Know Thyself

I wish to record the fact that I am writing these words on a Sunday afternoon. I may be in Thailand, but it has been a stubbornly routine Sunday – I slept until late morning, ate a breakfast of bacon and eggs, washed it down with a mug of Earl Grey and returned to bed with an iPod and a Will Self novel. Then I watched some football. My excuse is this: it is pissing down with rain.

Here are the two thoughts I have had so far today which do not pertain to my metabolism and its by-products. I would be delighted to hear your opinion on either, both or neither.

1. Seth Rogen is funny, but of his time. In ten years, no-one will think he’s funny, and few will admit to ever having found him funny. In this way, he will share the fate of Mike Myers.

2. Will Self is an exceptional writer. His recent works, like the Book of Dave, are either so good that I don’t understand them, or so full and swollen that I couldn’t want to. I worry that it is the latter, but I’ll give the BOD another chance when I get home, as I am relishing every paragraph of The Quantity Theory Of Insanity.

I have been in Koh Tao for only a week, and have no reference by which to judge the climatic anomalies of a tropical island, but I am reliably informed that it has in recent days been particularly, unconscionably and relentlessly hot. These conditions have led with some predictability to a tropical storm. Tropical storms are quite something – their limitation of normal human activity is absolute. I was beaten back to shelter by pint-sized units of rain which assaulted me horizontally and at pace. It’s a fine day for tapping away at a computer, and no mistake. Shame, then, that I have tickets for Muay Thai tonight, and the stadium is quite a walk away. More about this later.


Before I left for Asia, I was asked on numerous occasions if I was ‘off to find myself’. This question was typically posed ironically by friends who wanted to puncture the self-congratulatory affectations of a man about to embark on a six-month holiday in the sun, unburdened by debt or encumbrance. Besides, I already found myself when I was younger, and it turned out I was a bit of a wanker.

I have, however, banished some bad habits. One was overcome in Vietnam, which you may know about if we’re friends in Real Life. Since an exceptionally bad case of food poisoning, during which I experienced fevered psychosis throughout thirty-six hours of unremitting vomiting, I have had an unhealthy obsession with food hygiene. I’ll spare the details, but it inspired pathetic behaviour. No amount of rational thought seemed to make a difference. For example, I could tell myself that in nearly thirty years of life, I have been violently ill as a result of something I put in my mouth just once, but then wash my hands five times in a row regardless.

There is only one way to overcome a phobia, and that is to confront it. I remember watching a television program where people confront their fears for the pitiless entertainment of the viewing public. Sometimes it was hard not to laugh at people; there was one contestant (is contestant the right word?) who had a fear of buttons. The mere sight of a loose button was enough to bring on the sweats and shakes. The show ended with her taking a button shower. I pulled muscles, I was laughing so hard. We’re all heartless bastards sometimes.

I found myself one evening at a street-food stall in Hoi An, Vietnam, which specialises in fresh spring rolls. The procedure is that you help yourself to communal ingredients by the handful, wrap them in fresh pancakes and dip them in shared sauces. The proprietor mistook my neurotic hesitation for technical inadequacy, and gleefully wrapped a few up for me and shoved them straight into my mouth. I had, in less than a minute, gone from being someone with a hygiene-related obsessive disorder to someone who was literally eating from the palm of someone’s hand. Cured! Cured to the point that I can heartily recommend the ‘Bale Well Double Spring Rolls’ just off Phan Chu Trinh Street, Hoi An.


5 Responses to Know Thyself

  1. mieke says:

    Glad to hear that some things are as easy to overcome as traveling through Asia for six months and having a misunderstanding. 😉

    I really want to colonize Oh Leuk beach with a bunch of Dutch people.

  2. charlotte says:

    Congratualtions on the food phobia.

    Not so sure I agree with your musings on Will Self’s writing. I want to like his books, I’ve tried to like his books. I find him entertaining on tut telly but alas I got about half way through BOD and couldn’t take anymore… I found it the most pretentious pile of wank ever. Leave futuristic slang to Anthony Burgess and current social satire to Ben Elton I say 😛 x

  3. McKinley says:

    I’m with you, Charlotte. I don’t think it could have been described better. The guy is a narcissistic, balding asswipe who only exists to make people feel insignificant.

    Koh Tao, eh? I heard a rumour the island is completely run by the mafia and only exists for tourists.

  4. […] and popularity since the MMA boom (and quite rightly so), Karate is still one of the most popular Know Thyself – 03/18/2009 I wish to record the fact that I am writing these words on a […]

  5. Ray says:

    I think Charlotte speaks for me on Will Self. I will vote for her!

    In a previous life, he was probably a tailor, making clothes for an emperor from the finest of fabrics.

    Will Self surveys the world with a smug sense of superiority that you also see in people like Jack Straw, Peter Hain, Tony Blair, Mandy & others of their type. Occasionally, say, on a TV panel, he makes a witty (if supercilious or condescending) remark, but I find myself wondering how long it took him to think of it, whether somebody else wrote it or if the director did a quick bit of editing & moved it from somewhere else.

    Read Penrose. “The Road to Reality” is a far better book than anything Self could do. Feynman’s views on philosophy and its derivatives were about right. He’d get on well with Charlotte as long as she didn’t ask to see his bongo drums.

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