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Comedy Archives

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.

Enjoy!

 

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.
“Good.”
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.

END.

 

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!

Tony

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

House Goals!

It’s strange, but the more we travel the more we actually aspire to own our own home! Maybe we are sick of packing everything we own up into boxes in my poor Dad’s spare room, or maybe we’ve just been to so many amazing properties. We are constantly collecting cool ideas for our future.

Dover Castle Inner

If only we could live in a castle forever… :)

And lets be honest, Dover castle is the pinnacle of permanent safe home ownership! The castle has stood for 800 years and counting! And the medieval earthworks began as an iron age hill fort before 1000 ad! We spent 6 hours exploring Dover castle and we’ve decided September is the perfect time of year because the weather is still warm and cloudy/sunny yet the crowds won’t bowl you over the turrets.

Read the rest of this entry

Postcards From The Edge

A picture tells a thousand words, right? Well, let’s hope so. Because I’ve run out of words! I’ve been talking so much these last few weeks that I am literally losing the ability to expel new words from inside of me.

So what I’ve decided to do is dazzle you all with the photos we’ve been taking – ones that have missed the cut so far, and not made it onto Facebook or the blog. Partially this is because I don’t post photos as often as I should, and partially it’s because I take pictures of really weird sh*t that amuses me, and somehow it doesn’t seem nearly as funny five days later when I find the photos…

It’s a context thing. That’s my excuse.

So in celebration of that, I will attempt to give you a brief context for each picture. You may even gain some insight into the inner workings of my mind… in which case, BEWARE! It’s not a particularly wholesome environment in there…

Paperwork

I’d like to begin with a salute to the sheer amount of paperwork I brought with me on this trip…

Read the rest of this entry

The Twizy Experience

Roo has always had an obsession with small things. Sometimes I think that’s why she married me gets so excited about hamsters. Ahem.

In China, we spotted THIS:

Chinese Bubble Bike

And Roo was besotted. She talked about the weird bubble-bike-thingumy for days, eventually mapping out a grand adventure all around Australia in one – or possibly in two, seeing as how they weren’t big on luggage space. Or big period. She ranted on to anyone who would listen about converting the bikes to solar energy, getting sponsorship from a big solar company, and doing the whole expedition for some charity or other.

Anyway, we were stymied in our efforts to import a pair of bubble bikes because neither of us speak Chinese… and, well, to be honest, importing vehicles did seem a bit grown up for us.

And then Roo saw the Twizy.

Twizy at ASDA

It was parked outside our local supermarket, and I couldn’t drag her past it. The owner came out with his shopping, saw us staring, and said, “Oi! You lookin’ at my Twizy?”

To which a variety of responses occurred, but fearing bloodshed was imminent, I simply said, “Ah, yes.”

“Well come on then!” he beamed. And before long we were sitting inside, as he explained some of the more peculiar features, like clip-in windows and the immensely long power cable that is fitted with a regular UK-style 3-pin domestic plug. “Charge it anywhere!” he explained, which was good as the thing could only go about 40 miles before it ground to a halt. “But perfect for about-town driving!” he enthused.

So, not ideal for a month-long sojourn across the Aussie outback then, I realised – although town driving would surely come with its own challenges. Particularly in England, where kids tend to throw bricks at things they don’t like.

But then we picked up a free magazine – in the same supermarket where we’d first spotted the Twizy – and inside was an article about an exciting scheme only 3 hours south of us; the New Forest Twizy Hire experience!

Row of Twizys

To say Roo was excited… well, let’s just say she had to be restrained for her own safety.

And so, with our time left in England rapidly diminishing, and a whole host of things still to do – like packing, visiting friends, writing books – we instead opted to ignore all that crap in favour of navigating our way to the New Forest, in search of a mini-adventure. I haven’t seen Roo so excited since we got married… no, scratch that – since her hamsters arrived, a year before the wedding.

roo in twizy

From here on, I’ll let the video do the talking. We’re trying to do more filming of stuff as we travel around, and the result will inevitably be more of this kind of rubbish – Video Blogs, as all the cool kids are calling them. Or, “Why do I sound like such a goon?” as Roo calls them. Personally, I can’t stop looking at the size of my nose. Good God, if the camera adds 5lbs, that’s where all mine went!

