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Thursday, October 29, 2009

A friend in need

I need friends. Anyone got any friends for sale? I like dinner and drinking, I’m not much of a dancer but I can make you laugh. I’m not mental, I don’t get annoyed if people cancel dates, but I do get annoyed if people try and share food. I don’t smoke and I don’t smell. I’m a catch, basically. So just sign on the doted line.

I’m not saying I don’t have friends, I do. My friends are brilliant. There’s Cesca, she’s great. I’m going to be her maid of honour next summer. I must be doing something right if someone wants me to be their maid of honour. There’s Laurence, he’s hilarious. We like to pretend we’re Jack Bauer when we’re together. Many a morning after the night before I’ve woken up covered in scratches from all the brambles I’ve invincibly roly poly’ed through while talking to Laurence in an invisible walkie talkie.

There’s plenty more, who I love with all my heart and I could list them all and why I love them. Nicola for her wry sense of humour, Amy for her giggle, Mike for his thoughtfulness. But I’m not here to list the friends I do have. I’m here to talk about the ones I don’t.

My friends live as far away as South Africa and Australia. Hell, even London seems like too far away when it’s a Tuesday night and I just want to go to the pub and talk about X factor.

I don’t know how it happened. One minute, I was living with three wonderful friends and my filofax was bulging with social engagements. The next minute, I’m living in the middle of nowhere, working for myself in a job which has me face the wall in my spare room from 7.30am to 6pm every day. I only see two faces a day – my business partner Nicola and my boyfriend, Gareth. They both have very nice faces, but I want more.

Sometimes I see the face of the man who runs my local post office. I buy stamps from him. He’s a bit annoying. He makes me give him a high five and I don’t want to give him a high five.

I guess you could say I am lonely. For one reason or another, all my friends have left this city, and I’ve forgotten how to make new ones.

So I’ve joined a friendship making website. So far, it’s not going well. I scoured through all the members and messaged the ones I liked the look of. Preparing my best banter, I gave them all a paragraph to show them how funny I am. And I chose a good picture so people know I’m not a troll.

I logged off feeling really good about myself, put my feet up and waited for all my new friends to message me back.

Only, no one has.

The only person to have messaged me back so far is Neill. He looks about 40 and I don’t want to be his friend because he uses the website too much. He keeps trying to rally everyone together to watch the new Tim Burton movie, as a gang. Then maybe a pint, afterwards.

I’m desperate, but I’m not that desperate. He can keep his Tim Burton movies. I’d rather face the wall in my spare room and feel sorry for myself than be friends with someone who spells it ‘Neill’.
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Skinny Dipping

I’ve just got back from three weeks holiday, upon which I did my usual ‘I’m going to be a better person when I get home’ list. I do it every time. I never stick to it. I don’t know why I bother.

It’s like new year’s resolutions. I don’t make those, because I think they are there to be broken, but give me a few weeks in the sun and I’ll start making lists of all the things I want to achieve when I get home.

This year’s three week trip around Thailand was no different. By the end of it, I had a list as long as my arm. I couldn’t wait to get home and start implementing the strategies that were going to lead me out of my overdraft and into heaven. Strategy one – don’t buy stuff.

Then I got home. How exactly was I supposed to do without these overpriced black boots with buttons and purple bits? I didn’t have to answer that question, because I bought them and I don’t care who knows it. I love them.

Strategies have not been implemented. I’m still impulse buying as if it’s going out of fashion. I needed some water while out with my man the other day so we popped into Holland and Barratt. It was no mean feat for me to walk past all the supplements promising to make my hair shiny and my nails strong, but I managed it. We got to the drinks cabinet at the back and I naturally bypassed the normal water and zoomed in on the eye catching ‘skinny water.’

‘Skinny water?’ Gareth asked, perplexed. ‘So, that’s water then, but with less calories than water, which has no calories.’

‘Yes,’ I stuttered, noting the clever way they’d written ‘skinny’ as if the word itself had been on a diet.

‘It’s, er, good for you,’ I said. Witty retort, Kim, witty retort.

‘It’s twice the price of water,’ he replied.

My hand wavered. This is exactly the reason I’ll never get out of debt. Because I am a marketing team’s dream.

Those fat cats, sitting on their skinny chairs, chewing their skinny pencils, they know that people like me are lured by words like ‘skinny’.

