Missing Chapters Part Two

Tony with a Lemon

Guess what, folks? It’s Missing Chapter time! For anyone who missing the first Missing Chapter, it’s HERE – but hurry right back, because… um… well, I’ll miss you!

This time we’ve got a story that I cut out of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ simply because it wasn’t good enough. I know – way to encourage you to read it, right? The truth is, when the agents told me my book couldn’t be longer than 100,000 words, I cried inside. Because I’d already written nearly double that – and it had taken me six frigging years to do it!

Still. At that point I still had high hopes of getting ‘properly’ published, so with a heavy heart I dove into my list of chapters and deleted as many as I could.

The first to go were the unfinished bits – fragments of jokes and funny stories that were too short to make chapters. Next I started on the full-length chapters, cutting out any that didn’t move the story along. If I found something hysterically funny – even after reading it fifty-odd times – I generally kept it in. If not, it got the axe.

So, here I present one of those chapters. I liked it because it was a particularly odd memory, and my ideal version of the book would describe everything that happened to me in Ecuador. But even good authors have to cut bits out for reasons like pacing, and I felt that this chapter, whilst amusing (especially to me, who lived through it) – was a bit of a speed-bump.

The axe came down, and it’s never seen the light of day since.



A Fruit Too Far…

I was quite excited when Johnny asked me to get into the ‘good’ truck on Saturday morning. After a frustrating few days of digging yet more post holes, I was thrilled to be spending my Saturday doing anything else. Getting in the good truck meant we were going somewhere outside the refuge, and a quick check in the back confirmed we weren’t taking any shovels with us. Toby was off in Quito again on one of his recruitment drives, which meant poor old Ashley was staying behind on her own.
“Never mind,” I tried to console her, “I don’t think we’ll be having much fun. Probably doing something very boring.”
“Yeah right. Whatever. This is so unfair.”
“What can I say? I guess they just want men.”
“And yet they’re still taking you…” Ashley stuck her tongue out at me.
“Ooh! You cheeky little… I hope you dig ‘till you hit China!”

Johnny tried to explain the day’s mission to me, but gave up after a few minutes of talking to my vacant expression. He shrugged his shoulders and climbed into the front with Jimmy. The engine roared and the truck rocketed off up the driveway.
The weather was looking less and less clement as we descended the mountain, and I began to wish I’d brought a jacket. But who knows where we’re going, I thought to myself. Perhaps they’re taking me shopping!
“We go see my friends,” Johnny called back from the front. Apparently he’d been thinking and had come up with a Spanish phrase simple enough for me to understand. “We go help my friends.”
Interesting. A few light rain drops patterned the windscreen.

It was starting to come down heavier when we pulled up in town. Which town, I couldn’t say – we’d been driving for what seemed like an age, down an endless network of tiny back streets somewhere north of Quito. The area we’d stopped in featured an unhealthy looking mix of decrepit alleyways and deserted courtyards. It didn’t look like a sensible place to take a massive four wheel drive truck, for fear it’d never be able to get out again, but I left that worry to Johnny and counted my fortunes that I was sitting in the warm, comfy back seat and staring out at the steadily worsening weather.
Johnny’s friends turned out to be a tiny, wrinkled old man and his equally tiny, equally wrinkled wife.
But this was Ecuador; what was I expecting? Eight-foot-tall blonde skiing instructors?
Coaxing me out of the car, Johnny and his friends led me to a tall steel door in a tumbledown wall. The door seemed to have survived the ravages of time much better than the wall. This is probably why they decided not to open it – there was a good chance that doing so would precipitate a major collapse.
Instead, they enthusiastically scaled the wall at a slightly more broken-down section, and I scurried over in their wake. Within was a somewhat unexpected sight; this walled suburban enclosure was filled with brightly coloured trees! And on the trees hung a strange, luminous green fruit in vast quantities.
I gazed in wonder at this alien landscape – but not for too long. By now it was pissing it down, and I was already getting soaked.
Johnny waved a black plastic bag in my face and gestured around at the trees. It wasn’t hard to grasp his plan, as Jimmy was already shredding the foliage of the first tree to divest it of… what, exactly? Some kind of small, misshapen fruit that bore no resemblance to anything I’d ever seen.
Jimmy was filling his bag with them, so I grabbed the bag from Johnny and followed suit. It was fairly quick work to strip the fruit from the trees, the more so because I was taller than most of them. Jimmy was having a tougher time of it – he had to jump to reach the uppermost branches. These were clearly Ecuadorian-scaled trees.
The wrinkly old couple lent a hand too, though they were considerably less effective. There must have been fifty trees in that courtyard; I think they might have managed one apiece. Of course, all this happened under the careful ‘supervision’ of Johnny and his friends. Yet again I had the thought that I’d like to be the supervisor one day. It really was a tough gig.
The tempo of the rain was steadily increasing. The trees weren’t providing a whole of cover, because my head stuck out the top of them. Plus they were getting wet themselves, and I was rooting deep amongst the leaves. Ecuador may be on the equator, but the rain there is as cold as anywhere else, especially for people only wearing a t-shirt.
A few minutes in, I was already soaked. And a couple of hours after that, we’d finally removed most of the weird green things from their branches. I’d lost count of how many giant black bin-bags I’d filled. Dragging our last bulging sacks with us, we gathered in the partial shelter of a roofless barn-like structure.
Johnny and his friends were ecstatic. They’d been loading our haul into the trucks outside, splitting it between Johnny’s beast and a wreck of a truck that had to belong to the old couple. In fairness they’d worked quite hard, dragging the heavy bags over what was left of the wall. It had been a rush job from start to finish, and I could only thank God that we were finally in sight of that finish.
There seemed to be a lot of commotion around me, something to do with the sheer quantity of water that was pouring off me. After much pointing and rapid-fire Spanish, the old woman disappeared for a few minutes – only to reappear with the most hideous jumper I have ever laid eyes on. She thrust it at me with such ferocity that I didn’t dare refuse it – and then, amidst much laughter and gesticulation, I was persuaded to strip off my sopping t-shirt and don the jumper. It was navy blue knitted wool, patterned like the worst Christmas present you ever received from some distant aunt with only a shred of her mind remaining.
And it was sized to fit a ten year old boy.
From Ecuador.
The sleeves stretched skin-tight, and ended just beyond my elbows. My head ripped the neck hole on its way out, and the bottom third of my torso was left naked to the elements. I looked like a cabbage patch doll that had been fished out of a lake. Everyone present fell about laughing, which really helped to bolster my ego. Being wool, the garment was already starting to itch like crazy. The humiliation was total; I could only be grateful that no-one bar Jimmy and Johnny was there to see me. I was only too pleased when Johnny sniggered his way over the wall and then mocked me as I followed. It was time to go home, where I could hopefully salvage some dignity – and quite possibly burn that bloody thing. I still had absolutely no idea why we’d been called upon to pick the strange fruits in the pissing-it-down rain.
But the trip home seemed to take much longer than expected. I realised why as we pulled up in a thronging Quito market place.
“Get out, have a walk, if you like,” Johnny told me generously. “We’ll be here for a while.”

