Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Hi all.

I'm ok, just in case you were wondering. I was quite a way from the coast when the earthquake hit. Still piecing together the news reports. Pretty fucking awful by all accounts. Would like to go and help but think i'd probably get in the way more than be of use... still will check out the possibility... Heading back to goa for new years, have to get sleeper bus tonight. Hopefully will be better than the last one! Mind you, I have a dodgy stomach coming on so maybe it'll be even worse!! should make good reading...

Is everyone out there ok? Was anyone in thailand when it hit? Was Singapore affected at all?

Right, need to go lie down and hope my stomach settles... I'll try to write all the amusing stories about hampi at a later, less sombre moment...

take care all...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Hell Ride to Hampi in the Cage of Death

"Maybe if I grab hold of that rail I'll be able to hold myself away from the tarmac" I thought as the bus careered on two wheels towards the black emptiness beyond the roadside. It's funny: you always wonder what will go through your mind the moment before you are killed horribly in a sudden accident; whether you will panic, start screaming and cling on to the old lady in the seat next to you, or whether you will remain calm and try to enjoy your last few exciting moments of life. Well, in those few moments while the bus was trying to decide whether to continue on it's wheels or on it's side, I managed to picture the entire pending disaster in my minds eye, and to be honest, it wasn't looking too promising. First I would be thrown against the window, which would promptly implode as the tarmac got to work on it. Then there would be nothing between me and the unpleasant prospect of being "grazed" to death. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, let's backtrack a little.

So my mum arrived in Goa, and for a few days we enjoyed lazing around and enjoying the beach, but pretty soon we were all getting itchy feet. Then, one evening, we suddenly decided to leave the very next day and catch the sleeper bus to Hampi, which we had heard was a stunningly beautiful place to chill out. I had also heard that it was a complete nightmare to reach, with luxury buses turning out to be tin cans on wheels that drop you in the middle of nowhere etc etc. However, our minds were made up, and we bought tickets the next morning, and by 6pm we were sat outside the Paulo travels office in Mapusa being eaten by clouds of mosquitos and waiting for our first glimpse of our "luxury sleeper bus". Finally, an hour late, a small mini bus pulled up and someone started shouting "hampi! hampi!". After a moment of panic, we discovered that this was apparantly just the shuttle bus which would take us to the main bus in Panjim.

In Panjim we climbed aboard the bus that would be our home for the next 14 hours, and set about finding our seats. Mum and Joel had hit the jackpot, getting an upper berth bed right at the front of the bus. Me and Joanna were not so lucky. Our lower berth seat/bed didn't work, and despite numerous attempts to call over the steward bloke, we had still got no closer to a solution. In the end we managed to make him agree to let us take the opposite bed, and we tried our best to get comfy. After a few minutes a man came up the bus with a clipboard asking everyone to write down their name and adress and a list of what items they were carrying. He seemed very cheerful and we had a bit of a joke with him. In fact, to be honest he seemed pretty pissed, but I didn't think anything of it, I mean you don't have to be that sober to get a bunch of tourists to fill in a form.
After an hour or so, we stopped to have a piss break. As I was returning to the bus, the drunk guy, who was by now clearly hammered, started shouting at people. "Hey! Slow down! No hurry! This not train or plane! haha! Shanti!!". What a nice fellow, I thought. Little did I know that some hours later I would come close to punching his lights out.

Back on the bus I set about the arduous task of trying to sleep. Our bed was near the back of the bus, which in India is a baaaad idea. For some reason indian buses are designed with the wheels about halfway down the length of the bus, meaning that any movement in the front of the bus is amplified by a thousandfold by the time it reaches the back. This makes it less like a bus ride, and more like a fairground ride. I wouldn't be surprised if the indian military require all their fighter pilots to ride at the back of a sleeper bus at least once to test their resitance to multi-directional g-force. Anyway, by wedging myself in the bed, which is exactly the length of my body, I was able to fall into a kind of half sleep... until the crash.

I was awoken by a sound so horrible that I found myself instantly sat bolty upright. The first thought in my mind was that we had just hit one of the indian stall holders who have their portable stalls dangerously close to the edge of the highway. The sound had been of crunching metal, breaking glass, and screaming. Then suddenly my concern for the welfare of this imagined individual dissapeared as I realised that the bus was completely out of control and swerving violently towards the edge of the highway on two wheels. With the help of about a thousand different gods, we somehow ended up back on the highway, driving in a straght line, still at high speed. But the driver didn't stop. If anything he speeded up! About this time I realised that there was some commotion going on in the bed behind me. Joanna pulled back the curtain to find that the window over the couple behind us has smashed inwards and showered them in glass whilst they were in their sleeping bags.

Finally someone managed to shout at the driver to stop, and we started to try and sort out the mess and figure out what had happened. I climbed off the bus and headed around the back to inspect the damage. The entire back side of the bus was scraped and dented, and you could see where the window had been forced out of it's frame. I could see straight away what had happened. In india it is standard practice for buses to spend the entire journey dangerously overtaking trucks that they only have a 5 mph speed advantage over. This leads to continuous close shaves with the trucks coming the other way, who never slow down in the slightest, putting all their faith in the power of their horn and their karma. I have been in numerous close calls where the bus has swerved back onto it's side of the road and just avoided being clipped by a truck. Obviously this time it had been a little too close...

As I was thinking all this, the drunk guy from earlier came up beside me and started explaining what had happened. "You see! Truck coming here! But blinker still flashing! So I saying going left!". "I'm sorry, what do you mean YOU were saying going left?". "I driver!" he said, grinning at me. "But... but... your drunk!!" I spluttered, too shocked to be angry.. yet. "huh?", he stared at me prentding not to understand. "You're DRUNK!!!" i shouted, miming drinking from a bottle. "Ahhh, yes!" he said, still smiling. By now, a group of Indian men from the bus had begun to gather and were starting to understand the situation. They began shouting at the driver and occasionally pushing him and slapping him as he tried to profess his innocence.

After another ten minutes this was still going on but slightly calmer than before, and I started speaking with onme of the indian passengers. He explained to me that none of the indians on the bus had actual tickets, but had just paid the driver some baksheesh for the spare beds on the bus. Because of this, they actually had no authority to tell the driver what to do, and only one of the foreigners could really stop him from driving on. Minutes later I saw what they meant. Despite all of the abuse he had taken, the driver was back in the driving seat shouting at everybody to get on! Some of the tourists were climbing back on, and I suddenly realised that I had no choice but to get involved. I climbed up to the drivers seat. "Turn off the engine and get out of the drivers seat", I said in my most authoratative voice. "You go sit down now, no problem" he said, waving me away with his hand. "TURN OFF THE FUCKING ENGINE AND GET OUT OF THE BUS NOW!!!!", I shouted in his face. That got his attention, but still he was putting the bus into gear and getting ready to pull away, despite the fact that most people were still half on, half off the bus. "YOU WANT TO LOSE YOU JOB?!! YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR JOB HUH??!! YOU WANT TROUBLE?!!", I shouted in his face, already wondering exactly what kind of trouble I was capable of giving him. Luckily this turned out to be enough and he grudgingly began climbing down out of the bus.

After further enquiries we discovered that there was another driver, who was only a BIT drunk. after all taking it in turns to smell his breath and ask him questions, we decided that we had no choice, and so with a group of indian men sat up front watching his every move, we set off once more.

As I'm sure you can imagine, sleep was not exactly easy for the rest of the journey, as every time the bus stopped I thought the drunken driver had bullied his way back into the driving seat and had to get up to check, but he soon went to sleep and I finally relaxed. Many very bumpy hours later we arrived in Hampi, and have been relaxing here since. Nothing exciting has really happened yet.. oh, except for accidently going swimming in a crocodile infested river... but that's another story... :)

Friday, December 17, 2004

...so luke skywalker's sitting with his dad on xmas eve. the fire's going and the xmas tree is twinkling away. then luke's dad says:

(darth vadar breathing and voice) "Luke. I know what your getting for xmas"...

"But Father! How can you know?!"

"I've been feeling your presents for some time now..."

