Selected Yambient Words

Monday, November 27, 2006

Kenya Chapter 2: Orientations in a Sweaty Nation

Chapter 2: Orientations and Sweaty Nations



Starting to slowly settle in now. The first weird thing to get used to is that we have a cleaner. It's a bit bizarre. Someone to do our washing and dusting. She's provided by the school but we pay her. Her name is Gladys and she is lovely. She sings while she cleans and gives me advice on songs as I compose them on the balcony. She tells me what she likes and she doesn't like. She is also teaching me a little Swahili. She speaks great English though, and her choice phrase is 'Bravo to you.' I just have to get used to the idea. It's a little weird!



The weekend brought English germs to Kenya. Katie was pretty much floored all weekend with a common cold. It was her first for months, and the heat didn't exactly help. So she was knocked out most of the weekend. Saturday afternoon, I went swimming in the school pool only to jump out when I noticed a huge sign saying it was currently undergoing chemical cleaning. Whoops. So far nothing has burnt off so I may be lucky. Saturday morning, two of Katie's colleagues had gone deep sea fishing with some visitors. One of them managed to catch an 18 pound momma of a fish. It was massive and juicy. Saturday night, we barbequed the fish under the stars on the roof of our building and listened Lily Allen and thought of London, so far away.


It's strange being away from popular culture. No NME's, no Scrubs, no Spidey comics. I'm having to learn to exist without all these stimulations, and find other things to keep me entertained. DVD's, cards, reading and playing the guitar all figure, as well as taking practice British citizenship tests in a book I have brought out here to help me with some research.



On Sunday, Katie felt a little more energetic so we went exploring the beaches up the coast. She took me to a picturesque hotel on the beach near some headland, where you could walk out to the reef, and sink your toes in squelchy white sand. We swam in the pool, I played some beach football with some local beach boys and some German tourists, we listened to an old Kenyan man play 80's pop classics on a Casio keyboard and went home. The beach boys are an interesting bunch here. They'll hawk anything. They will sell you things, guide you, give you company, take you fishing, anything to get you money. They'll even sleep with whoever pays. Some even dress as Masai-Mara for the tourists. Prostitution is treated quite blasé here. It's uncomfortable. In the evening, we drove up to Mtwapa, further up the coast and went to a bar in a creek called Moorings. Shane's dad had introduced Katie to this bar and it's quite majestic. It's in the middle of a creek, it's a little pier that you have to climb over a narrow bridge to get to. The sun sets over the creek and beauty throughout the entire surface of water reflecting off the trees. We had a few drinks there and watched the sun set over distant Mombasa.



Monday and Tuesday I got to work, reading and researching about Britishness for the poetry project I am about to work on. For lunches, I would meet Katie at a little shack at the school gates where the smiley Mama Fatuma makes lentils, spicy cabbage and chapattis for 30 shillings (5p or something ridiculous), all tasty and served with mounds of steamed rice. We then took our dishes and sat by the school pool with the other teachers. I have also been visiting a complex near the school where there is a cinema, English style pub showing football and a Café Mocha (the same chain as the one we performed at in India). Life is easy here. Quiet, sleepy and chilled. Well, it's too hot to be particularly urgent about much. On Monday and Tuesday afternoons, I went to the school cricket nets and played cricket with the 6th form cricket team. They are all great players and really helpful. They helped me get to a decent medium pace seam. Once I've warmed up next week, they'll see the return of my demon swing. Wednesday was spent working and in the evening, we went to the pub. Well I took a guy called Simon (who is visiting one of the other teachers) to the pub to drink Tusker beer play pool and watch FOOTBALL, while the girls watched some girly film 'Devil Wears Prada' or something equally offensive to my man-like eyes.



Speaking of masculinity. Another visitor left an FHM for me. I haven't read the magazine since I was 16. It's appalling. But anyway, there's a teacher here who teaches geography (those who can't, teach… geography) when he really wants to be a rugby teacher. Blessed with Small Man Syndrome, he is constantly trying to assert his manliness over me. When he saw me running around the school field, he demanded that I come with him to play a more serious sport… touch rugby (yep, serious games for woosies). I've never got on with rugby types. Watch out for him.



