Good morning folks
I trust this finds you in superb form. Here is the weekly round-up of locura from noisy chaos central. The last seven days of happenings in Lima are all here…
Why do I write this? 4 hours of my Sunday night every week, a lot of frustration trying to make the website do things that should be easy (“damn you WordPress FORMATTING, aaaaarrrgh!”), but never seem to be, all for what? (This took me 6hrs from start to publish, tired eyes and a dodgy keyboard!)
To vent my anger, frustration and desperation – on a bad week?
To share good news – on a good week?
I apologise if this has blog turned into a written version of a Portishead album in recent times, it’s just that things haven’t been that great of late. Which leaves me with 3 choices:
1) Lie! Say what an amazing life I am having.
2) Tell the truth, and risk turning away both of my loyal readers as it becomes about as cheery to read on a Monday morning as the Obituaries section of a local paper. A giant moan/whinge/rant.
3) Try and balance the truth with a light-hearted version of observations that I witness and wonder about each week. The mystery, madness and mayhem of daily Lima life…
I’ll go for option (3). Everybody is fighting their own private battles and demons, we just have to get on with it, regardless of whether people listen/care or otherwise.
There is always some poor sod worse off. I write this also in case I do one day lose my marbles, which is quite possible…
To quote Tony Wilson “Inconsistency is my very essence” -says the wheel- “Rise up on my spokes if you like, but don’t complain when you are cast back down into the depths. Good times pass away, but then so do the bad. Mutability is our tragedy, but it is also our hope. The worst of times, like the best, are always passing away”
In other words, I am sure things WILL come good soon! (Writing this blog is one of the few things keeping me sane here).
“Like” and “What is it like?” One of the joys of my job is getting to explain things that never really occurred to me as confusing, until I started to try and teach them! When you learn your native language (technically called L1) you just learn it by speaking and listening and reading and writing. You may learn bits and bats of grammar at school, but generally you just say it because it “sounds right”.
(In my defence, the government in their wisdom decided that grammar really wasn’t important in the time I was at school, so there is a huge cross-section of Blighty folk who escaped subordinate clauses, mixed conditionals and indefinite articles!)
Which means that sometimes being a “native speaker” is not always an advantage, as you really have to learn your stuff to know your onions!
This week I had to differentiate between “to like” and “to be like”. At home the Nipper has been telling me all week, “I like chocolate”, “I like ice cream” and “I like bananas”, that one is fairly simple to explain.
“What is x like?” is a bit trickier, but I think we got there (apart from when you mix it with an idiom like/such as “He is like a breath of fresh air!”
Idioms are a completely different kettle of fish…)
A friend back in Blighty asked me what living in Lima was like. A poignant question… One day during our Mongol Rally we were midway across the Ukraine (which in itself looks diddy next to Russia and Kazakhstan, but is actually rather big and full of traffic cops wanting to lighten your wallet (and the word for police (9поліс) and honey (мило) used to confuse me, but I digress completely!) After a l-o-n-g day across the whole of Poland, we arrived very late at Lviv (Ukraine) and then got to Kharkiv, so I reckoned optimistically that with a big push we could make Russia and Volgograd, so we were on the road before dawn (without maps for that bit). Driving down a deserted 3-lane highway, I suddenly saw two identical old Soviet Ladas, blacked out windows and going like stink, towards us, (ie, on the same side of the road). A tired, caffeine-starved brain and confusion slapped me in the face, one of those moments when you freeze… Half-a-second later, like a cheap Red Arrows display, both Ladas stormed past, either side, horns blaring at a silver Nissan Micra, covered in stickers, going the wrong way, down the middle lane of the motorway! If I had swerved, we’d be dead. If they’d swerved, we’d be dead, no question about it… We stopped for a coffee at the next garage (after turning around). Can a sign break your heart? Apart from that single moment, the one thing that gave me the heebie-jeebies was overtaking big trucks on dusty dirt tracks. Obviously our steering wheel was on the “wrong” side, so it was up to the passenger to stick their head out as far as possible and stare into the dust to see whether anything was coming in the opposite direction. Trucks would go at snail-pace, which was just below our maximum, laden speed capabilities. More acceleration could be found in a sloth on valium, especially as the truckers used to then speed up and try not to be overtaken! This resulted in a very, very tense few moments driving through a dust cloud and hopefully not meeting a truck (head-on) coming in the opposite direction! It was the not knowing that was the hardest bit. No unleaded then? So, back to the original topic, for me living in Lima is very much like overtaking a truck, on a dirt track, in a laden-down 998cc Micra, with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side, in a dust storm and hoping that nothing will hit you coming the other way! (Ironically we did a photo shoot for RING AUTOMOTIVE, where we had a map, but didn’t have one for the real thing!)
