You wouldn’t know it – I mean, how could you know it – but I write these diaries all the time. I just never publish them. What usually happens is that I begin doing some other thing, like working or reading a book, and at that instant I am struck by inspiration, and I throw everything aside and sit down and hammer out 2000 words in an insane blur that I barely even remember. Then I sit back and crack my knuckles and read what I’ve written, and while I read my jaw gently slackens, until finally I think ‘nobody must ever discover how shit a writer I am, how inane, how poundingly mediocre my thoughts are’ and I delete them all in an orgasm of self-loathing.Continue reading
In the morning I had breakfast on the terrace, sitting alone with my laptop to write. I’ve been smoking a lot in India purely because there’s a large amount of sitting around in the sun or gazing out at majestic views, and they go together nicely. I asked an Indian guy a few across for a cig, and he handed me one smiling. A few moments later he came over to me and introduced himself, and asked to join me. He told me his name was far too long for a western tongue to pronounce, and told me everybody called him Prax. Continue reading
Hello, internet user.
Here are a few random words: millennials, depression, anxiety, apathy, nihilism, suicide, exhaustion, over consumption, social media, news cycle, housing prices, tuition fees, health care, late stage capitalism, fuck off.
Great pack of words, ey? Don’t they just get you all revved up and ready to dive into a new day? Continue reading
Previously: Drink, Play, Loathe: Day 1, Paris
Well, I woke up this morning ugly and dishevelled and so hot I actually panicked and thought something had gone gravely wrong internally. Ran into the bathroom for an emergency guzzle of tap water and dry heaved at the sight of my wild haired, eye bagged, bloodshot reflection. I’ve got to learn to take better care of my body. Christ. Continue reading
While at work today, I stumbled across an article by the Telegraph on creativity, which you can click here to read. Listening to the featured podcast, I was amazed to learn of an art project which took place in 2014 Liverpool; more specifically, in the poorest neighbourhood in the country, Toxteth. In the immediate area, only 1 in 10 houses are inhabited.
One night in the summer, on a quiet street in this deprived area, the shutters on a derelict shop began to mechanically wind up, for the first time in years. As the shutter rose, blue light spilled out from the shop, bathing the street. The shutter finished its ascent and clicked into place, and silence reclaimed the streets, illuminated in the shimmering blue light emanating from within the abandoned shop. Continue reading
It’s 10am as I write this, so what better subject to begin the day than DEATH?
Listen to the immortal lyrics of master songsmith Jason Derulo, from the 2009 hit single ‘Ridin’ Solo’, in which he vividly recounts the new-found benefits of the single lifestyle, and the dizzying pleasures that can accompany the sudden revelation of newfangled emotional liberation.
Berlin’s door policy is the most unforgiving I’ve ever come across. Continue reading
Day 12 in Cuba, and I’d fallen in love with the country. The rough ride at the start of the trip was kind of necessary in order to properly appreciate the second half. Just because I was no longer getting robbed and/or electrocuted doesn’t mean there wasn’t an adventure or two left, though…
Very disturbing thing happened last night. Was woken up by a woman shouting in the street at maybe 4am. She was shouting in Spanish, the same thing over and over. I could hear her as she came up the street and as she got nearer, I could hear something in her cries that was chilling. Her voice sounded desperate and fearful, repeating the Spanish phrase over and over, louder and louder, echoing around the silent street. A couple of voices called back to her at one point. I wish I knew what she was saying. It sounded like cries for help – or possibly the wails of a mad woman. Either way, it was horrible and I lay awake in bed long after her screams had faded away into the distance.
At 5am, I was woken again by hammering on the front door, over and over, and then the doorbell ringing frantically. I heard my casa owner answer the door, but heard no conversation. It truly is an intimidating country when you are unable to speak the language. My number one piece of advice to any traveller wanting to visit would be to learn at least basic Spanish, and not to travel alone. Really underestimated the difficulties I would face here, alone and unable to communicate.