On Thursday, Simon and I decided to visit the old town. We took a mutatu (like the local buses, colourful minivans decorated with the logos of hip-hoppers like The Game and 50 Cent) into town. Mutatus are laws unto themselves. They don't move for anyone in the road. They speed up. They may only have 14 seats but they will seat up to 20 people in the cramped low-ceilinged back of the van. They drive fast and they only cost a maximum of 25 shillings for a long journey. (130 shillings to the pound). We got to the old town. I marvelled at how untouched by a lot of western society it was. We walked all over, and didn't see a single McDonalds or billboard for Nike anywhere. It was amazing. There were however, graffiti slogans celebrating Al-Queada everywhere. Simon and I tried to find some decent hip-hop but could only manage soft raga-influenced dancehall. They didn't seem to get that we wanted the rugged hard shit, like Prophets of da City or X-Plastaz. We walked down Jomo Kenyatta Avenue where my grandfather once owned a shop. We walked to the giant tusks that greet you on entering the city. As we walked away from the tusks, I noticed a bar that my father had mentioned called Casablancas. It was starting to rain so we ran for shelter inside. Inside, there were 10 female prostitutes lined up at the bar all staring at us as soon as we entered. We maintained eye contact and chatted as much as we could and kept ourselves to ourselves. It didn't stop the girls' madame, an elderly lady with glazed eyes approaching us and telling us that her girls wanted to sleep with us. We said we weren't interested and she got offended, taking up an uninvited seat at our table and spitting as she frothed about how we could possibly turn down her girls. We shrugged and said it wasn't our style, not our bag. She remained sat there and said ok fine, can we talk? We said ok. She kept asking questions about where we were from and what we did, trying to suss out our financial situations. Eventually she left.



Another girl replaced her. She introduced herself as Jassinder. We told her that we were on our way to the airport. She stayed anyway. She asked what we did for a living. We said we were poor students. Simon and I carried on our conversation and she sat there at the table like a lemon. She said nothing before reintroducing herself again 10 minutes later. We nodded and called over the waiter. Our food was 45 minutes late and we were wondering whether the delay was so that we could get proffered out. All the girls had been speaking to the waiter and he knew who they all were.



Our food arrived and we ate. It wasn't good at all. I silently rued my father mentioning this place. I'm sure he wasn't to know. Kenya has probably changed a lot since he was last here in 1966. We finished our food and we prepared to leave, a woman approached us wearing a low boob tube and short skirt, jiggling as she bounced over to us. She pinned Simon to his chair with her eyes.



'So, we going to sleep together?' she demanded of him. He was taken aback by her forthrightness.



'Errr, no.' He replied.

'Why do you not want to sleep with this sexy lady? We can do anything you want.' Simon was flustered. He said we had a plane to catch in 30 minutes. She said 30 minutes was plenty as there were rooms upstairs. He said no, she frowned at him flirtatiously. I interjected.



'We're married.'

She shrugged.

'We're married… errrr… we're both priests… and we respect the sanctity of marriage!!' I offered. She shrugged. She could not understand why we didn't want to sleep with her.



We finally managed to find our way out of the place with her snapping at our heels in frustration. I don't think we'll be going back. By this time, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out. It was HOT. We found sanctuary in a guide-book approved bar. I read about Casablanca in the same guidebook. It was notorious for hookers. Whoops.



We returned that evening on another mutatu, one even more cramped and that evening, Katie and I planned our December holiday. We have a month off so we're heading to Victoria Falls and a tea plantation in West Kenya.



In the meantime, this weekend is her birthday weekend so lots of fun to be had.



In the meantime, I wonder what's happening in Eastenders!!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kenya Chapter 1: Arrivals and Reunions

The Story So Far…



Once upon a time ago in a continent far far away…



The intrepid Yam Boy decided to sequester himself in the 'dark continent' in order to write a book of poetry and some music. He travelled to New York to give his farewell address before retiring to Africa-ca-ca-ca, where it all began.



Chapter 1: Arrivals and Reunions



The journey was completely nondescript and uneventful. Sadly, the in-flight films were exactly the same as the ones shown on my transatlantic trip to America the previous. Golly gosh, that makes me sound such a hoity-toity jetsetter. But anyway, a strangely unemotional goodbye with mum in the morning, as it was early, I hadn't slept and I was still bewildered by going.