Not today. I didn’t buy the silly water at twice the price of water.

Thus, my overpriced black boots with buttons and purple bits are entirely justifiable. All I have to do is not buy a hell of a lot more skinny water.
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Devout Atheist

Let me spend no more than one introductory sentence acknowledging how dry my pen has been for too many months now. Here is my mojo. I had lost it. But then I found it. Now I shall begin.

I had lunch with a devout Christian once. She, simultaneously, was having lunch with a devout Atheist. She had more fun that I did, that’s for sure. While listening to her bang on about God, I learned that God liked to test people. Apparantly, he killed nine of her friends in a bus crash – to test her. Then he killed her fiance… you know, just to test her again. Nice guy, God. Full of surprises.

While sailing the Adaman Seas, off the coast of Thailand, God decided to test me.

Having fun, Kim? Mind if I spoil the party? He probably said, as he began meddling with my holiday.

The players in this holiday are: Paso Doble, the catamaran boat my dad had chartered for two weeks off the coast of Thailand. (I know, sounds rubbish doesn’t it.) Me, present and correct. Bryan, my dad, captain of the ship. Gareth, my boyfriend, Nigel, his dad, and Nicola, a dear, friend of mine. We have the same appetite. I love her.

Firstly, our team of five became four. No, God didn’t test me by killing one of my beloved. That would have been extra specially mean and in fact puts into perspective just what I went through compared to the God botherer I lunched with. All that happened was my boyfriend got sick and went home – but being a savvy wordsmith, I’m going to eek it out into a full entry of woe and sorrow and by jove, by the end of it, you’ll be asking directions to the nearest church.

It was monsoon season, so I might have expected torrential rain. But still, it didn’t help. It just made everything all the more miserable and wet.

After another restless night, Gareth decided he’d had enough and needed to get to a hospital. Being a caring and committed girlfriend, I decided not to go with him. After all, it might be sunny again soon and this skin doesn’t brown itself.

So it was arranged that Jones senior would take Jones junior to hospital, while Captain Bryan, Nicola and myself would wait on the beautiful island of Ko Kradan for their hopefully safe return. But at 6am that morning, God decided to climb aboard our boat and wee everywhere, metaphorically speaking. Although, it did rain a lot. Rain is god’s wee.

We were warned there would be immigration problems, if Gareth tried to leave the boat. Crew members aren’t allowed to leave willy nilly, you see. It’s the law of the sea.

Best we all took a Thai dragon boat taxi over to the mainland and try to explain to the immigration officials what was going on together, as a team. As a crew. So, donning waterproofs, we headed to the rickety dragon boat.

Breakfast was out of the question, we had urgent immigrational issues to sort out. Five hours and a lot of confused customs officials later, we finally had our passports stamped.

‘Mr Sick go home?’ the customs man asked, pointing at Gareth. Yes, Mr Sick go home. As we waved him off, there was an impending sense of doom in all our hearts. We had lost a man. It didn’t feel right. Shipmates were meant to stick together. Shipmates were meant to drink rum and say ahoy. It was not to be.

The rain kept coming as Gareth was taken away. Time for us to head back to our boat, the Paso Doble. Lunchtime passed by in a blur, not a sausage passed any lips. I can sometimes muster the power to skip breakfast, but not lunch too.

God was obviously enjoying our suffering. A little more rain, chaps? Why yes please, thank you God, how kind of you, just in time for our crossing back to the island.

The waves crashing all about us were higher than the boat. At times I was sure the law of physics were going out the window and we were certain to capsize. It felt as if an invisible man (was it you, God?) was throwing buckets of salt water in my face. I wasn’t happy.

Dad, however, took the opportunity to sleep. We were being thrown around in a boat no bigger than a bath tub, in a storm we later found out to be the tail winds of a cyclone, and he napped. Amongst all the sadness of losing Gareth and the horribleness of the rain, Nicola and I mustered a giggle. (it was hard – we were very hungry. But we managed it) We laughed at Dad’s crap waterproofs filling up with rain. We laughed at how he managed to sleep through the invisible man’s bucket throwing. We laughed at how cold and wet and hungry we were. We laughed because that was all we had left.

We got back to the island at 5pm. Still not a morsel had passed our lips.

Would you like a slightly warm shower followed by some dinner, God asked. Yes please, we begged.

