The late Bill Hicks had a routine about a friend from LA who would call Bill up on the phone every Christmas. “Hey Bill, how’s it going in New York? Snowed in, huh? Bummer. Me? I’m out by the pool!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I’m reading a book! Yeah, we’re thinking back east, you fucker!”
I don’t want to be the prick who brags incessantly about how it’s 36 degrees and sunny where he is, but since there isn’t a lot to do in Goa but sit on the beach in 36 degrees of sunshine, blogging is difficult. We’re here for another week or so. Our days conform to minor variations on the same routine. When you’re in a new place, you try out all the bars and restaurants and beach shacks and local dishes and shops and banks and internet cafes, and you develop preferences and habits that become harder and harder to deviate from.
We get up when we wake up, usually mid-morning. We shower, cover ourselves in sunblock and go to our favoured food and drink establishment for breakfast. We are greeted by our favourite waiter. If any other waiter attempts to serve us, he rushes to take over. We gravitate towards what now consider ‘our’ table. Part of me protests this habit, imagining myself to be a spirit unencumbered by the desire for familiar perspective, but self-consciously avoiding a particular table is even more ridiculous than not doing so. Y’know, like how a teetotaler is controlled by alcohol far more than the guy who drinks modest amounts every day.
I cannot help but opt for what is billed without irony as ‘The Full Indian Breakfast’. This is a masala omelette with toast and chips, a cup of masala chai and a tiny glass of anything but freshly squeezed orange juice. This costs around 80p and is delicious. I read the India Times, where animosity towards Pakistan (or simply ‘Pak’, as it is written here) dominates the front pages. I am growing fond of the informal writing style of Indian newspapers. For instance, an English newspaper might report that ‘Two local men were arrested by police in Magdoan last night after assaulting a Pakistani national.’ The Indian newspaper would opt for ‘Two Goans nabbed by top cops last night after Pak gets slapped about a bit.’ This is not a perfect example, but I am exaggerating only a little.
After breakfast, we do what we gotta do, such as internetting, banking, shopping or grooming. I had myself a fine haircut the other day. I now have very short, very neat hair. When he’d finished expertly snipping, he grabbed my head with both hands and turned it sideways, as far as it would go. For a second, I thought he was merely inspecting the trim around my ears, but then he suddenly and sharply turned it some more. Cr-aaaa-cccc-kkkk! So loud a crack it was, and so unexpected a sensation – which was a perfect combination of pleasure and pain – that I began laughing helplessly. I managed to contain myself enough for him to repeat the process the other way. I heartily recommend it.
In the afternoon we go to the beach and do what people do on the beach. I’m fairly well tanned now, although my nose stays stubbornly red. I’ve read a lot of books, working my way through our hotel’s collection. I borrowed an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel called ‘Tender is the Night’. After treating my brain to so much Vonnegut and Murakami, I’m finding it a struggle. I know he’s a great writer and I’m not worthy of inhaling the steam off his poop and all that, but he doesn’t half labour his points. I reckon about 80 per cent of his prose does nothing to advance the plot or reveal character. Endless descriptions of room furnishings… what is the point? Does anyone need to know the colour of the wallpaper in a protaganist’s boudoir? Still, me objecting to an excess of words is like Ainsley Harriot complaining about there being too many TV chefs nowadays.
I swim a couple of times a day. The sea is so warm that you can spend as much time as you want splashing about without getting cold. The sea tends to be rough, but I enjoy getting turned upside-down by huge waves then pulled backwards by the rip tide, nature the cat, me the mouse.
A friend once told me how when he was thirteen or so, he’d taken himself to task, telling himself sternly in the mirror that he was never to take drugs. This was no doubt a result of having received some anti-drugs propaganda at school that day. He told me this while high on MDMA. When we make solemn vows to ourselves, it is almost certain we will break them. For instance, before setting sail for India I vowed to follow a strictly vegetarian diet. I lasted one night in Goa before I ate a grilled Pomfret straight from the Arabian sea. One thing led to another and I found myself tucking into roast turkey on Christmas day.
More habits form. I have found myself eating Indian food one night, then Chinese, then European, then sea-food on the last night of the cycle. We usually end the night where we started the day, drinking Kingfishers and sharing banana pancakes. Nas is gently mocked by various waiters for her relative restraint in alcohol consumption, ‘Are you sure you’re English?’ being a typical question. Our bar is equally frequented by Indians and Europeans, and the atmosphere is convivial. The fact that they show English football would in ordinary circumstances be off-putting to me, but having paid our dues in Delhi, Varanasi and Calcutta, I feel no great shame in catching a game or two in the grand manner of the red-faced Brit Abroad. They also have karaoke on Tuesdays. The karaoke host is himself a fine singer, although hearing an Indian accent lent to Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ is hard to take seriously. I treated Colva Beach to the only song I ever do when I do karaoke, which is ‘Suspicious Minds’.
So basically, I’m sunburnt, I’m drinking lots of lager, watching football and swaggering about the place showing off my shitty tattoos. Essex accent not yet adopted, but there is opportunity yet.
Finally, for the sake of completeness, I came across a blog I wrote in Varanasi but failed to publish on here. It was overlooked due to the feverish excitement of the posting of the hotly anticipated Recoder album. Rather than ruin the chronology, I added an UPDATE to this post.
Have a happy and prosperous new year wherever you are.