Archive for March, 2013


Tienes Una Pluma?

I’m sitting here at the kitchen table in my humble La Molina abode – a tranquil, affluent and very pretty suburb in the mountains surrounding Lima. In front of me is a bottle of Inca Kola, a strangely addictive Peruvian soft drink that tastes a little bit like bubblegum and in my ears are a pair of “Izuum” headphones I purchased for a bargain s/ 9.99 (£2.50). At this precise moment, I am listening to the UB40 classic “there’s a rat in mi kitchen”. While I’ve never actually heard of an electronics brand called Izuum, I’ve also never understood why people will happily shell out hundreds upon hundreds of pounds for a pair of earphones. To me, they’re all much of a muchness and the dulcet tones of Ali Campbell’s voice sound better than ever on my shiny white Izuums. Sadly, I didn’t manage to catch today’s “Hora De Los Beatles” (Beatles hour) on Radio Mágica – a station that puts the likes of Radio 1 to shame due to an admirable policy of not playing any modern day shite.

Now that you have a picture of my surroundings, you should know that there’s not actually a rat in my kitchen. However, there was a scorpion in the bog the other day. Luckily I wasn’t on the throne at the time as if I had been, there would have been no time to pull up my kecks when fleeing the bathroom and everyone in this house would have been subjected to me screaming while my meat and two veg performed a (mini) Linford Christie impression. Just like that episode of Lady Chatterley’s Lover where perennial soft porn actor, Sean Bean, eagerly pursues young Constance through a heavily-wooded thicket (no pun intended).

Strangely, given that recent blogs have tended to focus on the frequency of my bowel movements, there exists a small number of readers who’ve requested that I provide an update of my travels. Although like Gilbert Grape’s mother, I’ve not moved around too much of late, the paragraphs that follow are dedicated to all two of you – I just hope there’s enough content to raise a smile and bring you unquantifiable joy on what I hear is another cold, snowy day back in the motherland.

Today, I had to do some work. While being able to wear shorts, flip-flops and not having to leave the house was nice, “trabajar” came as a shock to the system after three months of being a vagabond. Sadly, finances dictate that I must write a report or two to continue my foreign existence and unfortunately, I can’t claim that I am fleeing persecution in the UK to obtain an extended leave of absence here in Peru. A quick glance at my tax and national contributions over the years and the fact that I am entitled to sod all of off the government (unlike vast swathes of society) would suggest otherwise though. Daniel Price, if you’re reading, can you ensure that when you inevitably reach Number 10, those who work for a living aren’t penalised, while those who can’t be bothered, aren’t able to live the life of riley at the expense of others? Anyway, as I was working, I needed a pen to write something down which meant that I had to do something that I have been desperately trying to avoid – speak Spanish. As Pedro, my Spanish teacher in the UK, only taught me how to obtain camping equipment (wrongly), this always proves difficult. I knew the word for “do you have” (tienes) but crucially, had no idea what a pen was in Spanish. Google told me it was “pluma”, so I coyly uttered the words “tienes una pluma”. Although I did obtain not one, but two pens, I have since discovered that pluma means quill which explains why I was laughed at.

Here’s a picture of me writing my blog:

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Once upon a time, I used to complain about public transportation in Leicester and the uncanny ability of Arriva to charge a small fortune for the privilege of travelling on buses that are never on time. Not anymore. Despite that fact that buses are generally on time in Lima, they are anything but pleasant. In fact, I would much rather pay £3 for a two mile journey from Oadby, land of the drongo, into the idyllic centre of Leicester while being subjected to musical masterpieces like Flo Rida’s hit, “Low”, being played out loud on phones belonging to Burberry-clad cretins. Let me correct myself. There are, in fact, no buses in Lima. Instead, hundreds upon hundreds of minivans built in 1982 zoom around town masquerading as buses while conductors repeatedly and aggressively throw open sliding doors to yell incomprehensible bollocks at would-be passengers. Inside, an average of 14,657 Peruvian sardines contort themselves into a space that would normally be an uncomfortable fit for Warwick Davis. If you’re lucky, you might get to travel on a bus where you can embark and disembark without your nostrils coming into contact with Jose’s armpit, or Conchita’s sweat-drenched bosom. Sometimes, you’ll be able to park your backside on a tiny seat invisible even to electron microscopes that is not bolted to anything secure so that when said minivan drives over a pothole every 0.1275 seconds, you are flung into the personal space of an effeminate hairdresser called Ricardo.