Oh, a few things I should mention: we’d planned on camping the night after hiring the Twizy. Suffice to say, we didn’t.

The company doing the hiring had recently gone bust, and all the Twizy’s had been bought up by the boss of a VW camper hire place – you English types can get hold of them on: 01590 624066.

And in case it isn’t obvious from the video, we had an absolute blast!  🙂

The Naked Truth – Skinny Dipping in Perth

In my eternal quest to find exciting things to do things that make me look stupid, I stumbled across a whopper – no, not a Burger King meal, but an event taking place in my home town of Perth that I couldn’t possibly resist:

Get Naked BannerThe World’s Biggest Skinny Dip!

Well, an attempt at least; there would be Guinness World Record people in attendance, official sarongs as prizes and the chance to contribute to a worthy cause about positive body image… blah blah blah.

Hell, it was a chance to get NAKED IN PUBLIC! Without BEING ARRESTED!

Naked SwimmersAs some of you may know, I like being naked. I’m naked right now if fact, which is why I’m using a lap-desk so my Macbook doesn’t burn my willy. Besides, I quite fancy the idea of setting a World Record. I’m never going to achieve one on my own (unless they count Star Wars Trivial Pursuit), so joining in with a group effort was the only way forward.

A few years back I joined in an attempt to set the world record for ‘Most People Twisting On The Beach’. It was an effort doomed to failure, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was held in my parent’s home town of Burnham-on-Sea; a retirement hotspot, where the population has an average age of 70. Burnham was actually featured in the book ’50 Worst Places To Live In The UK’ – but not until no.47. Possibly the biggest mistake though, was holding the event in the middle of winter.

The existing record holder was a tourist town in southern Spain, famed for its golden sand and party atmosphere. Whereas Burham-on-Sea is famed for its extensive mud flats and having the shortest pier in the UK. I’ve been on it; it’s crap.

Burnham Beach

Burnham-on-Sea Beach. Complete with pier. Told you it was crap!

The local radio station parked a bus on the beach, and my parents and I showed up ready to twist.

It rained. Unsurprisingly.

We twisted anyway, but with less than fifty people on the beach, most of them well over retirement age, there was real danger that if we kept it up much longer someone was going to break a hip. Or die of hypothermia. So the attempt was officially abandoned, and we slunk away in shame.

But this would be different – if for no other reason than it was being held in Perth, city of infinite sunshine and home to over one-and-a-half-million fun-loving souls.

The day dawned cold and grey, which was a bit of a shock. I stood in my back garden and held my hand out – it was raining! Absolute BASTARDS! It hasn’t rained in Perth since November – five completely dry months – and then this.

Dark SkyAs Roo dropped me off at the station, the sky looked dark and threatening.

“Won’t you be cold?” she asked.

“Nah. I’m from England! This is midsummer as far as I’m concerned.”

(In Northern England a man is not allowed to admit to being cold unless his testicles have actually frozen solid to something. This happens more often that you’d think.)

“Okay…” Roo didn’t sound convinced. “Would you like to borrow my jumper?”

I looked at her. She was wearing this:

Roos Jumper“No thanks,” I said, “because your jumper is bright yellow and made of string. I’d be better insulated if I stapled a paper napkin to my chest.”

“Fair enough.”

So she left me to it. Alone on the platform.

Travelling through Perth at 7am on a Sunday was a relaxing affair; I think I saw about fifteen people in almost two hours of train and bus travel.

Empty EscalatorsEmpty Train TunnelI found my way to the event and queued up to check in. Three cute chicks joined the line immediately behind me, one of them wondering aloud if we’d be going in all at once, or in groups.

