oi! spotty!!

Walking to meet Fiona and Jerome in Stoke Newington last weekend on a sunny summers day, a man behind me started yelling:

“OI!! YOU!! SPOTTY!!” (except with his thick Cockney accent, it was more like ‘Spoh-ee’)

The hairs on my neck bristled slightly. I was currently wearing a spoh-ee t-shirt!! No one else in this lonely (actually, it was quite busy) road was wearing a spoh-ee t-shirt, nor was anyone particularly acne-covered. He was talking to me!

Terrified (not really, but I’ll say I was for dramatic effect) I walked on.

Again: “AY!!! SPOH-EE!!!!!”

There was no avoiding it.

I turned around to face the owner of the voice.

A toothless man in a flannel shirt, clutching a can of Stella was behind me, with his mate (or as he might have said “wif ‘is mate”) and…. his large dalmatian pooch. His large, spoh-ee dalmatian pooch.

“Hehe” he laughed “you fort I was talking to you but I was talking to me dog”.

Well played, toothless dog-owner. Well played.

brighton rock

There wasn’t really much rockin’ going on in Brighton this morning, unless you count me rockin’ excitedly in my seat as I waited for my granola and yoghurt and fruit to arrive at Bill’s Cafe. You probably wouldn’t count that. I actually didn’t rock excitedly in my seat either (though I was VERY hungry and VERY MUCH in the mood for breakfast and coffee). And my granola and yoghurt and fruit WAS extremely delicious, and warranted excited rockin’ but nay, rock, I did not.

But I couldn’t think of another title for this post.

“You Brighton Up My Life”? Nah.

“Rainbow Bright-on”? Don’t think so.

Brighton Rock it is.

Still in the throes of jetlag, Rich and I were up at the ungodly hour of 4.45am this morning. After showers and much faffing, we left our little flat in East London at 6.30am, strolled to Whitechapel tube, and off we went to Brighton.

Brighton is stunning… Multicoloured houses set on steep, cobbled streets; planter boxes hanging from windows full of flowers and herbs; tiny, winding laneways; gulls barking from rooftops (which, OK, wasn’t so brilliant, but along with salt and vinegar chips and blobuley seaweed, it’s a beach town trademark).

But Brighton is not a beach town; it’s the seaside!! Saying ‘seaside’ makes me want to don long striped swimming shorts and a bathing cap, and eat rainbow-coloured icecream on a pier… Seaside is a magical word….

I digress. After my granola and coffee and juice, I hit the streets, wandering up hills and through parks and along alleys, gazing longingly at window displays full of fudge and boiled lollies, and walking past 100-strong film crews. Patting dogs tied up outside shops. Thinking “This is the life – I could live somewhere like this…”

A few hours later, I met Rich at the train station and back to London we went. We passed one small town called Purley Oaks, which made me think of curly knitted trees… How nice would that be? A whole forest full of Purl-y Oaks.

Brighton has made me misty eyed.

napoleon

We are staying with this dog in a flat in East London.

His name is Napoleon. He is big and cuddly and has a cleft palate and David Bowie eyes and is amazing. I often catch him staring at the wall waiting for shadows to chase.

from aretha to wu tang

We are listening to Rich’s current collection of hits on his iPad, in alphabetical order of song. It’s like the most amazing radio station ever, though can be a little bit unnerving at times…

(Let the record show that initially I was gonna include a link to Wu Tang’s ‘Aint Nuthin to F**k With’ but it was too inappropes. You can look it up yourself if you like – there was way too much hatin’ there for this little blog.)

ouch (revisited)

Something that hurts quite a lot is when you are stung by something when you’re swimming in the ocean. It was nothing serious – just me being a bit melo – but I think things hurt even more when you can’t see what it is that stung you. If I had seen a big bluebottle, or a shark wielding a big rope of nettle, then I’d know what it was that got me, but now I have to live with this sore leg, wondering who would want to attack me as I swam along, minding my own business…

It wasn’t a jellyfish. I think it was something harmless like a mite or (gulp) school of sealice. But whatever it was bit me all up and down my shin and knee. Ouch.

At least it wasn’t on my bum or boob. I think that would hurt a lot more.

