Monthly Archives: July 2013

Uruguay: travel writing.

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I boarded Buquebus one evening in Argentina. This was a fairly big ferry with scores of seats arranged a bit like on an airplane. The carpet was clean and the whole thing was new. The ship seemed to be made of white plastic. Soon we were whizzing out over the waves of the River Plate as evening fell. I sat down and went through my GCSE Spanish vocabulary book. I was leaving the land of Nestor Kirchner – since deceased. I was bound for Uruguay. I decided I had done with this Spanish vocab book and binned it. I had spent almost three weeks in the Hispanic World and had become a confident speaker of ungrammatical Castilian.

We docked in Montevideo – the capital of Uruguay. Montevideo means in Latin ”I see the mountain”. I got out of the ferry port. I do not recall there being any passport or customs formalities. The ferry terminal was surprisingly small. My ferry had been larhgely devoid of passengers.

I got into a cab and had the man bring me to a hostel that I had picked from my guidebook. This youngish cab driver obliged and we chitchatted happily. We arrived and it dawned on me that I had not withdrawn any Uruguayan currency from the ATM. Come to think of it I did not even known what money they used in Uruguay. I saw the figure on the meter and asked if I could give him his recompense in pesos. To my surprise he agreed with alacrity. That should have set alarm bells ringing. I handed over the banknotes and the car vanished in exhaust smoke. Only later did I discover that the peso was far more valuable than the currency of Uruguay,

Up the stairs and into the hostel. It was very clean and homely. It was small and there were hardly any guests. I got a room of my own. The receptionist was very tall and had a moustache and glasses. I noticed that this skinny receptionist had an unusual accent for this part of the world. It turned out he was a Spaniard from Valencia. I showed him my International Student Identity Card. I played him for a fool but he was not as dimwitted as I had hope. He pointed out that this card was expired but he gave me the reduced rate anyway.

On the floor two kittens lay on their backs. ”Estan felices” he said. He explained that the underfloor heating was what they were after. It was a chilly and a blustery evening. The rain had only just lifted. Despite this I headed out and had a good walk around.

The wind tore down the central avenues. I was approached by a hefty woman in ther 30s with award winningly badly dyed blonde hair. She invited me to a brothel. In those days I found the notion of prostitution repellent so i declined.

I went to an internet cafe on the corner of the main square. I had mail on Oxford Romance. It was from a bisexual Australian named Sean. I said I noticed he was bi but I was straight. He wanted to be friends. We ended up meeting and getting on well but that was a couple of months later. I confessed to being something or a porn addict.

A couple of years later I got to know two Argentine brothers in Oxford. These large nosed Lebanese boys had been to Montevideo a lot. I told them how I kept getting approached by madames on the street,. ”You must be the horniest looking person because it never happens to us!”’

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The next day I had a walk around this not very fascinating city as a brisk wind came in off the Atlantic. On the main square I saw a chap celebrating his British heritage by wearing a kilt and playing the bagpipes. I spoke to a chap who was a friend of the piper and he told me that the piper was indeed of British descent.

I walked around the corniche. The buildings were much older here than in most of the rest of the city. The plaster was flaking off the buildings that were mostly yellowish and featured wooden balconies. At a bank I saw cash being delivered and a few security guards standing there vigilant – holding pump action shotguns. Down one street I spooted a plaque high up on a house. I read it and it indicated that this house had been the residence of Giueseppe Garibaldi. This leader of the Italian unification and independence movement had fled to Uruguay for a while in the mid nineteenth century. This son of Nice fought in the war between Brazil and Argentina. There was major rivalry between the two lands. Uruguay was carved out as a buffer between them. Ironic now that for this Italian super patriot his birthplace is now not in Italy but in France.

At a street side stall I bought a book. I was not up for reading a proper book in Spanish though I was capable of that since it would send me to the dictionary once a paragraphy at least. I spoke to the vendor who in fact had a command of English. They were classics and rather overpriced.

