of home. You think about your warm comfortable bed, a cup of warm tea with milk, hell even a chav telling me to fuck off would be enough. We search for a little slice of home and one night we stumble across a McDonalds. Porter almost cries with happiness, and I admit I have to struggle back the tears myself. The big mac tastes the same, the fries are just as salty. We sit upstairs at the back of the room and pretend we’re back at home. For 10 minutes we feel like we’re miles away from Casablanca and for the first time in days we don’t want to kill each other.

This is what Casablanca does to you. McDonalds is your saviour. That little yellow M is the thing that gets you through the day.

By the time we walk back to the hotel from McDonalds the streets have sucked away the happiness the big mac has provided for us. As a young man whispers “hash?” into my ear for the 10th time in a minute I feel I’m about to break. Porter hearing the young man whisper starts to whisper quickly into my ear himself, his words flow quickly, one long string of sounds. “Hash-hash-hash. Wansome-hash?” I feel it on the tip of my tongue as he continues, singing the words now. “Wansome-hash? Wansome-hash?” I shout with scorn: “SHUT THE FUCK UP, PORTER!” “FUCK YOU, YOU TWAT!” “NO! FUCK YOU!” We retort, back and forth. The cycle is set and that’s how we spend the rest of our night, no doubt the rest of our time in Casablanca, until we find another little yellow M.

Silence and Tears

When people see my briefcase and suit they often think my job is glamourous. It isn’t. My job is to sell knives, travelling door to door, city to city, all year round and as I make my way around the country I’ve learnt to savour every little pleasure I can. From my car’s hot air, that brushes my face on winter mornings, to the many hours of driving happily wasted on day-dreams and fantasies. But the thing I most enjoy about travelling is the food. Every day there’s a new restaurant and every day a totally new meal. I’ve had a thousand different margarita pizzas on the road, cooked by a thousand different chefs, but you know what? None of them have been the same. They’ve been similar, but always unique. Some have more cheese, some more tomato, one place had no cheese or tomato at all. I wasn’t angry though, I enjoy surprises.

Continue reading Silence and Tears

3 Act Self-Help

3 Act Structure and How To Use It In Life

When you start to learn about stories and how to make them, one of the first things you’ll encounter is the 3-act structure. Although you may not know the ins and outs of 3-act structure, we all learn a little about it at some point in our lives. Remember in school when your teacher told you to write a story and she said “remember, all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end!” Well, believe it or not, that was 3-act structure:

Act 1: Beginning
Act 2: Middle
Act 3: End

Continue reading 3 Act Self-Help

The Problem

I’m a little tipsy. I’ve had a few pints. And I’m walking through the bus station. Smiling.

I don’t know why but when I’m tipsy it’s like I act as a magnet to every other person who’s reality is skewered. It’s like crazy can smell crazy, and everyone knows I can’t think straight.

I walk by a homeless man. He’s lying in a shop doorway, slowly licking a cigarette he’s in the middle of rolling. I’m still smiling to myself when I make eye contact. An invite. He stops licking the cigarette and stares back, shouting up into the doorway “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! CAN YOU SPARE SOME CHANGE!” and I know he’s really saying “you, can YOU spare some change” but by the time he’s finished his sentence I’m no longer looking at him and I’m pretending he’s not there and I can feel his eyes watching me as I walk by.

I sit down in the bus station. Wait for my bus.

I feel guilty. I ignored something in plain sight. A man looked into my eyes, I looked back. Then moments later I pretended he wasn’t there. I feel disgusted with myself. But I don’t go back and give him any change. I’m too ashamed. I wonder why I’m too ashamed to give money to a person in need. He needs the money more than I. But I feel like everyone would look at me, say “look at him, giving money to a homeless person.” I don’t have the guts.

I wallow in self-pity.

Then another man comes over. He wears a cream coloured suit, slightly dusty after what was obviously a good night. The good night is spread on his face in the form of a wide smile, each muscle of his face joins in on the activity.

“When do you reckon the bus is coming?”

I know when the bus is coming. He knows when the bus is coming. There’s a digital sign beside us, telling us when the bus is coming. I humour him anyway.

“About 10 minutes, mate.”

He’s not my mate, but I’m tipsy and he looks like the type of person that would make a good mate. He repeats my answer through his wide grin “about 10 minutes?” and he laughs loudly.

I get caught up in the laugh and I laugh with him, “aye, about 10 minutes!” I say. He laughs again. I laugh again. I’m laughing at a joke I don’t understand, a joke he probably doesn’t understand, but it doesn’t matter because we’re both happy and we’re laughing.

He skulks off a bit to talk with other people. But I know he’ll be back. Jovial people in white suits always come back.

He comes back.

“Hey mate!” he says. I turn to him, we make eye contact, but he says it again, just incase I’m looking through him. “Hey mate! I’ve got a problem.” I don’t say anything, but he knows I want him to continue.

As he tells me his problem he continues to smile, the happiest man alive. “I’ve only gone and got myself two girlfriends haven’t I?!”

He laughs. I laugh. We laugh. “Two girlfriends?! How’s that a problem?!” He laughs again. I laugh again. We laugh again.

“Well” he says “I love ’em both, don’t I!” His grin seems to get wilder, so happy about his problem. I grin back and my moral side speaks up “maybe you should own up?”

Stupid suggestion. He shakes his head. Walks away for a few steps, staring at the ground, mulling over the thought. He paces back “nah, I can’t man. I can’t!” He pleads with me, begs me to give him better advice, the wrong advice.

“How’d you get yourself into this mess?” I wonder aloud.

He runs his hand through his curly grey hair. His mouth still grins but his forehead wrinkles, deep in thought.

