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Archive for February, 2006

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Saturday, February 25th, 2006

The insurers have denied my claim for the stolen backpack.

It isn’t so much that which felt like a punch in the stomach (although it is that part which leaves me feel winded), as it’s the way in which it was worded. When the message notification popped up in my inbox, I expected them to ask for more receipts. But the message started promising:
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Winter in the UK

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

So it is grey outside, colder than a fridge, there are no leaves on the trees and wet sleet is falling from the sky. So I’ve had a sore throat since getting back and feel drained of all energy. It’s winter in the UK, and I’ve got no right to complain: I’ve managed to miss Christmas, all of January and most of February. Moreover, I’m making in-roads with my attempts to get John to migrate—after forty years of dark, wet winters (not counting the two I’ve managed to escape from) a few more won’t hurt.

In the meantime, on with happier memories and more Bali entries. They’re being backdated after one day, so that they fit in with the time frame.

PS. It’s just taken me three hours to cook tonight’s curries—and they’re not even particularly good—so the next Bali entry has to wait until tomorrow. So long.

England Culture Shock

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

The children here are so pale that it gives me a stab to the heart every time I look at them—until I remember that this is normal for England in winter time.

It is strange to be back. I’ve started to notice all the little quirks and peculiar mannerisms of the people around here. I’m currently perceiving the country as if it was a Richard Curtis film (‘Notting Hill’; ‘Love, actually’)—as if England is some kind of fairytale land and I am a tourist here, albeit one who is unusually familiar with some of the locals. But not everything is quaint.

Burried underneath a mountain of free-sheets and flyers from the various estate agents who are circling around lucrative properties in this area like vultures, I found a red envelope which John had dismissed as spam and left on the floor, probably because it screamed: Open immediately! This is not a circular!. Inside was a terse letter, dated over a month ago, which demanded that we get in touch with Thames Water within three working days or bailiffs would ‘visit’ with a warrant of execution. I started to tremble.
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A BIG thank you to Royal Jordanian…

Friday, February 17th, 2006

…and indeed to the ground staff and medical personnel who cared for me in Amman and to Ian who looked after me throughout the flight and during our stop-over, nearly risking missing his own connection in the process.

I’ll make sure that I never run out of Xanax again when boarding a plane!

I re-iterate that, for patients with a history of panic attacks, this drug should be available without a prescription. Even two of these little pills might have saved the day.

More about this shortly.

Angels of Mercy (4) Jordan

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

It had to happen, given that this condition is psychosomatic. Having a panic attack on a plane was high on my list of nightmares, because I suffered my first violent attack on the day before I had to fly home from Gran Canaria— strangely enough almost exactly four years ago.

The tranquiliser capsule which my first Angel had given me wasn’t sufficient merely as a crutch. Before dinner was even served, I had to take it. What the heck, I thought: it can’t be that far to Amman.

It was far. Less than four hours later, the tranquiliser had worn off. I took half of the white tablet, but to no effect. Twenty minutes later, I chomped down the other half. It tasted like chalk. Was it a placebo?

The flight was barely 1/3rd full, so we had at least a double seat each. I tried to relax as much as possible, shaking quietly, hoping that this thing would pass unnoticed. But predictably enough, the shakes turned to spasms, throwing me clean out onto the floor. Plenty of leg room on Royal Jordanian flights.
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Angels of Mercy (3) Relapse

Monday, February 13th, 2006

It was almost twelve o’clock by the time I woke up the next morning, so I figured I might as well hang on to the room for another day. My flight was not due to leave until almost midnight and I could do with the rest. Meanwhile it wouldn’t hurt to visit the local pharmacy which the Italian had said had particularly helpful staff. They might sell me some tranquilizer—some people apparently manage to get the stuff over the counter here. They might also know the name of the hospital where I was at yesterday morning. The taxi driver had kept the slip of paper, but it had to be the nearest one to the Kao San Road. I would go back there and set the record straight, retrieve my tourist card, find some way of paying that bill. However, when I tried to explain my predicament to the poor girls who worked there (they didn’t know the hospital) I was overcome by intense dizzyness and promptly collapsed again. Clearly, this wasn’t going to stop. Whatever was happening represented a real medical problem and there was no alternative but give in to it and seek treatment. One way or the other.

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Angels of Mercy (2) Kao San Road at Night

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

I remember only having a single beer that night. I struggled with it. It didn’t feel right.

There was a bit of banter. The Moroccon owner of the bar, which comprised just a row of tables and chairs on the pavement, was thrilled to learn that I can count to seven in Arabic and he kept clinking my bottle. I would force a grin and take a sip every now and then. Time stretched like molten cheese. Then, suddenly, I became very dizzy. I hit the floor. Consciousness contracted, as if I was perceiving everything through a pinhole.

(The following was meant to be in a smaller font size, but the relevant HTML tag doesn’t work with these settings. Never mind, I guess you’ll get the drift):
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Angels of Mercy (1) Panic in Bangkok

Sunday, February 12th, 2006

The room at the Sawasdee House was no bigger than a cell. Correction: it was no bigger than a double bed. On several occasions, while rumaging around in it, I had left my bag outside because it barely fitted with me in the room. I even forgot it outside while I went for a shower: it was still there when I came back. But today—to my considerable annoyance—I found that I had left it out overnight and it was gone.

I wasn’t worried: I carry my passport, ticket and most of my cash in a moneybelt on my body and most of my journal had been photocopied, but it was annoying because I had put 1000 Baht in my wallet to pay for a trip to Kanchanaburi to visit the tiger temple. The trip would have to be cancelled, because my ticket was also in the wallet. I figured I’d better tell the lady at the agency that I would not be requiring my seat on the minibus. But first of all I checked out of Sawasdee House. It was still early, but not so early that people had not yet begun to check out, as had been the case when I arrived the day before at 6:30 in the morning on the night bus from Hat Yai. I found a room without difficulty in a guesthouse hidden in a little alleyway lined with stalls, which nearly obscured the view to the entrance. Then I went to find the lady at the ticket agency.

“Oh, I remember you. You can still go! Bus not here yet.”

The bus was late, but I would have to change my last dollars to pay for the entrance fee and expenses. Still—this was my last chance to get to Kanchanaburi. The lady personally walked down the road with me to find a money changer, then pointed out the bus when it arrived. Alas, the driver did not accept my explanation for the lacking ticket and when I looked back at the shop, the counter was deserted. The other tourists were getting twitchy, we were already late, and suddenly I wasn’t so sure about this: “Oh, sod it. I better stay. Have a nice trip!” A wave, a smile, and I was back on the street

Something was nagging at the back of my head. I could not quite put a name to it. I went for breakfast, mulling this over.

Sure, the loss of the daypack bothered me: my little Sarawak keyring, my diary, the parts of my journal which I had not photocopied, including all entries from Rinca Island to Bali. But it was my own stupidity that it was lost and I did not feel victimised as I had when my backpack was stolen in Makassar. However, there was something else missing.

My Xanax!
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Intermission nearly over

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

I haven’t blogged much since John got to Bali because writing is a solitary activity and because I could do with a break from it, but I’ll be better—promise.

Only three days to go before it’s back to rainy England (actually, I think it rained less in England this winter than in the places I’ve been to!) and that will be a good time to write up my entries for any that are still interested in reading about it 😉 Also want to upload more photos. See y’all soon.