And we were. Fruit by fruit, for a couple of dollars per shopping bag full, he gradually unloaded the entire truck. I sat grumpily in the car, shivering, scratching, and trying not to make eye contact with the passers-by. Because every time I did, they pointed and laughed. I could almost imagine Johnny setting me up as a sideshow; ‘See the great white ape trying to wear clothes!’. He’d probably have made more money than he was getting for the… “What the hell are those things anyway?” I grumbled. “Hey Jimmy! Que es estos?”
He gave me a wicked grin. “Limon.”
Ah. I could feel pneumonia setting in. And hives…
Perhaps there was a lesson in all of this?
            When life gives you lemons… sell the bastard things! At least you might be able to afford a decent jumper.

It had been dark for hours when we pulled up at Santa Martha. “Please God,” I prayed, “next Saturday let me dig post holes.”
“How was your day?” Ashley asked as I stomped inside. The door closed behind me with a screech like tortured metal.
She looked up at the sour tone in my voice and beheld the sight. She managed a good few seconds before the first guffaw burst out of her.
“Holy shit! Did you shrink in the rain? Or just beat up a ten year old and steal his clothes? You look like a scarecrow!”
“Thanks for that Ash. I’m just going to go and take this off.”
“Oh, that’s gonna be tough. You wanna pair of scissors?”
“You want to kiss my ass?”
“I wouldn’t bend over wearing that thing if I were you. It might strangle you.”
“Someone’s going to get strangled,” I fumed.
Both Toby and I owned cameras, but Ashley did not – for which I was extremely grateful.

It was only much later, and with a significantly better command of the Spanish language, that I managed to get some answers out of Jimmy. We were sitting with a beer in the two-room shack Johnny had built for him and his wife, Nancy – and their adorable kids, Myra and JimmyTwo. When I mentioned the incident, Jimmy laughed so hard at the memory of the jumper that I thought he was going to pee himself.
Si, si!” he chuckled. “We only had one day – the owners of that place had gone away on a trip!”
And the light bulb pinged on above my head. A gate that no-one opened. Scrambling over the wall. One day to get in and out, under cover of a deluge. And a trip to the market on the way home to sell Johnny’s half of the loot…
I’d been duped.
Those cheeky sons of bitches had turned me into a criminal.
And possibly the worst-dressed criminal in the history of crime.
Life hadn’t given me lemons, after all; I’d stolen the damn things.



Hope you enjoyed that, folks! For anyone who hasn’t had chance to check out ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ in all its glory, here’s a sneaky link to it on Amazon:

Link to That bear Ate My Pants on Amazon

I’ll try and get the next one ready a bit quicker, I promise 😉

Happy travels!


Sleeping like an Eskimo!

Roo on an igloo bed

Roo testing out the igloo bed.

Sleeping in an Igloo!