I spent only two days in Montevideo. Then I went to the bus station. Many signs up were up in Spanish and Portuguese. Although the official language of that country is Spanish some people in the northern portion of the country speak Portuguese. There was little point in having both languages there. Take the Spanish word change a single letter and usually have the Portuguese word. The coach station was not too big. The roof was fairly low and the place was only somewhat busy.

I boarded a coach to Brazil. Eventually I fell asleep. Not long after dawn I was roused and found some Brazilian police had boarded the bus. I got a stamp in my passport and admired it eagerly. It made me think of Katie – an incredibly gorgeous girl from my college. She had been to Brazil and met British train robber Ronnie Biggs. I was envious and wished to do the same. It had become impossible since Mr Biggs had lately returned to the UK to face justice because he could not afford medical care in Brazil.

 

 

 

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Unserious remarks.

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A pimp offered me a girl for 100 Euros. I said, ”100 Euros! Does she have 10 tits?”

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It is very rewarding buying jewellery as gifts for elderly relatives. You know you will get it back after a few years.

A dream of a new Irish flag and of infidelity

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I had a new design for an Irish flag – it was half Irish Tricolour and half the Cross of St Patrick. Of late I have been thinking how the Saltire of red on white is Ireland’s true flag and commands my allegiance more than the green, white and orange. I showed my cousins Denis and Patrick. Both approved of it.

Later I had a dream that I was in a room with a blonde Turkish girl of about 30. She had two little children – they were not present. This washed up single mum let me snog her and she slowly unbottoned her blouse. I felt her pert but small tits. She was slender and of middle height. We sat on chairs in a bedchamber.

A knock on the door. It was her. A lady of 30 odd years with whom I was involve in myd ream? Should I let her in ? I had to. I had a hard time explainign what the Turkish woman was doing there. I hustled the Turk out. The other girl was in a dress and cried but soon forgave me.

I had been thinking about Judith and how I shiuld have treated her better and not cheated on ehr.

Is redesigning the flag of Ireland an infidelity too? Was there a link on my mind?

The cross of St Patrick is inclusive of unionists without being the British Flag.

Clusterfuck in Egypt.

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There is something rotten in the state of Egypt. In fact one would be hard pushed to think of much that is not pear shaped in Egypt these days. As readers of this blog will know Your Humble Servant thought that Hosni Mubarak is by no means all bad. No the old kleptocrat is due to live out his days a guest of the nation there seems nary the slenderest chance of restoring him to the supreme office. It would have been better if Mubarak’s illberal rule could have been maintained but it could not have been maintained without massive state coercion. As it was it took three weeks of huge protests and several hundreds of deaths to oust him. But it would have required several thousands of deaths to keep him in office.¬†

Mohmmed Morsi won the presidential elections in June last year fair and square. This is the first proper presidential election that Egypt ever had. Now the military has booted him out in response to enormous street protests. I cannot see that this has improved much if anything.

Morsi’s acolytes are adamant that he must be returned to the president’s seat from which he was unlawfully removed – as they hold it. Street demonstrations have been met with large scale violence by the armed forces. Dozens of protesters have been slain. It is hard to see the circumstances in Egypt ameliorating any time soon/

Tourism was responsible for about 20% of the economy. Only a foolhardly tourist would venture there now. The economy is plummeting.

The US gives 1.3 billion dollars in military aid to Egypt each year. The foreign Assistance Act would require that this be cut off if there were a coup. Everyone can see that a military coup occurred but the US government is chary of the consequences of suspending this aid so they will not call the coup by its name. I admit that they have some wiggle room as the military unseated Morsi in response to what seemed like the popular will. If the US Government had declared that this was a golpe de estado and not granted aid what then? Would things have got worse? Maybe the junta would have sought succour from another source which does not pretend to have democratic scruples such as China or Russia? China certainly is keen to expand its sphere of influence and has many client states in Africa. The junta might also become more Islamist. 

It is am omnishambles. So far only a minority opposes the new president Mansoury. Unless the regime can improve the lot of ordinary folk fast then I see the popularity of the regime falling. Better to spend that 1.3 billion on bread not guns. That is what will really sate popular fury.

Argentina: travel writing.