I managed to stare out of the plane at the exact moment the Mediterranean Sea became the deserts and dunes of Egypt. It was completely magical. But as I said, the flight was pretty nondescript. I slept most of the way. On arrival, I raced through customs and immigration. I was relieved (and a teensy-weensy bit disappointed) to not encounter scary immigration officials wanting bribes. Everyone had warned me about corruption and some relatives had even expressed concern that I may need a licence for the musical instruments I was bringing in. Alas not. The only question I was asked was about the Shiva badge I was wearing. The customs official asked who he was. I told him. He asked when Shiva would arrive to save us all. I replied with something enigmatic like, 'He is already within us' or something and carried on.



This reminds me of something I forgot to mention about Newark. Hard Kaur and I were standing outside our hotel one morning, waiting to be picked up for an event. An elderly white guy and a young black guy approached us. They said they had met someone in the park who knew us and knew our grandfathers and they had spoken at length about us… who were they talking to in the park? Yup, good ol' God.



Anyway, I was met by an uncle at Nairobi airport and his friend and a miscellaneous man who was never properly introduced to me. He asked if I had had any problems. I replied that it was all fine and not to worry. He double-checked I had all the correct paperwork for staying here. He double-checked my tickets and whether I had all the correct phone numbers in case of problem. I showed him everything as we drove through a dark and dimly lit Nairobi back to his house.


We arrived at his house in a compound full of mainly Indian houses all tucked together and locked in with a huge guarded gate. I entered the house. It was like being back in Harrow. Inside the house was the exact same Gujarati décor I had become accustomed to in the NW London burbs. It was comforting. My aunt had prepared a lovely Gujarati feast for me and I ate heartily. Pure comfort food. I retired to bed tired and excited about seeing Katie the next day.



The next day, I awoke in the middle of the night to what I thought sounded like gunshots. I put this down to sleep-deprived dreams and went back to bed. I woke up proper to the sound of rain on the roof. I got up and went downstairs to watch the rain. It was thick and incessant. I watched it and sipped freshly squeezed orange juice and ate freshly cut watermelon and papaya. Fresh.



I packed up my suitcase and got ready to leave. I struck up a conversation with someone in the compound as I watched my aunt insist her servant take my suitcase to the car. I thanked the servant and apologised for the heaviness of the suitcase. I tried helping her but my aunt shooed me away. I spoke to this passer-by who told me that the Kenyans were beautiful sweet people, but, he lowered his voice, make sure I keep my money locked up cos they all steal. I grimaced at this horrid paranoid dispersion and felt sad. Do Indians and Africans mix here, I wondered? I had heard stories from Shane.



We drove through Nairobi to the airport. Nairobi looked like Mumbai, but with black instead of brown people. It was strange. Tall buildings suffocated by advertising billboards skirted shanty towns and roadside shacks selling tea and water and fresh mangoes and mobile phone top-up cards.



On the one hour flight to Mombasa (take-off and landing lasted longer than the flight, and I saw Mount Kilimanjaro peeking through the clouds), I spoke to a Punjabi male wedding planner who was in Nairobi to plan a huge wedding for a relative, and was heading to Mombasa for some party-sharty. As we got off the plane, I steeled myself for the big reunion with Katie. I had waited 11 weeks to see her. I could not wait to see her. The two months had been horrendous but the last week was tortuous as we counted down the final moments of our separation. I rushed out of the baggage reclaim into the outdoor arrivals area expecting for her to drop from the sky and fall into my arms and she….



Eeeeerm…. Where was she?



I looked around frantically. Where the hell was she? I felt my pocket vibrate. Phone message. She was on her way.



I stood around like a gooseberry basking in potential anti-climax till… I… saw… her… and damn she looked fine. She looked amazing. Tanned and healthy and curly and gorgeous (bleugh, cheese). We did all those coupley things and slipped slowly back into our old groove (with the added spice of her having this new life here that I was to be a part of), We drove through Mombasa. It looked small and sleepy and colourful. We drove to Nyali, a suburb of Mombasa on the mainland, through a huge second hand clothes market and through all the places I will come to know well over the coming months. We drove to the school where we'll be staying. As we pulled up, Katie's friends Jo and Katie G jumped and performed a welcome dance for me, full of jazz hands, and some of Katie's students chased our car down the road intrigued as to the arrival of this new brown man.