Bu Boom.

as you've probably guessed, I have nothing interesting to say. I hope you like my joke tho. It needs to be told out loud with Vadar voice and sound effects to really work. I told it to this Irish guy the other day, and all through the joke he was grinning inanely and looking like he was getting it. Then I told the punchline and he just stared blankly at me. "You know, it's a line from the movie.." I said. "Which movie?" he said. "....Star wars!", I said. "Star wars.... Umm, no, don't think I've seen that one...." Trust me to find the one person in the world who never watched star wars!!!!

I also told that joke to a girl from manchester way whilst quite loved up at a trance party the othe day. "That's the shittest joke I've ever heard" she exclaimed. "It's just not funny!". "Have you seen the movie?" I asked. "Yes, but it's just not funny, it's shit, I mean how is that supposed to be funny?". "Well, it's a line from the movie, 'i've been feeling your presence for some time now'..". "Well, that's just shit isn't it, your just repeating a line from a movie". "Well, no, not really, it's a play on words, presents and presence...". "Yeah, but it's shit isn't it?". "Ummm, ok.". I think she fancied me.....

Monday, December 13, 2004


sorry, I know I know, it's been long time... but I've always said that If I'm having a good time then there's no point me writing my blog... I mean you guys don't wanna hear me going on about how relaxing and chilled my life is right? you wanna hear how i nearly got hit by a truck trying to save my pack from being crushed whilst simultaneously puking and crapping myself due to severe food poisoning, right? well, I'm sorry, but that didn't happen. Actually I have been thoroughly enjoying myself, becoming a minor celebrity in the arumbol music scene... :)

I don't know if I mentioned before, but I managed to hook up with Joanna, who some of you may remember as the american girl I spent last xmas with on a beach in brazil.... so now I'm gonna spend another xmas with her on another beach!!! wierd huh?! yesterday joanna, my brother Joel and I managed to make it to one of the parties in anjuna. It was pretty cool, but the music is non stop banging trance, which can get a bit much... There's some great characters there tho, from young techno hippies to ageing 60's casualties... fun for all the family!!

I sold a cd the other day!! so now i am officially working when i play guitar in bars and restaurants... admittedly it doesn't pay that well (although I do tend to get free beers and food) but hey, it's still an income! 300 rupees I got for the cd... that's GBP 3.60!! enough for 2 large meals and 4 beers!

right, i really can't think of anything to say as nothing bad has happened... I will endevour to have a shit time over the next few days and with a bit o bad luck the next post will be more interesting....


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Greetings from Goa.

can't stop to chat, very busy day. work work work... it's relentless I tell you! Today I'm going to be working on my tan for most of the day, with a few breaks to work on my appetite. If I get bored of just sitting around and swimming however, there are countless courses designed for spiritual enhancement dotted along the beach. You can do Tai Chi Yoga mixed with spiritual healing with a guy called Panda, Satsang with an insane smiling lady called neeru, or sunrise Yoga with many self proclaimed western yoga gurus who are dedicated to helping your find yourself (if you were unlucky enough to misplace yourself in the first place).

There is also a fair bit of live music about. I've already had my first gig here, playing at a place called the "Surf Club" owned by a couple of aging english rock and roll hippies. They were kind enough to let me get up and bang out a few songs with the full band behind me, which was pretty damn cool, and I can go back and play every tues and fri!

I have a lovely room on the cliffside overlooking the sea. It has a blacony and everything, and is perfect, except for the fact that it has a family of rats living in between the wall and the roof, and they have a habit of squatting over the edge of the wall and shitting on my bed. very rude if you ask me. My balcony is also strategically placed so that i can sit and sing songs and everyone within 100 metres radius is forced to listen, which is cool... :)

I am aware that sitting on a beach doing nothing but getting brown is not going to make very interesting blog material, so I have made the decision to go along to "Satsang with Neeru" (the one with the crazy smile) so that I can write about it. judging by the posters that I've seen scattered around, it should be pretty interesting. The posters all say things like "You have been searching for it all your life.... it's all about you..... life is a moovie (sic), just sit back and watch." and then have a picture of either Neeru smiling and holding her hands together in prayer, or her husband, Vimal, looking serious behind his huge santa claus beard. anyway, watch this space.... :D

right, gotta go eat before I start fully working on the tan...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Billy Breaks the Indian Music Scene...

The air is filled with exotic wailing as the Bhati family kick off their traditional Rajastani music concert. On the left there is Praveen Bhati, the youngest son, his fingers a blur as he masterfully teases a hundred different tones from his Tabla Drums. In the centre there is Mama Bhati, sitting cross legged before what appears to be an indian version of the accordian, and wailing mournfully into the precariously balanced microphone. At her left shoulder sits another cross legged young man, pale skinned and long haired. In his lap he holds a guitar, which he looks at from time to time as if wondering what it is for. Who is this guitar guru? Could it be Billy, the undercover hippy? Actually no, it's Joel, his younger brother. Billy is sitting in the audeince laughing and taking photos... :)

It all started when Kelash Bhati, the family sitar player, tried to convince me to come to his concert. After discovering he wanted 100 rupees for the show I told him no thanks, but we started chatting anyway, and eventually he discovered that i played Guitar. We arranged to meet up and have Jam, and 2 days later me and my brother Joel met the bhati family in a small garden behind the Sunset Cafe. They told me to play one of my songs, and Praveen tried to accompany me on Tablas. To be honest it was pretty appalling. The tablas just weren't designed to play slow 4/4 beats to folk songs! We got some better results from just playing random chords over his beats, and after 20 mins of jamming we were renamed the "Rajastani Western Fusion Band", and arranged to meet at 7:30 for the gig.

By 8pm ppl had started arriving and there was quite a nice little crowd developing. Eventually, after about 15 mins of crakle and feedback, the musicians got up onto the stage, including my brother, and seated themselves cross legged before the microphones. The one of the brothers called to me, "First my mother she play one song for the God...". "Ok" i reply. Joel saw what was happening and tried to get up, but he was too late. "No, no! You stay there, no problem!" the family all chant in unison. And then the concert begins.

After Joel's rather awkward couple of songs, Mama leaves the stage and Joel performs some solo guitar accompanied by Tablas which goes down very well. Then I join them and we bash a load of "fusion" songs, some of them mine, some of them improvised. After each song the mother comes up and grabs my hand in hers and thanks me as if I have just saved her baby from a lion. Things are going pretty well! Then the sound man decides he's probably not needed and goes to sleep under the table. Somehow we continue on regardless until I am sure my hip is about to dislocate from too much sitting cross legged and we finally call it a day. Our first indian gig is a roaring success... it's only a matter of time before we hit the bigtime... :)

The camel fair has come to a close, but many of the fairground attractions are still around. Yesterday i went to see the "Wall of death", which I have always wanted to see since seeing it on tv as a kid. It's basically a larger wooden cylinder, about 50 feet high and about 35 feet diameter. You climb a ladder and stand around the top rim of the cylinder, while inside at the bottom wait two small cars and two motorbikes. The the show begins. At first just one Fonzy looking indian guy wearing flip-flops comes in and revs up his motorbike. seconds later he is driving it at high speed around the INSIDE of the cyinder. So yes, he is basically driving horizontally along the wall and using centrufugal force to keep him from falling. As if this wasn't enough, he then takes his hands off the handlebars and starts smoking a beedie whilst riding side saddle, 40 feet from the ground on a fast moving, gravity defiying motorbike. But it gets better. By the end of the show there are two motorbikes and one car all driving simoultaneously around the inside of the cylinder. The car driver is hanging out of the door whilst driving and the two motorbike drivers are sitting back with their feet on the handlebars smoking beedies. Somehow, nobody dies! Brilliant! :)

Nanu, the owner of our guesthouse, has a habit of smoking brown sugar before breakfast. When this happens you can be assured of some very strange and confusing conversations. Yesterday he was spotted rummaging around in the shower, lifting things and looking puzzled. "What have you lost?" asked Kieran. "Huh? Yeeesssss, lost. I have lost it. Lost my leg. Cant find it....". Today when I got up he was still searching around the yard, sifting through the ashes of the fire and everything. "What are you looking for?", I ask him. "Yesss, I lose it". "What?". "I lost my smoking good feeling thing...". Ahhh, well that would explain the frantic searching, although if you ask me his wife elka probably found it and dumped it down the toilet!!!

more tales from the edge soon... :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Greetings foreign beings!