I got up for breakfast at 7, moron that I am, because my casa owner speaks no English at all and refuses to slow down her rapid Spanish, meaning I agreed to eat at the crack of dawn by accident in garbled Spanglish. Woke up still hammered again and was subjected to breakfast that was merely huge, rather than the usual gargantuan offering. Consistency is not a concept that exists in Cuba.
After a joyous 30 minute fiesta of a toilet session, which is becoming part of my daily routine as my stomach slowly packs in, I shoved my things in my backpack and left quickly, with the casa owner waxing lyrical about something that I hope wasn’t important because I stared blankly and left.
Went to the bank, asked for 30 cuc, she tried to withdraw 300, took some explaining but got there eventually. Some old guy flogged me a cigar for a cuc which I sat and smoked in the town square as various stray dogs asked for food and stray Cubans asked for my sunglasses. The dogs were considerably less persistent.
Found a taxi to Havana for 15cuc – very cheap, like a 2 hour journey for a tenner. Joining me in the knackered old classic car was a German girl called Hannah who has been here for a month. She is visiting Cuba in memory of her late father, who listened to salsa music all his life, sharing his passion with her. He never got to visit the country. Really touching. Silver lining – he never got electrocuted and impaled in the shower, either.
We had a great conversation about Cuba, music, politics, films and sociology – it’s her degree. She was impressed by my media production degree – I was reluctant to shatter her illusion of it having any practical use. She asked me my three favourite films. Not necessarily favourites, but I recommended Scott Pilgrim, Airplane and American Beauty. Hopefully she’ll enjoy at least one of those!
Back at Casa De Ania now, Martin and Sanya are exploring the city somewhere. Will no doubt see them later and then it will be party time.
Went out and grabbed something to eat from a street stall and had a beer walking through the city. Didn’t hang about as the heat was fierce.
Met a Canadian guy called Sammy at the casa who had just arrived after fleeing the unfathomable dullness of his all inclusive week at Varadero.
Two familiar bronzed German faces arrived back at the casa. Was great to see them again. Martin has a sunburned lip that has become infected. Looks a mess. He’s mortified. Hilarious.
Writing this two days later. Past two days have been a rum soaked blur. Met more people as Ania’s – a 38 year old Chilean woman called Fransisca who visits Cuba all the time, and an English artist called Joe who’s 22 and has been funded to go to Cuba to draw the country – pretty epic.
Fransisca told us about some local place by the seafront and we all piled in a taxi there, four of us crammed in the back on top of each other. Was a cool salsa bar overlooking the ocean with a large dancefloor. As soon as we arrived we grabbed some beers and were dragged onto the dancefloor by Fransisca, where a group salsa lesson was being led by a yelling Cuban man. Failed miserably to keep up with the locals and soon sacked it off and slumped on a wall nursing my beer, watching the Cubans flinging each other about.
Got pretty smashed pretty quickly and somehow lost everyone in a bar about the size of a tennis court. Assumed they’d gone home for some reason and got a taxi back by myself. Driver tried to rip me off by pretending he had no change. Refused to hand over the fiver he was asking for and he soon miraculously found a couple of Cucs in his pocket.
Drunkenly woke a homeless man while stumbling past and handed him five Cucs. He was still bleary from his sleep and held the money up to a light to see if it was real. Seemed grateful and confused.
Everyone else got back around 12 and angrily told me they had spent 30 minutes trying to find me. Whoops.
Day 13 – Malecon Wankers
“Cuban police do not fuck about.”
After the meteoric crash at the end of my first week, by the time I reached Viñales, things had started to look up. After 11 days, Cuba didn’t seem to hate me anymore. My time in Viñales was spent hanging out with police inspectors from Belgium and choking on massive cigars…
Today is the day I’ve been waiting and hoping for.
Woke up still steaming for breakfast before a horse riding tour organised by my casa. Breakfast is becoming less of a joyous banquet and more of a forced feeding. Crammed myself full of bread, fruit, cheese and coffee before a car arrived at ten. Mojito hangovers are fierce and I struggled to even keep my eyes open as we drove to the horse trail.
Hopped on a horse that didn’t want to walk. Guide kept shouting something at it in Spanish and it eventually started to drag it’s heels (hooves?) in a slow plod that felt almost sarcastic.
