Cheese and other matters

“I CANNOT TAKE ANOTHER MINUTE OF SEARCHING THIS F*CKING RUCKSACK FOR MY WALLET,” I fumed, as we stood in a South America-style queue at Bogota airport. (‘South America-style’ in that it was huge, it snaked off in several directions and anyone who looked to be over forty years of age shoved their wide, queue-jumping shoulders in front of us, stolidly ignoring our outraged British huffs and puffs.)

The man didn’t reply to my outburst because he had passed out on the spot hugging his own rucksack. But he had a rage of his own soon after: “I CANNOT TAKE ANOTHER NIGHT TRYING TO SLEEP ON A BUS OR A PLANE OR A…” He broke off, trying to think of another mode of overnight transport, and found nothing.

We both glowered into our very bad Iberia teas and willed ourselves home. But sadly we were a long way off. About eighteen hours, in fact.

(Having tried everything in our power to blag a free upgrade, we had failed. It’s not that we are suffering the misapprehension that we are now business class passengers since our unexpected mega-amazing flight to Ecuador, more that we felt that my recent hospitalisation, obvious devastation at having to ruin the rest of our travels and perhaps our first anniversary might entitle us to something a little more comodious. It didn’t.)

But we made it home and now we are setting up shop in England.

Readers, I cannot tell you how much I LOVE ENGLAND. I have no other chat at the moment; when I see people all I am able to say – in hushed, reverent tones – is “have you tried the cheese hereHave you?

I am eating cheese with most meals at the moment. It’s been eighteen months since I was able to get my chops round that lovely, smelly, salty, fatty stuff; that weird stuff we eat that is stolen from a cow’s udder and left to mould in damp sheds in rainy northern European countries…. mmmm. How strange that one of life’s greatest pleasures should be born of such environs.

Another thing that I am enjoying an unfeasible amount is the extraordinary pleasure of having two pillows. Not just two pillows but two pillows that are billious and soft. Most of the pillows I have experienced in the last eighteen months have been like hard foam biscuits, except for those particularly awful ones which are made from a collection of spongy rags shoved into a bag. And – icing on the cake – The Man invested in a Proper Grown Up’s bed just before he travelled off to Buenos Aires and chanced upon some young slapper called Lucy Robinson, and so I am now slumbering on John Lewis’ finest, as opposed to South America’s worst. Unfortunately my body clock is still rogered and so I spend a lot of the night twitching and shifting around like an annoying ferret but I am quite sure I am going to have the sleep of all sleeps soon.

Baths, too, I am finding impossible to moderate and this is an area that I need to improve on. While I have no trouble eating France out of cheese I do feel less good about bathing the world out of water. To compensate I have taken down my drinking water consumption down to one thimble per day (no bloody time to drink anyway: I’m too busy eating cheese) but at some point this has to stop. Maybe now that I’ve outed myself publicly I can start afresh. But oh sweet mother of God, my friends, how AMAZING are baths? The glory of sitting in hot water full of your own bodily excretions is matched only by the experience of smearing a box of stinking camembert over a packet of hearty oatcakes. Sex is like a punch-up in a regional nightclub by comparison.*

And then there’s tea, and soya milk, and nice yoghurt, and the underground (trust me, when you have spent 18 months squeezing yourself on to a rabid, rusty, cumbia-music-pumping shitbag of a city bus in South America you would be in awe of the tube), there is the availability of healthy takeaway food, of my hippy supplements, of internet capable of sustaining a skype conversation, of books in my language, of people who care about me, and of plugs that do not incinerate your hand every time you attempt to attach an electrical device to them. There are people who say things like “whoops-a-daisy” and “fancy a pint?”  and “how smashing to see you!” (Although lately it’s been more along the lines of “leave my cheese alone you fat bastard.”)

Oh, I love this country. I love being home. I love how much easier it is to deal with the shit that life throws at me now I’m back.

But of course it is not without challenges.

1. I am looking to put on about twenty stone in cheese

2. My health is absolutely no better than it was; if anything it’s worse (shut up, I ain’t giving up the cheese)

3. I am cold every day

4. I am too weak and pathetic to go and see my friends so they probably all hate me

5. The Man is now being exposed to the true horror of my cooking skills (or lack of)

6. My second novel is a wreck and needs more editing than I can possibly achieve in the few weeks remaining before my deadline

7. The Man does not have a garlic press or any rubbish bins in his house

8. Forever 21 has opened in the UK and I have no money to shop there – a sign of very hard times, that one (I’m just hoping that perhaps the UK version of it is really shit)

9. I am in the middle of a twenty-page medical insurance claim and am worried that I am going to kill everyone at my medical insurers

10. I only have a wild woolly llama poncho from Ecuador for a winter coat and no funds to buy the beautiful fashionable smart AND casual AND cute AND warm coat that I would like to own (I haven’t actually seen one because I have had to ban myself from going anywhere near clothes shops – but I know it’s there. I just know it.)

And so with these self-indulgent whingings I shall take myself off for a bath in which I will eat cheese and talk English and steam vegetables and drink rooibos tea and sing Christmas carols and feel toasty and festive and generally worship the country I was so keen to escape eighteen months ago. YEAH! Home, home on the range, people.

Maybe if I’m really lucky someone will discover what the hell is going on with my health and then it will become a truly vintage Christmas. In the meantime, he’s a picture of me balancing an egg on a nail on the equator. I got a diploma certificate for that I’ll have you know.

*Er, not sex with The Man, of course. That’s right up there with camembert and hot baths and…no, Robinson. Shut up you tit. You’ve taken it too far now. Go to bed.

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