You may remember a while back I posted a story that I was submitting to a newspaper competition. It was about a chance meeting with a homeless indian man who was fanatical about Alfred Hitchcock and told me a fantastic story about his life, losing his family in the Gujurat earthquake etc etc. Well, the other night I was st around the fire with some other travellers, and I proceeded to tell this story. Before I had got through the first two lines, one of the listeners, and american guy named Bear, interjected. "Yeah, his father was a judge!". "And his family was killed in the earthquake!" piped in another american called Alec. What was going on?! How could these guys possibly know of my incredibly unique and fascinating encounter? It turned out that I was not the only one who had had this unique experience. They too had discussed the special effects in star wars. They too had heard of his need for a hip replacement. In fact, they had both had the same exct conversation, word for word, that I had had here over a year ago. The only difference was that they had both had it only a few days ago!! Apparantly this man, now known as "Star Wars Guy", sits in exactly the same spot every day telling this exact story to anyone who will listen. Right down to the ending where he tells you he is currently trying to save up enough money to get the spare part needed to get his hip-replacement done... After further scrutiny of the story, we started to wonder if maybe the entire spiel is a fabrication designed to inspire sympathy... after all, he's had over a year to get together the 300 rupees he said he needed to buy the hip-replacement part! Our final conclusion was that, truthfull or not, the story and the teller are both so fascinating that it really doesn't matter. After all, he has never outright asked anyone for any money, which is pretty incredible in India, and his story has entertained many a lone tourist. I think today i'm going to go and find him and see if I can re-enact my original meeting word for word... :)

I have to go now as I'm taking part in a homemade game called the "Crazy people of Pushkar Photo Challenge". We've made alist of all the nutters in pushkar, and the first one to get a digital photo of all of them wins a beedie! so far I have orange man on a tray, short man with umbrella, and giant sunglasses mini-shrine man. Next on the list is the somewhat elusive "t-shirt man", who walks up and down the road holding his t-shirt away from his stomach with both hands (if he wants to smoke a beedie he holds both corners in one hand temporarily...).


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Billy Breaks Bollywood

namaste! Wow what a week! There's just far too many stories to tell you, but I guess I'll just try to tell one or two...

I'm sitting in the garden of an Indian summer mansion in the baking heat wearing an all white Indian pajama suit and a white headscarf. My hands are together in prayer and I have an inane grin on my face. I am grinning because I am watching my 6 year old nephew being forced to eat something that looks like a cross between peanut butter and lard. His neck is being snapped from side to side as another of his uncles, a large bearded man with a giant turban, wraps his head with an orange piece of cloth. Also sitting with me are 3 beautiful Indian ladies wearing expensive looking saris. They too are staring adoringly at the small boy as he goes through this strange ritual. Is is a dream? Has Billy finally "gone native"? No, it is in fact the filming of a commercial for "East End" Ghee. Let me back-track a little....

So, me and Sarah managed to buy our tickets from mumbai to Ajmer, the closest station to Pushkar. Unfortunately all the 2nd class sleeper tickets were sold out, so we had to buy air con class tickets, which cost 4 times as much.. Anyway, we headed home to chill. Back at the hotel, the reception guy seemed very pleased to see us. "Ahhhh, my friends, you are back! I have good news for you! My friend he wants you to be in Bollywood film!". I knew that sooner or later someone would spot my potential as a big screen bollywood star, I'm just surprised it didn't happen sooner. "What's the part?" I ask. "Wait, I call my friend, he come!". So, 20 mins later we are chatting with a young dapper looking Indian guy wearing hip western clothes. He tells us that actually it's a commercial for an as yet unknown product, and that they need a western couple as extras. We'll be picked up at 8am, and then taken to our train by 7pm. And on top of that we'll be paid the whopping fee of 500 rupees! Now I'll be honest here, I wasn't exactly that keen. I mean, I've done filming before, and to be fair it's more about boredom than glamour, but Sarah was really keen so I figured ahh, why not, even if it sucks it'll be good blog material!

So we agree and at 8am the next day we are met by bobby the Bombay stud. Bobby is wearing a wifebeater vest underneath a flowing black chiffon dress/Indian garment, and looks like a bit of a lady's man. We head off for the local train. Once on the train we manage to get seats, but Sarah decides, against our advice, she wants to stand by the doors to watch the view pass. Bad move. Mumbai local trains are like American stomachs at an all you can eat buffet. Empty at the start, full by the middle, and yet always making room for more. After half an hour, Sarah was so crammed in by Indian men that she couldn't get back to us even if she tried. To add to her predicament, every time the train stopped at a station, about 50 people would try to get off at exactly the same time as 50 people tried to get on, making each stop a mini hillsborough disaster, with Sarah in the middle of it. Add to this the fact that lots of these Indian men had the tendency to accidentally cop a feel in the confusion and you've got one uncomfortable English girl. Eventually she did manage to get back, and promised to listen to our advice in future!

Meanwhile Bobby had been telling me about his 16 girlfriends. "Sixteen?! But how do you manage to see them all? There's only 7 days in a week!". "2 days each girl them move on" he explains. Cunning. Eventually we arrive in some remote part of the city and jump in a rickshaw. The journey to the film set is pretty crazy as we drive through some of the most alien environments I've seen so far. At one point we see a crazy man in the road doing a perfect imitation of John Cleese doing an imitation of a crazy man. Fascinating!

We arrive late at the film set, which is a big old "bungalow" (mansion with two stories, a pool, etc) and head to the "changing room". There are lots of people milling around the place. They are mainly separated into two categories. Beautiful people and ugly people. The beautiful people are the actors, producers, director etc. The ugly people have lots of different jobs, but in true Indian tradition each person has only one job and sticks to it. For example, the is a guy who's job it is to bring you water. However, if you want water, you cant ask him for it, you have to ask the guy who's in charge of taking care of the actors. There's also a guy who's job is to hold an umbrella over our heads while the shooting is stopped. However, he doesn't seem to know when the camera is rolling or not, so he just stands at the side opening a closing the umbrella and trying to look busy. Another guy is in charge of filling up some empty chapatti flour bags with cotton woo; to use as props. One might think this would be a fairly easy job, but this man has other ideas. After about 3 hours he has still only filled up 3 bags (they are the size of a bag of doritos) and is still looking very unsatisfied with the result. He keeps trying to make them stand up, as if they are filled with flour, but of course they fall straight over. He then shakes them a bit, to help the cotton wool settle to the bottom and tries again. He was still doing this when I left him....

So, we are called and made to sit on a rug on the lawn with other extras who are playing the family and friends of a small boy whop is obviously going through some kind of rite of passage ritual that uses ghee. The poor kid spends the entire day sitting in the baking sun having his head yanked about and brown sludge shoved in his mouth. I hope he was getting paid more than me! After about 53 seconds the novelty wears off and I start to get bored. And hot. Very hot. Sarah gives me a look that says "Sorry! You were right, this is going to be a nightmare and it's only 11am!". I ma informed by the producer that actually this commercial is not being filmed for Indian TV. Oh no. In fact it's being filmed for ENGLISH TV!!! Yes that's right, if you are a big fan of that Asian cable channels, as I know you all are, then you will be seeing me on your screens very soon indeed!
Nothing very interesting happened for the rest of the day. I just sat around waiting for nothing and eventually we left to catch our train at 6pm. The train journey was pretty pleasant. The AC class we were in was good and bad really. It was very clean and more comfy etc, but it was like being in a bubble. You couldn't hear the sound of the train going over the tracks, you couldn't smell the sudden contrasts in aroma (poo... toffee.... flowers... poo...) or feel the wind on your face. We were sharing our compartment with a nice Indian Lady with two children. The younger was only 9 months old, and had a habit of trying to chew through my rucksack. We also met a nice old man in the compartment next to us. "Did you sleep well?" I asked him in the morning. "Oh no" he replied, "All night I am rushing for urination!". Poor thing.

