Day 377: The Second Cataract

Day 377: The Second Cataract

January 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Egypt, Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

12.01.10:

Another fit of African bureaucracy before we could disembark saw us waiting for over an hour after we arrived, before we could get off the damn ship, but eventually, in drips and drabs, we all made it off the good ship and into the little town of Wadi Halfa.

The only thing I know about Wadi Halfa is that it’s where Michael Palin took the train to Khartoum – and, well, apart from that not much to report I’m afraid.. The ship would be going back tomorrow so I thought it only fair that I stay the night. I joined a gang of Aussie lads in the local guesthouse, a simple affair of single room buildings clustered around a central courtyard.

Sudan isn’t big on tourism. An intractable civil war between north and south (the Darfur crisis being a completely separate atrocity) has been rumbling on for about 20 years now, and the only hope for a lasting peace is a referendum in 2011 to split into two separate entities. Does that mean that I should have visited South Sudan while I was here? Well, only if I don’t get finished before this completely new nation is created. If it does and I’m pottering around the South Pacific, I’ll have a bloody long backtrack to make. But without a clearly defined border between the two new countries and oil fields to scrap over, the good people of the Sudan may be in for another 20 years of scrapping.

And what are they scrapping over? Have a guess, go on, have a guess. Yeah, as always – which colour hat God wears on a Thursday evening when the moon is in the eighth house of ware. It’s been the same since forever. And you wonder why I hate it so much.

When tourists do arrive, they have to register with the police within three days (at a cost of another fistful of fivers), but the group of tourists fresh off the ferry weren’t allowed to register today, so everybody had to stay the night in Wadi Halfa. Also, many of them had cars or motorbikes that they were hilariously going to drive down through Africa (good luck with that, matey!) – they came on a separate ferry that would arrive on Thursday, so they too were trapped in Wadi Halfa – which was good for me, as I had good stack of nutters to spend a rather pleasant evening with (you don’t have to be mad to visit Sudan, but it helps).

There was Mick the Aussie and his mates, a British girl named Bun who was with her boyfriend, a guy from Iceland whose name was completely unpronounceable and a bunch of other wonderful randoms all stuck in this one-horse town. We spent the night chatting, drinking tea and smoking sheesha (I just stuck with the tea), it was great and made me appreciate how much I’ve missed the company of my fellow travellers during my sojourn in Africa (most of the westerners I would meet would be aid workers). Ah well, no time to monkey about – the boat goes back to Egypt tomorrow.



Day 378: A Change of Plan

Day 378: A Change of Plan

January 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

13.01.10:

I’ve got to say that getting back on the boat was a lot easier than getting off it, although you really have to admire the jaw-dropping amount of bureaucracy that these guys think is acceptable. What could have been achieved very quickly with a team of three officials, took over fifty officials an hour. Oh Africa, I shall miss you…

Back on the boat, I met a bloke named Marc, who was from Barcelona (one of my favourite cities in the world), who had been living up in Alexandria for a couple of years. Chatting to him made me resolve two things – one was that I would attempt to get a visa on the border for Syria (something I’ve been told you can no longer do) and the other was that I would head out to Siwa Oasis in Egypt, near the border with Libya and take a desert safari over the dunes into Colonel Gadaffi’s back yard. Marc reckoned it wouldn’t just be possible – it would be easy. I hoped so.

That night, up on the deck, we crossed the invisible line that separates Sudan from Egypt as we passed Abu Simbel, that monumental wreck near which, nothing else remains… I looked on Ramses II’s works and despaired. Why? Because we will never make anything that cool ever again. Too busy building tinfoil warehouses and concrete eyesores these days. Modern Art has been a joke for many years now, and one that gets less funny as the decades go by. I couldn’t build Abu Simbel, I wouldn’t know where to start, but I could faithfully reproduce pretty much anything that Tate Modern has to offer, making a mockery of the centuries of artistic skill and dexterity that came before it.

