Thursday, 13 December 2012

Things to do with murder...

...are, surprisingly, not much fun.

What an uplifting title to a blog post, you're all thinking! But it really really is true. Not that I've had anyone close to me (personally) murdered, however I have had someone close to my (physically) murdered.

Allow me to explain. It was a warm February evening in 2010 and I was staying at Dan's place in Leichhardt. You will remember this was before we lived together and therefore obviously before we broke up. Anyway, as I recall, it was a Sunday night and we had been out to dinner with my family (was also after some sort of travel-related incident and before whatever traveling came next) and we had been to a family-favourite restaurant that was close to my grandma and served moderate food at a reasonable price and thus was good enough for us. Anyway anyway anyway, Dan and I went back to his place and settled down for bed - him snoring and me reading (in his defence he was ill and loaded up with Codral) when some sort of disturbance called out from outside. At first I was curious but assumed it was teenagers in a drunken brawl, when Dan got up to close the window. I of course assumed he was getting up to be nosy (which I would've done) and so got up as well to see what was going on. And what do you know, I step out onto to balcony to see two guys stabbing and hammering another guy to death...

...well, at the time I thought I saw a small axe and only saw the knife after it had been used, as these two guys were running away. It was pretty bloody and damn violent. It lasted what seemed an age, and I very helpfully stood there in shock as they whole thing took place and someone else cleverly called the police. I couldn't move. It was horrifying. Eventually Dan put his arm around me and coaxed me back to bed whereupon he fell promptly asleep and I stayed awake in a state of nervous agitation for the six hours until dawn broke.

It was only when his flatmate was leaving for work the next day that either of us thought to mention the fact that we were all now locked within a crime scene and we explained what happened. That is, I said :

"Oh my god there were these two guys and one had an axe and one did this and the other did that and oh my holy f***"
Dan: "Oh my god you saw that?! Why didn't you say something??"

...anyway, we decided we should go and talk to the police.

Meanwhile I called my brother to tell him he couldn't borrow the car, and an hour later got a call from our mum saying "so your brother called me asking if I had any salt and vinegar chips and casually mentioned you're at a murder scene..."

This required some explaining. I was in the cop car at the time so tried to talking to my mummy while sounding worldly and professional. We arrived at the police station to and after several hours giving a statement, describing over and over in great detail exactly what happened, drawing murder weapons and such, I got to go home.

I slept for an entire day.

As it turns out, I had just witnessed a vicious love triangle. The attackers were a father and son bashing the life out of the wife/mother's lover.

What fun, especially for the deceased.

The mother/wife then paid for the son to fly to flee the country and lied to the police as to his whereabouts, whereupon she was charged with being an accessory after the fact and hindering police investigation.

As far as I was concerned, it was a horrid experience and I was hoping to forget it ASAP. But boy was I wrong! This case was to pop up in my life at all the wrong times. I went to court the first time, and that was fairly straightforward. Not too traumatic. The second time, I was summoned to see the crown prosecutor in the week leading up. She said "so how's next week for you?" to which I responded "not so good, having major surgery on Wednesday" so they got me in the Monday after. I had a broken hip and my arm in plaster up to my shoulder. I hobbled up to the witness stand and nearly knocked out half the jury with the 6kg of plaster hanging from my body.

I probably shouldn't go into too much detail about the trial(s) but suffice to say, the defense lawyer was a jerk. And that's the censored version. He tried to trip me up at every opportunity. And I knew that would happen, so I was very mildly prepared, but this guy was the King of Shits in the legal profession. I was daunted and quivering in my cast. I was supremely lucky that I had just read the most marvelous book ("When God was a Rabbit" by Sarah Winman - get yourself a copy!!!) in which a court case took place over a rape. One lawyer tore the victim apart so much that by the end of it "she couldn't even remember her own name" and I was determined not to let this happen to me. I kept this in mind as I told this fuckie what I saw, and he wasn't there, and yes it seemed to happen so fast but some facts I was damn sure of!

This little Nancy Drew was not one to be messed with, and was later described as "an awesome witness" on no less than two occasions.