We arrive in Ajmer and set off to look for the bus stop. At one point we have to cross the main road, but as we reach the centre dividing wall, Sarah trips over her flip-flop and flies headlong into the traffic on the other side. Somehow, despite the momentum provided by her giant backpack, she manages to pull herself back just in time to avoid being decapitated by a giant rickshaw. The first thing she says is "Owww! My knees!"....
At the bus stop we meet a nice young guy names John who runs a guesthouse in Pushkar with his older brother. We agree to look at his guesthouse, but when the bus comes it is too full. "No problem, we ride on roof", says John. Cool. On the roof we have to keep our wits about us as some of the branches we pass under require us to actually lie completely flat to avoid being whipped off the roof and deposited in a heap on the road. Finally, we arrive in pushkar!!

So that's where I am now. Good old Pushkar. It's the "Camel fair" at the moment, which is pretty damn cool. It's kind of like a cross between Glastonbury, Indiana Jones, the fairground, and Mad max. Today I want to the big stadium to watch "Women's Musical Chairs Competition". It was a close competition I can tell you, and there was quite a crowd!! There was a large army contingent, as well as an entire primary school in attendance. I had my money on nice black haired little thoroughbred, but she let me down in the closing stages, getting outrun by an old lady in a sari.

right, that's more than enough for one day. I'm staying at a great little place out of town called Nanu's Garden Paradise. Come visit me! :)

Monday, November 15, 2004


man, i don't know where to start. I've only been here since yesterday morning, but it feels like a week. This is possibly to do with the fact that I went to sleep and got up twice during the day yesterday due to severe jetlag! The flight was pretty good except for one huge catastrophe: I lost the squishy bit off of on of my sony headphones!! Now this may not seem like a catastrophe to most of you, but you have to understand that these headphones are my way of blocking out the world when necessary, like on hellish bus journey, and without them I am completely exposed to the harsh realities of Indian travel! However, i have a plan invlving an earplug, a swiss army knife, and a tube of superglue, which may yet resolve this catastrophic situation...

So anyway, I arrived in bombay in one piece, as did my guitar (thank god!), and we both made our way to the luggge claim, where I met some nice girls who wanted to share a taxi. After driving for 45 mins past some of the worst slums in the world, we finally arrived in coloba, and set about finding a hotel. By now it was 7am, and i hadn't slept since leaving england at 2pm the previous day. It would have been so nice to just sleep for 8 hours, but this would have been disastrous, as I would have woken up in the evening and been jetlagged for days, so after a quick nap, me and sarah (who i'm sharing a room with) headed out to meet the other guys from the cab ride, and set of into bombay. blah blah blah... sorry guys, I hate telling stories as a sequence of events like this... it's so boring and forced and qute frankly, it's just not flowing, so I'll just write radom things as and when they pop into my head. :)

Last night was the last night of Divali, which is an indian festival kinda like bonfire night crossed with xmas. We had heard that marine drive was the place to be so we jumped in a cab and headed there. We arrived to find an enormous long promenade packed with families setting off fireworks. The first thing I noticed was the shocking disregard for health and safety! In england, dad sets up the fireworks in a bucket full of sand, and then the kids stand back at a safe distance while he lights them. Here, dad hands his 8 year old kids a handful of fireworks and a burning wad of newspaper and tells them to go and light them by the main road while he sits on the wall of the promenade and watches at a safe distance! Even more reckless were the yound teens who would try to outdo each other with acts of stupidity. My favourites were: holding fountains in your hand, trying to light a group of fireworks after the first few are already going off and recieveing a face full of hot sparks, letting bangers go off in your hand whilst hlding them next to your ear, and my favourite of all, lighting random mentalist fireworks (ones that explode about 50 times and leap around the place shooting fire in all directions) whilst standing 3 inches away from them.

What was most fascinating of all about this display of apparant bravery/stupidity was how blase everyone seemed about it. A kid would light a firework, stick his face in it, very nearly lose and eye, and then laugh hysterically and do it again. Absolutely no one jumped when an explosion happened right beside them except us, the wimpy foreigners! In the midst of all this madness we made friends with some yound indian guys. One guy came ad started talking to me. He told me he was in the Indian Navy and was on shore leave. I asked his name. "Niel Ikshalamalam Pandit" he said (probably). "Ah, ok, I'm Billy Rowan Salisbury" I replied. "You can call me Billy for short if you like. What's your short name?". I was, of course, assuming he would say Niel. "Een Kee Pandit", he replied, ruining my hope for an easy to remember name. I decided the only way to remember this was to find an english sounding equivalent with an image to go with it, and finally settled on the Inky Bandit, fastest fountain pen in the west. :)

After the police had been by a few times in their jeep telling everyone over a large megaphone that the the 10pm firework curfew had just been declared, we headed of with the young Indian guys to have a drink. They said they knew a great little place to have a beer, which turned out to be the very Indian "Paulos Italian Pizzeria".

right, times up. lots more to tell but no time. heading to pushkar tomorrow night to the camel fair...

seeya! :)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Ladies and gentlemen!!

The billy's blog experience is about to be re-opened, re-vamped, and reincarnated! That's right, I am finally leaving this wet little island and heading back to india on a journey of awakening! Well, awakening, a-sleeping, and a-eating to be precise... Yes, it's true, I, Billy Salisbury, am going to attempt what only a few million people have been brave enough to attempt before me! I am going to fly to india, and set upon a completely unplanned adventure of visiting places, eating food, playing guitar, and sunbathing. Despite the obvious dangers, (suicidal bus drivers, unpredictable cows, chronic diorreah), I have decided to give up the joys of an english winter, sacrifice my potential career as a high flying clever person, and head of into the realms of the notverywellknown.

I fly on the 13th November, which is literally days away, and then return to the UK on 27th April 2005, which is also literally days away (although thankfully quite a few). In between these two dates I shall be wandering the back roads of india like a wandering sadhu, only cleaner. My only luggage will be a toothbrush, a spare pair of boxer shorts, a pair of fisherman's pants, (this is an actual item of clothing common to thailand and is not supposed to be interpreted literally), a 300 pound guitar (cost not weight), a brand new top of the range HI-MD player, a digital camera, and a box of plasters. Leaving behind all the luxuries of the modern world, I shall wander alone, my only travelling companions being my guitar, my pack, and about 1.5 million israelis. Together we shall beat the beaten track until it is well and truly beaten, all the while trying desperatley to get off it, only to find that when we do, the track we are on becomes beaten as well, until all tracks are beaten and getting off the beaten track becomes purely a figure of speech.

India is such a land of contradictions, and yet at the same time, it's not. You know what I mean? :)

So yes, enough said. Spread the word to all, Billy the blogger is back, and this time he has a guitar! Which incidentally, I have just this second succeeded in winning off of e-bay. I have only recently discovered e-bay, and already i hate it! It's completely addictive, and very stressful! Items that normally I would just have gone out and bought, have now become a complex process of sifting through thousands of identical items searching for the best deal, then spending days waiting in a constant state of anxiety, before finally finding that I've been outbid at the last minute and I'm back to square one!!! It's evil! Having said that I have just bought a guitar worth about 300 squid for 150, so that's not too bad. I also bought a LED headlamp for 1p yesterday. plus 4 quid postage mind you... but still, 1p!! Now they've got to post it to me from Hong kong... and before you all start laughing at me and thinking I've been ripped off, I'll have you know I think they eemed like very reputable dealers and I have every confidence that they will deliver the item on time... perhaps.

Right, gotta go pay for my new guitar... whoopie! New Toys! :)
So, watch this space, the blog is back in town.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Hey guys!

sorry it's been so long... you know how it is! well, todays been a bit shit to be honest. It started at 9am with a car crash... I was driving into town to do some decorating at my dad's house. I was driving down a main road, which was perfectly straight, and up ahead I saw a car waiting to pull out into the road from a junction on the left. Then, as I drove past him going about 45mph, he pulled out!! Straight into my passenger door, sending me skidding almost onto the wrong side of the road, where trucks were flying past at high speed! I managed to get the car under control and pulled over. When i got out, I had a quick look at the damage: door caved in, wing scraped and dented, wheel smashed up, and then walked over towards the other guy's car. For some reason he hadn't got out of his car, probably because he knew he'd just nearly caused a major accident and was worried i might hit him! As I got closer I realised that he was about 90 years old! He had glasses as thick as plates and a hearing aid, and his hands were shaking (mind you so were mine!). We exchanged details, but I didn't really manage to get much sense out of him... I kind of felt like telling him off like a kid, but was held back by my embaressment at berating someone 4 times my age!! But the fact is, he shouldn't be on the roads. Even a drunk person wouldn't be useless enough to pull out into the side of a fully visible car! His excuse that I had had my indicator on (I hadn't) and he thought i was going to turn into the turning he was on. What, at 45mph??!! Anyway, the simple fact is that at a certain age ppl are likely to become a danger on the roads, and this guy certainly was.

