Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Falling off Goatfell - The Arran Trip, Part II

Falling off Goatfell

We landed in Arran in due time. A few lingering suspicions I had of whether I had actually docked in France by mistake were dismissed when I realized I could understand what the blokes on the shore were mouthing (unless of course the French had seen sense at long last and decided to switch to English).

Arran is a huge island, and does not have as many roads as a lazy city slicker like me would have liked. However, since it is huge, walking everywhere is not an option either. This leaves one with two options - of getting onto an overpriced bus, or selling your soul to raise the funds to rent a car.

Since I didn’t know if I had one of the latter, I decided to clamber onto a bus to travel to a place called Corrie. It was as I settled down on the bus that I realized that the buses were marginally less comfortable than the trusty 100 year old steeds they use in Chennai, and the roads were as good as the euphemistically named IT highway is after a storm.

I also realized that the bus driver suffered from the delusion that he was at the wheel of a Jaguar. He was convinced that the only way he could give his passengers their money’s worth was by giving their collective stomachs a good churn. He was aided and abetted by the twists and turns of the wonderfully surfaced road.

As we neared Corrie, any thoughts I had entertained of making terrible jokes about Poories in Corrie had all but vanished. All I wanted was a quiet corner where I could relieve myself of the contents of the stomach. The coffee was fighting with the ham and cheese sandwiches for an out, and all of them picked my esophagus as the staging point for breaking out of my body.

One of my friends tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Are you sick?’, she asked, rather unnecessarily.

‘No, I usually turn green on a whim. It amuses me to no end.’ Bitter words, no doubt. But there are times when a man is amenable to stupid questions, and times when he is not.

‘I just thought of a funny joke.’, she went on, unaffected by my remarks which were meant to bite like an adder and sting like a bee. ‘You’re a sick individual in the normal course of things. But now you’re a sick person who is incidentally feeling sick.’

I turned to her with an expression that had disgust, disdain and annoyance written on it. I was about to make another scathing remark which would have shut her up (for thirty seconds, at least), when the bus went up in the air after climbing up a steep incline a little too fast. Belying the driver’s expectations, the bus did not stay airborne but descended to terra firma with a resounding thud. And the lemonade that I had sipped the day before joined the party that the coffee and the sandwiches were organizing in my esophagus.

My friend looked at me with sudden concern. ‘You’re going to puke, aren’t you?’

I nodded weakly, in the hope of garnering some womanly sympathy.

‘Please turn away. Don’t puke on me.’, said she, brutally.

If I were an old man, I would have said, ‘They don’t make women the way they used to in 1950.’

But I wasn’t (and am not) an old man. So I turned away, thinking dark thoughts and hoping for the depredation of all womankind.

Cut to: Goatfell Mountain

It had been fifteen minutes since I had let the coffee, the sandwiches and the lemonade make their way back to the womb of the nature that created them. As the climb got harder and harder, my backpack seemed to get inexplicably heavier and heavier. In a few minutes, I was almost climbing on all fours.

I shouldn’t have carried those three cans of beer, goddammit!

In keeping with the spirit of the previous post, I summarize herein the lessons learnt during the climb to, descent from and fall on Goatfell.

  • If somebody asks you to carry three cans of beer, don’t listen to somebody. In fact, go a step further and tell somebody that he’s talking through his hat.

  • If the somebody happens to be yourself, kill somebody. The world doesn’t deserve somebodies of this kind. *searches frantically for a noose or a few capsules of cyanide*

  • Snow looks nice and feels nice to the touch. But that doesn’t make having snow stuffed down your shirt an enjoyable experience.

  • Snow is slippery. But do not avoid the snow to walk on the adjoining wet, icy rocks. Ice is slipperier (a message to the purists here – if Lewis Carroll could say curiouser, why can’t I say slipperier. So there!) than snow, and falling down on a rock hurts more than falling down on snow.

  • If you’re five feet and seven inches tall, weigh around 63 kilos, have black hair, Indian, and called Siddhu, don’t go mountain climbing. There are several other pursuits you will be significantly better at – like, for instance, being a roadside romeo and whistling at passing pulchritude, sleeping, or drawing Nazi Swastikas on bus stop windows.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Some chap sent me an invite to contribute to his blog. I didn't want to contribute to his blog (especially after I had seen it), nor do I want to now. But I have unfortunately been added in as a team member (primarily thanks to my monumental stupidity).

Well, what's done has been done, but I'd like to get out of being a team member of that blog. Anybody knows how I can do that?

Monday, February 20, 2006

A trip to Arran - Part I

The isle of Arran is supposed to be somewhere on the west coast of Scotland. I am not sure exactly where, so don’t ask me where it is if you aren’t either. That’s why God created Google Earth.

Irrespective of whether I am sure of its exact coordinate position or not, the fact remains that I did spend the weekend there. Two days during which I speculated if I was closer to France than I usually am, twisted my ankle six times, developed a convincing, almost arthritic crick in the knee, and slept in a pub, on a dining table, on two different buses, in a bus stop, and on the deck of a ferry.