Anyway. After three appearances for that particular trial (and none of them were fun, especially since I didn't take any painkillers for my broken hip and arm for fear of becoming drowsy and falling asleep on the stand) I got home one day to receive a call from my mummy. I thought she was calling to ask how court was. She did so, then burst into tears and told me my little dog had died. I also burst into tears and had a big old cry to Dan's dad, who simply did know what to do, until Dan got out of the shower, whereupon he did not know what to do except deliver me to my parents' place where I could cry amongst like-minded folk. Including my other dog, who would've cried had he the physical capacity. We were all heartbroken.

In due course we stopped crying and the first of the accused was found guilty (he had told some pretty stupid lies which all contradicted each other) and sentenced to 18-25 years. He's younger than me. His mum was given a two year suspended sentence for her involvement. To be fair, I don't know what she was supposed to do after she found out her husband and son killed her lover.

After that I cried for about a week straight mourning the loss of my dog, feeling overwhelmed by the trial, and the fact that I had recently been in a rather nasty car crash. Also, a pigeon had flown into my face. And I had had surgery so was off work for three weeks, which gave me plenty of time to feel sorry for myself. However eventually I pulled it all together and got back into the swing of things.

Everything was going fine for a while. I got a new place (minus Dan, that had started to go wrong too but I was still optimistic) and a new lease on life minus dead dogs, pigeon-related accidents, car crashes and murder trials. Then a new job came up! I began to think that my life = sorted. But on the very day I started this new job, I was called in to testify in the second trial. What a wonderful excuse to absent yourself from half a day at a new job! It didn't sound real. I was just being shown how to use the fax machine when all of a sudden I looked at my watch and had to hastily explain that I was terribly sorry and had to leave for a few hours to testify as a witness in a murder trial.

I'm clearly something for first impressions.

Anyway, by that time the guy had pleaded guilty to manslaughter. How he followed a guy to his house, armed with a knife, chased him down the road, and stabbed him "accidentally" was quite beyond me but he too was found guilty of murder.

Two weeks ago he was sentenced to 17-25 years.

May I never have to go to court over that again! I had had enough of it the moment it started but at least now I can feel accomplished in my task of doing my bit to set things right.

Bustin' up crims like a bad ass Nancy Drew.

Dr Ernid T. Learnid strikes again!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Things that anger me...

...and I don't like being angry.

Dear readers (all two of you),

You may have noticed that I have tried to take a light-hearted approach to the many injuries I have sustained over the last year or so. For the one new reader amongst you, this has involved stupendous bad luck and uncoordination, totalling 15 or so broken bones (the doctors were never really clear, but I suppose once you get past ten, it doesn't matter until it hits 20. Thank goodness I didn't get that far.)

I recently had the third operation on my wrist in just under 18 months. It was the least significant but by far the most painful. I'm not sure if it was because previous operations caused far more pain to multiple parts of my body and therefore my arm was insignificant, or because I had far stronger painkillers on those occasions... Either way, this one hurt rather a bit.

For a quick recap, in April last year I broke just about all the bones in my arm and wrist, my jaw in three places, plus a little fracture in my back. Back was most painful at the time but healed quickly enough, jaw has given me a nice scar, and wrist has given me many - plus three operations. The first patched it all right up, plenty of metal included. It sounded like an amazing procedure since the bones in my hand were no longer connected to those in my arm. The doctors did an amazing job, and I came away with a functional hand at the end AND the ability to predict the weather! My arm would, without fail, give me subtle signals in the coming hours before a storm, that it would rain. Dreadfully useful for choosing my attire for the coming day or deciding whether or not to hang out my washing. It was rarely wrong.

The next operation was not much fun at all as it involved taking bone from my hip to put in my arm, and thus breaking my hip. I was put in a ward with people at least three times my age (not even joking) as they had all had hip replacements and were in a similar position to me. Was really feeling my age when one of them offered me help getting out of bed. But anyway, that healed faster than I expected and all things considered I think I managed quite well with a broken hip and my arm in plaster up to my shoulder.