But then, I guess we’re living in a new artistic dark age. After all, the technical skill and refined artistic splendour of the Greeks and Romans was lost for over a thousand years until the renaissance came along – I mean, have you seen the state of the Bayeux Tapestry? It looks like it was drawn (well, sewn) by a child. Or a moron. Or Lowry.

Anyway, what do you want to know? Egypt is great and modern art is crap and I’ll kung-fu your ass if you don’t agree with me.



Day 1,439: The Invasion of Khartoum

Day 1,439: The Invasion of Khartoum

December 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Ethiopia, Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

Sun 09.12.12:

Odyssey rules state that I’m not allowed to use private transport over large distances, and so far I haven’t. But there has to be exceptions made here. Of course, I’ve already successfully completed The Odyssey Expedition, so in a way the rules don’t apply, but I still want to keep to them as best I can so if I decide in a few years (when, say, Greenland or Bougainville achieves independence) to re-active The Odyssey and travel to those countries from the UK without flying. The rule is there to stop me (or any who come after) intentionally breaking the law by speeding.

But here’s the Catch-22: in this situation I can’t take public transport without breaking the law. I am mandated by the Sudanese authorities to be ‘escorted’ in a private vehicle to Khartoum. Never mind, this journey is about taking public transport where available, in this case (for me) it’s not available and I’m not missing yet another Christmas with my family for the sake of a technicality. Bear in mind this will not speed up the journey at all: I would get to Khartoum with a day to spare whether I took the chicken bus or drove a Ferrari. The ferry over Lake Nasser from Sudan to Egypt leaves once a week on Wednesdays and nothing can change that fact.

So it was a minibus ride to the border, of course we got a flat tyre and of course the spare was flat as well (I love the way the bus boys always act surprised at this painfully predictable chain of events), so we didn’t get to the border until 1pm, but that was no problem. Nazar, a colleague of Midhat, was waiting for me on the other side and once I was stamped in I was introduced to his driver, Asir, and we began the journey to Khatoum, which took about 6 hours, stopping on the way for a bite to eat in one of the collections of concrete hovels that constitute human habitation here in the desert.

You simply couldn’t have imagined the difference in terrain, landscape and temperature compared with this morning. I went from a pleasant spring morning up in the rolling green hills of northern Ethiopia to a hot, arid, dusty afternoon along a flat, straight road through the litter-strewn desert. I saw some men praying at the side of the road and wondered what they might be praying for. ‘To get out of here’ would be a reasonable response.

It was dark before we arrived in Khartoum. Once there, Nazar helped me get a local SIM card and we set off to find my CouchSurf hosts. Casey had sorted me with a place to stay with the family of Ahmed, a Khartoum CSer who is currently in Germany. I was met by Ahmed’s brothers Yahia and Hamed, and after saying my goodbyes to Nazar and Asir, we grabbed a shwarma on the way back to the family home. There I met Mr. Mohammed, the kindly patriarch of the household, and after explaining (over a nice hot cup of tea) that I wanted to go and see the Meroe Pyramids tomorrow – the southernmost reach of the great Egyptian Empire. We formulated a cunning plan…



Day 1,440: Tomb Raider

Day 1,440: Tomb Raider

December 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

Mon 10.12.12:

The Meroe Pyramids mark the southern extreme of Egyptian influence as you follow the course of the Nile river south towards its source. After the glories of the New Kingdom had faded, the great Egyptian empire fell into an era of in-fighting which culminated in the Balkanisation of the realm into smaller (usually warring) entities – one of which was the great Meroitic dynasty that ruled this area of the Nubian Desert from 592 BC to 350 AD. Although the pyramid tombs they left behind are nowhere near the gargantuan majesty of the Great Pyramids of Saqqara, Dahshur and Giza (Cheops’ Pyramid is 146.5 metres tall, the Meroe Pyramids barely make double figures), they are still definitely worth a day trip, situated four hours north of Khartoum.