So anyway, after my crash I managed to drive to my dads and spent the day repainting his living room despite having a stinking cold... but now I've started I have to finish!! Arrghgh! On a brighter note, I just sold my first CD!! Someone who heard me play in a cafe at glastonbury festival e-mailed me and asked to buy a cd!! Woo hoo!! I'm 10 pounds closer to my first million!

btw, the results of the writing competition don't come out till october i think...

right, gotta go to bed, more painting in the morning! :(


Friday, August 27, 2004

Hey guys,

I'm planning on entering a competition in the Guardian (english newspaper) to win 2500 pounds towards my travels and the chance to write weekly updates for them to print in the paper and put on the website. To enter you have to write 500 words explaining what you want to do with the money, i.e. where u want to go and what challenge you intend to set yourself. The best 4 letters will be featured in the paper and the readers will vote for the best 2. My first attempt ended up being over 1000 words long, but after much brutal editing I have come up with this. let me know what you think:


"So what's your plan now?," my friend asked me as we sat drinking our beers.
"Go to India," I replied immediately.
"What??!... But you just got back!! You can't travel forever Billy!"
"Why not?," I asked.
"Because! You need to get a regular job so you can get a good credit rating so you can get a good mortgage and buy a house!."

Right. And then I suppose I've got to change the rooms using MDF and a handmade stencil, go bargain hunting and fill the attic with worthless junk to sell at auction, build a Roman column feature in the garden using cement and an old drainpipe, and then finally sell-up and start again. Ok, yes, I could do that. Or I could wander around India armed with nothing more than a very large smile and a very small guitar, trying to find the most interesting characters in the world and hearing their stories. The most fascinating encounters always come in the most unexpected places. For example:

Whilst filling my water-bottle at the local well in Pushkar, I encountered a man squatting by the pump wearing nothing but a tea-towel wrapped around his waist. He was washing a dirty rag, which on closer inspection revealed itself as his one and only shirt. I gave him a smile and we started chatting. The conversation seemed fairly typical at first. Name? Married? But once he found out I came from England it all went rather surreal.
"England!!" he exclaimed. "Ahhh, I like very much English movies! Hitchcock he is my favourite!!"
I was speechless.
"What movies he make!" he sighed, gazing off through the cows and pigs eating a pile of nearby rubbish. He then listed about fifteen of Hitchcock's movies, commenting on particularly good performances by actors I'd never heard of. We continued discussing Hitchcock's directorial technique for some time while he squatted in his tea-towel and pounded his soapy shirt on a slab of rock. Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I asked him how he knew so much about movies.

He told me he'd studied film at university in Gujarat, where he'd lived with his wife and children and held a respectable job. Then in 0000, the earthquake struck, killing his entire family, destroying his house, and almost claiming his legs. He only escaped the amputations by dragging himself out of the hospital window and using his life-savings to pay a private doctor to operate. Left with nothing, he hitched to Pushkar, and has been there ever since, living in a makeshift tent on the edge of town. He considers himself a lucky man. He survived.

India is a country overflowing with stories, some already happened, some waiting to happen. Rather than searching for these stories, I plan to draw them to me like The Pied Piper, wandering the country playing my small guitar out in the open and allowing them to find me, like they always do; the discovery of each story a story in itself.


So, there it is. Man, if only I could win that'd be so damn cool. 2500!! oh, and a digital camera as well!! Actually, more than the money I just want the chance to have my travel writing featured in the paper!!! ok, tara for now...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Hahahaha!!! I'm in the hereford library using the internet, and i just tried to go to my www.undercoverhippy.com site, but got this response (with a huge red "Stop" logo at the top):

You cannot access the following Web address:
The site you requested is blocked under your organization's filtering policy. It fits into the following filtering category(ies) that your organization has chosen to block: Tasteless/Gross

You can:

Submit a site review request to your network administrator.

Temporarily bypass filtering on this computer if you have an authorized override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you've bypassed filtering.)

Use your browser's Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.

Lol!! What is tasteless/gross about my site?? And anyway, how do they know?? There must be 1000's of kids all over the world being denied access to my site by the parental controls set up by their folks, just cos someone, or maybe even some piece of software, has decided my site is gross and tasteless!! oh well, i guess they didn't like the design.... Ahmad, it must be your artwork, cos it sure as hell aint my music! :)

right, times up! laters!

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Hey guys,

I'm not gonna bother writing anything right now because i've got a feeling everyone will have left by now and stopped checking this blog... but! If a few ppl respond and post a comment I will try to resume my regular posts.... :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Wow, what a beutiful day!

It's been so sunny today! It's like summer is finally here! (except that it's forcast to be horrible tomorrow...). I went into town today and did some busking (playing music in public for money). It's the first time I've ever done any busking in England, and I have to say, I was a little nervous. So I set myself up at the opening of a nice little cobbled street called "Church street" which opens out onto the Cathedral Close, a small park outside the Cathedral. After I'd sung about 3 songs, a guy came over with a guitar case and said

"You jammin?".
"Ummmm", I said.
"Great", he said as he pulled his guitar out.
"Tanglewood huh?", he commented pointing to my guitar.
"Uh huh", I replied, wanting to carry on singing my next song.
"Are those heavy gauge or light gauge strings?".
"Ummm, heavy i think".
"Ahhhhhh" he said, nodding sagely. "What's the action like?".
"So what do you play?".
"Ummm, all sorts really".
"Yeah? Well I'll just play to you then, I can play pretty much anything. Been playing for 15 years".
He looked at me waiting for my acknowledgement of this achievement.
"Uh huh".
"Ok", I said, "this is one of mine. It's pretty simple, just four chords: Am, Em, Dm, F". I played it through to show him the rhythm. He started joining in, but every time he would start one bar too late, so i would play Am, then as I moved on to Em he would come in with Am as if we were playing a round. After about 10 mins of this I finally managed to convince him to start and let me join in....

I managed to play the song through despite his noisy uptempo twanging beside me, and when i finally finished he turned to me and said, "I was pretty good considering I never played that before huh?". "Uh huhhhh". I started trying to play another song, but now he began to play something completely different right next to me, banging out seemingly random chords and riffs. All through this encounter, a girl who I assumed to be his girlfriend was standing in front of us with a walkman on and only one headphone stuffed in one ear, dancing to a combination of her own music and my guitar, and grinning inanely. In the end I decided enough was enough. "Actually to be honest mate, It's a little bit distracting having you playing stuff next to me like that...". I was expecting him to be a bit offended and tell me to piss of or something, but he did the complete opposite. "Shit, sorry mate!! I'll come back later and see if your still here then. You gonna be here long?". I wasn't quite sure where this was leading. "Ummm, I'm not sure, probably... it's a beatiful day for it". Alright then mate, well I'll pop back in a couple of hours and see if the spots free.. I'm homeless you see.", and with that he was gone. Yes, I am officially a bastard. It's just as well I didn't play him my song about the homeless guy... But how was I to know?! He was wearing all clean clothes and looked pretty ok to me... Oh well, maybe next time he'll get the spot first and I'll be able to give him a couple of quid...

right, somehow it has manged to become 10pm, but it has only just got dark so I still feel like it's early evening! better go and watch tv!! Who knows what treats I could be missing!!!! (for interesting cross examination of Billy's reassimilation, go read february's posts...).

Friday, May 14, 2004

Hey guys!