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On a cool spring day the coach wound its way down the bare rock mountains. It was my birthday. Night fell and we drew into the city of Mendoza. Mendoza sits on the Pampas – the flat grassland that covers most of northern Argentina.

At the bus station I was approached by a middle aged little Argentine taxi driver. He tried to persuade me to take a room in a homestay with a middle aged woman. Sotto voce he told me this lady has a desirable daughter about my age. That was it. It was sold to me. Being a sexual opportunist I leapt at this possibility.

Into the cab and after a couple of minutes purring through the ill-lit streets of this unremarkable city we arrived at the woman’s bungalow. There was no sign of the husband but I did encounter the daughter – she was aged 20 and she was indeed nubile: svelte, with dark hair and a soothing voice. Sadly she was demure. No, I never got the ”room service” I had been hoping for. A few pesos later and the taxi driver smiled and was off. Notice that several Spanish speaking countries have a currency called the peso. Peso means ”weight”in Spanish – it originally corresponded to being worth a certain weight in silver – just as the pound sterling once related to a weight of silver. The same goes for the old lira in Italy or livre in France.

The woman of the house was about the half century mark. She spoke no English. She had dark blonde hair inexpertly dyed. She too was slender. She was agreeable but spoke slowly. She thought about her responses and narrowed her eyes as she scrutinised my remarks. The house was minimalist. The daughter was studying at the local university. Wine is the major produce of this town and the daugher’s subject was oenology. That is the study of wine for those of you who do not know.

I headed out and found a restaurant. For a cheap restaurant the place looked very smart. The old waiter sported a white dinner jacket and patently took his job very seriously. I tasted the renowned Argentine steak for the first time and it did not disappoint. I was jaded and moody after my long coach journey but this succulent meat bucked me up. Ten years on I still salivate at the memory of it. I was also annoyed at myself for not having managed to call my girlfriend. But after dinner I got a phone card and located a call box. Those were the days when such things existed and we did not have mobile phones with reasonable rates and nor did we do everything ion the internet. Yes, I know it is a long since vanished era. I managed to speak to my darling girlfriend. Her warmth and cheer calmed and pleased me. And so to bed.

Next day up and out. The city was not high rise. The main square was agreeable and had a little garden in the centre. On an office building I had a long look at the emblem of the Argentine state. The powder blue and white bars are a pleasing confection. The Smiley sunny face is also cheering. There was the red Phrygian cap on the coat of arms of the Argentine Republic. This floppy cap looks a bit like a Santa Claus hat only without the white trimmings. This has been a symbol of liberty since Hellenistic times. This was a small town in Asia Minor – Phrygia. I passed a disused railway line. I walked through a large park and up a hill. I went to the zoo. I had a good wander along the well-kept zoo and gawp at the animals below.

I stopped at a  roadside cafe. I fell into conversation with the tubby middle aged man who worked there. He sat on a plastic chair as I sipped water. He asked me where I was from. I told him Ireland. On hearing that he told me he had studied in the Soviet Union in the 1980s as if that was just around the corner from Eire.

I saw the houses of the affluent but I also passed a shanty town. These corrugated iron shacks were a sobering reminder that the economic downturn in Argentina had resulted in real hardship.

I hastened back to the house. The woman had asked me if I would meet local girls and I imagined she was going to invite some round. I got back and no such luck.

The next evening I boarded a coach to Buenos Aires. I sat beside a short and very chubby bearded Argentine named Santiago. He was a sports journalist. He covered basketball – ironic in the light of his physique. We spoke about Magic Johnson – I brought him up as just about the only basketball player I had ever heard of. Behind us sat two white Americans. I turned around and briefly spoke to these Anglophone girls. Santiago and I even got onto disputed territory: the Falklands Islands. Or should I say the Malvinas? He said that these isles belonged to Argentina because international law says that a country owns all the islands within X kilometres of its mainland. I courteously but firmly disagreed. I had been warned by a German named Alexander a couple of years earlier that the Falklands is a live issue for Argentines and that one always sees grafitti reading ”The Malvinas are Argentina’s”. In fact I saw no such legends. I had met that Alexander on a bus in Laos.