By this time, the reader has probably left – being, as most normal people are, completely disinterested in the weekend activities of a somnambulist. But if you haven’t, (and in case you’re reading this, you haven’t) let me hasten to explain that Arran is an island which is supposed to be a miniature model of Scotland – the island contains, among others, thick forests, waterfalls, a 2000 foot mountain, crazy bus drivers who think they’re driving roller coasters, and rubbish bins exclusively for dog poop*. In fact, the only thing I couldn’t find were large numbers of friendly Scottish drunks looking for someone to talk to about how Englishmen are evil incarnate (something one expects to find as a matter of course in every Scottish city).

Part I – The Trip to Arran

The day that I got onto the bus to begin my trip to this little isle dawned fresh and beautiful. It didn’t appear all that fresh and beautiful to me because sleeping just two hours results in one having a rather jaundiced view of things.

After drawing a small Nazi swastika on the condensate on the bus stop window (and hoping to alarm some pacifist or idiot into thinking that it was time to wear yellow stars around their arms again), I got onto the bus and staggered to the most comfortable seat I could find.

It was then that I found that I had forgotten to zip my fly up. Finding oneself with an unzipped fly when almost completely surrounded by women is probably the kind of thing some people actually enjoy – strippers, streakers, and miscellaneous other perverts.

But, being none of them, and on the contrary, being a nice Indian boy, I found myself in a highly uncomfortable situation. After having settled into the most fetal position I could possible contort myself to settle into, I slept fitfully – dreaming all the time of most unpleasant occurrences. All of which involved me accidentally stretching my legs.

Two hours later, I found myself being woken up by a few rather impolite jabs, and being pushed into a ferry.

And talking of coffee served at the lounge where one waits for a ferry (not that we were, but let’s assume we were), I had an argument of great pith and moment with someone over why it is alright to leave a coffee cup on a chair if one cannot find a dustbin anywhere in sight. As I walked away after having lost the argument, I decided that this unnecessary attention to detail is probably why Asia looks all set to supplant Europe in the world stage. You wouldn’t find an Indian or a Chinese bloke spending hours looking for dustbins when the whole world is at his disposal (pun intended).

As I watched the ferry move slowly towards Arran, I began to wonder if that landmass that I sighted yonder was France. I turned to a friend of mine, who happened to be contemplating similarly deep thoughts, and spoke
‘Hey, is that France that I see out there?’

She laughed. I am often used to girls giggling at my witticisms, but this didn’t sound right. Girls, when they giggle, do not often sound sarcastic. And neither do they look like she did just then.

‘We’re sailing to the west of Scotland. How on earth do you expect to find France here?’

I was perplexed for a bit. West, according to me, was a perfectly natural place for France to be, unless it had moved since I heard from it last. After all, I’d been led to believe all along by my geography teacher that France was a western country.

But before I could say that, realization dawned upon me. Us Warriers are not perplexed for long. I turned towards her and said, rather snappily, ‘Ah! We’re on the Pacific then!’

A long silence, punctuated by hyenasque gasps, followed, as she held onto the railings trying not to fall over. Dashed inconsiderate of her, I must say.

‘No, you idiot! This is the Atlantic! And what you think you see is Northern Ireland.’

I was not convinced and decided to consult a local, as Scotsmen are unlikely to double over with laughter when one asks them a question of great pith and moment. I found a local yokel leaning over the railing, smoking a meditative cigarette.

‘Er, excuse me, mate, but are we on the Atlantic Ocean?’

‘ARRh…nayy, we aRe on the fiRth of <some word that has slipped my mind for the nonce>. If we tRavel another hundRed miles, we would be on the Atlantic, aye! And that theRe is the isle of ARRan. ’, said he, enunciating each ‘r’ loud enough to wake the dead.

Ah! I knew we weren’t sailing to Ireland. It had to be the isle of Arran.

I turned to my friend in triumph. ‘See? See? It’s not the Atlantic! We’re at the confluence of the Pacific and the Atlantic. And the firth of whatever it is called is just Gaelic for the Pacific. Almost everything is called a firth of something or the other around these parts’

(Cut to: Fifteen minutes later)

A long geography lesson punctuated with condescending and funny remarks which weren’t remotely funny (though the other hyenas seemed to think otherwise) culminates.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Do not argue with a woman. You’ll lose.

  2. If the captain says you’re sailing to the Isle of Arran, believe him.

  3. The Atlantic is closer to the firth of whatever it is than the Pacific.

  4. The firth of whatever it is is not the Gaelic word for the Pacific.

  5. I should never have passed my geography examination in school. Somebody made a big mistake.

Will our intrepid hero be thrown to the sharks for his ineptness in Geography? Will he fall off the Goatfell mountain, and add to the multitude of goats that have already fallen off it? Will he continue to write such arrant nonsense? All this, and lots more, in the next episode of this breathtakingly boring travelogue.

*Vilasrao Deshmukh must have, at one time, been mayor of Arran.