However, this being Sudan, getting there is only half the problem. To travel anywhere or take photos of anything (you can forget about video) you need written permission from the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife. The reason for this (and the reason I wasn’t allowed to make the trip from Gallabat to Khartoum under my own steam) is that the leader of Sudan is a wanted war criminal. That is all I have to say on the matter, although in general I will use this opportunity to reiterate my belief that if you’re going to have a revolution, revolt, war, insurrection, coup d’etat whatever, your best bet for a freer, wealthy, more egalitarian state would be to rid your country of not just the President, but the whole godforsaken institution of the Presidency entire. Three words for you my friend: Parliament, Parliament, Parliament. All else will follow.

There has been a time in pretty much every republic of Planet Earth (including the US, fact fans!) has had a known criminal in charge of the government, military and country. This is not the best of all possible worlds, believe me.

After dropping his daughters at school, Mr. Mohammed took me to the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife and we got my application processed, culminating in me having ten copies (for any police checkpoint that wanted them) of my permission to travel to and take pictures of the Meroe Pyramids. Overkill? Well, I guess it depends where you’re coming from. For a North Korean, I’m sure it would feel like a breath of fresh air. For me, I felt like I was in North Korea.

Mr. Mohammed was good enough to drive me over to the Atbara bus station, and from there I jumped the next bus headed north. It took a good four hours to get to the Pyramids, and I arrived at around 2.45pm, the only person getting off the bus at this point along the lonely highway. It was then a 700m hike across the stony desert to the Pyramids themselves.


“Had the place to myself. Felt very Indiana Hughes.”

From The Meroe Pyramids, Sudan, posted by Graham Hughes on 12/16/2012 (76 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


It’s a testament to Sudan’s burgeoning tourist industry that I was the only person there. Maybe if they didn’t make it nigh on impossible to get a visa…

I left the site at around 5.30, the sun hanging low in the sky. I stood at the side of the road for an age with my thumb out waiting for somebody to stop, which thankfully they did before the sun actually set. Only they didn’t take me to Khartoum, or even to Shendi, the nearest outpost of civilisation. No, they dropped me at a deserted desert rest stop. The people there (predictably) wanted me to stay the night, but that wasn’t going to happen: I had to be on the bus to Wadi Halfa in the morning – I needed to get back to Khartoum.

So I started walking along the highway, firm in the belief that somebody – anybody – would stop and pick me up. They didn’t. It grew dark. I walked for over an hour. Eventually I came to another rest stop and started asking around. One guy wanted 100 Sudanese pounds to get back to Khartoum. Although this equated to about $20, I thought it fairly reasonable, I was tired and I wanted to get back as soon as possible. But then he pulled the old ‘Oh no, I meant 100 dollars’ shite that I’ve had to put up with so many times it has definitely ceased being funny anymore, not that it ever was in the first place.

Eventually I found a trucker willing to take me to the next town, Shendi. He wanted 100 Sudanese pounds too, but considering Shendi is not even halfway back to Khartoum, I flat refused to pay anymore than £50. That didn’t stop him attempting to dive his hand into my shirt pocket every ten minutes in a crappy attempt to grab another fifty. I arrived at Shendi around 9pm and waited at the police checkpoint for the next bus to Khartoum. Incredible: my last night in Sub-Saharan Africa and I finally find a use for all these damn police checkpoints – the buses have to stop!

It was 11.10pm before I got back to Khartoum. Mr. Mohammed, being a good soul, came to pick me up from the drop-off point, bringing his son Hamed with him. That night I grabbed a couple of hours sleep on the roof of Mr. Mohammed’s apartment block. There was a cool winter’s breeze, a portent of what was to come as I climb the latitudes north-north-west.