there was a game of bingo on the coach. I fell asleep and awoke as we pulled into the suburbs of Argentina’s capital. The urban sprawl went on for a very long time. Even the outskirts of this metropolis were not horrid. The low rise buildings gradually turned into high rise ones. The place was not dirty and the heavy traffic moved quickly. Into a bus station. The weather was tepid as I stepped into a battered cab and was taken to a hotel I had picked from my guidbook. It was an old world hotel with no lift. I was on the first floor – mercifully. The large reception area had a marble floor and an air of faded granduer. In fact that summed up the whole district of blocks of flats with carefully carced stone frontispieces. Every building boasted a balcony. It made me think of a decrepit Italian city.

I had a couple of hours doze. Then off to explore Buenos Aires. The name of the city means ”Good Air’ – the air was good. A brisk wind was up as I approached the harbour area. I had a wander around the marina and a bird sanctuary. I wanted a long stretch of my legs since I had spent 10 hours on a coach.

I noticed many statues of generals of yore. The letters had been stolen from the pedestals!

I took to eating in a small restaurant across the street from my hotel. One of the waitress was in her early 20s and though slender, reasonably busty and genial she somehow lacked sex appeal. Maybe it was the bizarre tan colour she dyed her hair. She was studying Economics and spoke very good English. In fact she was the only Argentine I met who did speak it so well.

I had a good mozey around Buenos Aires and across the very broad boulevard not so far away. There was an enormous obelisk in the middle of it. I had a close look at this monument to the foundation of the city.

I bought a poster of Evita Peron. I read up on the Perons. I found it difficult to make up my mind if I am a Peronista or not. I told the shop assistant I was choosing that particular poster of Evita because this was ”la mas bonita.”

I went to a mansion which served as a museum for those Argentines who had explored the deep south of their country. They had contact with the indigenous people of those frigid regions. All the mentions of Patagonia brought me back to Patagonian League – a football league for very feeble players in which I had starred as a schoolboy.

I walked to Plaza Venticinco de Mayo. This is the central square of Buenos Aires. This square was made famous by the mothers of Plaza venticinco de Mayo. These women had regularly protested there in the 1970s about the disappearance of their sons and daughters. The military government of the time did not take kindly to communists. The Monteneros – communist terrorists – were extirpated. Imprisoning or even executing such people would have been permissible if they had had fair trials. All too often suspected communists were abducted – no formal arrest – tortured and given a one way flight in a helicopter over the South Atlantic. These women used to hold placards bearing the words ”donde estan?” – meaning ”where are they?” Of course some people could be kidnapped by serial killers or could just have gone missing and so on. Every case of a missing person was laid at the door of the junta.

On that square stood La Casa Rosa – the Pink House. This is the official residence of the president. It is pretty indeed and not so large.

I went into the cathedral on that square. Again it is not as huge as you might expect. It was poorly lit but the place was intricately decorated and bedecked in finely carved wood and stone. I went into an antechapel and saw two soldiers dressed in 19th century cavalry uniforms. These cuirassiers had black horse hair hanging from the back of their burnished helmets and held swords touching the floor. I saw a sign to say that there was the tomb of General San Martin – the man who had led Argentina to independence and defeated the Spanish colonial authorities. I tapped my chest and pointed forward towards the tomb to ask the soldier whether I was permitted to approach the final resting place of the founder of the Republic of the Argentine. He was a nod so slight that it was barely perceptible. I took his signal and stepped forward.

It came time to think when I should depart from the Argentine. I mulled over going to Foz da Igacu – a waterfall on the border with Brazil. But no i would go to Uruguay. Thereby bag another country and also avoid a fearfull long coach trip. I was sick and tired of long road trips. Latin America has hardly any intercity railway lines and only a few metro lines within major cities.

 

 

A dream of defecation

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I dreamt of a leggy Russian who is approaching two score years. I have on a boat with such people. But I dreamt of a brunette.

Later I dreamt I was evacuating my bowel. In fact I awoke needing to do so for real. I often dream of micturition but never of number 2. In my dream the bathroom was a foot deep in water and my excreta floated around and I had to scoop it up with a bin to get rid of it. Ghastly.