The owls are not what they seem…
I prompt students to watch as many films/series in English as possible, in order to practise their listening skills. The trouble is when one asks me “What should I watch?”
Our TV in Lima doesn’t work and I don’t have Netflix. The last series I watched on telly was “Twin Peaks” (and I don’t mean this series, I mean the last one, in 1991! This week I have been reenacting Agent Dale Cooper with his Dictaphone, mainly as my already shocking memory (a forgetful goldfish comes close) is failing me, so most of this is dredged from mumbled snippets from my phone, which make little sense to me by Sunday!
Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?
The man who lives under the bridge. A troll? Not of the internet kind. As I said, there is always somebody worse off and the bloke who lives under the bridge, shuffling the trunks of dead cacti around, obsessing about their order and rearranging pebbles into the same patterns every day. They say there is a very fine line between madman and genius, but it is clear which side this poor bloke is on, but he seems happy enough!
Waiter-waiter, there’s a hair in my salad!
I had a long-overdue meet-up with my good mate Lloyd on Friday. Lloyd and I both arrived here in 2004 as volunteers, but he has spent much more time here than me and it is a miracle that he is still sane, given the time he has been here! It was to be my first venture away from “chicken soup” so I played it safe suggesting “San Antonio’s” a kind of bakery/café type place, not cheap, but generally good food.
Midway through us putting the World to rights (or hearing my rantings and ravings), Lloyd discovered a long black hair in his food. This had happened the previous time too. (Not mine, which is a peculiar shade of dark/burnt-off-orange right now). I waved my invisible hand to try to catch the attention of the inobservant waiter, who eventually came and started digging his fingers in the food saying “Donde!” (“where”) immediately losing the hair in the process. I asked him to bring another salad, which he did 20mins later. No sorry, nada.
When I came to pay, I casually mentioned to the cashier that the service hadn’t been great and she barked at me that “If you have a complaint, you have to complain to the manager at that exact moment, otherwise any complaint is not valid!” This riled me a bit, as I was prepared to let it lie, so when she barked at me again, I told her to call the manager, who came and re-heard my rant (which was really pushing my Spanish limits). He listened and said nothing, so I repeated myself, by which point I was ready to lose it.
I’ve worked in enough restaurants, cafes and bars to know how to de-fuse such situations and a simple apology would have done it, but it never came. The gaffer eventually whispered “sorry”, but that was it.
The bugger is I’ve really burnt my bridges for a place to eat round there now. I apologise also to my mate Lloyd :-/ So, if you like extra hair in your salad and REALLY crap service, SAN ANTONIO’S (PRIMAVERA) is the place to go! (Plug over).
(As a footnote, I wrote off a scathing e-mail to “San Antonio’s” and heard nothing, so I wrote back saying “Thanks for nothing”, when a response came back saying “Your FB profile says you are in Lima, we are in Costa Rica, did you visit our restaurant here?” Oooops! Humble pie was quickly baked and served and eaten by me…
It has been a fraught week, I apologise to any Costa Ricans who I may have offended.