It’s one of those weird things I’ve always wanted to try, so when my family wanted to know what to get me for my birthday I sent them a link to the Igludorf.com website. The response was mixed… “Omg, it’s like extreme SAS survival training!”, and “But how do you sleep when its actually freezing cold?” and from my dad; ”Make sure Tony doesn’t stick to the ice toilet!”

We ended up being lucky enough to get squeezed in to a Friday night reservation because it books up pretty fast. It was a glorious bus ride up towards the ski resort village of Kuhtai in Austria, and I was SO EXCITED when it changed from rain in Innsbruck to heavier and heavier snow as we drove higher. By the time we arrived it was almost a blizzard! These snow-flakes were the biggest I’ve ever seen, like Australian 20 cent pieces and so incredibly fluffy! The hardest part was actually finding the Igloo Village, because looking for white domes made of snow in heavy white snowfall was a bit tricky… Read the rest of this entry

On the Road Again!

G’day Adventurers… Roo here! It’s my turn to take over the blog because Tony is busy writing!

Bay window
Tony working hard in a Slovenian apartment!

It’s been a very busy couple of months for us. I mean, Christmas is busy for everyone but we also had to pack up our entire lives on NYE and cram it into a storage unit in preparation for our next trip overseas… As usual, we declared that we owned far too much stuff and yet couldn’t seem to part with any of it… Luckily it fit into the 3m by 3m storage unit we’d paid for. But only because it was also 3m tall!

Storage Unit Full

It was hard leaving Perth this time. Even though we were looking forward to 6 months of adventures around Europe, my dad is selling the family home up in the Perth hills. Read the rest of this entry

‘The Missing Chapters’ Part 1

Okay… hands up if you thought this would never happen? Yes folks, I am here to bring you the FIRST in a series of blog posts dedicated to the fabled ‘Missing Chapters’ – the ones I cut from ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ (and all the other books) for a wide variety of reasons.

I’ve been promising to release these for what seems like years… What’s that? It’s BEEN years? Oh, right. Yes, well… um, sorry about that!

But at long, long last, here they are! And I have to say it’s been quite exciting for me, lifting the lid on all these stories I wrote so long ago, none of which have ever seen the light of day. Some are short, some have no discernable end, some ended up irrelevant in the grand narrative of the book… and some I loved dearly, but had to cut out simply because the Powers That Be decreed my book was WAY too long to ever get published… Ha!

So, here’s how we’re going to do this: I’ll introduce each new chapter with a brief explanation of what’s going on, perhaps adding some insights as to why it ended up on the cutting room floor. And then I’ll unleash the chapter in question, with very little editing…

I apologise in advance for the crudeness of the writing. I haven’t looked back at ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ for quite a while, but I hope the final version was more polished than these early excerpts. Still, I’ve written and learned a lot since those days… perhaps it’s time for a thorough going-over?

Anyway! Without further ado, here is what could have been the very first chapter of ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’. Reading it, I think you’ll see why I opted for the current, cut-to-the-chase version. Actually, the real reason is: Mum convinced me it was better that way! My original intention with this start was to set the scene, to describe my journey to Ecuador and some of my encounters along the way. Whereas Mum’s opinion was, “Bollocks to that! Start at the good bit!”

Which of course I did. Eventually… Right! Buckle up. Here goes 🤗

That Bear Header

Chapter One: Almost Certain Death

pantsn.pl. Brit. Undergarment for lower trunk; underpants, knickers. (ooh la la!)

bearn. large, heavy mammal that walks on the soles of its feet, with thick fur and a very short tail. Omnivorous. (i.e. will eat anything. No matter how disgusting.)

         It’s true.
         A bear really did eat my pants. Luckily I wasn’t wearing them at the time, or this book would be called ‘That Bear Ate My Balls and My Ass’ (not to mention my legs and feet), and I’d probably be writing it from hospital.
         There were quite a few times in Ecuador when it seemed like a lengthy hospital stay was inevitable. I mean, I’d been in the country for less than an hour when I nearly died for the first time.
         My mistake was a simple one; I told my taxi driver that I wanted to learn Spanish.
         In Spanish.
         How was I to know?
         To say that he was excited by this prospect would be the grossest of understatements. He was so delighted, he no longer felt the need to look at the road.
         “Football!” he exclaimed proudly, waving both hands in the air to illustrate his point. His expression was one of joy at having found so willing an audience. His eyes remained fixed expectantly on mine, despite the fact we were doing at least a hundred miles an hour, speeding along bumper to bumper with other cars on all four sides of us. I could feel my bowels loosening inside me.
         “Yes, s-same in English,” I stammered. “Football!”
         The driver was ecstatic. Which was kind of appropriate, since we appeared to be only seconds from meeting God.
         “Mi nombre es Roberto!” he declared, patting his scrawny chest and raising a knee to nudge the steering wheel.
         It’s true, so they say, that most victims know the name of their killer…