The most recent operation, however, has caused me much distress. It hurt for a few days, and anaesthetic tends to make me quite sick for a few days, but that's not really why it hurt. And I feel an ungrateful wretch for saying this after the amazing surgical feats performed on me. Sure, the service wasn't always great, and I was pretty miserable for quite a while there, but all in all the medical staff did an amazing job. Other than allowing me to throw up twice all over the geriatric ward and kicking me out a day early. But hey, they needed the bed, and as unhappy as I was at the time, I can look back on it with good humour now.

Anyway anyway anyway, I went to see my wonderful surgeon about two months ago in the full knowledge that another operation was on the cards. The previous two has cost me absolutely nothing as far as I could tell (though there were a good 40 hours there where I remember nothing at all) so it's entirely possibly I could've signed my life away. I was unconscious for 30 of them and all I remember of the next ten are requesting a TV so I could watch The Biggest Loser, and then patting the dogs they send around the intensive care unit to cheer up the terminally ill. Point is, the glorious Australian healthcare system paid for it all, dog visits included!

So I saw my surgeon a month or two ago and he told me I could have the operation done under the private system because I had private health insurance. I asked what the difference was and he told me I would simply have the operation done across the road at the private hospital. Brilliant, I thought! No more staff forgetting which day I was supposed to be discharged or neglecting to feed me because of my vegetarian diet! No more being referred to as "Pelquest-Hunt, Baby, Girl" as I was named the day I was born in the same hospital! Surely private health insurance will cover it, thought I.

I was wrong. Recently I was sprung with medical bills amounting $1290. Rather a large sum for one working for the man without expectation of such expenses. When I asked the doc what the difference was, I would've expected he might mention such a fee. Given the doctors' involvement amounted to two hours, I have calculated that what they earn in two hours takes me 80 hours to earn. Individually, they seem to earn 40 times what I do. Now I don't earn that much, and I'm sure they must earn extra for performing surgery rather than seeing patients for brief consultations. But still, saying they earn 20 times what I do, it begs the question... Do they live in castles made of gold? Are their scalpels made of diamonds? Just HOW can they justify charging me this much without mentioning ANY of it?

I believe I was informed of a "small gap" to pay the anaesthetist, but none of about paying the rest of the world's economy as well. Do I not pay the fee for private health insurance so that I might avoid such conundrums? Did I not ask what the difference would be? A few thousand might be insignificant to high-flying surgeons, but it represents a considerable amount's homelessness for me! I asked... I bloody well asked!

Suffice to say, I am none too happy about this latest expense, particularly knowing I could've waited a few more months and had it done for free. I mean, my arm would not have fallen off without this operation. But then I feel ungrateful for the time the doctor performed the surgery to ensure my arm did actually stay on, and I was not charged. But if there was another way, why was I not informed?

It is frustrating for me, to say the least. I am grateful for what my wonderful surgeon has done for me. After a year and a half, I can play guitar again and that is a most wonderful blessing. But if he could've earned the same fee and saved me $1290, why didn't he say so? I even asked. I have been the model patient, outside of throwing up from all that anaesthetic. But I did warn him...

...anyway, I suppose it's only money. I don't have much of it, but I can earn it back. Meanwhile if you wish to contribute to the ernidneedstoeat fund please do contact me! will direct you to the appropriate bank accounts. And you have all been warned (all three of you) that private health insurance does not mean you are covered for private health care!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Things that smell...

...are not always as bad as they sound. But sometimes they are.

Once upon a few years ago I went out with quite possibly one of the strangest men in the world. He made his way into my life under the guise of a rock-god front-man of a Swedish band, but oh how this story ends! Let me explain...