Remember I was working with street kids in a small school in India? WEll they've just finished a new website, and it has lots of great photos (some taken by me, some of me) on there, so go check it out. Also, if you've got a bit of spare cash and you feel like helping a worthy cause... Anyway, check it out: www.joshuakids.org

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Owwww, my eyes hurt!! I came on to write a post, and ended up reading other ppl's blogs for over an hour... I discovered that there is some really fascinating perspectives on the Iraq situation coming from Iraq itself as people begin to to gain access to the internet there.... check it out for yourself:




Also, I've added some updated songs I've written to download in MP3 format at http://www.billysalisbury.com/songs

right, bedtime.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Names Steve. Steve Pratt. I'm jus riting to say that billy won be writn vis fing anymore cos he dusnt exhist anymore. I av taken control of iz body, due to ve fact that mine died free weeks ago. So ver I was, floatin around the buildin site, lookin down at my crushed body liyin lifeless under the collapsd pile of brix, and i finks to myself, ang on, vis aint right, so i decides jus to ignor it n wanders off. aneway, efenchally i finds this place wiv all these people sitting cross legged in a big room, and i sees that all their heads is wide open like, wiv lights comin out and stuff, so i goes over for a beter look, n before yoo know it, I've jumped inside this blokes head, and I'm like, in his body and stuff. Obviously he's not too happy, an he starts shouting and screaming an evryfing, telling me to pis of out of his head, but he's a bit of a pussy, so i just give im a few slaps an e shuts up in the end...[im still here....!]...so anyway, I dusn wanna raise any suspishon, so i goes on doing what evrywun else is doin...[helllllp meeeeee]...n evenchally after some more days of bein bored out my face, i get's picked up by this nice old gal who takes me home and makes me tea.... I bin ere evr since [got...to...regain...control......]...just angin out n shit... this bodys a bit shit mind...[Oi!]...it's all puny n skinny...not like me old one...but then again me old ones all crushed so i spose i cant complane...[If..I...can...just...reach..the...frontal...lobe...]...apparntlee i gota start a new job tomora tho which is a bit of bummer... [Yes!...I've done it!...Now if I can just seal off the main ventricle.... done it!! ................................. Yes! He's gone!! I'mmmm Baaaaaaaack!!!!! Woo Hoo! Hi Guys! Well, after 5 days of being posessed by Steve, my body is in a right state. He's been using it to binge on alcohol and eat large amounts of red meat ever since we left the meditation centre, completely ruining my karmic credit rating! So I suppose you'll want to know what happened in there huh? Ok...where to begin...?

Arrived. Met 2 guys I was sharing room with. Both nice guys. Good start. had food, went to bed. Next morning, noble silence began. This means you cannot speak to anyone, or even make eye contact. All forms of communication are a no no. Get up at 4 am, meditate all day, go to bed at 9:30pm. 12 hours of meditation a day. That's 12 hours of sitting (in my case kneeling) on a cushion. After a few days you have to start kneeling without moving at all for at least one hour at a stretch, no matter how much pain you are going through. Sounds like torture doesn't it? Well it kind of is, and for the first few attempts I got really pissed off and angry at the whole situation, but then things started changing.... here's a quick explanation of why:

Accoring to the teachings of Buddah (Not buddism, just his pure teachings), all misery and suffereing are the result of craving and aversion, i.e. wanting things you don't have or not wanting things you do have. This doesn't just mean material posessions. Take the pain in my knees for example. I didn't want it to be there. I disliked it. I had an aversion towards it. This made me miserable, angry, frustrated. I wanted it to go away, I wanted to move, I wanted to go back to bed, lie down and go to sleep. This also made me miserable, angry, and frustrated. So did the pain make me miserable? How could it? It's just a physical sensation. A biochemical reaction. A bunch of sub-atomic particles behaving in a perfectly natural way as nature intended them to behave. So what made me miserable? My reaction. By reacting to my pain with craving and aversion, I made it double. And did it help in the long run? Not at all, becasue after the hour was up, i stood up and walked around, and the pain went away, so all the misery was for nothing. The next time I went to meditate, i tried to do what the teacher said.... observe my sensations... be completely equanimous towards all my sensations, i.e. be objective and simply observe, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. The pain returned to my knees and I went down to take a look. In my minds eye I watched as my knees began to throb with searing red pain. I measured how far the pain spread from it's epicentre, observed how it caused shooting pains up the muscles of the shin, stood by and watched, fascinated, as my pumping heart caused tremendous pulsing waves of pain the flow around my whole lower leg. Every now and then a voice in my head would cry "What are you doing?!! You're going to permanently damage yourself!! This is too much!! This pain is UNBEARABLE!!!". Unbearable. What does that mean? It just means that you can't resist the urge to react. After all, if your leg was trapped under a bus and the pain was unbearable, what would you do? Bear it, obviously. By the end of the week I had named my various pains and grown quite fond of them! My ankle pains were tracy and jenny. When I became bored of just observing, i would sometimes invent little games for them, getting them to compete against one another to produce the most intense sensation. "Come on Tracy!!!! Jenny's making a laughing stock of you girl!! You can do better than that!! Put you shin into it girl!!" and so on. My knees were called Tom and George. They weren't quite so manic as tracy and jenny, and I would usually just sit and have polite conversations with them: "Mornin Tom, how's things? You seem a bit angry to be honest tom. You can calm down if you like you know? No? Ok, never mind, I'll pop back later....".

It's not all about enduring pain of course, this is just one of the most striking examples I can give. It's about training your body not to react to sensation with the blind reactions of craving and aversion. What buddah discovered was that our reactions are not a direct result of stimuli from the external world. What actualy happens is that something happens outside, we see/hear/taste/feel/smell it, and that triggers and sensation within our body, which we then react to. We get the impression that we are reacting directly to the external world, but that is not the case. Because of this, it is possible to train your body to become more aware of the sensations within, to recognise them when they occur, and to refrain from blind reaction, giving you the opportunity to evaluate the situation logically with your wisdom and intellect, and react accordingly.

For example. Somebody sitting near you on the train decides to test out all the ringtones on their mobile phone. You hear the sound, and understand what it means. This triggers a number of physical reactions in your body. Your muscles tighten, your breath quickens, you pulse begins to race, your temperature rises... all in the space of a second. Then you feel anger rising in your throat. What a fucking imbecile!!! doesn't he know there are other people on the train??!! God it makes your blood boil!!! This anger triggers more physical reactions in the body, more intense than the last, and so the cycle continues. You become more and more angry. You lose interest in your book, you can't read anymore. Even with your headphones in, you can still just hear his phone in the background, and it's enough to keep you angry. You think about going over and grabbing the phone off him, shoving it down his throat.............. but ultimately you do nothing. Later on, once you have calmed down, you may think to yourself, "I wish i hadn't got so angry, cos it didn't change anything", but by now it's too late, and you still haven't taken responsibility for your misery.

Now imagine it again. The phone starts going. Your body starts producing sensations. You notice the sensations, and before the emotion of anger has even begun, you start to observe the physical changes taking place within your body. "Oh! Look at that! It looks like i'm about to get angry!! Mmmm, do I want to get angry? I mean his phone is pretty annoying, but me getting angry will just make me miserable, so there's not much point really... and after all, it is just some noise hitting my eardrum, and it won't last forever......".

By now you may be thinking, "Hey, this actually makes a lot of sense! I might start doing this! I'm sick of being miserable because of my own reactions". But it's not that simple. There are three levels of understanding. The first is to believe it because I said it. The second is to analyze what I say, maybe go and get out a few books about it, use your intellect to assess all the information, and then agree with what you have discovered and understand it. The third is to know and understand it through personal experience. Only with the third level of understanding is it possible to actually change the habit pattern of your mind.