“If we do it by group by group, I’d pity the bugger that went in first,” I said.

They laughed. With the ice broken I thought about asking if I could hang out (no pun intended) with them; being on my own was going to be the toughest part of this gig. But then my brain went into paranoia overdrive: “Are they too pretty? Will they think I’m trying to hit on them? Will they look at me with disgust? Will it destroy my confidence, so I’ll spent the rest of the day alone, lurking on the fringes, naked and friendless…”

No. Much easier to find someone ugly, and try to make friends with them.

Skinny Dip Crowds

Plenty to choose from!

It didn’t happen that way, of course. The girls ended up getting changed next to me, as none of us could be bothered waiting for the tiny cubicle-tents to become available. And then another bloke joined them, and suddenly it all seemed very above-board again. I wandered over.

“Do you mind me hanging out with you guys? My wife didn’t want to come with me, and I don’t have any friends here.” I probably could have phrased that better, but I was desperately trying not to sound desperate. And I was still failing.

Luckily, Aussie women are a strong, yet friendly breed. They gave me the typical Aussie answer to everything, from borrowing a sausage to (apparently) getting naked together: “Yeah, no worries!”

“So, you’re new to Perth?” one of the girls asked. “How long have you been here?”

“Ah… on and off… about six years…”

Skinny Dip Swanbourne PerthWe were called to the beach in our pre-assigned groups – I was a ‘Sweet Strawberry’, and my new friends were ‘Precious Plums’.

We milled around on the beach a bit, trying to keep warm, and eyed up the gigantic waves crashing against the shore.

“Looks really rough,” someone commented, and they were right; the iron-grey sea was foaming in anger. A call went out for the more confident swimmers to move to the front. That was me!

And then the sarongs came off, and everyone was sprinting into the surf.

Sea Full of Nudies

Possibly it looked something like this! (Taken on an earlier attempt in New Zealand.)

Bare ass and boobies bounced before me as I raced headlong into the water. I dived, came up swimming strongly, and made my way out to the furthest edge of the area, where lifeguards were patrolling in canoes. The ball-shrivelling cold faded quickly, as my body adjusted to the temperature. Then my legs went numb.

The waves were gigantic, battering the participants and slamming us into each other. I was loving it – the sea reared up, throwing me around like a rollercoaster, and each new wave was greeted with shrieks of awe and fear from the surrounding swimmers. It was extreme-nude-swimming, a sport which, if it doesn’t already exist, certainly should. Hell, I might go and found it right now!

I was enjoying myself immensely. But then I noticed two of the girls I’d met being brought in on the lifeguard’s surfboard. A glance at shore showed that a good hundred or so naked people were still on the beach, too intimidated by the waves to risk entering the water.

Then a horn went off, and the event marshals began beckoning us back to shore. The attempt was over.

As I reached the shallows and put my feet down, a cry went out from the beach. I turned just as the mother of all waves crashed down on me, tumbling me head over heels and depositing me on the sand a good way up the beach.

I opened my eyes to see a crowd of people looking down at me with concern in their eyes. Naked people.

Was this heaven?

Probably not, I thought, as I vomited up a lung full of sea water.

Later, fully clothed once more, I called Roo to give her the news. On the upside, I’d had an amazing time, met some really cool people, and got to run around with my cock out like… well, like me at every party I’ve ever attended.

On the downside, no records had been broken; 671 people had shown up and stripped off, just 73 short of the previous record. Damn it!

They’d called off the attempt halfway through due to the dangerous conditions, and at least one bloke had been brought in by the lifeguards, strapped to a board with a suspected spinal injury. So, it hadn’t all been fun and games.

Spinal Injury

It could always be worse… for this bloke, it was.

Roo answered the phone. She’d taken advantage of my absence to go shopping with her sister.

“I won’t be able to pick you up from the train station for a while, I’m afraid,” she explained.