Day 1,441: Halfa Way Home

Day 1,441: Halfa Way Home

December 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

Tue: 11.12.12:

My phone alarm was set for 2am, as Mr. Mohammed told me that the bus left for Wadi Halfa at 3. Thus began a very long day in the life of The Odyssey Expedition. Mr. Mohammed and I arrived at some dusty corner of Khartoum where the bus was due to stop and waited. And waited. A bus came at 3.30am, but I was told it was the wrong one. Just after 4am another bus came and this was, apparently, the right one. I thanked Mr. Mohammed profusely for his spectacular hospitality and patience with my short but rather eventful couple of nights here at the confluence of the Niles. Staying with Mr. Mohammed and his family marked a high point in what was otherwise a remarkably expensive and frustrating trip through this barren and unforgiving land.

I clambered on the bus and took my seat, assuming that, since it was 4am an’ all, the god-awful music being blasted out of the tinny speakers installed above every person’s head would come to an end sooner rather than later. It didn’t.

For those who have come late to this blog let me explain that I am a music Nazi. There are two types of music in the world: the stuff I love and the stuff I hate. And there is very little in between. Whenever I find myself subjected to the stuff I hate (which is pretty much anything from the 80s), it tends to put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. When I find myself subjected to that godawful nasal drone of elongated consonants that are so popular in these parts, sung so out of key it makes Paris Hilton sound like an opera singer, sung by a man with the charisma of a bowl of cold porridge and played at ear-splitting volume at four in the morning, it tends to put me in a bad mood for the rest of my life.

You should understand something: to many Muslims this, this life, this planet, our home, is hell. Something not to be enjoyed in any way, shape or form. This world is merely a stepping stone to the next, and the worse time you have here, the more enjoyable the afterlife. Once you understand this fact, it all makes sense, the way that North Africans and Middle Easters seem to strive to make their lives as unpleasant as humanly possible: living in a bleak, inhospitable desert, eating the blandest food known to man, only listening to the musical equivalent of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard. All the great joys in life: sex, alcohol, drugs, dancing, rock n’ roll, great food, even a decent night’s sleep… all seemingly forbidden, all beauty to be covered and shunned, all earthly pleasures condemned. Content to live in a vile and violent never-ending hamster-wheel of dictators, tyrants, religious zealots and genocidal maniacs.

This couldn’t be any further removed from the way I see the world. I love this crazy planet and all the joys – great and small – contained within. I’m not here to muddle through until I die, I’ve got too many things to see and do. Sorry Sudan, but the sooner I get out of here the better, you’ve not sold yourself well. When there is so little to brag about (continued border skirmishes with South Sudan, the genocide in Darfur, falling out with all of its neighbours and having a wanted war-criminal as president is not the best of starts) I expected a little more in terms of people just being nice. But as the woman in the seat behind me woke me up every half-hour (yes I can sleep through deafening dins, it’s one of my superpowers) to complain about my broken chair automatically reclining ABOUT AN INCH back from perpendicular, I’ve lost my rag with the place.

Just leave me alone, Sudan? Can you do that? Please? I’m leaving tomorrow.

I spent the majority of the bus journey up through the featureless desert sitting on the dusty step next to the driver, watching the long flat road stretch to the horizon, all hope of getting any sleep beaten out of me.

We arrived in Wadi Halfa at around 3pm. I grabbed my backpack from under the bus and headed over to the hotel I stayed at when I was here in January 2010. My ability to remember this stuff is kinda freaky. Don’t forget – I got here from Durban in South Africa via Juba in South Sudan without a map. But all the memory skills in the world didn’t make the hotel any less full. I called Mazar Mahir, the brother of Khartoum’s über-fixer (and saviour of The Voyage Home) Midhat Mahir and resident of Wadi Halfa. I asked him what I should do. He said to wait for him and he’d be along in an hour or so. I grabbed some chicken n’ rice lunch with Danny and Jill, a British-Irish couple who had just valiantly spent 8 months driving a old Land-Rover around Africa down the west coast (brave!) from Morocco to South Africa and then up the eastern side of things to Sudan.