         When I’d first agreed to travel to South America, to volunteer at the Santa Martha Centre for Animal Rescue, the potential for disaster had weighed heavily on my mind. I could get lost. Get robbed. Get taken hostage by freedom fighters, tied to a goat and fed banana leaves until I died of dysentery. Or be forced to appear on TV with a Kalashnikov pointed at me and a bag over my head. And that was even before I considered what the wildlife could do to my soft, pink flesh.
         I’d never considered, even for a moment, that my desire to learn Spanish could prove deadly.
         And thankfully, it didn’t… at least, not this time. We cut across three lanes of traffic and screeched to a halt beside a darkened alleyway that apparently led to my hostel. A humming neon sign bore the legend ‘The Secret Garden’. The glow gave an eerie, green cast to Roberto’s manic features as he shook my hand with gusto. The fingers of my other hand were still embedded in his dashboard. I staggered out of the taxi, shaking and sweating, and tried in vain to lever my gigantic rucksack out of the boot. No chance. The drive had left me with all the strength of a well-used tissue.
         Roberto, of course, was unfazed. Reaching in with one hand he hefted my bag and swung it smoothly out onto the pavement – in spite of the fact that it was considerably bigger than he was.
         “Uh, gracias…” was all I could manage.
         Five dollars for the journey, and the nightmares thrown in for free.
         Roberto pulled back out into the traffic without looking, whilst giving me a cheery wave with both hands.
         Alone at last on the shadowed street, I took a few calming breaths. Then I started to wonder if alone on a shadowed street was a good place to be. It was time for me to admit it; this was going to be a very strange, very tough, very scary three months…
         And there was no way out. So I shouldered my rucksack and, bent nearly double under it’s crippling weight, staggered down the alleyway beneath the sign.
         Ah, the Secret Garden! It wasn’t secret, and it didn’t have a garden. It did have a rooftop barbeque area where (I was reliably informed) the other guests had only recently finished a delicious complementary diner. Damn it. Instead, I stood drinking a ‘Pilsner’, overlooking the rag-tag rooftops of downtown Quito. Everywhere I could see, rusted steel reinforcing rods protruded from the flat roofs of upper stories. Crumbling walls divided the chaotic jumble of terraces, jealously guarding a pile of derelict machinery here, a mound of rubble there. The sun had just set, and the sky still displayed a riotous profusion of colours from the crimson bordering of the horizon through odd patches of pale green and pink, fading up into the deep purple evening overhead. The last of the light cast mysterious shadows across the carefully hoarded stacks of junk. I took a sip of my beer and considered my first sunset in this strange new country.
         Man, it was an ugly sight.

            I’ve come to the conclusion that looking for ‘adventure’ is sort of asking for trouble. In trying to escape the nine-to-five, two-point-four kids, car loan and a mortgage type-existence that had been claiming my friends one by one, I’d devoted most of the last five years to acting. I’d studied and pushed and studied and pushed – striving with every ounce of my ability to make that elusive big break. Until one day I realised I was never going to be the next Brad Pitt because, basically, I was crap.
         So instead I’d tried France.
         It seemed a perfectly logical alternative. World Fame would be replaced by World Exploration; either way I was sure to find excitement. Visions of parties on the Riviera and mega-yachts filled with swimsuit models dominated my dreams. France would be a staging post from where I would unleash myself on the world; unstoppable, insatiable, inevitable!
         Or… not, as it turned out.
         After three months of picking prunes on a baking hot plantation south of Bordeaux, having lost the ability to walk normally due to spending sixty hours a week on my knees, I decided to give up.
         It wasn’t that the place broke my spirit, though it came perilously close; it was when the boss got drunk with us one night and confessed to drugging a gypsy who worked for him, and feeding him into the prune drying furnace. That made up my mind. By daybreak his entire workforce had evaporated. By midnight the next day I limped through the door to my parent’s house, exhausted, malnourished and penniless.
         All in all it had been a bit of a shitter.
         But all that was in the past! This time I was determined to do it right. This time I had a plan. I’d even done my research. Santa Martha’s website described it as a volunteer-run wildlife refuge in the Avenue of Volcanoes, Ecuador, South America. At any given time it was home to big cats, parrots and monkeys plus dozens of other species I’d never even heard of. All of them had been rescued from cruelty; chained up in market places, kept illegally as pets or destined for the black market. The job of the volunteers was to accompany the police on raids, rescue the animals, look after them and release them into the Amazon jungle! It was the most amazing job description I’d ever read.
         As a young boy I’d dreamed of being Tarzan. Now, years later, I was still dreaming about it. Which is a little worrying. Maybe it’s the loincloth. Anyway, Santa Martha seemed like exactly the kind of place I’d been looking for. The fantasy came a step closer to reality on the day that Toby, the English co-ordinator of the refuge, approved my application despite me having absolutely no relevant experience. I convinced myself that this was the shadowy hand of Fate, rather than a blanket policy of employing every idiot that sent them an email. Surely there would be some kind of training programme before they sent me in to feed the lions…
         And before I knew it, I was on a plane. Winging my way towards a country that a week ago I couldn’t have pointed to on a map. Actually, I still couldn’t point to it on a map. The only reason I could even spell ‘Ecuador’ was because I’d had to type it into Google to find a cheap flight. The closer I got to my destination, the more I realised quite how unprepared I really was.
         The woman in the window seat didn’t help.
         She was like the anti-me; in her smart black trouser suit she exuded confidence and power. I fidgeted nervously with my mp3 player and tried to arrange my jeans so the holes in the knees were less obvious. Close to half the world’s oceans had slipped by beneath our wings before she deigned to speak to me. As she twisted slightly in her seat I caught a waft of perfume. She even smelled expensive, like a delicate rainforest flower, whereas I was visibly sweating out all the complementary alcohol I’d consumed on the first half of the flight.
         “So, what are you listening to?” she enquired.
         “Eh?” I pulled an earphone out while I sought clarification.
         “What are you listening to?”
         “Oh, um, it’s a Spanish course. Yeah, I’m trying to learn some Spanish.”
         She was clearly quite surprised. “Oh! So you don’t speak any Spanish?”
         “No. Not yet. And you?”
         “Of course! You have to, really, going to Ecuador.” She paused for a guilty glance my way at that. “I brushed-up for a few days before I left.”
         “How long did it take you to learn?”
         “Five years.”
         There followed a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. During which, Disc 1, Lesson 1 droned on in  my right ear.         
         “So, what brings you to Ecuador?” I ventured. Rather lamely.
         “Environmental conference,” she replied, “and you?”
         “I’m gonna work as a volunteer. In an animal refuge.”
         “Really! You’re a veterinarian then?” She suddenly seemed genuinely interested.
         “Oh, no. I just… like animals.”
         “So you work with them?”
         “Well, no. But I’ve eaten a lot of them lately and I wanted to give something back…”
         She wasn’t amused. At this point I realised there was no way to salvage the conversation and surreptitiously slipped my earphone back in. I’d love to have explained my reasoning to her, but I didn’t think, ‘Chicks dig guys who work with animals’ would impress her overly much. Come to think of it, it wasa pretty tenuous reason for flying halfway around the world.
         Perhaps I should have put a little more thought into my motivations. I was a twenty-four year old bloke; meeting a hot woman had been my number one priority for as long as I could remember. But there was definitely more to it than that. Concepts like ‘being a part of something greater’ and ‘finding myself’ sounded great in my head, but if spoken aloud they became so cheesy there were probably EU restrictions on exporting them.
         Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it. Cope with the language. Survive in a totally foreign country. Break free of my boring little life, of the very ordinary and somewhat insecure person I was in danger of becoming, and forge myself anew in the fires of experience. Return home a strong, confident adventurer with a fistful of stories to impress my mates. And possibly a pet tiger. And if the local girls felt the need to throw themselves at me, well, what could I do? I’d just have to shag them all.