Tour guide spoke no English and my Spanish is wank, so the two hour tour was pretty silent, apart from my guide occasionally pointing out various fruit plants.
Saw a cock fighting arena, where two men stood thrashing each other with their genitals. Just kidding. Cockerels were wondering about, but thankfully no fighting was taking place. Gross ‘sport’.
Eventually got saddle sore and wished I’d just gone for the one hour tour. The horse riding itself doesn’t compare to my experience in New Zealand – that felt like I was really controlling the horse and working with it, rather than being ferried along like a sack of spuds on a conveyor belt. Turns out that what I have heard shouted at horses all across Cuba is the word ‘Caballo’. They shout this to get the horses moving. Presumed it means go, or faster. Turns out it means ‘horse’. Ingenius.
Was getting dizzy from the heat, so thankfully we stopped and wondered up to a tobacco farm. Had a delicious mango juice, and met a handful of other horse-trekkers. There was an older Belgian couple, Kurt and Sharon (their names sound much more exotic when they pronounce them) and a young German couple. Watched another cigar being rolled, and passed it around. Had honey on the end, and you could actually inhale without choking.
The others bought cigars (at jinetero prices, but I didn’t say anything) and we got chatting. They all spoke English – I hate only speaking one language. It feels so ignorant. The Belgian guy spoke French, German, English, Dutch and some Danish. They said they were going to a beach later and invited us all along.
They dropped me back at my casa in their rental car and I chilled for an hour, then met them at the town plaza at 2.30 after grabbing a quick peso pizza from a stall out of someone’s living room window. The peso pizzas here are essentially dough with some cheese on, but it fills a hole, and for about 70 pence I can hardy complain.
The Belgian and German couples arrived, I hopped in the car and we sped off to find some distant beach. Took about an hour, through mountains and pine forests on treacherous old roads. The beach was gorgeous – calm waters and white sands. Unfortunately, snorkelling was crap, as the locals think nothing of lobbing beer cans and other litter into the sea. Littering is a pet hate of mine, and many a time during this fortnight I’ve winced watching the locals finish a can and lob it carelessly over their shoulder without a second thought.
The Belgian couple are police officers, Sharon is an inspector and Kurt is chief inspector working on the French Belgian border. You can tell they love their work – Kurt enthusiastically told me stories about his days in the royal guard, the riot police, and mounted division. Really interesting stuff.
Headed back to Vinales before it got dark and only got lost once or twice. Saw the sun set behind the mountains, turning the whole sky pink.
Texted Sina and met him and Marie Claire in the same salsa bar as last night. Martin came down too, and Kurt and Sharon joined us. Sina’s Cuban tour guide from his horse trek joined us also, along with his girlfriend. A real motley crew, with three or four languages criss crossing the table constantly and me nodding sagely, smiling knowingly, and pretending I had a clue what anybody was on about.
Stomach started churning after a couple of beers. Entry was a cuc, and so I was loathe to run home to shit and pay in again. Instead braved the bar toilets, grabbing a fistful of toilet roll off the female attendant slumped outside.
Toilet door kept swinging open, didn’t lock, toilet had no seat and no top, so you could see straight into the plumbing. Shat myself down a belt size, and then realised the flush didn’t work and she had given me one square of toilet roll. Somehow, thank christ, I was able to make do, and after many attempts was able to flush away the shame. Fuckin Cuba.
Had more mojitos and chatted to Marie Claire in between her enthusiastic if rhythm lacking salsa excursions. Left around 1am and got everyone’s names for Facebook, all agreeing we could stay with each other if we came to each other’s countries. Sina and Marie Claire live in Amsterdam, so if I ever get around to travelling there that would be great.
Day 12 – Havana Good Time (I’m not sorry)
“At one point our driver pulled over in the middle of the motorway. The gentleman pictured wandered over across the six lane motorway and sold him a string of garlic. They argued about the price for a while. To this day I am yet draw a satisfactory conclusion as to what the hell anyone would need that much garlic for.”