We shared war stories and battle scars. Afterwards I settled in at the café across the way from the pyramid-shaped hill that Alistair and I climbed when we were here last. In the event, Mazar didn’t show up, it was now 9pm and I had nowhere to stay. Getting a little worried since the night before the weekly ferry leaves for Egypt the hotels always fill up and as Sudan has no international ATMs my readies were running lower than a George Lucas’s post-1981 imagination, I was steeling myself for a chilly night under the stars (I *really* need to buy myself a coat in Egypt) when a guy turned up on a crazy motorbike accessorised with an even crazier sidecar. He smiled, pointed at the sidecar and told me to get in. I thought he was just being weird so I gave him the universal look of ‘are you being weird?’ and continued on walking. He followed me along and asked if I did not want to get into his sidecar why did I ring him?

‘Mazar?’ I asked.

‘Yes!’ He said, beaming, ‘get in!’

I’d never been in a motorcycle sidecar before, it was a rather bizarre experience. Mazar drove me to his place a few kilometres out of town. Damn it was cold. We arrived and drank tea. Mazar would sort out everything I needed to do tomorrow, including buying my ferry ticket and registering my presence with the police (you have to register within three days… I would be here for four. It’ll cost me $60, that’s on top of the $100 for the transit visa and the $GodKnows for getting picked up at the border last Sunday.). In terms of money spent for the amount of days here, Sudan has proved is the most expensive country in the world – costing more than my Interrail ticket that saw me visit over 45 countries of Europe in three weeks. Needless to say, when I get back home, the first thing I need to do is get a job – something that will be the subject of my next blog, Graham Hughes’s Development Hell http://www.dev-hell.com

Mazar kindly offered me a bed for the night and by 11pm I was sound asleep. Remarkably, it’s been just over a week and a half since I left Juba. In another week and a half I’ll be home.



Day 1,442: The Battle of Lake Nasser

Day 1,442: The Battle of Lake Nasser

December 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Sudan, The Odyssey Expedition

Wed 12.12.12:

It was an early start as Mazar left to go help fix what – if it works – could herald a new era for trans-Saharan travel. Today he would be attempting to get a backpacker truck from Wadi Halfa to Aswan USING THE ROAD.

The fact that the only legal way to cross the 1,275km-long imaginary line in the sand that constitutes the border between Egypt and Sudan is over this damn lake is one that is as ridiculous as it is typical of this part of the world. Why should this be the case? Well, because the guy who owns the ferry boat pays off the Sudanese government to not open the road, the road that was built TWENTY YEARS AGO linking the two countries. So instead of, you know, simply hopping a bus to Aswan (a journey that would take 2 hours), we have to go through the rigmarole of getting on a filthy, cockroach infested hulk of a ferry boat and spending the night crammed in trying to find a space on a bench (or the greasy floor) like we’re in a f—ing refugee camp. And to think in the UK we worry about the humane transportation of cattle.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that its same guy who runs the GRIMaldi ferry from Italy to Tunisia as well as the Greyhound bus company in the US.

I can only assume that the bad ship Sinai will continue plying its way across Lake Nassar until it sinks, killing everybody on board. Then maybe – just maybe – they’ll think about opening the road to all.

After a wash and a cup of tea I could have jumped a rickshaw to town, but it was a cool pleasant blue-sky morning so I decided to walk. I followed the old railway tracks, now sadly defunct. Since the road to Khartoum was sealed, the old train doesn’t chug up and down from Wadi Halfa once a week any more. The dream of the British Empire was to build a trainline from Cairo to Cape Town. Here we are 130 years later and that dream seems as far way as ever. Frustratingly enough, it’s 90% there: apart from a short break between Aswan and Wadi Halfa and then a slightly longer one between Wau on the South Sudanese border and Gulu in Uganda, there is an unbroken line that runs from the Mediterranean coast down to the Cape of Good Hope – passing through Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. But to make an international rail network succeed you need investment, political will and a general lack of corruption. Sadly, Africa is in desperately short supply of any of these things.