I used to play bass in a band called Smiling Politely. We thought we were rather cool, especially after we played at the Annandale and had one song on the radio. Once. We requested ourselves. But that's how Nirvana got started, and we were proud of our acclaim. Looking back, we weren't very good at all but it was a lot of fun nonetheless. Anyway, one day we received a message from a Swedish band with the same name who wanted our website. We told them no, because obviously with all our fame we didn't want to be mistaken for some Swedish no-names. Nevertheless, we got to talking, and when our drummer Luke was travelling through Europe he ended up staying with Charlie and Christian, two members of the Swedish Smiling Politely. I say their names here with the knowledge that nobody reads my blog, especially (I hope) my ex. In the end, Charlie and Christian decided to come to Australia and ended up staying with Luke and Matt (our guitarist) just until they got on their feet, which ended up being the best part of a year. One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was romantically involved with Charlie.

Oh what a story for the grandkids! Obviously I wasn't thinking of grandkids at this stage, in fact I figured that Charlie would be leaving after a year and we could put that happy chapter of our lives behind us and very firmly closed. We had great fun together to begin with. We had parties at The House (as we very creatively named their place) every weekend and enjoyed our youth, as young people do (or don't, if you ask old people.)

It didn't take very long, however, for me to realise that perhaps Charlie wasn't the guy for me. For one thing, he was incredibly clingy. I'm not the type of girl to enjoy the company of a clingy guy. I'd get up from our circle to go to, say, the bathroom, and Charlie would grab my hand and ask where I was going. I would assure him I wasn't going far and would be back soon, whereupon he would kiss my hand and stroke my face while telling me he'd miss me. In the couple of minutes I was gone I was quite frankly never worried about missing him. And if he was getting up to go the the bathroom, we would go through the ritual again. During a night of drinking trips to the bathroom were not infrequent, and this little display of affection got old very very fast.

It also got to the point of creepy with similar speed. After another night and a few drinks at The House, I had decided I had hit my own personal wall and was ready for bed. The guys had a very comfortable lounge suite, so I curled up on the armchair and nodded right off to sleep, but not before Charlie badgered me about sleeping somewhere more sensible. I honestly was happy to sleep exactly where I was, and did just that. I slept peacefully curled up on the armchair for a couple of hours before something woke me up, and I don't think I've ever woken up to a more disturbing scene. Charlie was perched on the end of the couch, head resting dreamily in his hands, watching me. He had been watching me sleep. It probably wasn't the creepiest thing that could've happened, but I was a 20 year old in no mood for anything serious or for men watching me sleep.

Still, it got worse. Apart from watching me sleep and being terribly clingy, he also liked to smell me. Not in a nice "what perfume do you wear?" kind of way, more in a "*sniiiiiff* my GOD you smell so GOOD" kind of way. It wasn't so bad to begin with and I never expected him to make a habit of it. But habitual it became. Every time I was near him, which was quite a lot, he would take a great big breath of me. It was rather disconcerting, and I asked him if he would mind not sniffing me quite so much. He agreed, but explained that our chemical attraction was incontrovertible. Right. Of course, he kept it up. He was nothing if not persistent. We spoke about it again and reached the compromise that he could sniff me once each time we met. And yet he still did it every five minutes from that point on. Saying hi, *sniiiiiiiff*. Going up an escalator, *sniiiiiiff*. Heaven forbid we ever get close. Suffice to say, I did not like being sniffed.

Another issue with Charlie, hereafter referred to as Sniffy, was that he didn't quite grasp the concept of sarcasm. I like to think I have a wonderfully dry sense of humour and take the piss out of anyone within earshot, including myself. As it turned out, Sniffy didn't understand that it was a joke, and by consequence was offended by just about everything I said. I thought it might be a Swedish thing but Christian never suffered the same affliction. It really wasn't fair. We agreed that I would try and make less sarcastic jokes if he would try and realise I didn't actually mean them.

But seriously, who was I kidding? It was never going to work and one or both of us would walking across eggshells forevermore. It's simply a part of my personality to make jokes at the expense of the people I like, and a part of his to take offence to it. After a night of watching romantic comedies (his idea), he suggested I stay the night. He told me he loved me. I told him we were over. I said I was pretty sure he didn't love me as he barely knew me (our passionate love affair lasted less than two months), and what he did know about me was that I was rude and offensive. I wasn't made of stone though and felt pretty about about the whole thing. His one parting request was to kiss me on his favourite part of my body (I was dubious), which turned out to be a freckle on my ear. Having never actually seen my own ears I was unaware I even had a freckle there and had never had it pointed out before. The fact that Sniffy was the one to do so was probably foreseeable. So I let him kiss my ear (it looks even weirder in writing), and on my way I went.