“No worries! I’ll go into the city and celebrate with a pint.”

“Oh, that’s good then. Only…”

“Only what?”

“Well, will you be okay? You won’t be embarrassed, you know, going for a drink on your own?”

I had to smile at that.

“Honestly, after what I’ve just done… I think I’ll manage.”

So, the word flying around on the internet is that we were SO close – and that the weather is to blame. Who’d have thought it? Especially seeing as the sun came out mere minutes after we left the beach, and I got so sunburnt walking through town to get my pint that I now have a permanent t-shirt tan.

Beach Afterwards

Ten minutes later, it cleared right up!

Maybe God really does hate naked people?

Ah well. The naked citizens of Perth are unbowed. Hell, they’re trying again next year…

I’m going. How about you?

Crazy Orange Monkeys

I’ve been told I haven’t written enough about Borneo. Probably because I haven’t written anything about Borneo. So, here it is folks – the true story of what happened when we went looking for orange monkeys…

We found them, of course.

They were down the back of the sofa. I ALWAYS said we should look there first…

Happy OrangutanNo. These guys were swinging happily around the most amazing animal enclosure I’ve ever seen – over 100 hectares of primary rainforest, trackless and unsullied by human-kind. On the edge of the preserve is a series of feeding platforms, and that’s where we waited to see the orangutans.

Orangutans are over ten feet tall, live for hundreds of years and eat anything smaller than themselves – including humans. Or maybe that’s dinoasuars? To be honest I had a fit of laziness (something to do with me writing this on the beach, no doubt) – so feel free to insert your own orangutan facts here via the magic of Wikipedia.

One thing I will say is that Orang-utan means ‘Man of the Woods’, and the word ‘Orang’ – meaning ‘man’ – is one of the most commonly used words in the Malay language. Seriously – it crops up in every conversation I hear around me, leading me to believe it’s used like ‘bloke’ or ‘fella’ – as in, “So I was playing pool with these three orangs in the pub…”

The apes, when they showed themselves, moved slowly and effortlessly, not scampering like monkeys but sort of draping themselves across the trees and letting them bend down and deposit them where they wanted to go. Seriously, if they were any more laid back, they’d have been horizontal. Peace-loving vegetarians with brown, soulful eyes, they definitely qualify as the hippies of the animal kingdom. I think I saw one wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt.

Mellow OrangutanWe were lucky enough to be there before the feeding, when a younger orangutan was strolling along the boardwalk fence, beckoning us to follow him, and to stay until the bitter end, by which point we’d seen about ten of the scruffy beasts.

And a little while later, we met their closest human relative.

For three incredible days and nights we cruised on, and hiked around, a massive jungle river called the

Kinabatinanangananagana… ananagan… agan agan… a nanna again? …an anagram game? Anyway, the point is, it’s a river. With a ridiculous name. And while we were there, we found evidence that not only was there a Missing Link between apes and humans in the distant past, but that the Link is alive and well today (and, apparently, lives in Maui). Oh yes – short, dumpy and slow-moving, our strawberry-blonde cruising companion Annabel was a dead ringer for an orangutan. She had the kind of intelligence level where, if she were caught waving a stick in the air, you’d be tempted to say, “Aw, look! She’s learning to use tools!”

But don’t worry! I’m not going to be needlessly mean to a defenceless woman. I’m going to tell you what she said, and let you decide…

A good example came on our first dusk cruise. We’d been lucky enough to see several orangutans in the wild, nesting in trees just back from the riverbank, and several troops of macaque monkeys, who swarmed around us as though we were invisible on their way down for an evening drink.

But when our guide pointed out a crocodile gliding silently on the surface of the water, Annabel asked him for his binoculars. “Wow,” she said, after a few seconds studying the creature, “it almost looks like a little reptile…”

I couldn’t help myself. “That’s because it IS a little reptile,” I told her.

“Yeah…” came her reply – not only blithely unaware of my sarcasm, but clearly not appreciating she’d said anything stupid in the first place.