Speaking of disgusting noises (Flo Rida et al), the other day, I awoke to the sound of a neighbour coughing up his guts so loudly that every living creature in a 15 mile radius was shaken from its slumber. Prior to that, my alarm clock was a group of dogs that often decide to bark for no apparent reason at around 6am and another inconsiderate prick who thinks that closing his garage door needs to register a sound 160 decibels more than when Concorde last took off. Noise is a constant irritant here – even the ice cream man (who amusingly has a bike, not a van) possesses what can only be described as a kind of bugle. Drivers honk their horns with alarming regularity and seem to believe that by doing so, the immovable traffic jam will, somehow, miraculously vanish opening up mile after mile of uninterrupted roadway.

Something else that irks me is South American football. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the unparalleled skill, poise and grace the average Latino seems to possess more than the next man. What I don’t appreciate is cheating in football. England might be pretty terrible proponents of the beautiful game these days, but I’m proud that few of our players take to rolling around in mock agony at the slightest of touches. Here, it is commonplace and considered to be an integral part of the game. Just the other day, I watched bitter rivals, Alianza Lima and Universitario, contest “el clásico”. It was anything but a classic as evidenced by a final tally of four red cards and about twenty yellows – none of which were the result of foul play. On one occasion, a Universitario player was tapped on the shoulder and decided that the appropriate reaction was to scream, clutch his face and drop to the floor as if he had been shot by a sniper on the roof. The guy who committed this monstrous act was promptly sent to the stands by a woefully inept referee. To get an idea of the extent that players cheat here, watch the video below. Still, the recent world cup qualifier between Peru and Chile was highly-enjoyable and refreshingly bereft of play-acting.

As I bring this entry to a close I am left wondering why someone can’t employ me to write bullshit. Writing about sport would be nice also. So, if by some strange stroke of misfortune, you’re an editor of a sports magazine/website who has stumbled upon my blog, would you like to take a chance on me? Like John Motson, I bring my own unique and affable style to football commentary. However, instead of wearing a sheepskin coat, I sport a white Panama hat/suit combo, monocle and pocket watch while pointing to things with my cane when reporting on Leicester City’s inability to win games every time I leave the country. Also, if anyone wants to send me some tea bags, HP Sauce or Branston Pickle, I will attempt to break the world record for ruining as many photos as possible by appearing naked in shots of people adopting cringeworthy “look at me I’m a twat” poses in front of Machu Picchu.

PS, I’m actually having a very good time and have no intention of returning any time soon. It just so happens that I don’t want to rub in how good the weather is here, how it is frowned upon for men to do the washing up and how it only costs me £2.50 to have my ever-thinning thatch washed and coiffured.

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I have always hated shopping. I have come to hate shopping in Peru even more. Especially when the task of buying something simple is made extremely difficult by the inexistence of familiar products. Take writing paper as an example. Today, I went to a supermarket called “Wong” in search of a cheap A4 notepad and foolishly assumed that this would be a simple task. It was anything but simple. Horizontal lined paper with a margin and a metal spiral at the side does not, seemingly, exist in Peru. Double and triple lined paper, graph paper, blank paper, paper with Justin Bieber on it and a rather strange, non-standardised size of paper all exist, however. In fact, every imaginable variety of weird and wonderful paper seems to exist, except the kind that most of the world has become accustomed to using. Shopping for writing paper should take approximately one minute. Today, it took me about 45 minutes and even then I baulked at the prices on display. Seven soles (£1.50) was about the most reasonably priced pad I could find. Others were on sale for between four and five times this amount.

While all of this might seem like a highly trivial matter, it was enough to agitate me to the point where I felt it necessary to seek out the section of the shop selling booze. Once again, this was not a simple task as upon leaving the stationery aisle, I was confronted by a bloke dressed as Charlie Chaplin who refused to move out of my way. Given that I a) don’t speak Spanish and b) Charlie Chaplin is mute, it was impossible for me to communicate to him that he needed to yield. Back to the stationery aisle for some more pondering. Eventually, I settled on a pad, albeit an unsatisfactory one (no margin and spiral at the side) purely because I was desperate to leave Wong at this point. My mood did not go unnoticed by the nearby shelf-stacker who looked at me as if to say “buy a pad, stop moaning, and fuck off”. And I did but not before being snubbed by Chaplin on the way out. Standing at the checkout, he felt it necessary to pop a free chocolate into the basket of lady in front and then walk away when he saw me, despite being in possession of many more chocolates. Bastard.

