South for Winter

As humans we imagine ourselves above all other animals as a pinnacle of evolution, but when you really think about it that idea is utter bollocks. I say this because you need only look towards the animal world & there you find infinitely more sensible creatures, take for instance the common or garden Swallow.  This little Bird with a brain the size of a pea has the common sense to think in Northern Hemispheres as winter approaches, hang on a minute, I don’t like this cold weather, then he gets together with his mates & they all fuck off somewhere much warmer for the winter.

Humans on the other hand, who like those Swallows find themselves in England during winter are resigned to seeing out the winter in situ, damp days and colder nights, ever shorter hours of daylight for months on end until it begins to turn dark in the middle of the afternoon and the temperature outdoors is enough to freeze your tits off. English people suffer colds & flu and some even succumb to seasonal adjustment disorder, where the lack of sunlight and warmth can lead to a host of maladies & depressions. Under the circumstances being called bird brain really should be a form of compliment shouldn’t it?

This particular Bird Brain takes a plane on New Years Eve, midnight passes by at thirty thousand feet somewhere over South Eastern Europe without fireworks or auld langs syne but instead accompanied by the sound of loud & insistent snoring emanating from the aged Indian gentleman in the seat next to me. Every once in a while I glance over towards him, wondering how such a diminutive gentleman can make such a lot of noise. His nostrils flare like trumpets on his exhalations.

I touch down at Mumbai having remained awake through an eight hour flight then collect my luggage & rush for my onwards flight to Goa as it’s a tight changeover, I needn’t have worried, the flight is delayed.

Four hours later I step out of Dabolim airport in Goa into bright sunshine and the scrum of taxi drivers competing for fares. I negotiate a decent price ( making that classic mistake of regular travellers that think they know the score in India ) My driver has saved money by parking outside the airport to avoid airport parking fees ) just little way he explains. But India is a big country and little is a relative concept dependant on your viewpoint, I begin my trip on an unexpected trek in 32 degrees, carrying my luggage along a dual carriageway dodging tuk-tuks, lorries, dogs & cows all in a cloud of dust blown from the roadside, then a ‘short cut’ across a rubbish tip. Eventually we get to the car, my luggage is rammed in the boot and I flop in the back seat, sweaty, rather knackered & desperate to be at my destination. A one and a half hour road trip follows, I gaze out of the window, through city, towns & villages, the old Portuguese churches and houses along the way, the ramshackle chai shops, the roadside vendors, the scooters carrying entire families, the trucks filled with workers peering out curiously as a large white man passes in the back of a taxi.

I count down the kilometres, in this little corner of India far from home & London, ticking off the landmarks on the route I know so well, with each one the damp and cold of an English winter fades away into yesterday & forgetfulness.

Mid afternoon the tax pulls up at my beach shack. Grubby, stinky and knackered I dump my bags & ditch my odiferous travel clothes & pull on shorts & a T shirt & head to the beach.

That feeling of sand between my toes is just heavenly, though as I walk along the beach I think of myself as an enormous white blob trundling & bouncing  along. I plant my bum at a beach bar & order a cold beer. Reminded of that saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin, God gave us beer because he wants us to be happy. I sit there a while & watch the sunset and feel just as God intended me to. Then trundle back to my humble abode, freshen up and head once again to a bar, where I meet a lady friend,  despite the promise to myself of beginning my new year with resolutions of a healthier more balanced way of living the vodka & tonics slip down all too easily. 

I end up going to bed distinctly pissed, jet lagged & exhausted & I wake the next morning and walk along the beach at seven am still feeling like a white blob, but now with a hangover & a mouth like the bottom of a bird cage, I watch the sunrise,  glorious & beautiful, so beautiful it hurts my head.


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