            And so it came to pass that I landed in Quito airport, with close to two hours’ intensive language training under my belt.Everywhere I looked, strange people were doing incomprehensible things with peculiar foodstuffs. Weirdness was on sale in the kiosks, and floating through the air disguised as conversation, and written on posters fastened to the brightly lit walls. The floor was normal; the roof was normal – I mean, it wasn’t made out of reeds and branches or anything. I think that was the most disturbing thing. It looked exactly like any other airport. It was just full of crazy shit.
         The urge to shriek and run away was building strongly within me. Only, there was nowhere to run to. It was one of those moments when I realised I might have made a slight mistake. I’d felt so brave back home, planning this trip from behind my keyboard…
         And then I was given a Sign.
         And it said ‘TAXI’.
         And I saw that it was good. So I shuffled towards it.
         Beneath the sign was a desk, and behind that was a woman – my first female contact in the country. She was pretty, in that cheerful-yet-severe style effected by airport staff the world over. Dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes that twinkled as she smiled up at me. And the top of her head just about came up to my nipples.
         “Hola!” I tried bravely. And then I lost it. Because to be honest, that was the only word I could remember.
         “Hola!” she responded. Which didn’t get me a whole lot closer.
         I took a deep breath. And did nothing with it. And stood there.
         “Would you like me to book you a taxi?” she asked.
         I should have guessed she’d speak better English than I spoke Spanish.
         Probably better than I spoke English.
         “Oui!” I replied. In French. “I mean, Si! I mean… oh, bollocks to it.”         
         She took pity on me. Because I was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most clueless person to have crossed her path that day. She came around the front of the desk – climbing down off her box and losing another six inches of height in the process – and with the expression of someone rescuing a bird with a broken wing, led me carefully through the confusion of the arrivals hall. It was touching and demoralising in equal measure, to be an object of sympathy for a bilingual midget.
         I followed her out through the main doors, into the heat and the smell of exhaust fumes and around the corner to the taxi rank.
         And that was where she introduced me to the equally diminutive man that had spent the next forty minutes trying to kill me.
         Still, it’s hard to bear a grudge. After all, I was still alive… And Roberto? Well, the odds weren’t great for him to be honest. But I think he meant well.