It took me an hour or so to ramble into town and once there I took up residence at my usual café in the market area of town. After a few hours, Mazar rang and told me to make my way to the ship. I asked how much the ticket cost, he told me it would be 221 Sudanese Pounds. I checked my readies. I had 224 Sudanese Pounds left. Thinking it would be a good idea to keep a couple of quid for water, I opted to walk across the desert to the port.

Lake Nasser is the third biggest artificial lake in the world. It arose as a result of the Aswan High Dam, constructed in the 1960s at the behest of Nasser, Egyptian first ‘elected’ tyrant (see: all Presidents ever). It seemed like a good idea at the time – it would give the Egyptians control over the annual floods. However, the whole thing has been an environmental disaster on a scale that makes the disappearance of the Aral Sea seem like small potatoes. The dam stops the silt, crucial for keeping the land fertile, from proceeding downriver. This has resulted in increased desertification and, of course, created a need for artificial fertilisers – fertilisers which poison the river and kill the fish. You see very few fishing boats on the Nile these days. It has also been a disaster for the Nubian people whose homeland was flooded (Wadi Halfa is a new town built by the original inhabitants of Halfa, which is now submerged beneath the lake), not to mention the countless archaeological discoveries that will now never see the light of day. The colossi of Abu Simbel as well as the temple of Philae had to be shifted, brick by brick, with the assistance of UNESCO. The nearby temple of Kom Ombo was erected in ancient times to give praise to the local crocodile god – but there are no crocodiles there any more – they can’t get past the damn dam.

Arriving at the port I met with Mazar who told me to wait at the gate while he sorted out some paperwork on my behalf. It was now coming up to midday and it was getting devilishly hot. I tried to sit with the guards in the shade of the gatehouse, but they wouldn’t let me (Sudan again not selling itself very well) and so I sat for 45 minutes with the blazing heat of the sun doing its best to turn me a delicious shade of boiled lobster.

Eventually I got into the immigration building. After the usual African scrum n’ stamp madness I was one of the first on board the ship. Having been on this ship twice before I knew exactly where to go: the bench under the plug sockets. Not just offering me free electricity, it is the closest you can get to the exit when we arrive. I staked my claim and wouldn’t be shifting for all the gold I could eat.

All was going swimmingly until about 10pm. Earlier, I shared dinner with a Syrian family from Aleppo who where travelling around Europe and the Middle East until the fighting ends. Just one family out of thousands forced from their home, businesses, everything, for the ego of one man, one ‘elected’ tyrant (see: all Presidents ever) whose criminal regime is being propped up by the despotic slugs that currently run the horrifically authoritarian kleptocracy that is modern Russia. I spoke to a Russian journalist yesterday, carefully evading any questions about Russia – I didn’t want her to be imprisoned for ‘treason’. ‘Treason’ to the foul leeches that conspire to suck all life and joy from the otherwise good Russian people, can be defined as ‘speaking to a foreigner who says disparaging remarks about the ‘elected’ tyrant (see: all Presidents ever) in charge.’ Technically, if I say that Putin is a greedy evil manipulative paranoid goatf–ker (which he is) and somebody in Russia reads this blog, they can be thrown in jail. Or a gulag. Whatever. Putin’s noble drive to ensure Russia’s place as the most miserable place in the world is one he’s been working towards for almost twenty years now: fending off stiff competition from the likes of Belarus, Paraguay and Pakistan.

Quite why Putin hates Russians so much is anybody’s guess. Maybe he’s secretly Georgian. Like Stalin!

Anyway, Russia provides the banking for the Al-Assad clan (who have been raping Syria’s riches since the early seventies). They keep supplying his regime with weapons and helicopters to more effectively slaughter innocent women and children. They purposely derail anything the UN attempts to do in order to help restore peace to the region. They do this openly and in plain sight, while the good folk of the internet age spout gibberish about lizard-men, moon cheese and global conspiracies, blissfully unaware that when a superpower wants to do something monstrously evil, they just kinda do it. The reason being that as ‘elected’ tyrants (see: all Presidents ever), these guys are immune from prosecution, they are above all law – national and international – and, surprisingly(!), don’t give a f— what you or I think of them.