Our flat is great. It's slighter bigger than our flat in Brixton. It's spacious, we have a fraction of the stuff and sleeping under mosquito nets is quite romantic. That night, Katie and I walked in near darkness to the local Gujarati restaurant and ate.



The next morning, I awoke to find a cleaner cleaning the room around me. Katie had gone to work. The cleaner's name is Gladys and much as I am uncomfortable having someone clean for me, especially with me fulfilling the role of house husband at the moment, she was all smiles and welcomes. She showed me how to use the water tank and things like that. I boiled up water for the day, unpacked and chatted with her about nothing much.



Katie had left me some orienteering tasks so I decided to do one of them. I walked out of the school, past a family of huge spiders (if one of them has to bite me, let's hope it's the radioactive one) and on to the beach where I was to comb the beach for crabs and find some interesting driftwood, which I done. The beach is amazing. The shallows stretch for about 200 metres before hitting a reef at which point it gets deep. There are reef sharks on the other side of the reef. The beach is gorgeous. The colourless but blue water mixing with the aroma of the skyline. I returned from my first successful challenge and sat on some bleachers in the school field that our flat looks out on to. Jo was teaching a transition class raquet ball so I watched for a while before returning, making a sandwich and setting up a little writing space in an unobtrusive part of the flat. I sat on the balcony and started to work on arrangements for a few new songs. As I played my guitar, an audience of 5 monkeys appeared on the trees inches from the balcony and listened. They scarpered when I stopped for a second.



At 4pm, I picked Katie up from school and we took a walk to the supermarket where we picked up provisions. They have most things here, like Bounty bars and Marmite and Cookie Crisp cereal. That night, we ate pizza in a restaurant on the sea.



This place is quite magic.

Monday, November 13, 2006

London->Newark->New York->London->Kenya

London->Newark->New York->London->Kenya
Wednesday:

Met Hard Kaur at the airport early. She was feeling chirpy, I was still dreaming. Mayur and Lucia had put me up the night before and the evening ended with Jim Beam and singing. My head was sore. We checked in for our flights and messed about till it was time to go to the departure lounge. In the lounge, we saw an old sikh man get his beard frisked. We were busking with my guitar at the time. The sikh man was a homeopathic doctor and taught me some energy-restoring breathing exercises. The flight was long, laborious and an hour late.

Newark was quite a strange city. It had all the hallmarks of the American suburbs, but in close proximity. It also had an alarming number of liquor stores and fried chicken places. We checked into our hotel, met our artist liaison from the performance venue (across the road and quite spectacular) and then I decided to head to the city to see an old friend, Anand. We met in the East Village and drunk till we were drunkenly sat on a drunken stoop chatting drunken shit and doing the whole 'waaaaah, I've missed you' emotional bit. We then dined on amazing couldn't-get-it-anywhere-else New York City PIZZA. mmmmmmmmmm. I returned to Newark with a fatigued half-drunk skewered view of the world. This resulted in a ridiculous argument with a surly cab driver trying to overcharge me.

Thursday:

No sleep for the Keshle. Hard Kaur and I wandered around Newark looking for a decent breakfast place, feeling heavy and tired. We couldn't find anywhere. We resorted to asking a copper for the best place to eat. I joked about donuts or something obvious and he called me a wiseass, saying he was not above beating me up. No one gets me, I thought. The cop moaned about having to buy his own uniform before pointing us to a diner. There was no chance of getting anything unfried so we settled for eggs and bacon. Heavy.

That afternoon, Hard Kaur and I sat on a panel with a Greek hip-hop theatre artist and a Cuban radio DJ/hip-hop DJ and talked to some students at a nearby college about the importance of hip-hop and it's cultural values with regards to identity. The kids were rowdy and violently opposed to bling. There was interesting debate had by all. I did have to laugh when I mentioned grime and Sway and the tutor responded by addressing her students, 'Remember grime and Sway? We studied them in last week's lecture.' Wow, I wish I had done this degree!

In the evening we attended the opening of the hip-hop festival we were performing at. Fatigue sent us to bed but I found my insomnia returning. I went into the city to visit my old hitch-hiking buddy Karen and an old girlfriend. We hung in Union Square and caught up. Hard Kaur slept like a baby. I returned late, sober but sated.