Annabel

Annabel – getting stuck in on the jungle hike

Her ignorance was matched only by her ability to be so annoying it made my hands twitch with the desire to choke her.

Next morning, on the dawn cruise, we were all staring at a bird our guide had spotted. Roo (my wife) was checking it out in the bird identification book.

“Hey, can I see that?” Anabel asked. But rather than leaving it there, she did her trademark trick of asking again – and again – without pausing for breath. “Hey, can I see that one from yesterday? You know, the one we looked at in the evening? That little bird? Is it in there? Can I see it? The one from yesterday? Remember? Can I see that one? From yesterday? I want to look at that one. The little bird, from yesterday? Can I see it? Can I—“

At which point Roo just shoved the book at her and said “Take the damn thing.”

Quite unaware that she’d done anything out of the ordinary, she started flipping through the pages. “Oh, there are lots of little pictures in here! Lots of little birdies!”

She flipped a few more pages. “Wow, there’s more pictures! That’s amazing! The whole thing is pictures! And they’re all birds!”

She closed the book to study the cover in wonder.

It was called ‘The Borneo Book Of Birds’.

“Wooowww…”

Now, in case I didn’t make it clear, this was not some eleven-year-old child; this woman was clearly in her late forties. On the one hand I feel I should applaud her spirit, to be traveling at that age, and all alone. Well done her! On the other hand, I think it’s quite likely that she was alone because in all her forty-odd years on the planet, she’d never found anyone who could stand to be in the same room as her for more than an hour.

She was at her worst on our last morning, when, just as the sun was rising, we spotted a big male orangutan, sitting with his back to us in a tree about thirty metres from the boat.

orangutan back“Oh my goodness!” Annabel exclaimed. And then it began. With her eyes glues to the screen of her camera, her whining voice ratcheted up several notches in volume; “Oh, you beautiful creature! Please turn around! Pretty please! Say hello to us! Say goodbye to us! Hello there! Oh please turn around! Please? Turn around! Say hello! Say goodbye! Give us your blessing! Please say hello! Say goodbye! Say hello! Please turn around! Please say hello! Please turn around! Say goodbye to us…” And on – and ON – for the next five minutes.

I had to do something then which I’ve never done in my life (other than, occasionally, to my long-suffering sister). I put my hand on Annabel’s shoulder and said rather firmly, “Shut up.”

But I was sorely tempted to push her into the river.

River

The River

When it came time to leave, Roo and I were gutted. We’d had an amazing experience, staying in a little wooden hut, seeing giant monitor lizards, endangered hornbills and monkeys a-plenty, trekking the jungle day and night, feeding our fingers to fish (some kind of perverse justice there) – and we didn’t want to leave. As we sat enjoying our last breakfast in the rainforest, Annabel stood up to go.

“Well everybody,” she announced, “I’m Oh-Eff-Eff!” She glanced around smugly, quite pleased with her joke –  but she couldn’t resist letting us in on it. “Off!” she explained, beaming with her own cleverness. And then, thank God, she was off – leaving us all to bask in the warm glow of her wit.

People wonder if I make these characters up, and I’m both shocked and ashamed of the answer: no. Not a word of it. Sad to say, these individuals really are out there – and are at least partially derived from the same genetic material as the rest of us.

Be afraid.

And now, here’s a couple of Roo’s fascinating pictures to further illustrate our adventures!

Feeding Fish 1fEEDING Fish 2

Big camera lens

Roo was seriously out-lensed on the river!

VIDEO BLOG!!!

Yes folks, here it is – my first ever video blog! Please don’t judge it too harshly – I feel like a proper plonker as it is, just from talking to the camera. You know when I said I was crap at acting? Well, I wasn’t lying… I hate seeing myself on film. Partially because my nose is bigger than most peoples… um, noses… and… well, other things. But before I put you off with too much whining, go ahead – check it out!

Please do let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

All the best,

Tony