The fact that he lived with my best mates did mean that we saw each other rather a lot from then on, and he was often in the company of his latest squeeze. I wasn't jealous, but I did pity his choice of women and felt rather small for having joined his league of lovers. Worst of all, I overheard a rather private conversation one night I really rather would not have heard. Ellie (remember Ellie from the previous Mega Bus story?), Amzzz and I were settling down for bed in the living room of The House, with Christian and Sniffy in the next room. The House had paper-thin walls, and in lieu of a door had a curtain dividing these two rooms. Consequentially, we overheard every word of their conversation. I was at a loss to explain why they were speaking in English rather than their native Swedish, unless they wanted us to hear. All things considered though, I'm not sure they did. They had made real efforts to not speak Swedish around us so as not to be exclusive, and I think their state of inebriation made their voices all the louder. The basic gist of Sniffy's lamentations were that I was "the one" but obviously I was right and we could never be together. Where would we live if we got married? Would he leave his family and live in Australia, or would I leave mine and live in Sweden? Oh the calamity! He talked about our imagined future in great length, which made me feel a little shallow for entering into the relationship knowing it had a use by date of one year, but all in all it cemented in my mind the knowledge that I had most definitely made the right decision.

Poor old Sniffy, he just didn't get that we were never meant to be. He even tried to get close to my parents and brothers. He really did try to do all the right things, like notice the freckle on my right ear and comment on how I looked when sleeping. It was all a little much for me and I'm glad I had the perspicacity to realise so early on it was never meant to be. I broke his little heart all the same.

Sniffy is now engaged, so it's all's well that ends well. I'm not sure what she smells like, but hope their pheromones hit it off in a way that ours never quite managed.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Things on Trains...

...and things with pains.

This story takes place over 24 hours in London. They were by no means the most exciting of my life, but it was an unexpected turn of events that I was able to laugh at immediately afterwards.

My best bud Ellie and I were in need of transportation from London to Southampton. We were staying with a friend and asked his advice on the best way to get there. He suggested booking tickets through a site called Mega Bus. Tickets were only a few pounds each, and naturally we booked them there and then. I received a text with my ticket number and instructions for departure from Waterloo station. I was a little confused, however. Where, exactly, do the buses leave from Waterloo station? I puzzled over it for a few minutes before trying my luck at the old "calling up" tactic. Unfortunately, the lady I reached on the Mega Bus information line seemed just as confused as I was. Conversation proceeded somewhat as follows:

Me: "Hi, I've just booked two tickets for the journey from London to Southampton at [time] tomorrow. My reservation number is [this]. Could you tell me where we actually leave from?"
Her: "Yes, you'll be leaving from Waterloo station."
Me: "Yes, but where exactly?"
Her: "...Waterloo station."
Me: "Yes, but which side? Where do we find the bus stops?"
Her: "...The platform will be announced shortly before departure."
Me: "Platform?"
Her: "Yes. It's a train..."
Me: "Oh! But we booked through Mega Bus!"
Her: "Yes, it's affiliated with Mega Train. Just make sure you get to Waterloo station at least ten minutes before your TRAIN leaves."
Me: "kthxbye"

Well that cleared that up! Lucky I called rather than running with my usual "she'll be right" strategy. Anyway anyway anyway, a little wary after our shaky start, Ellie and I made sure to get to Waterloo half an hour before the train to ensure no further mishaps. I saw a ticket machine with a sign saying if I had my reservation number, I could print off my tickets. It took about four goes before I realised I wasn't doing it right. I called over a member of staff, who took a look at my reservation number and told me it was sufficient to get me through the barriers and onto the train. Hooray, a simple instruction! Ellie and I twiddled our thumbs until the platform was announced, giving us just under ten minutes to make our train. But alas, on reaching the barriers we were confronted with another problem. The horribly mean ticket lady told us we would need to go to the information centre, across the other side of the station, to print off our tickets. But what?! That chap over there said the reservation number was enough! Bollocks to that!

