Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy ending



No, I haven't abandoned my morals to get an unpleasant wanky massage, it's better than that. I FINISHED MY FUCKING BOOK, and here's the gaudy, poorly Photoshopped cover:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Travel evidence - Luxor Temple and Karnak



Having a camera is good, it means I don't have to write anything. Check it out.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Travel evidence - Theban Necropolis

Way to deny me from taking photos in your tombs now I've finally bought a camera, Egypt!

That means some of these photos aren't mine, so apologies for their superior, professional quality. I'm sure the transition will be seamless. You'll have to trust that these are things I saw with my real, human eyes - eyes that didn't expect to see a mummified foetus today.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Travel evidence - Giza


Compulsory Sphinx shot


Photos courtesy of (i.e. stolen from) Eduardo. I bought my own camera now. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The curse of freedom



I'm taking a flight in a couple of weeks' time. Anyone got any suggestions where to?

I'm not lacking in ideas or decisiveness, it's just a case of narrowing down the options, now I've completed the Mediterranean circuit as far as I can with these Israel passport stamps.

God has been helping me so far, arranging the planet and its peoples so that the countries with the most interesting history magically happen to be next to each other. But now God is cutting the umbilical cord and I'm out on my own (that's right, God is a woman - didn't expect that, did you? And she's black probably. And Chinese and gay).

If it wasn't for these pesky passport stamps (that's the appropriate word to sum up the Israel-Arab conflict) I'd doubtless continue south, east or west across land, deeper into Africa, but all borders are closed to me now that I'm evil by association. So I'll have to take a flight anyway, and that technically means I can go anywhere. God damn it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Travel haggle



Haggling is fun. What could be more satisfying than having an animated argument with a complete stranger in broken English and getting a discount at the end of it? I literally can't think of anything.

I don't buy souvenirs - I'm not on holiday, this nomad existence is my life now, and I don't want to be burdened by unnecessary items when lugging my lightweight bags around. Anyway, most souvenirs are really, really rubbish.

But as a human being (roughly speaking) with basic requirements such as food, shelter and getting to ride on a camel every once in a while, not getting ripped off is still a part of my daily routine, and it's a lot more entertaining in Africa.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Travel books



I don't see the point of carrying travel guides around in 2010. Even when their information on ticket prices, visa requirements and accommodation choices isn't hopelessly out-of-date or insufficient, this stuff can all easily be found online anyway. And they rarely tell you the really useful stuff, like days you can get into attractions for free or the best places to steal Wi-Fi.

Even if you don't have internet access (I probably wouldn't if my income didn't depend on it), most of the places I've stayed have local Rough Guides and Lonely Planets lying around in all languages except Welsh, making carrying your own even more redundant. The space those thick tomes consume in your suitcase would be much better spent housing some squashed toilet rolls or more socks. (Sometimes these blogs mainly serve as mental aids for my shopping lists).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pyramidiocy



Don't mistake my fascination with screwball conspiracy theorists and other assorted lunatics for some kind of endorsement.

I've wasted many evenings of my life trying in vain to encourage self-styled psychic mediums, reiki experts, Christians, aromatherapists and other proponents of daft woo-woo to at least place their beliefs under an objective spotlight for a few seconds and make sure they're doing what they want with their precious lives.

I eventually gave up and just let them get on with it, when I realised I didn't want to spend my own life getting frustrated at how other people were squandering theirs.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peak



Oh great, what am I supposed to do now?

Yes, I know there's still Medieval Cairo, the Egyptian Museum, Abu Simbel, the Temples of Karnak and the Valley of the Kings to tick off before I can say with any conscience that I've given Egypt more than a passing glance. But when you're standing in the shadow of the pyramids of Giza - 140m tall, 230m wide and 4,500 years old, their iconic image infiltrating countless aspects of your life since childhood - there's a small but nagging feeling that nothing else you ever see will quite live up to this experience.

Though that could just be the effect of residual cosmic energy emanating from the pyramidal vortices, I often get those feelings confused.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Travel beard


Artist's impression.

There seems to be a consensus that personal hygiene and grooming go down the toilet (sometimes literally) when travelling, but not for me. I look after myself slightly better now than I ever bothered to when I had a proper job and people to impress. Slightly.

Since I left my squalid Scottish flat, I've even been shaving more than once a week. Until this month anyway - when I decided to temporarily grow a beard, now that I'm an author.