“El Señor no tiene nada”…
Whilst on the bus on Saturday with the Nipper, a young bloke got on and started the commonplace “Buenos dias Señores y Señoras, estimado pasajeros…” which starts off the sorry tales of people who have been dealt a very rough hand in the game of life. It can be somebody selling something, a sales pitch for a special pen, scary clowns, monotone singers, bad comedians or anybody who (without any government benefits whatsoever) has to resort to begging for money on the buses. They may get a few centavos, but generally nothing and it is a very marginal way to scratch a living.
As I normally only carry the exact change/bare minimum for security reasons, I generally feel bad and avoid eye contact. I feel very bad about this, but it is just not possible to give to everybody, there are hopeless and heartbreaking stories on every street corner, in a city where the very, very well-heeled rub shoulders with those who have nothing at all.
Every night at 10pm, I have to pass kids who have scratched their artwork in chalk on the pavement. Where are their parents? Do these kids go to school? Where do they live? That is before I pass the overweight woman sprawled on the ground with huge leg sores crying “help me”, selling sweets for a penny-a-go, then rows of blind singing buskers and finally the Witches of Eastwick…
Back to the bus! A young lad told his sob story that he had just arrived from the provinces and he had been robbed on arrival and he basically had the clothes on his back and a family to feed and that they had slept rough since arriving…
I had some sweets in my bag from the Nipper’s Halloween hoard but I didn’t have a single centavo to offer. The Wee One is a bit protective of her sweets and was surprised when I produced them from my secret stash.
(To be honest giving sweets is not really very good, but I felt I had to give something). “Why are you giving the man my sweets?” quizzed the bairn.
I told her that “El Señor no tiene nada” (the man doesn’t have anything), which baffled her. Normally people asking for money go to the back, then back to the front, then get off, but this lad must have got off at the back, so I was left with sweets in my hand and many questions from the Wee One.
So, for every person we saw (without any bags/possessions) from then on, I was told (loudly) “Give that man some sweets, he doesn’t have anything”. Some things are difficult to explain to a three-year old.
Jeffrey Bernard is still unwell… A man who had a CV rivalling mine was the late, great Jeffrey Bernard (1932-1997). Boxer, building labourer, kitchen assistant and coal miner, apart from being a journalist and also notorious for chaotic life of boozing. He was also a dedicated punter and extremely entertaining writer. (If you are at all interested in the nags/gambling game, read “Talking Horses”). As a journalist his column “Low Life” was often replaced by a notice “Jeffrey Bernard is unwell” due to his sociable lifestyle!
That is how I have been feeling this week, even after seeing a pill-prescribing-Gastroenterologist last week (who is a dead ringer for Vladimir Montesinos, a man with a past so shady I cannot go into detail here for fear of disappearing!) I went back on Saturday morning.
I’ve felt crook since July, worse since October and really bad since the start of November. Bad guts is just a loose description, but it is the constant nausea, bloated feeling and lack of appetite that worries me. Is a 50ft tapeworm in my small intestine sapping all my energy? Felt tired all week!
The antibiotics did nowt, so I’ve been back for tests and more tests. Hopefully these will see me reet! I’ve been on a diet of chicken soup for a week, but had my first coffee in 7 days, which is the longest I’ve gone without since 2005. I’d give up most things, but I can’t give up the caffeine…
Weekend with the Nipper!
Lina’s studies involve a full weekend at college once a month, so that is when the Nipper gets to decide on what is happening. It nearly always involves the same 5 things:
1- Parque de Amistad miniature steam train.
4- Ice cream.
5- Swings & scooter. So, that was Saturday and Sunday sorted!
On the ball!
Bad guts and zero energy meant no running this week. I’ve written off this year to be honest. 2018 will hopefully be a fresh start. Expectation! However, I can’t do nothing, so I’ve done nothing but what I should do more often; Swiss Ball corework. You may have seen those huge outsized beachballs stacked up in the corner of most gyms (I’ve not been in many gyms, but they are normally stacked up against the window!) Reality! Apparently this kind of stuff is what every sportsperson should do, to get more flexible and prevent injuries, which are two things I have fought against all year. It’s not very exciting, it’s hard work, but it does get results. After 5 sessions this week I should have a six-pack by Christmas (2025!)