I left Ellie with our bags and sprinted across the station, my Doc Martens causing a disproportionately loud noise for how light I felt on my feet. On reaching the information centre, I was stopped in my tracks by a long line of people, and realised I may as well have crawled my way over for all the good running did me. The line moved far too slowly for my cause. Didn't these people know I had a train to catch? Presumably these other people had trains to catch as well, so why were they taking so long asking such silly questions? I finally reached the front of the line and hurriedly explained I needed these tickets printed "NOW!!! Please". The lady at the counter took a look at my reservation number and informed me I didn't need a ticket and the number alone was enough. Well deja vu, deja vu! I bolted back to where Ellie was standing and damn near yelled at the ticket lady "THELADYATINFORMATIONSAIDWEDIDN'TNEEDTICKETSANDTHERESERVATIONNUMBERSAREENOUGH!!!" *pant pant pant*. I watched forlornly as our train steamed away on the other side of the barrier. She tried to send me back to the information centre, which I refused to do. At this point I was thinking we might as well walk to Southampton; at least we would get closer than if we were just running between the platform and the information desk. I adopted my coolest, most business-like demeanour (though I don't think I fooled her), and said calmly "look, we booked these tickets yesterday through Mega Train (bus? train? whatever) and have been told twice now that our reservation numbers will serve as tickets. You have held us up and caused us to miss our train. Now will you please let us through the barriers, and we'll wait for the next one."

Ellie did an invisible jig at how firm I was. Bitch-lady looked at me for a second or two before exclaiming, "OH you booked them through MEGA TRAIN, why didn't you say so?!"

I was livid. I felt it now the time for replacing my Doc Martens with my Bossy Boots. Boy was I going to give her a talking to!
"Look, I mistakenly assumed you knew how to do your job. I shouldn't have to tell you how we purchased our tickets. Obviously we're not getting to our destination on time now, thanks to you. We have our tickets on us, and would appreciate if you would let us through. We'll get the next train and forget about your incompetence."
In actual fact, I doubt I was that eloquent, but my words were to that effect. I guess this lady must get this a lot, what with being so woefully poor at performing her duties. The look she gave me suggested as much.

"Look, these tickets are for a train that has left..."
"Thanks to you!"
"...and you'll have to go back to the information centre to get tickets for the next one."
"OK but we're not paying for them!"

Ellie rolled her eyes and promised to guard our bags from this dishonest and clearly not-to-be-trusted woman. My bossy boots took me back to the information centre, where there was now, typically, no queue. I was served by the same person as before, who gave me a "not you again" look. I explained our quandary, going into great detail about the many shortcomings of their staff. She then asked me the stupidest question of the day: "So it was the staff member's fault you missed the train?", which I answered with a resounding YES. She gave me a form to fill out which would serve as our new tickets (I was doubtful), which included, to my joy, a section where I could detail how and why we missed our train. Words such as "RUDENESS" and "INCOMPETENCE" littered the page, with caps locks for emphasis. With a smug expression I left the information centre for the last time (I hoped) and ran back to Ellie waving our new tickets high above my head. She nearly did a tap dance as I showed her my detailed description of our poor treatment at the hands of this awful employee of British Rail.

This next bit I probably should have seen coming. I had to show this same woman (the one I had just verbally desecrated on official documentation) the piece of paper exhibiting my insinuations that she should be fired. I trembled in whatever boots I was now wearing, worried she might beat me with a stick for writing such defaming (albeit true) things about her then shoving it in her face. With supreme nonchalance, she finally let us through the barrier, and I made the assumption that such a vile specimen of humanity probably couldn't read.

In the end, the train we finally got on got us to Southampton faster than the original would have. The bloke who checked our tickets on board chuckled when he read my "ticket" and wished us a better day from that point on. He restored my faith in the quality of people employed by British Rail, but even more so begged the question "was that so hard?"