         A few hours later I’d convinced myself that this had been my first and last near-death experience in Ecuador, and that it was bound to be plain sailing from here on.
         How little I knew!
         But my survival against the odds comforted me, and reinvigorated my sense of purpose. I was here in search of adventure after all! And I’d found plenty of it in my first hour in the country. Surely, I was a stronger person already?
         If there were more challenges to come, I would rise to meet them.
         And with that thought, I could finally relax a little.
         I spent a pleasant night safe and sound in a tiny yellow room at the Secret Garden. I even had a window with a view of the motorway…
         That was the last time I felt safe in Ecuador.


I hope you all enjoyed that! As I said, my writing was a little raw back then, and whilst I loved this opening when I wrote it, in the end I decided it was too much of a ‘slow burn’. Some bits still make me chuckle though!

And for those of you still interested, here’s the second of the Missing Chapters – about one of the strangest days of work I did at Santa Martha…

Let me know what you think in the comments 😉


So, the dust has settled on my latest incident of outright stupidity.
Am I wiser?
Permanently cocooned in bubble-wrap?

No – not yet, at least! I certainly feel like a bit of a plonker, though 😉 Here’s what they did to me:

Jaw Xray

Note the metal plates, which fixed the split down the middle of my jaw. This has caused some loss of sensation in that area, presumably due to nerves they had to cut, so a few of my more exaggerated facial expressions are now off the cards.

The two matching fractures on either side of my jaw, just below the hinges, they decided to let heal themselves – wiring my jaw shut just to be on the safe side! This led to my kitchen looking a bit like the bodybuilding aisle at the supermarket, as it’s incredibly hard to get a sensible amount of calories and nutrients when everything you eat has to come in through a straw.

Protein Shelf

It did mean that my daily dish-washing chores were dramatically reduced though…

Sink of dishes

And on the upside, although my jaw is still a bit swollen – and my chest needs a shave – if any of my Romance writer friends need some gratuitous abs for their next book cover, I’m available nice and cheap 😉

Tonys Skinny Abs

A total weight loss of almost 6kg or 13lb (from a starting weight of 75kg or 165lb) has left me in dire need of a new wardrobe. Luckily, Roo has set herself the task of fattening me up again – presumably to slaughter in time for Christmas…

My first eating experience after getting my jaws unwired was a bit of an anti-climax. It probably serves me right for having it at McDonalds.

But I’d been craving a Big Mac ever since Roo went away – not surprisingly, junk food featured high on my list of survival foods while she was off camping for a week. And because I broke myself less than 12 hours after she left, I didn’t get to eat ANY OF IT!

First Big mac

So, I settled into my plastic chair and eyed the fresh burger hungrily. It had been four full weeks since I’d eaten anything solid.

And… It was weird.

Turns out, if you don’t use your jaw for a while, it gets weak. Now Big Macs aren’t known for their hardness, so I figured it would be an ideal re-introduction to the world of solid food. Unfortunately, like the star of my favourite Kiwi cartoon ‘Beached Az’ (check it out HERE) – I can’t chew bro! In fact, every mouthful was such a mission – and the act of eating itself felt so unpleasant, so different with all the missing and broken teeth, not to mention painful – that I pretty much resigned myself to a liquid diet again.

Cider through a straw

A liquid diet has its compensations…

Luckily, it did get better – most notably after my first appointment with my incredible dentist Dr. Laura Hall. She had to use quite a lot of filling materiel – roughly a wheelbarrow’s worth – and she strapped the remains of one of my molars together with a metal band in a last-ditch attempt to save it. My pain level is already way down, and I’m starting to get used to the new alignment of my jaw and what’s left of my teeth.

All that remains is to keep on eating… Roo is super happy to accommodate this, and is on the hunt for softer options in the surrounding restaurants. I might even get to try this place, which I’ve been eyeing up ever since I spotted their hilarious sign:

Mexican Food With Wall

However, the newly-opened authentic Chinese restaurant near us hasn’t quite got me tempted. I dunno, there’s almost something TOO authentic about that menu…

Pork Bung Menu

I will give you a fiver if you try the Pork Bung. Seriously.

So, I’m firmly on the road to recovery and starting to regain my strength. I hadn’t really appreciated how weak a full month of sub-1000-calorie days had left me, until I tried to walk up a few hills in Araluen botanical gardens. I managed though, and it was nice to be out in the sun. Roo took plenty of photos of the tulips – I think she actually managed to run out of storage space on her phone, which hasn’t happened since Dubrovnik! It was gorgeous though:

Tony n Roo at Araluen


Tulips at Araluen

It’s tulip season!

Throughout this whole ordeal, I can honestly say that two things have really made the difference, keeping me going when I started to get despondent. One is coffee – my daily walk to the local petrol station to get my fresh cup o’ Joe got me out and moving, and I calculate that coffee alone contributed over a third of all the calories I consumed last month.

I even dug deep in the back of our kitchen cupboards to find some tasty treats I’d been saving… but for some reason, they didn’t taste as good as I expected.

Out of Date Coffee

Turns out it was a tad past its use-by date…

And the other thing that’s kept me going? Well, that’s a no-brainer. It’s my gorgeous, wonderful, and infinitely supportive wife, Roo. Although I probably shouldn’t have introduced her with the words ‘thing’ and ‘no-brainer…’ Oops! Sorry love!