Well, that’s unless you happen to mention what you think of them to a Russian citizen. Then they spit the dummy out of the pram.

I watched the sun set and the stars come out, good old Orion standing sentinel everywhere I go. I returned to my speck, watched over by the kindly old Sudanese guy who was going to Aswan for cancer treatment. I quietly read my book until it was time to get some shuteye.

I was snoozing, happy enough on my bench when some Eddie Murphy-lookin Nubian git starts clicking his fingers in my face. I groggily offer a ‘wha-’ before being shoved upright and this scumbag sitting next to me. I didn’t know the Arabic for ‘do you mind f—ing the f— off’ so instead partook in the age old African/Arabic tradition of SHOUTING STUFF AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS over and over again. I’ve seen this done on pretty much every single bit of public transport I’ve ever got on board in this part of the world and it seems to work quite well. But, as I was to discover, it only works quite well if you actually speak Arabic, Swahili, Zulu, whatever. He just sat there, despite my very vocal protests. I had been there since 2pm for heaven’s sake.

After I realised I was getting nowhere by ranting I tried a new tack. You know what? If I’m not going to sleep, you’re not going to sleep either. And so I started talking VERY EXCITEDLY like a giddy schoolchild and prodding the guy (lest he dosed off) while reeling off the kind of stream-of-consciousness gobbledegook that makes Joyce such a darling amongst English teachers that hate their pupils:

“…and do you know why the sky is blue it’s the cobalt effect oh no that’s what makes Sonic The Hedgehog blue everton are the blues founded in 1878 Einstein born a year later he’s a Pisces as St Domingo’s FC Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic not to be confused with Dominica which is another country whose capital is Roseau I think Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract The Social Network was written by Aaron Sorkin who did the West Wing with Martin Sheen whose real name is Martin Estevez Emilio Estevez hasn’t been in anything for ages has he I wonder if he’s still alive I’ll tell you whose not alive any more Patrick Moore he was mates with Arthur C Clarke the guy what wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey which was directed by Stanley Kubrick here’s a list of Kubrick’s films The Killing Paths of Glory Spartacus Dr Strangelove or How I Learnt To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb 2001: A Space Odyssey A Clockwork Orange Barry Lyndon The Shining Full Metal Jacket Eyes Wide Shut he was going to make AI but he died so Spielberg made it instead and gave it a lousy ending you know what had a good ending Inception great ending did you know that Inception was ripped off a Donald Duck cartoon strip I shit you not you can Google it when I left school in 1997 Google didn’t even exist hardly anyone had mobile phones and only total nerds had email addresses and Pluto was still a planet the moon of Pluto is called Charon he’s the ferryman takes you over the river Styx that’s why they put coins on dead people’s eyes to pay the ferryman Lone Wolf And Cub Baby Cart at the River Styx was a reedit of the Shogun Assassin series and was banned in the UK for ages along with 80 odd other socalled video nasties politicians think that violent films make people kill each other which is ironic really when you think that politicians are usually the ones who order people to kill each other I mean have you ever stopped to look at the rogues gallery that constitute the political elite of Africa all a bunch of brick-thick maniacs who condemn their citizens to death every day through enforced poverty squalor diseases and bad sanitation AND ANOTHER THING…”

This went on NON-STOP for TWO HOURS.

He didn’t budge and I didn’t shut up. I could – and would – do this all night. Luckily (for the Eddie Murphy dick) one of the guys who worked on the ship came down and spoke to me. After agreeing that Mr. Trading Places over here was being unreasonable, the ship worker offered me a CUSHIONED bench of my very own up in the canteen.

That’ll do nicely, thanks. I grabbed my bags, stuck my tongue out at Bowfinger and had what I reckon was the best night’s sleep anyone has ever had on the damn Sinai.

Will I miss this when the road finally opens?

No. No I won’t.