In the end, I did more running around Waterloo station than I had done for months. We probably should have expected as much from tickets that only cost three pounds, and swore off Mega Train forever.

Funnily enough, our Mega Bus trip (actually on a bus this time) to Glasgow a month later (we forgot our boycott in favour of cheap tickets) went off without a hitch. Go figure.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Things about Baboons...

...are the things of nightmares.

I have just applied for a wonderful job as a travel research writer. On the off chance that my potential employer reads this (thank you if you are a potential employer and reading this!), I thought it high time I published another wee travel story.

This one takes place in Botswana in March of 2009. I was camping by the Chobe River, a most spectacular location by the national park where elephants run rampant and warthogs try to nose their way into your tent at night. Baboons won't wait for nightfall, however, and will go to rather extreme measures to procure food from nearby tents. The campsite's facilities ranged in accommodation from the very sparse to the most luxurious. My budget put me in lower class section, which was a short walk away from the fancy parts. There was a glorious pool, bar and restaurant with a magnificent deck overlooking the river, and a boardwalk through the trees to reach my tent. Adorable little monkeys dotted the boardwalk, playing chase with one another and scurrying out of sight as soon as a human walked their way. It was all very quaint, in an African kind of way.

Walking back to my tent to quickly grab my towel and return to the pool, I made my way across the boardwalk and just about walked into a monkey approximately six billion times the size (roughly) of any other monkey I had seen that day. I took a step back and froze. I looked at him. He looked at me. It could have been love, but I don't think that was exactly the look in his eye. I thought about walking back the way I came, then talked myself out of it. Inner monologue proceeded as follows:

"Don't be silly Ernid, this monkey lives in a campsite. He's used to people. All the other monkeys retreat as soon as they hear someone coming. This one looks like he can smell my fear. Just stand tall, keep walking, and he'll clear out."

So stand tall I did. I puffed out my chest in order to look fearless, and quite literally strutted my way forward. The monkey jumped up onto the railing, and I breathed a sigh of relief. He must have been convinced that I had right of way. Or perhaps not... Instead of scurrying away, he climbed along the railing in my direction. Turning to face me, he crouched. It looked suspiciously like the position a wild monkey might adopt, were he to pounce on a bypassing human.

I had about .6 of a second to decide on my next move. The first .2 of that second were taken up thus:

"I could take this guy on. I'm bigger than him (just) and surely I would come out on top in a fight."

The remaining .4 of a second thankfully revealed a change of heart:

"This thing has claws, it has teeth, it has rabies... RUN!!!"

And run I did. The thongs I was wearing didn't exactly lend themselves to the amazing burst of speed I so desperately required, and I was cursing my choice of footwear as this creature chased after me. He was screeching and screaming, which I assumed was his way of swearing and banishing me from his hood. I think he must've given up pretty quickly, probably after seeing the super-human speeds I had hitherto never been capable of. The chase only lasted a few seconds, but I ran all the way to my tent and zipped the door tight shut. Phew, that was close!

I was absolutely terrified of walking back to my friends on the other side of the boardwalk, and it took me a good half hour to work up the courage to return, and only after a change of footwear at that. All the cocky bravado of earlier had vanished. I was regaling this tale to my tentmate Ingvild, a lovely girl from Norway who had lived in Ethiopia for three years. She asked me to describe this monkey to her, and gave me that "you're an idiot" look I am only too familiar with. She explained that I was right to run instead of fight, stupid to even consider otherwise, and that this monkey was in fact a baboon, which could have killed me with no strenuous amount of effort. Also, looking him in the eye was a bit of a no-no. Highly territorial animals, I had inadvertently threatened his ownership of the area. Good call.

This self-rescuing princess needs saving from nothing!
(Could possibly use job from generous travel writing types)

Friday, 23 March 2012

These precious moments...

...are many and close between.