A Friday night 1:1 draw with New Zealand means that it is ALL to play for this Wednesday in Lima. Everything here is left until the very last minute and this is no exception. Not so much an emotional rollercoaster, more like a gradual nervous breakdown for supporters! This is the very, very last chance to qualify for their first World Cup since 1982.In their campaign of 19 matches (which started back in October 2015) these are the stats:
Kick-off is at 9:15pm and rumour has it, if they win, Thursday will be declared a public holiday! (Which is a day off, but people have to pay back the hours they owe their employers sometime and somehow). “M” is for “miercoles”…
It is not going to be easy without their superstar captain and leading goalscorer, Paolo Guerrero, still banned following the discovery of either Lemsip, tea or cocaine in his blood (or all three, go wild lad!) Watch this space…
Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…
….Sang Barry Crocker twice a day throughout my youth. He obviously never lived in Salamanca! Friday night was always going to be a crazy one.
A 10:15pm kick-off in a crucial World Cup qualifier wasn’t going to be a quiet round of applause over cocoa!
I got home to the next door neighbour testing his nightclub speakers, which was then replaced by shrieking and whooping and cries of “Gollllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll” (none of which were actually a goal, as it ended 0:0).
Around midnight the disco resumed and it was LOUD. As Lina was out all weekend on her course, I knew that Saturday would be a full day, so I just shoved in my earplugs so they were touching my brain and tried to smother the noise with a pillow. A bit like trying to bale-out the Titanic with an eggcup with a hole in it. The noise raged until around 5am when the delightful “vecino” decided to really test his sound system, UP TO FULL VOLUME and down to zero and UP TO FULL VOLUME and down to zero (and repeat for 10 minutes. It was a HUGE night for the country, but that doesn’t give people the right to be complete ar$eh0!es!
Wise words Dame Mirren!
After our run-in last time, I was reluctant to have a confrontation with this idiot and after a week of nothing but chicken soup and after a night with zero sleep, I really didn’t have the incline/energy to bang on his door.
The racket ended around dawn so at least I got an hours kip before the Wee One awoke!
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all my neighbours who are idiots, some are ok, but the duffers really do push it.
A new addition to the madhouse is “Mr. Rev-the-proverbials-off-his-knackered-old-van”, who after topping up his radiator with water, proceeds to try to make his engine explode for the next 10 minutes (presumably to “warm it up”?) This takes place at 5:30am, so at least I am up for work, but the mystery is that most days he then leaves his van and goes back to his flat where he drills all day, every day.
Joy of joys!
January (if it happens) cannot come quick enough.
If I had known they were going to turn the next street into a motocross circuit, I’d have never sold the Clunk!
Presentation time-round II.
Tuesday at the gigantic Surco centre will see round II of my latest offerings, “The Great British Spirit of Adventure”. I have been working on my lines and have trimmed down my 5000 slides, expect the unexpected
Ship or sheep?
Rowing or rowing?
Next week, for sure!
Blast from the past.
“Tad Vs. Rest of the World”
Six words that did change my life, at least for a few months!
My first every “lads” holiday abroad was with my old mate, Benny. We booked a flight to Magaluf and had been told that it was a piece of cake to find digs there. Arriving in the early hours, this was not the case and we spent a l-o-n-g day trawling round with suitcases from hotel-to-hotel-to-hotel. This was 1992 and I dread to think what Magaluf is like now, it was an eye-opener then!
My next foray abroad was with three good mates; Badger, Norman & Psycho Paul (names have been changed to protect their identities). Tenereeffeeee was the destination.
1994 was during some extremely heady times. I was working at the British Library, somewhere between school and youth club! We played rugby, there was flexitime to use/abuse, plenty of holidays and even an on-site subsidised bar. Sociable times!