Friday:

Hard Kaur and I continued searching for some fresh salad/fruit but ended up eating sandwiches. Hard Kaur tried a salad and remarked that the sizes we were dealing with were too much. This was expanded when we went shopping in the nearby shopping district. There we found some amazing hip-hop 'get at me dawg' clothes but for some reason, sizes started at XXXL and went up to XXXXXXL. We couldn't believe it. I felt thin. We asked someone why this was so. They said, ' Boy, you in the ghetto. We live large here.' I nodded absently. I was unsuccessful in finding anything I could buy. hard Kaur on the other hand filled her bags with new stuff.

We returned. She played me her new album. It sounded excellent. A real mish-mash of sounds. We went over to soundcheck.

The gig itself was in a small seated room with a full length window behind the stage opening out on to the Newark skyline. I was nervous. This was the gig Mrs Yam and I had put ourselves through two months of missing each other for. I had to rock it. The first few acts were amazing. I got ready.

I was called up. I started at the back of the room playing mariachi chords. There was whooping and confusion. I segued from mariachi into my version of my verses of D'Archetypes' 'London', bellowing Shane's chorus out to the crowd. As I hit the stage and the microphone, I started spitting and everyone was with me. So much so that my inbetween song banter got laughs and 'Superheroic Poetry' got its crowd participatory celebratory 'KAZAM! SHAZAM! It's YAM!' from everyone. 'A Tale of Two Centres' got sympathetic laughs and 'Mangoes' elicited some awwwwws. I rocked it good and proper, selling many CD's in the interval and getting plaudits.

After the interval, Hard Kaur took to the stage, and despite all the swearing, she hyped up a sitting crowd and rocked their socks off. She is a true hype-master, a real talent. Whereas my set was acoustic and introspective, her set was loud passionate and hyped. She mustered up the crowd in to a huge frenzy.

After her set, we left with Karen and my school friend, Anand and retired to our hotel bar where we chatted about the intricacies of tipping, foreign policy and the etymology of the word 'cunt'. The bartender tried to pick up my friend and with that, we left. I was supposed to go with the guys into the city but by this point, it was midnight and Hard Kaur and I were dead on our feet.

Saturday:

I got up early and headed to Brooklyn to meet Karen. She was to be my host for the day. Brooklyn was gorgeous. All the redbrick town houses and trees and spirally out of control gardens - it was magic. Every street was straight out of a film. She took me to brunch at a cajun place where I was finally able to have spinach and mushrooms and feel a bit fresher. We then went to the Superhero Supply Store on 5th Ave to pick up some supplies for Yamtastico. The shop is amazing. it's dressed up like a superhvillain's layer. They sell everyday things repackaged as superhero necessities, like capes, masks, voice recorders, suction cups, gloves and a brilliant civilian kit. It was an amazing shop. The shopkeeper showed us a secret door that lead to a backroom where there were books and computers and wall charts. The shop is actually a front for a community centre where children can come to get tutored in anything they need, and take classes in creative writing. Amazing.

Afterwards, we were for a walk in Prospect Park which was woody and gorgeous as all the leaves fell off the trees in front of our eyes. We then headed to Williamsburg (hipsterville) where we visited a huge second hand clothes shop, full of col NY arty types with assymmetrical haircuts. I found an old KMD 'Black Bastards' tshirt. We headed to the main Williamsburg strip where we had a walk, had a coffee and debated with the coffee-maker about the differences between a transgender and a transexual. I admit my ignorance with distinction between the two. I headed back to Newark via 6th Ave in manhatten, where I jumped out to grab me some more NYC pizza. In Newark, Hard Kaur and I attended the main Planet HipHop event. There were some good breakers, some AMAZING beatboxers and then the one Rob Swift destroyed the place with his immaculate turntablism. There was a weird bit of stage-vagueness where one of the scratch DJ's seem to decide mid-set that she didn't want to play and Hard Kaur and I ran backstage to meet Rob Swift. He was a lovely lovely lovely man. We returned to the hotel happy bunnies.

Sunday:

Hard Kaur took me out for more eggs then I got the flight home. I read 'Anansi Boys' by Neil Gaiman most of the trip.

Great trip.

Thanks NJPAC!!!

Right, off to Kenya now!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Fare Thee Wells...

