Friday, January 17, 2014

Tourists versus Travellers

Or rather, me versus travellers. You’re on holiday, I’m on holiday. You might not like your sojourn being reduced to the same level as mine but its an inescapable truth.

Let us begin with some simple definitions:

holiday n time spent away from home for rest or recreation; day or other period of rest from work or studies

tourist n person travelling for pleasure

travel v to go from one place to another, as by car, train, plane, or ship

traveller n person who travels

As you can see, the above definitions apply to both groups yet they, or we, consider one another with contempt.

There was a time when travel was the preserve of the wealthy and adventurous, the children of industrialists with ready made careers and fortunes ahead of them. It is now available to us all and we have become rather tribal about the whole thing.

We no longer set off with great fanfare at The Royal Geographical Society, you can of course but it is much easier embarking from one of a number of provincial airports which are allied to larger towns and cities with little or no discernible link. At least Leeds and Bradford are relatively close but London Luton?

You sneer at my holiday just because I’m choosing comfort, comfort is hugely underrated. It would take a lot of persuading for me to consider swapping a fortnight of comfort for six months in something lifted from the set of Tenko. If you want an authentic experience living like the natives try it in some of the shit holes the UK has to offer, I’m sure there are many people in Merthyr Tydfil, Hull and Salford for example who would happily take your money and let you share their squalor - Britain could well be your oyster.

If you’re so enamoured of travel for the sake of it I can heartily recommend the Circle line and to give it a Bangkok flavour just try it on any weekday at 8.30am with a couple of wheeled cases and a rucksack. No one will speak to you, you’ll feel distinctly alien and sweat will actually spray rather than seep from you.

At the airport you take up too much space in check-in, creating a sort of mini walled city out of luggage whilst sleeping on the floor. This might be acceptable during an eight hour stopover in Accra but it seems a little unnecessary having just been dropped off by parents at Stansted. Once aboard the plane you get on with your traveller's checklist; talk loudly about travel experiences, go to great lengths to ignore flight attendants and safety instructions and swaddle yourself in blankets to illustrate warm climes being your natural environment.

Travelling seems to bring about the desire to sport badges of honour. Much better to get yourself tattooed with a crusty stick in a festering sewer in Vientiane, and if it isn’t Lao for twat it might as well be because that is how I’ll read it when you get back to sign on. Maybe it’s just more exciting getting it done on your travels in much the same way that the fun never ends when contracting HIV or hepatitis C abroad as opposed to back in Blighty. Très exotique!

I’m not suggesting that you are the worst of our exports, a trip to the Spanish Costas will soon find you amongst many Brits of whom we should be all be ashamed - the ignorati. Quite often these are the same folks who bemoan immigrants, the ghettos they create and their failure/refusal to learn the language and integrate. No obvious parallels.

You are infinitely preferable to the ignorati but puzzling nonetheless. Why are you always adorned with string? Wrists, ankles, neck, string everywhere. Is it to signify your individuality or to help me identify you and thus give you a wide berth. Maybe my resentment stems from the acknowledgement of a long faded youth but lets not stop sneering and sniping at each other, I enjoy it and you’re positively dripping with superiority.

Tim McB

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Waiting For Jojo

When the family dog went missing, no one slept that night. The kids were running round the streets, shouting, "Jojo! Come home!" in their pitiful voices. 

Their parents neglected the fact that it was a school night.

As the weeks went on, Jojo's face appeared on posters around the neighbourhood, above the brightly crayoned letters: 
"HAVE YOU SEEN JOJO?" The desperate family knocked on doors after school and work, and every dog that had even the faintest resemblance to Jojo was chased down the street, until the distance between the children and the dog was closed enough so they could see that no matter how many dogs they saw that looked like Jojo, none would replace him.

Then came the dreams.

In the early hours of the morning, the youngest crawled into his mother's bed, whispering, "I dreamed that we had Jojo again." His mother sighed. "We all want Jojo back."

Months passed, and the crayon posters warped in the rain, sliding hopelessly down the power poles and lampposts they were taped to. The crayon colours faded and became waxy memories, ground desperately into the miserable notepaper and attached to a once bright photo.

The sheer love of Jojo led the family to find themselves outside a news station. "You have to help us find Jojo, it's the only choice we have left!" pleaded the mother. "Please, Mr man, please help us find our doggie," said the youngest. "Just one show," added the middle daughter. "It's our only hope," finished the oldest. The presenter sighed. If they were going to make so much of a drama about it, well, they may as well do the presenting themselves.

A few nights later, an advertisement flashed on an old couple's television set. A family of five stood and reminisced about Jojo - a beloved family pet who was lost a year to this day, and if anyone had found a dog like theirs, call them on this number. 

The dog they had picked up from the streets a long time ago padded into the room, looking for comfort and perhaps a biscuit. "Oh, Muggins, you cheeky boy!" - he had evidently tried to open the back flywire door, and unsuccessfully at that. The old woman did a double take - Muggins looked so much like that dog on the telly - what was his name, Jojo? 

No, Muggins wasn't the dog the family described...but they were so similar...

She pushed the thought out of her head and answered her husband's request for a hammer, nails and a cup of tea.

Natasha Gill

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Mysterious House

In our street lives an elderly man in old dilapidated house. Every year on Halloween he does not sleep well. When the fog descends, he hears strange noises coming from the timbers of the house. Chains seem to be dragged and clanged against the walls. Marbles seem to be dropped and rolled across the floor. Last year on Halloween the elderly man decided to take walk in the fog. He carried an old Polaroid camera with him. The further he walked the louder noise of the chains and marbles became.  He turned back to look a look at his house. The house looked no different, but he still decided to take a photo of it. As he clicked the shutter of the camera a chill went down his spine and what little hair he had on his head stood on end. He shuffled as fast as he could back into his house. As he sat in his armchair he watched the Polaroid photo develop under his reading lamp. To his horror, instead of the house being in the photo, there was a ghastly face and two ghostly figures staring back at him. The poor old man now spends his days in an old age home. He still clings to the Polaroid photo, showing it to anyone who is willing to listen to his story. All see a house surrounded by fog. Only the old man still sees the ghastly face and two ghostly figures. This year on Halloween he still did not sleep well.

Wei Song