I was also playing rugby for a team in York. They were way above my standard, but I trained hard and occasionally got 10 minutes at the end, as a winger to run in a try when the opponents were dead and buried! It was the away trips and nights out that were the main attraction, complete chaos. I was young and single lad, no real commitments and a little too excitable at times…
February is the best time to escape the UK if you don’t like the bleakness of deepest Blighty winter. As the Canaries get year-round sunshine it is an obvious choice. I’d been working two jobs to save up plenty of Pesetas and it was always guaranteed to get a bit lairy…
After having almost spent most of my bra$$ in the first 4 days (parascending and an ominous “booze cruise” that I never got to go on), it all ramped up one night when we discovered a bar that sold “Champagne Sangria”, a drink to supplement the happy-hour “Si-si-San-Miguel” and so deliciously potent, you could hear alarm bells going off shouting “Go home now!”
What happened next is still a mystery. Nobody was quite sober enough to recall what happened, but it was a mixture of over-giddiness and over-indulgence that led to me falling over a small wall (or chain, or both?) Small in height, but just the right height to snap my ankle in six places!
An ambulance was called and when I was made to walk on my ankle I very quickly sobered up. Two days was spent in a Playa de las Americas hospital, sharing a room with an angry old Dutch bloke, whilst the hospital argued with my insurance company. (Luckily we had insurance, but it was free insurance and really that was about all it was worth!) The hospital wanted to operate on me (and claim the money), whilst the insurance company wanted to fly me back (on the same flight and get it done on the NHS, costing them nothing!) The hospital had set my foot, but unbeknown to me at the time, had set it wrong. After a further day I was advised to discharge myself, but as it was against the doctor’s orders/wishes, they wouldn’t clear me as “fit to fly”, so there was a risk that I would get turned down at the airport, ending up as “Ironside in the Terminal”. Luckily, along with other wheelchair-bound accidents, I was hoisted up and the whizzed off in an ambulance on the runway at Manchester Airport, just in time to arrive at York District Hospital for chucking-out time on a Friday night, when A&E is stretched by idiots, just like I had been, albeit in a different continent (geographically).
The drama didn’t stop there. I was whizzed in for an operation (God bless and long live the NHS). A plate and 6 screws saw me almost ready to go home when I mysteriously collapsed in the WC. I came round surrounded by doctors and nurses and since that moment have not really cared about trying to preserve any dignity in such situations (they’ve seen it all before).
What had caused it? A blood clot from my ankle being set wrong and plaster tightness on the plane. It could have been serious if I had gone home and not realised…
So another week of hospital food, painkillers, then 4 months (!) off work, Physio/ambulance rides twice a week (that’s another story) and the World’s worst bank, NatWest, paying off my loan, good old payment protection! As I was getting paid at work, I managed to save up a bit and of course when I was more mobile, the temptation to go out was too much.
All of this merriment had to end sometime, so when my photo on a night out appeared in a local entertainment paper “What’s on in York”, it all-in-all heralded a swift and overdue return to work!
On this occasion, Tad lost
What is it like to run up and down a volcano a shade lower than Kilimanjaro, in the desert, with temperatures ranging from -10º C to scorchio???
My man in Yungay, the larger-than-life and redefining the word gregarious, Mr. UT69-Charlie Good self-filmed this excellent video during the Misti Sky Race, up and down El Misti. This was a race that I was gutted not being able to run (like most races since June, but especially this one), Charlie captured it very well indeed! (He is an incredible bloke having sold up in the UK who landed up in the mountains, then built his own hotel, from nothing!) Good on yer mate
The Misti Sky Race was organised by the Vertigo team (Ruth & Ricardo), who also organise the Desafio Huarochiri and MUT races.
Charlie is the man behind the ULTRA TRAIL 69, which will be my main focus for 2018, finger crossed…
That’s all for now folks!
Have an outstanding week.
Cheers Johnny, Lina & the Nipper
p.s. Three years ago!