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My shopping woes were not just confined to today. Yesterday, I made the journey into Lima centre to visit a discount electronics shop, only to find it closed on arrival. Similarly, this morning I ordered “desayuno Ingles” (English Breakfast) only to be told it was unavailable. So I ordered something else. That too was unavailable. Right now I am drinking the Chilean wine I bought to overcome the trauma of shopping for stationery.

Back in Lima and sweating like John Leslie. Partly because of the humidity, but also due the existence of millions of insane drivers. Having been a passenger in a car driven by my good friend and holder of the world land speed record between Milton Keynes and Oadby (on the back roads), Jonathan Gorvin, I am no stranger to four-wheeled fear. However, the ride from the airport to Miraflores, where I am now staying, means my bottom now resembles a wind sock – and not for the first time this trip either. Just last week, I once again fell victim to both-barrels-in-the-bathroom (BBB) syndrome – a hideous experience that leaves the sufferer stark bollock naked, sweating and close to tears in the WC after enduring constant exits from both orifices (barrels). The cause? Alcohol. In my case, copious amounts of Pisco, consumed at high altitude, on an empty stomach. No amount of Gatorade, water, pineapple juice and Coca Cola in the mini bar could shift the inevitable, nagging dehydration the next day.

After an extended period of recovery, it was time to fulfil a lifelong ambition and visit Machu Picchu – one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World. Waking at 3am to catch a bus to Ollaytantambo, the departure point for trains to the mountain top city, was predictably unpleasant. I should, however, put this unpleasantness into perspective as I realise my blogs have thus far made my experience in Peru sound well, erm, unpleasant. If truth be told, the early start that day paled into insignificance as the sticky dawn mist gave way to bright sunshine revealing the majesty of these most remarkable of Incan ruins. My words could never do the vista justice, so the picture below will have to suffice.

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Stone walls at Machu Picchu are like curry houses in Leicester – everywhere. Although much of the masonry is undoubtedly astonishing, the yank couple who repeatedly clasped hands and shouted “wow” each time they saw some nifty brickwork made the thought of hurling myself down the soft green slopes and into the muddy river below an extremely attractive proposition. That was until I encountered the Japanese, who absolutely fascinate me. I have often silently pondered just how many units of memory exist on SD cards housed in cameras belonging to the entire Japanese race. If said memory were stacked side-by-side, would it exceed the length of the Great Wall of China? My guess would be yes. Just what is it that compels the Japanese to take photographs of absolutely everything, no matter how bizarre? Picture the scene: There I was, enjoying a tube of Cheese flavoured Pringles and admiring the breath-taking scenery, when a chap unfurling a karate uniform caught my gaze. The chap then donned the uniform and instructed his girlfriend to take photos of him adopting several iconic poses in front of the ruins. Then they swapped places. I just had to take a sly snap – even though I was fearful of being castrated by a perfectly executed kick in the bollocks for showing such disrespect. My punishment was actually severe sunburn as stupidly, I didn’t wear any sunscreen that day and was to spend the rest of the week with a face like a baboon’s arse.

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After Machu Picchu, it was time to make up for time lost due to BBB by embarking on a couple more tours. The first took in several sights in the Sacred Valley and the second was supposed to consist of a whistle stop tour of the city of Cusco. I say “supposed” as despite being scheduled to arrive at 3pm, the bus that was to transport us around the city had still not arrived at 4pm. Vexed, my girlfriend and I decided to ask for our money back, which was to prove an extremely arduous task. Cue another heated argument in Spanish. Determined not to be outdone this time, I chipped in and gave the tour operator some feedback which I think may have consisted of me threatening to remove his computer to sell to passers-by unless he returned our money. 20 minutes and 30 Soles later, I was enjoying a pint of Old Speckled Hen in the nearby Irish pub. Happy days…

Not for long. After taking all of my clothes to the launderette, I then forgot to collect them at the agreed time. By the time I had remembered, the place was closed and I only had a small window of opportunity the following morning to collect and pack everything before a mid-morning flight back to Lima. After hurriedly shoving the lot into my bag in order to get a taxi to the airport in good time, I was then told by a check-in attendant that the flight had been delayed and that I had been sent an email informing me of this. I hadn’t. As such, I whiled away the hours playing Stick Tennis on my phone and subsequently went on to dispatch the likes of Anna Kournikova, Mark Phillippoussis, Carlos Moya and Amanda Coetzer with consummate ease.

Upon our arrival in Lima, I helped a nun retrieve her luggage from the overhead storage bin. If you’re reading, God, in return for my good deed I would appreciate it if you could see to it that I suffer from no more shits, sunburn, mosquito bites, birds crapping on me, mysterious aching shoulders, argumentative Peruvians and laundry being shrunk in the wash.