This week, along with celebrating my return to a solid-food diet, Roo and I also celebrated our anniversary. Not of the wedding, which I purposefully arranged to coincide with my birthday so I wouldn’t forget it… (I still forget it every year – along with my birthday…). No! This was the anniversary of that magical moment, twelve years ago, when we first got together.

In the shower.

Bless her, Roo hasn’t stopped blushing about it since. Of course, she’s thrilled that so many people have now read about it…

Just another fringe benefit of being married to a professional idiot!


Me n Roo in Hammock

Back To The Future

Guess what? It’s OUT! I’m now officially a sci-fi author!

Earthwarden Cover

But DON’T PANIC! As the legendary Douglas Adams would have said. If you’re not a fan of science fiction, you don’t have to buy it. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t! Here’s why:

Amazon is pretty much SkyNet. It knows what you’ve bought, and when – and it uses this to predict what you’ll want next. Then it throws that stuff in your face as often as possible, like the worst kind of enabler.

What happens when a huge bunch of memoir readers buys a sci-fi book is, Amazon starts recommending that book to other memoir readers. And when those people don’t buy it – because why on Earth would they? – Amazon deems the book a failure, and stops recommending it to anyone.

But for anyone who does have at least a passing interest in exploding spaceships and the like, the book is here:

Earth Warden on Amazon

And it’s currently available for just 99c/99p!

Now, I’m not gonna lie – there’s a lot to like about this being-a-fiction-author-malarky. For starters – and I can’t overstate how much easier this makes life – you get to MAKE SH*T UP!!!

Book getting boring? Roll out a car chase! Need more explosions? Why, there’s a hidden stash of C4 just around the corner…

Instead of having to live through a whole bunch of incredibly harrowing life experiences, survive them, and then spend a year re-living them whilst desperately trying to scour my failing memory for every detail… oh, and at least TRYING to make them funny! Also, much as I hate to admit it – making sh*t up is a hell of a lot cheaper 😉

Don’t worry though – I haven’t quit writing travel memoirs for good, I promise! I’m just taking a break. A break which rather sneakily aligns with a potential shift in my personal circumstances… Yes, that’s right – I’m becoming a woman.

Drag Hiking Bluff Knoll

WHAT? But… (sigh!) No, you’re right. My nose really IS too big for that. Here’s what’s really going on:

Despite looking (and acting) like a twelve year old girl, in fact Roo is rapidly approaching that age where, if she were a horse, I’d be paying someone for a jam-jar of stallion sperm and a two-foot-long syringe.

This may be the only time in her life when she’s glad she’s not a horse.

But she’s started dropping random, casual hints, like, “I think family is very important,” and, “My biological clock is ticking,” and, “I’ve decided we’re having children next year.”

Roo ice cream dress

It was either this, or a pic of her dressed head to toe in My Little Pony gear…

So… My new career as a fiction writer ties in quite well with this development, as it doesn’t require vast amounts of extended travel. If all goes according to (Roo’s) plan, we’ll be able to travel quite a bit once we do have babies (twins, she’s already decided). At which point, I feel another crazy memoir is kind of inevitable…

But until then, there’ll be a bit of a gap on that front. And I do feel bad about it. I know there’s a whole bunch of you eagerly awaiting a new travel book, so I’ve been thinking about how to fill that gap.

As you know, the America trip didn’t result in a book, for a whole bunch of reasons. Basically, I just didn’t feel that there was enough material for a book, and I didn’t fancy spending a year stretching and padding it out, struggling to make it funny, only to release a steaming pile of drivel that readers gave up on after five chapters.

BUT – the trip DID produce SOME materiel, and whilst it’s not enough for a book, it IS enough for a whole bunch of blog posts!

Tony Licking Gum

Oh yes… this happened!

So, my plan over the coming months is to get a whole lot more active with this blog.

Relax! I’m not gonna be posting every day or anything! I reckon I should be able to squeeze something out roughly once every two weeks (still talking about blog posts here). There’s the USA trip, and a load of random things going on here in Perth that I wanted to write about…

And then there’s a threat I’ve been making for years now – ever since ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’ was released in 2011. You see, in order to make that book saleable to the agents and publishers I was courting at the time, I had to cut about a third of the chapters I’d written out of the book.  The traditional book publishers just won’t touch long-winded rambling nonsense like I write. For some reason.

So, knocking around on various hard drives are those missing chapters – the ‘cut scenes’, if you will – for not only that book, but for all of them! Because for some reason, I seem incapable of writing a first draft under 150,000 words…

Missing Files

A few to be going on with…

So, my plan is to tweak those chapters one at a time to make them readable, and publish them on the blog as I go. Between them, the USA trip and other random stuff, I reckon we’ve got enough to keep us occupied for a bit. And who knows? If it turns out there’s more material than expected, perhaps another book will emerge from the melee?

And if not… Well. Just imagine what’s going to happen when Roo and I have kids. It’ll be absolute carnage. And I’ll definitelyget a book out of that!