Well…she broke up with him didn’t she! Then when he was out the next week. You know, at that pub just around the corner. Just over there. He met the other one didn’t he, and she was amazing man, wasn’t she! Then a few days later his lass rang up didn’t she. Said she might have made a mistake, wanted him back didn’t she. Then he was stuck with both of them wasn’t he.

I sigh deeply. “I think you’ve got to pick one of them over the other, mate.” And he is my mate now.

He doesn’t even let me finish the sentence though. “You don’t understand man..” he brings out his hands, places them in front of him. “You see..” he shakes his right hand “..this one has a great house…” he shakes his left hand “..and this one has a great house.”

He looks at me as though it should make sense, but we both know it doesn’t, he swings his hands back down and sighs. He paces away again, but a presence stays in his place, a piece of energy holds his spot. He jumps back and tries to explain it again.

“You see mate, this type of thing…like…” his eyes dart about as he tries to figure out the words to tell me. “The chances of this happening are like, one hundred thousand to one.”

I tell him. He has to choose. One of them. He has to choose.

He shakes his head, continues to grin. “I can’t choose man. I just can’t. And this whole thing, you know. It tears me apart. In here.” He points to his chest, the grin still wide across his face. But he’s betrayed by his eyes. The eyes tell me the smile is a lie and the eyes turn the grin into a grimace.

I think of what to say, some choice words of wisdom and  but after a few moments he walks away. Gone.

This time he doesn’t come back.

Snow Day

Apparently Eskimos have 248 words for snow. Well, actually, I made up that number, but the whole point is that Eskimos have a frickin load of words for snow.

People throw this statistic around with wonder and admiration, no doubt thinking “those crazy eskimos and their snow.” In actuality Eskimos don’t have 248 words for snow. They have 248 words for snow in different contexts. For instance we call melted snow “water” and of course, so do they. But some idiot decided that water is one of their ways of talking about snow. Who can blame them anyway, they live in snow, they are at one with snow, they bloody love that snow.

I don’t blame them of course, snow is beautiful. The Eskimos (Inuits if you want to be politically correct) understand how beautiful snow is. They make films about it, make music about it and they write books about it. Probably not surprising really, with a language totally based on snow related topics, I guess there’s nothing else to talk about.

As it turns out the Eskimos have a little stat for the English as well, probably one you’ve never heard since you’re not an Eskimo (if you are, I’d like to know how you get wireless in an igloo.) The Eskimos say that “apparently the English have 248 words for breasts” and as it turns out, the Eskimos are right.

So why all this talk of snow? Unless you live under a rock you’ll know that today is a snow day. Even if you did live under a rock you’d probably know about it due to the fact that every person in the UK seems to be an amateur meteorologist. All we talk about is the damn weather, there is no escape. No matter what weather is coming up tomorrow there’ll always be someone around to pucker their lips and say “it’s going to snow tomorrow you know” or “did you hear, heat wave next week” or even just simply shouting “RAIN! RAIIIINNNNNN!” at you.

Never have I woken up in the morning to look out at the world and find to my surprise that the world is covered in snow. More often than not this is because I’ve been reminded of it’s arrival from multiple people, multiple times, days before the event has happened. Quite often I’ll be lying in bed and get awoken by the phone “hello, Dan? It’s me Matthew Beaty. We haven’t spoken in 6 years and I had to trawl the internet for your phone number but I thought you should know something really important: it’s about to snow!” Woah, really! Call back when it’s sunny…oh…and you’re dead. Stop reminding me of the weather, thanks.

And so it snowed and the world was happy, but I was a miserable bastard. Of course the first thing you do on a snow day is the annoying process of making a snowball. Snowballs are fun. Or rather, snowballs are fun to throw at people, but if you’re like me when you eventually get a taste of your own medicine, and a snowball flies full force into your face you’ll go into a week long sulk and refuse to speak to anyone. That’s how I roll.

As I left the house this morning I realised there are stages to snow, written in many an expert snow book, but thankfully you don’t have to buy “Snow – Those Crazy Eskimos Love It You Know!” to find out what these stages are. Instead I shall tell you right now with the power of THE INTERNET.

1. Soft snow stage.
Like candy floss but not as tasty, especially when it’s yellow. So beautiful, I love snow! Woo! I wish it would snow everyday!
2. Crunchy snow stage.
Lovely soft snow has settled, now it gives a lovely crunch when you walk over it and compress it. It’s like walking on biscuits but more romantic. I love snow! It’s so great! WOO!
3. Evil slush stage.
The snow is starting to melt. My feet are getting wet and cold. I hate snow. Why does it fucking snow?! NOBODY LIKES SNOW! GO AWAY YOU DAMN SNOW!
4. Water stage.
Not actually snow but the last stage. Goodbye snow, I shall miss you.

From time to time these stages are interrupted by the dreaded X stage. So named because it’s Xtreme of course. The X stage is random and can happen at any time, day or night. Sub-zero temperatures turn the snow into ice. Ice isn’t snow. Ice is evil! You shall slip, you shall slide, you shall lose your sense of balance and everyone shall laugh at you!

Now though I’m going to tell you a secret. You can replicate the X stage. There’s a certain method with which you can turn crunchy snow into a death slide. Here it is.

1. Find a large piece of path where noone has stood in the snow.
2. Push the snow down all across the path with your foot, savouring the crunch.
3. Slide your foot along the pushed down snow until it is smooth and slippery.
4. Take some snow from elsewhere on the path and sprinkle it across your death trap.
5. Hide a short way away and watch as an 80 year old slips in the snow.

I wouldn’t encourage making one of these so called death slides, I’m a nice guy after all. But if you manage to take down one of your fellow weather-obsessed Englishmen, I wont blame you.

(Yes, I see the irony in hating people that talk about the weather all the time and posting all about the weather, so sue me.)

Random thoughts on life and travel.