All of this is the teaching of Buddah, but is is not the most important aspect of his teaching. Buddism tend to focus on the knowledge aspect, i.e. the second level of understanding, but Buddah himself emphasised time and time again that all this knowledge was practically useless without the knowlege of personal experience, which is why his main goal was to teach people a practical technique that would enable them to experience these thruths for themselves, and ultimately come out of misery and become truly happy. The technique is vipassana meditation. It's not complicated. In fact it's so simple that if I explained it to you here you'd probably try it once and then write it off as a load of bollox. You need to do 10 days to really experience what it is for. And it's not all pain. There are times when you feel amazingly pleasant sensations where you lose yourself in a sea of tingling. But this is almost more of a challenge then the pain, because as soon as the sensation leaves, as ultimately it must (nothing is permanent!) you find yourself craving for more!!! And if you can't get more.... Arrrghgh! Misery! Another lesson learnt..... but not just at the intellectual level of the mind. This lesson is being learnt at the deepest level of the mind, which is in the sensations of the body, and therefore is actually changing the habit pattern of your mind.....

Anyway, if you want to know more, you can go to www.dhamma.org

There is a centre in herefordshire (www.dipa.dhamma.org). To attend a 10 day course is free. All your food and lodging is free. This is because previous students have made donations so that others can recieve the benefits they recieved. At the end you have the option to give a donation of any amount, but it's not compulsory. The people taking the course come in all shapes and sizes (not just a bunch of new age hippies). The food is bloody great (total steiner food).

I'll write some more about my own personal experiences later... like how 10 days of not talking made me talk to pheasants.... :)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Toothache Medication to Deep State Meditation

Well, this is it. The day has arrived, and I must go. It's been a pleasure knowing you all, and i'm sure you all understand that once I return from these 10 days of soul searching i will most likely be on a different spiritual plane from the rest of you, and therefore unable to associate with you any longer. Well, maybe not. But hey, who knows? Will it change me? Will my blogs become all puritanical and preachy? Will I start behaving like a born again christian? Maybe an evil spirit will use use my spiritually vulnerable state during deep meditation to take control of my body and use it for unspeakable evil acts..... maybe I will have an epiphany and realise that I am in fact the son of god and you will all have to worship me and call me "my lord".... or maybe, just maybe, I'll spend the whole 10 days silently cursing the nazi hippies who have imprisoned me and dreaming of Mars Ice Creams and re-runs of "Black Books" on Channel 4. It's anybody's guess. All I know is that it's too late to back out now. For better or for worse I am going to sit in silence for 10 days and see what happens. Hopefully it'll make for some good writing material!

By the way, I now have a car!!! My first ever car! And I've bought insurance as well! Now all I need is for the car to work and I'm away!!! Don't worry, it will, I'm going to meditate on it.

I went to the dentist yesterday. Fucking bastard. If you weren't aware, the situation with NHS Dentists in england is a complete nightmare. Basically there aren't any. So the only option for people who can't afford to go private like myself is to wait until they are in sever pain, and then go down to the emergency drop-in centre for some emergency treatment. So, yesterday, having put up with my toothache for long enough for it to reach an acceptable level of pain, I set of for the clinic. As luck would have it they had an appointment only an hour after I arrived, so i sat down to wait. Just over an hour later, a little rat-like man in a white overcoat came and poked his head around the door. "Bily Salisbury", he announced. I got up and folowed him into the surgery and sat myself down. Now I had been practising my explanation of my problems all morning, so it was pretty damn clear, but as I tried to give it, he kept interrupting me, not really listening at all. When I had finished, he had a look in my mouth and exclaimed,

"Well, I don't know what your talking about, you've got a perfect set of teeth!!".

I tried once again to explain to him that I believed there was decay under one of my fillings, as it was a very deep filling and had had decay deep in the tooth when it was put in. He ignored me completely and started talking about the other side of my jaw as I had mentioned that it also hurt me occasionally. He pointed to it and said

"How much and how often and what kind of pain?" in a brisk irritable manner.

I pointed to the right side of my jaw and began to say, "well on this side..." planning to explain that the left side was basically just a lesser version of what I felt on the right.

"That's not what i asked you is it?!!!", he interrupted aggressively.

"Yeah, but I need to...",

"JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION!!!" he barked at me like a psychotic school master from hell.

I was stunned. Medical proffesionals don't talk to there patients do they??? I suddenly had a strong urge to say something offensive and caught myself back just in time, after all, this man was in a position to inflict a lot of pain with little or no consequences to himself... best to play it safe.

"If you'll just let me finish I think you'll understand what I'm trying to say...", I managed, and finally got him to listen to my explanation.

But still he wasn't really listening. Each time i described the part that was hurting, he simply heard what he wanted to hear, and kept attributing it to a wisdom tooth. In the end he got irritable again.

"Well what do you want me to do?! Do you want me to drill out that perfectly good filling just to look underneath?? Is that what you want me to do??".

"Well I don't know, you're the dentist!! I'm just telling you what i think the problem is!"

"Well you have to tell me, what do you want me to do!"

Surely this wasn't normal? Usually the dentist suggests the best course of action and asks you if you want to go along with it, doesn't he?

I was starting to get the impression that this dentist had actually realised I was probably right but just didn't wan't admit that maybe he was wrong, so instead of suggesting the action, was trying to bully me into requesting it. What a cocksucker!

"Ok, please take that filling out and look underneath"...

As soon as i had taken resposibility for the procedure, his mood changed completely!! He started using phrases like "Oookayy, well done, that's the worst of it over.." and even smiling occasionally! Then, after drilling for about 5 minutes, he stoped smiling and his face went blank. Rather than the usual running commentary that dentists give, he was completely silent. Eventually, after scraping around inside my tooth, he finally came clean.

"Ahem. Ahhh, right. Now, there was some decay in there, and I've done my best to get it out. I think I've got it all out. Now it's a much more complicated filling than I thought, so I'm just gonna put a sedative dressing in there and a temporary filling, and then you'll have to make an appointment with a entist as soon as possible to have the filling done."

Whaaaaaat!!!!!!! Why do you think I'm here you fucking A-Hole?? because I don't HAVE a dentist!!!! There ARE no dentists!! And now I have only a month (10 days of which are going to be spent meditating and trying to purge you from my brain) in which to get it sorted before this poxy mix of tipp-ex and cotton wool falls out and leaves me in agony!!

Back at home later that day I tried to call around the NHS Dental Surgerys to see if I could get an appointment to have the filling done.

"Ok sir, I can put you on the witing list if you like?".

"Umm, how long is the waiting list roughly?"

"Roughly? Ohhh, about err 12 months".

"12 months??!!! You're kidding me right??"

"No sir, that's the waiting list I'm afraid".

"But your emergency dentist has just put in a temporary filling that only lasts a month!! So what do I do when it falls out?!"

"Well, if you're in pain you can always make an appointment at our emergency drop-in centre for some emergency treatment..........

I give up.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed that tale from the darkside... see you all in 10 days!

Friday, April 09, 2004

Good evening.

Today was a fairly interesting day by my newly revised and alarmingly low standards. First I attemted to remove some of the stuff cluttering up my room and put it in the attic, but got distracted by the things that were already in the attic and ended up bringing them down instead of putting more up.... Then i went to town to meet the finance lady at the Art College and discuss pay etc. Turns out they want to pay me a bit more than I was expecting so that's a bargain. :)

Then i went into town and met Mike and Chris, two old friends, and their mate Darren. We headed to the pub and I ordered a pint (of Coke) and proceeded to rule the pool table. Then a man came over and asked if he could play. "Sure" I say, and being as i have just won the last game I jump up to play him. At first he seems fairly normal, if a little drmatic with his gestures of approval or condolance over the outcome of each of my shots... Then I start to notice that actually he's not very "normal" at all. In fact he's decidedly odd. Every now and then he'd suddenly emit very loud and innapropriate squealing noises, and then say "I'm good in' I?" (This is hereford speak for "I'm good aren't I?") with a big grin on his face. This wouldn't be so odd if it wasnt for the fact that I had just whupped his arse. "But you lost..." I say. "Yeah, but you was lucky wun you?" he suggests enthusiastically. "Ummm, yeah, I guess so", I say, starting to feel a little awkward as a realise that my three pals are all desperately trying not laugh out loud behind him. It has become clear that he's not just a wierdo, he's actually... ummm, what's the PC word these days?..... mentally challenged?.... Oh I don't know, it used to be called "backward" when I was a kid.... you know what I mean. Anyway, lovely bloke, just a bit of handful once he got excited.