Rich offered to R Kelly me on the leg, but fortunately it didn’t come to that.

bintan – part 2

After 2 nights at Yasin, we decide to step things up a notch, get hoighty, and head to the ‘Resorts’ district. It’s  a whole other world in here… Our rickety bus passes through a security checkpoint, complete with barbed wire and armed guards. One guard seems to have the very important task of pointing a running hose at each vehicle that passes through. That’s not a euphemism. It was a rubber hose. With water coming out.

We drive for about 20 minutes until we enter the hallowed gates of the Bintan Lagoon Resort. IT’S WEIRD!!! There are people sitting at the side of the road picking weeds out of the grass. There is a golf course. THERE ARE MONKEYS!!

The foyer is ENORMOUS. We are welcomed with iced tea. And hot towels. And the promise of wifi. How bougie are we??

Our room has air-conditioning. And NO MOSQUITOS!! Rich and I are both very excited at the thought of a full nights sleep without that squealy whine in our ears and the opportunity to give our bodies a rest from being eaten alive.

There are 12 restaurants here, all essentially serving the same Western fare, along with a nightclub!!! And a karaoke lounge!!! Flaps up, gang. On Friday night, during Happy Hour in the main restaurant, the barman makes cocktails WHILE JUGGLING FIRE!!!! A sight to behold, and certainly a very different world from what we’ve just experienced on the other side of the island.

The music here is also awesome, but again, in an entirely different way. There is a band (four singers, guitar, keys, and I’m guessing there’s a drum machine in there somewhere as well) who sit in the foyer, singing earnest covers of Metallica and Faith No More. It’s really loud. And the singers are really off key. But it’s still totally incredible and hilarious.

Aside from all the crazy decadence oozing outta the perfectly manicured lawns and air-conditioning vents, my absolute favourite thing about staying here is that you can swim in the ocean. And it seems that none of the other guests know that they are staying on a beach, with most of them choosing to sun it up (and burn baby burn) by the pool. The beach at Yasin was too polluted and stink to swim in, and nearly all the beaches we passed on the way here were too rocky to get down to, and too litter-filled to properly enjoy. The beach here is calm, but with enough little waves to make it feel like you’re in more than a giant’s bathtub. The three times we’ve been to the beach during our stay here, it’s been pretty much deserted, and amazing.

crabs of bintan (aka popeye-armed fighting machines)

Crabs, eh? On our first afternoon in Bintan, the tide out and the lovely wet, boggy, seaweed-smelling sand filling my nostrils, I espy crabs – hundreds of them – frolicking in the sand. I’ve never seen crabs like these guys before, because they have great big POPEYE ARMS!!! Although I think they may actually be called pincers. But I will call them POPEYE ARMS, because that’s what they were. But just one popeye arm per crab – a big orange pincer, to fend off wild beasts and other crabs – while their other crab arm was much smaller, and seemed to be used to shovel food into their tiny crabby mouths.

I saw a few of these popeye arm crabs JOUSTING WITH EACH OTHER – no, not really. But they were having funny little crab fights with each other and pushing smaller crabs into holes in the sand.

Who needs a TV or wifi when there are POPEYE ARMED CRABS to behold??!

immigration – an afterthought

So when I was going through immigration at Melbourne Airport on Monday, a funny thing happened. Here is the dialogue of what went down between me and the immigration officer (a man in his mid-fifties – let’s call him Peter):

Enter: me, passport and immigration card in hand, beaming, twinkling eyes, full of excitement

Me (approaching the desk): Hello!

Peter: Hello – THAT’S a winning smile! You get the winningest smile of the day award!

Me: *blushes* Thanks – I’m a bit excited about my trip today!

Peter (looking at my immigration card): 5 months… 5 months? You’re away for 5 months? How does anyone manage to get that much time off work??!

Me: I don’t know! <this dialogue is not working as well on paper as it did when it went down – I promise it wasn’t as ditzy as it sounds>

Peter (smiling): You must have made a mistake. Let me change that for you to 5 days…

Me (flashing that winning gold star smile in return – laughing intonation): Ho ho ho – yes OK!!

But then – Peter the immigration officer DID change my immigration card to 5 days. Was he joking?? I thought he was! I thought my ‘ho ho ho’-ing made it clear that I was joking!! Let this blog post be a testament to ‘the joke’ and that it WAS a joke and that I am SERIOUSLY away on this adventure for 5 months, not 5 days.

A 5 day adventure would still be an adventure, but not quite this adventure. Should I be nervous? Eep.