Moving to the western suburbs just shy of a year ago, I had no idea just what flavour the everyday aspects of my life would take on. The lengthy train journeys between home and work are ideal for capitalising on lost sleep, and almost pleasant for the uninterrupted time it allows me to read. The four hours I spend in transit each day are an inconvenience, though not entirely without benefit... provided nobody from the western suburbs is coming to or from the western suburbs. And four hours allows plenty of time for western suburbanites to burst the literary (or sleepy) bubble in which I have cocooned myself.

With regular examples of fighting, screaming, talking to oneself, bad parenting, and religious extremism, it wasn't long before I realised that the giddiest height of sophistication Penrith will ever see is the mullet. Apparently it's quite the 'do' to sport if one lives out here. Swear words abound, and nary a sentence is spoken without including something offensive. Once I saw a girl who had to ask "what does one times two mean?", and while my raucous laughter signalled that I thought it a bit of a silly question, she evidently had the intelligence to tell I found her remark a wee bit stupid. Figuring out what I was laughing at probably took all the accumulated brain power of her twenty-something years.

Hence I was most excited (and only mildly irritated) when a guy interrupted me at the station one day with an enquiry about what I was reading. How I wished I had been reading Kafka, Kundera or Proust. Imagine what joy, what heavenly glory could have unfolded had I been able to discuss classic literature with a fellow commuter! As it was, I was slightly abashed to only have been reading A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French. Not what you'd call a masterpiece, but that was the book in my hands as I tried to conceal my bemusement, and I was excited to discuss it nonetheless. He asked what I was reading, I told him, thinking that perhaps he had read it or harboured a desire to do so.

Oh silly Ernid, ever the foolish optimist!

He did not want to swap quotes, discuss themes or discourse; indeed, he had not read the book. Nor did he want to know much about it. The sentence he used to open our literary foray was "I know ya not s'posed ta judge a book by its cover, but I have, and I reckon that book looks shit". Affronted, I hastily defended my book and said that while it was no Pulitzer Prize winner, it wasn't bad if one was in the mood for a casual and uncomplicated read. He swore a little more, exuding uneducated judgment, before I asked him what kind of book was his cup of tea. I don't know why I was surprised by his answer, indeed I think most fans of Twilight have single figure Intellectual Quotients. But there it was. I stifled my laughter when I realised he was serious. Twilight, the worst of all sins.

But wait, it gets worse.

He hadn't even read Twilight. He was spurting his love of Stephenie Meyer's godawful series by way of comparing her books (which he hadn't read) to my book (which he also hadn't read). He was basing the quality of the Twilight books on the merits of the movies (which was even more surprising to me, as I didn't know the movies had merits. Then again, I've only seen the first one, and felt unqualified to comment. In hindsight, I really needn't have worried.) I suggested he read the books before comparing them to other books, to which he replied that he had started reading the first book and couldn't finish it. I suspect there were too many big words for him. He said he just didn't like reading. I proposed he read a book before telling others their own looked like a poor recommendation.

Naturally, the discussion turned to a war between Twilight and Harry Potter. I felt well armed with my arguments on literary style, character development and morals. Having read all seven Harrys and (unfortunately) those four awful vampire books, my debate was strong. So well formed was my argument that a fellow commuter chimed in and agreed with me. This was an argument I could not lose, even if it was against an idiot! What pride, what joy, my new comrade and I would shut this imbecile up with reasoned argument and educated opinion. He scratched his tattooed neck as I used words too lengthy for his comprehension (such as "wizard" and "cat"), and I revelled in the camaraderie I felt with this other fellow who had taken up my cause.

Apparently, however, I had chosen the wrong team mate for my debate. He promptly threw up all over the train carriage and excused himself from the conversation. Never mind, I at least had an excuse to move to another carriage and away from Captain Twi-hard. But of course he followed me. Then told me the rest of his life story; his loves, his losses, his illegitimate child. He really did. He was excruciating. And all I wanted was to read my book!

I began thinking I shouldn't have brought a book with me in the first place, purely so it would be impossible to interrupt my reading (a sure way to ruin my day). But if I hadn't brought a book at all, this episode never would have taken place. I would've missed out on yet another precious western suburbs moment.

And wouldn't my life be poorer for it.