Last Friday, I had leaving drinks with all my friends and it was certainly a touching affair. Everyone came to well-wish. I felt extremely blessed. Lingo and Vee-Kay had gone the extra mile. They had collated phone messages from friends giving me a goodbye and put them on CD for me. I must say, the amount of swearing on Nerm's one is appalling. I nearly uploaded a megamix of the messages but I don't think the Beeb would appreciate the abundance of 'cunts' on his message. Shane couldn't make it because of his knee, which was a shame. But all my cousins, Gautam and Nimer and Excalibah and Nils and the Videowallah and the Studio Mogul, members of Sonik Gurus, Paris Motel, D'Archetypes, Funk from the Trunk and Shiva all came, as well as other close friends. It was a beautiful event. Lingo and Vee-Kay had also pressed up a dubplate of Vee and my tune, 'Cuppa Tea, Sir?' and drawn a comic of Yamtastico on the cover. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. These two are the sweetest guys ever. I feel blessed.

We all met at Pool Bar. I chatted and mingled before getting absolutely hammered and boogeying on down with people. Watching Neel and Nick have their much-touted dance-off was amazing. it was close but I think Neel pipped it. On leaving Pool Bar, Lingo, Neel, Nick and I headed up to Wildcats for a few after-hours drinks. We stayed there for a couple before deciding to head home. I played a practical joke on Nick that didn't work. I noticed I had my bike lock in my bag so when he was in the toilet, I ran out and clamped his bike. When he left, he strolled past the bike I had clamped to which I panicked thinking I had clamped the wrong bike. Turns out, it was his bike but he had gone for a kebab.

When we left the bar, we grabbed kebabs. Some stupid Shoreditch twat bitch came up to me and demanded chips. I offered them to her and she walked off. I lamented that stupid blonde rich trust-fund bitches in Hoxton dressed like slum-chic idiots never say thank you. She shouted out a forced thank you, tutted and walked off. I was in a drunken rant-state so shouted out after her that she was an impolite facist and she was dressed like an idiot.

Neel, Rob and I grabbed a cab and sang 'Yo Momma' by the Pharcyde all the way home.

Wicked night.

Right, off to New York this week and Kenya next.

Who knows when I'll be able to blog again.

Take care till we next meet!

Monday, November 06, 2006

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

With great power comes great responsibility...
Last night, I was Spider-Man again... in my dreams.

This was a new adventure though. Spidey's uncle, here helpfully played by my dad's brother Nilesh, was Aquaman and he needed help from Spidey. He needed me to swim with him into the middle of the ocean and help save the survivors of a plane crash before they sank and drowned. I was a little reticent. There was good stuff on TV and I couldn't be bothered. Aquaman, my uncle Nilesh, forced me to go so I grabbed my all-over wetsuit and a wet-mask (looking suspiciously like a gimp mask and we set off. However, we needed energy food first. We ran to the doughnut shop to get some sustenance. As we did though, I dropped my wetsuit (ending up in my boxers - Spidey never had to worry about boxers exposure) and had to swing out of eyesight. As I swung on to the roof, I saw Batman and Superman and a drunk, and they said they were pretending they were trick-or-treating so they wouldn't be mobbed.

And that's about all I remember.

Had an amazing Friday night with mates well-wishing for my year away... will tell you all later...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Last Night I Dreamt I Was Spider-Man

Last night I dreamt I was Spider-Man.

I started off as Peter Parker. I was in a bar with Mary-Jane Watson, my girlfriend (bizarrely played by Dr Reid off Scrubs - yes, I've been watching lots of that lately too). She had just come off holiday and was acting strangely. I (Peter) wondered whether there had been another man. I interrogated her till she finally admitted that yes, there had been another man, a mysterious Eastern European man called Krim. He held her in his power, she said. I (Peter) wondered whether there was more to this. I returned to my hotel room and decided to do some investigating as Spidey.

I scaled walls, swung across buildings till I found Krim. He was entering a school notorious for how many of its students had ASBO's. I followed him in. As I entered, I was showered in glass and needles as the ASBO-students started firing needle guns at me. I ducked for cover and ran out. I would return later to find out the connection between Krim and this school and why he needed Mary-Jane in his plan. I web-slung back to my hotel room where I was attacked and taken away by Krim's henchmen. A man appeared at my hotel room, claiming to have been sent by S.H.I.E.L.D.. He had to move my stuff from my room so no-one would find out my secret identity. Mary-Jane turned up at that moment and believed him. She helped him move my suitcases and bags to an adjacent room (next door to Krim's). As we entered the room, we saw that the room was full of arcade games and electrical equipment. The room was run by Japanese students who were developing the ultimate virtual reality game and needed ol' Spidey for their plans.