Meanwhile, I’d like to take this chance to thank you all, so very much, and from the bottom of my heart. Without readers like you, I couldn’t do what I do. Hell, without you kind folks, I couldn’t eat! Not without getting some kind of ‘real job’ anyway, and you’ve seen what happens to me just standing around in a garden, so… Yeah. Probably best I don’t find myself working in a factory. Heavy machinery and me do not mix well.

So thank-you, once again, for everything! For your emails and Facebook messages, for blog comments and book reviews, and most of all, thank-you so much for reading my books. When I started with ‘That Bear,’ I had high hopes – but even so, I never dared dream of how well it’s gone. To have books I’ve written, in the hands of people as far apart as India, Japan and Brazil…

Granted, I’ve only sold one book in each of those countries, but that counts, right?

And that officially makes me an International Author. I reckon. And you did that! You lovely, lovely people.

Thanks again!

Tony in Leaves

This… also happened. Unfortunately… 😉

Now That’s a Jaw Breaker

Hi folks!

So what’s going on with you? I’m sorry, that was rhetorical, what with this being a blog post and all. Feel free to answer it in the Comments though!

What I meant to say is, here’s what’s going on with me.

Yup, you guessed it! This is a progress update on Life, the Universe and Everything – specifically as it pertains to one particular idiot living in Perth, Australia.

First: the news! (Hang onto your lunch.)

I considered doing this as a video blog, but chose not to because a) Roo is away metal detecting with her Dad, so I haven’t washed in a week, and b) I’ve broken my jaw in three places, and am currently eating all my meals through a straw.

Wait a minute – how???

Well, because I’m an idiot, I managed to fall over at a party. “But people do that all the time!” I hear you cry. Alas, never one to settle for convention, I did it around 8pm, after just one drink. Amazingly, Roo had been away for less than 12 hours at this point! I also fell over in the garden – which is what makes the damage so impressive…

I told you to hang on to your lunch:

Split in Chin

How hard was that grass?

Yes, that IS bone you can see in there! Nine stitches (my first) and two metal plates (ditto) later, I have braces on what’s left of my teeth, and a load of elastic bands holding my jaw shut. If you’re wondering what the mucus-like substance in the picture above is… well, it’s mucus. The hole went all the way through you see, and whilst the bleeding stopped after a couple of hours, saliva from inside my mouth kept dripping out through the hole in my chin. Which is delightful, I’m sure you’ll agree! DAMN that grass…

Silver lining: I can’t talk (Roo will be overjoyed when she gets back!) – and I’ve already lost more than 4kg in my first week of an all-liquid diet… Read the rest of this entry

Drifting Part Four

It wasn’t a complete disaster.

We spent our second night moored alongside the idyllic Blackmere Lake, which Roo had been looking forward to photographing. She wasn’t disappointed – the leaves were turning for Autumn, making for some gorgeous pics. They were also falling into the canal by the bucketload, fouling our propeller and slowing our already agonising crawl to the speed at which dinosaur turds fossilize.

Black Mere Lake


Having reached the southernmost point of our journey, we now had to turn the boat around. Canals being somewhat narrow, this can only be accomplished at specific places, called ‘winding holes’. Apparently this is not a place you ‘wind’ like a watch (which would make sense), but rather a place you ‘wind,’ like the stiff breeze that we’d been battling since Llangollen. This one was a semi-circular bite out of the opposite bank, into which we guided our nose. Between the boat’s somewhat delayed reactions and my Dad’s instinct to do exactly the opposite of what was required, I think we turned that boat around by the power of swearing alone. Read the rest of this entry

Drifting Part Three

This is Part Three of our Canal Boat Odyssey. Parts One and Two can be found HERE and HERE respectively 😉

Towel Sign

We spent a total of four nights on board the Henley.

In hindsight we probably set ourselves way too big a journey, because we wanted to go all the way from the hire place in Trevor to the picturesque Black Mere, and then return back past Trevor and go all the way to Llangollen in the other direction. It didn’t seem that far on Google Maps… But we hadn’t reckoned with the boat’s average speed of around 2km per hour. At one point we were overtaken by a mother and daughter, out for a casual stroll along the towpath. They moseyed past us, and disappeared into the distance, leaving us in the dust. Over an hour later we finally caught them up – but only because they’d turned around and were coming back again! I think on our biggest day, we managed a staggering 12 miles…

Read the rest of this entry

Drifting Part Two

Area we got stuck

Before we get started, here’s some rules about canal boat conduct:

  • Always pass other boats on the right.
  • Always pass other boats at walking pace.
  • Do not intentionally ram other boats at top speed.

And while we’re at it, here are a few facts about the boats themselves:

  • They are long and narrow. Kind of ram-shaped.
  • They are bastard impossible to steer. Impossible!
  • They have absolutely NO BRAKES. NONE.
  • They hate you.
  • They want you to die screaming.

Putting all that together, you might gain an insight into the first few minutes and hours of our boat stewardship.

Read the rest of this entry

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