This isn't a cross-promotional tie-in with Movember, I think one crazy stunt per month is enough (I said stunt). But if I'm going to convince myself that I'm a proper writer, I might as well pretend I'm a proper man too.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cheap as Cheops



You can keep your high quality of life, safe streets, familiar language, hygienic water supply, stable economy, reliable public transport and whatever else you demand of a habitable city, you snobs. In my secondary quest to find somewhere to live for as long as my attention span or visa allows (whichever expires first), I've realised I really am fickle enough to be swayed by low prices above all else.

Which is lucky, because Cairo has little of the other stuff - though it does make up for it with great food, friendly people and the most incredible historical sites this side of the Martian pyramids.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Eternal September


September doesn't usually last this long. Does it?

How does that old rhyme go: 365 days hath September - April, June and November are just fabrications invented by the seasonal gifts industry to sell more Justin Beiber calendars?

(I don't even know who that is, I just saw the name on some kid's top and imagine I'm making a contemporary reference).

In the past, September always seemed to be roughly 4.29 weeks long, but this year it feels like it's lasting forever. Despite my computer, this website, NaNoWriMo and my internal chronometer all informing me that we're rapidly hurtling towards winter, I can still walk outside at night in just a T-shirt without feeling the cold.

Sometimes I wear trousers, pants, socks and shoes as well, though that's more out of decency than fear of catching a chill.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friendly Jew jokes



Mixed feelings about leaving Israel today, so I invented some friendly Jew jokes to cheer myself up.

They are all very offensive - not to the Jewish people, whom I love, but just because of their staggeringly poor quality that will almost certainly offend your good tastes. Especially the rubbish one about the snail, which is just wank.

Some of these may exist elsewhere on the internet (I gave up googling my comedy gold a long time ago, it was too depressing), but I'm confident that the more insane and convoluted ones are my own creation.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Travel evidence - Italy



I owned a digital camera for a brief time last year and had fun documenting my activities in and around Edinburgh. But then one night I got ludicrously drunk and the camera was one of several casualties (deservedly, I felt).

I didn't feel the need to buy a new camera to document my travels, mainly because there are already so many photos of the places I'm going to that are a lot prettier than any I would be capable of taking. Still, it's nice to have a few mementos of the things I've done and the people I've met, and it's always satisfying to use other peoples' resources, isn't it?

So here are some other peoples' photos to prove I was in Italy. It's taken a while just to get these few, so hopefully more can be added in the future (answer my emails, Pompeii people).

Note: Above photo may not be genuine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chapter one



Having embraced the prospect of his inevitable death, comedian Robin Ince is currently undertaking the task of downsizing his vast book collection. The process involves him reading the first chapter of every book he owns in turn, and using this as the sole basis of whether to keep or discard.

While I'm not saying the novel I'm currently, hastily writing will ultimately deserve a place on anyone's bookshelf (Aside: I am saying that, it will be a modern classic), the disgusting first chapter I wrote yesterday will really not be typical or indicative of the rest of the book, which takes the form of a murder mystery with girl trouble.

I won't be posting the whole book online - hopefully it will be available from Amazon.com in a few months, with proper artwork and pages and everything - but here's an extract from the self-edited first chapter for your enjoyment and disgust. While the whole book will be semi-autobiographical to an extent, this first bit practically counts as travel blog material, thanks to its inspiration coming from my first night out and morning after in Jerusalem.

See if you can spot which bits are made up and which are from life.

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Novel Writing Month



Before I started travelling, 2010 was definitely a year of all work and no play (with the exception of the Edinburgh Fringe). It was just the way I felt. One of the casualties was my lifelong love of writing for pleasure, which felt incompatible with my newfound love of writing for money and wondering where all the months went.

Although my writing talents arguably peaked at age six, when I wrote such modern classics as David's Wardrobe Learn's to Talk and Dr. Disguised as Beetle, I ploughed the creative field regardless for the next 18 years, at some point being allowed to get away with 'studying' creative writing for three years at University. But once I started writing corporate news articles and web pages for eight hours a day, the prospect of going back on a computer in my spare time seemed less inviting.

Now I have more time on my hands (Exhibit A and Exhibit B), I've started feeling the creative urge again, and have decided to embrace the insanity of National Novel Writing Month this November.