Ah… the day was looking up. Nothing like a slightly warm shower after you’ve been caught in a cyclone.

Hungry now? God asked. Well, your boat is drifting. I made it drift. Go and sort it out.

Damn you God! Into our little dingy we went, to save our boat from drifting to shore. So much for that lovely post shower feeling. In it’s place, a salty residue only splashes of sea water can provide.

Up anchor. Move boat. Down anchor.

You’ve worked so hard, said God. Back to the island for dinner.

Soaking wet, Nicola and I ordered a tea. It tasted funny. Then we ordered curry. Then the rain came back. It came back so hard that even under the canopy of the restaurant, we still got rained on. We huddled under our waterproofs, no one even complaining.

‘I wonder what else could go wrong today?’ Dad asked. Hats off to him – it was 7pm and it was his first negative thought of the day. Nicola and I had been having – and saying – them since 6am. But Dad has a remarkable ability to stay upbeat. ‘What an adventure!’ he’ll usually say, come hell or high water. So, God, you knew you were on to a winner of a bad day when you had Dad complaining.

Exhausted and miserable, we headed back to the yacht. As we clambered aboard, we all hoped it was the end of God’s tests.

Opp, no, one more thing. I’m just going to whisk the hat off your head and drop it in the water, God said. Ha ha ha. Go fetch.

Cheers God. Watching my Dad lunge spread eagled into the dingy from the edge of the yacht in a vain attempt to rescue his hat, to the chorus of ‘’it’s not worth it!’ from his bemused crew, was a sight for sore eyes.

But rescue his hat he did. It may have been a bad day, but we managed to deliver Gareth to dry land, survive a cyclone, rescue a drifting yacht and a drifting hat – and all on an empty stomach.

Not bad for a bunch of Atheists.
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In God We Trust

After salt, comes pepper. After ying, comes yang. After a bad day, comes a good. A brilliant. A perfect.

The storms had passed, the sun had returned. And not just mediocre sun – I’m talking a cloudless, blue sky and a scorching, bright sunshine. From 7am. My back was bronzing before I’d even put the kettle on.

Up anchor and away – on to pastures new. Next stop, Ko Ngai – a tiny island populated by a few locals and a few resorts, one aptly names Paradise Resort.

We moored in a lagoon-like bay, bang in the middle of a long, sandy beach. We sandwiched ourselves between two fishing boots, the fishermen aboard waving and smiling as we arrived.

Nicola and I swam ashore, leaving the men to bring in the dinghy. We weren’t sure which beachside resort to eat at, but fortunately Eck, a committed and endearingly homosexual waiter was waiting for us. ‘Hello!’ he cheered. ‘Would you like a massage before you eat?’

Ah… it was as if the last two days of crew lossage and torrential rain hadn’t happened. Yes please, Mr Eck, we’d like a massage.

Nicola and I surveyed the massage menu, settling on a coffee bean scrub, which not only helps sun kissed (not burnt, thank you) skin recover, but also rids the body of toxins and cellulite. Not that we have any.

With skin softer than a babies bottom, we meandered over to some deck chairs and were given a banana smoothie. Surely, this day has peaked. How can it possibly get any better?

‘If you want lobster for lunch,’ Eck explained. ‘I’ll send someone out with the snorkel,’ he said, waving in the general direction of the sea. Crikey. The definition of fresh lobster.

After lunch, we took a long walk in the afternoon sun, stopping to watch crabs side walk into the sea. The sand was soft, the air was cool. We decided to squeeze in a quick snorkel before dinner. We took our dingy out to some nearby islands, looking for shallow reefs. We couldn’t find any, but someone, probably me, said the word ‘gin’ and we all decided an afternoon gin and tonic on the boat was a much more appealing idea anyway.

And that’s when it happened. Dolphins. Not one, but a whole school of the things. They were everywhere. It was magic. We cut the engine and watched in silence as their fins splashed out of the water.

The dolphins moved on and we returned to the Paso Doble. It hadn’t dragged. Not today.

The sun set as we sipped our gin and tonics and nibbled some pistachio nuts. God whacked some mesmerising cloud formations into the sky for good measure. It was a clear night – not even a hint of rain on the horizon. I slept outside, under the stars.

If God was trying to make up for all the drudgery of the previous day, it was working.

Am I forgiven? God Asked. Course you bloody are, God. Course you bloody are.
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