The camera cut away to me (Spidey) slumped and unconscious in the corner...

What was the connection between Krim, the Japanese students and the ASBO school... I was about to find out when my sister woke me up to ask if she was allowed to wear trainers to the bar we're all meeting in tonight...

DAMNIT. I was close to solving the mystery.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Inundated with Goodbyes

So many goodbyes to make and people to see but 5 jabs in under 24 hours has made this week quite the bust. I've been hallucinating, unable to lift my arms and feeling quite sorry for myself. Oh well, maybe I shouldn't have left all my jabs to two days. More next week. Nice.

I said goodbye to my grandma yesterday. She's off to India on Saturday so I won't see her now till I return from self-imposed exile. She regaled me with stories from her time in India. From getting married at 13 to a guy 10 years her senior to taking a boat to the Middle East, to my granddad being arrested for a day pre-Independence for protesting the British hold of the cotton industry. He and his fellow protestors bribed their way out by giving the Indian police a box of 'ladoos'. That is certainly bribery and corruption at its most sinister. She told me about her depression on moving from Yemen (hot and beautiful and full of friends) to Keighley (up north where it's grim and cold and no friends) and having to work in a battery factory. She wasn't allowed to wear her saree so she wore leggings and a floor-length overall. She told me about having to work her entire life, whether it was waiting on her husband hand-and-foot, being a go-between for her kids and their father, and working for money, she was always working.

As I was leaving, I asked her if she enjoyed living on her own. She laughed and said she was revelling in it. She said after a lifetime of a demanding husband, well-wishers of her swami (who she gave a house to), grandchildren, constant vistors, work and the rules she was forced to follow (no talking to men, working, no television except news, food at a certain time), she was so happy to finally be free. She wasn't lonely, she was happy. She no longer needed company. She could get up when she wanted, go to bed when she wanted, eat what she wanted (within reason). She loved living by herself. It was almost like she'd just moved out of her parent's house for the first time.

She gave me loads of stories that night. I felt like I was finally getting to know some family history. I had originally started asking because my missus was scared so many of these stories would die with my grandparents. Also, it's useful research for a potential book.

Grandma's off to India today to get her 20 day fill of socialite-life before she returns to her quiet empty humble semi-detached house in Harrow to bask in her own fortress of solitude.

Tomorrow, I am to be completely inundated with goodbyes. I'm going out with loads of friends to say goodbye. It's a bit of a weird concept. But, hey, this is Britain. Any excuse for a piss-up eh?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fortress of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude

I built these walls. I didn’t buy the wood or supply the nails, but I erected these walls, tall and proud, impenetrable and grand. I’m teaching myself the discipline of waiting. I am teaching myself solitude. I go without, I abstain, I am fasting spiritually.

In the first few days, it was easy. I didn’t answer my phone, I responded to people only by text or email. I made them get used to not hearing my voice or seeing my face. Slowly, I stopped answering emails. I ordered food off the internet. I turned off the television. I threw my computer out of the bathroom window. It wasn’t enough though. There were visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, postmen, window cleaners and well-wishing neighbours. The interruptions halted my work, the constant ringing of the bell sent shivers and anxiety spasms down my spine. I could not concentrate.

I am getting closer to my goal. The more I go without the outside world, the more time I have to immerse in depriving myself of feeling. When I reintroduce these feeling, I will be more sensitive, more overflowing with emotion.

I gave up on simply wanting to be left alone. I needed to actually be left alone. I had to try keep people out. So I built these walls.

I’m doing this for you. The solitude I bask in cleanses me, surrounds me, absorbs me and lets suck at its willowy teat. I need only myself. And your memory. Any outside interference is lost in the grinding static I create with my home-made antenna. Any intruders are caught in the bear-traps I lay. Those smart enough to beat the bear traps have to contend with the walls. The walls I erected and electrified with psychic energy. No one is getting past these walls. No one.

This is my fortress of solitude. It belongs to me. It is my classroom for the future. It is my home for the next few months while I wait for you. I did this for you.

This fortress of solitude is my model for self-discipline.