After that first game he just wouldn't give up and kept coming and insisting on another game. In the end it all became bit too much so we headed to the Barrels, another pub on the other side of town. I had to move my car, and when i arrived my friends were already deep in conversation with another nutcase! This one was of the manic variety, and he kept doing word assosiation rapid-fire monolouges that would put Robin Williams to shame. But he seemed friendly enough, and when he offered to buy us all a drink his status as a "good bloke" was confirmed. He's a scruffy bastard. Green bomber jacket, mohawk hairdo. Then I notice his trousers and shoes. Straight black trousers and simple but shiny black leather shoes. "These are from the nick!", he says, pointing at the shoes. "I just got out, done a couple a munfs in Glouscester, they make em there ya know they make all sorts in all the diffren prisons an at..". He is wildly animated and keeps jumping from foot to foot and grinning as he bombards us with seemingly unrelated information at 100 miles and hour. Every time he leaves the room he seems to return with 2 pints of guinness. One he puts down somewhere in the room and the other he drinks. Then he returns with another 2 pints and does the same thing. Soon there are 3 untouched pints of Guinness sitting at different tables around the room! At some point he starts talking about how he needs to go across town to buy some weed and how he's going to be leaving any minute, but never quite does.

Half an hour later I decide it's time for me to head off, but as I start to say my goodbyes he jumps in. "What?! You can't go! We're gonna have a party here in a bit when i get back!!". "Sorry", I say, trying to think of a good excuse. "I've got to get the car back to my mum cos she needs it"..... 'What?! You've got a car?! Fuck! And there's me about to get a taxi! Can I have a lift then? Sorted! your goin that way int ya? Where you goin?"... "I'm going to Madley", i say, trying to remember where he wanted to go and if it's on my way and how I can avoid taking him there. "Perfect!!", he says. "I'm tryin ta get to the Oval, it's on the way innit?!". He's right, it is on my way. Suddenly i remember how 3 days ago I was trying to hitch to town for my job interview after trying to catch the bus with zero money in my pocket, and how all those bastard drivers with empty cars kept zooming straight past me without so much as a wave.... and here I was being a complete hippocrite and trying wriggle out of doing the same myself. "Ok, no worries mate, let's go", I say, getting up and saying my goodbyes. Out in the street we start heading towards the car. "Hang on a minute mate, I've just gotta rush in 'ere for a sec", he says, darting into the chemist (drug store). He comes out moments later and runs to catch up with me. "Sorry mate, just had to get a few needles. Not for me mind, for me mate. I don't do it no more. Used to mind you, made a right mess of me arms I did". He pulls up his sleeve to show me his many syringe marks, and instead reveals a thousand self-inflicted lacerations on his forearm. The wounds look fairly fresh. "Did that to get out of prison!! Not bad eh?!", he tells me proudly. He then goes on to explain to me that he is actually a complete mental case who has been treated and given up on by some of the most hardcore psychiatric hospitals in Britain. "But these days I go mad in a good way like being all happy and stuff see?" he explains to me cheerily. We've arrived at the car. Who is this psycho that I've just offered a lift to?!! Oh well, best not to piss him off now i guess. Anyway, despite being a complete headcase who cuts up his arms, I'm still getting the feeling that he is indeed a very genuine and friendly headcase. We start to drive. A police car goes past and he ducks down in the seat covering his face. He said he just got out of prison. He didn't specifically say he was "let" out..... oh dear. I make it across town, listening to him jump between the state of the peruvian rainfoests, the SAS, how he crashed a Van on E's, and why murderers in the Nick are top blokes because they'll always give you a rizla if you need one. We arrive in Newton Farm council estate, and he asks me to drop him off. "Wait there a sec will ya", he asks. "I just need a lift back to the road cos there's loads of blokes round ere who hate me and if I saw one I would have to 'urt im". He goes inside, and I try to decide whether to make a break for it. Before I have time to think about it he's back out. "No weed in 'ereford" he says, jumping into the front seat with a pungent smelling spliff hanging out his mouth. "You can't smoke that in here, it's my mum's car", I say. "It's alright, it's not a ciggarette, it's herbal!", he says. Oh, right, well that's fine then.... 5 mins later we are apparantly past all of the other psychos that want to kill him who he would be forced to hurt should he spot them and at last he gets out again. "Cheers for the lift Billy!!! See you in the pub later yeah?". Mmmm, maybe.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Wassup G's?

I just got offered a possible job! It's pretty perfect as well. It's just 2 days a week working at the Hereford Art College, helping students with their projects using computers and things like that. Bargain! Looks like it's time to dredge all my creative computer genius back up to the surface of my brain... *ahem*. Mmmmm, looks like I'm gonna be in hereford for a while really.... my plan of moving to Bristol or London is seeming too difficult these days.... If I leave hereford i rekon it'll be to go abroad...

I had a cool suprise last night. I went out for a drink with Laura and Heather, 2 of my sisters, and bumped into 3 of my old school mates who I haven't seen for years! Joseph Tame (you may have heard of him from www.tamegoeswild.com), Marc Cove, and Benedict Allen. Was really nice to catch up! Then went back to Marc's as it was his younger brother's birthday, and finally managed to have a good old guitar jam!! Hooray! :)

Friday, April 02, 2004

Right. I've just spent bloody ages trying to create a photo album using dreamweaver. It's still a bit shit, but at least you can see some photos, and right now I dont have time to tidy it up... maybe later... go to www.billysalisbury.com/photos/bolivia-peru/index.htm

I've just signed myself up for a 10 day meditation retreat. It's something i've wanted to do for a while, but man it's quite daunting. 10 days of no speaking, communicating, reading writing etc, just sitting and meditating from 4:30am till 9pm (with a few breaks for food etc...). Am I crazy? Well, we'll soon find out! Anyway, I'll write more on the subject later, this monitor's giving me square eyes...

Saturday, March 27, 2004


well, it's reached that time I'm afraid. The Undercover Hippy is going to do some work. I know I know, it's wrong, but sometimes we have to break the rules a little! Starting monday I will be working for my dad a few days a week in his carpentry/window making business, and earning my keep like all the other normal people out there. I'm still not really sure why I'm still here at all.... I keep telling myself I'm waiting for the summer.... well it better hurry the fuck up!!! Ok, enough moaning, I will attempt to be my normal witty self....

Did you know that lemon juice, when mixed with equal parts of sugar and water, makes a very powerful explosive? Or maybe it was lemonade. It defintely makes something cool anyway. Try it....

I'm feeling fairly explosive myself these days. It's probably just as well I'm gonna start doing a bit of work on monday, otherwise I may well have gone mad. It's all very well having all this time on my hands to make music, but to make music I have to be in the right mood, and quite frankly this place puts me in exactly the wrong mood. I need my hammock in Indonesia.... ahhhh, memories! I've got shit loads of amazing photos to show you by the way. I'm just too lazy to put them up. Maybe later....

Sorry guys, but the verbal diorreah (which I still cant be bothered to learn how to spell) is a bit constipated at the moment. I'll go and eat some fibre and get back to you later....

Monday, March 22, 2004

Ok, here's the other one:

A Slight Delay: Crossing Cambodia in a Day.

"You wait 5 minutes", said the driver of our van, motioning for us to get out and stretch our legs. "But we've only just started driving?!", we muttered to one another as we carefully extracted ourselves from our sardine can on wheels. We were twenty minutes into our journey, not even at the edge of town yet, and our two teenage drivers had pulled us into a small Auto-Repair shop at the side of the road. As we stretched our legs, a man in overalls proceeded to remove various parts of the engine and hit them with a hammer and a scewdriver while all of the other local men squatted around and watched, smoking cigarettes and offering the occasional piece of technical wisdom. We asked what was going on and how long this was going to take, but the driver just shrugged us off before going back to watching the "mechanic" attacking the engine parts with a drill. I started to get the feeling this was going to be a rather long journey...

We had set off early that morning from the town of Sihanoukville on the south coast of Cambodia, deciding, after much deliberation, to take the overland bus option instead of the boat. We chose this option mainly because it set off two hours earlier and claimed to arrive at the thai border one hour before the boat. I was travelling in Cambodia with my (now ex) girlfriend, Selene, and two of her friends, Teresa and Ben. After nearly two weeks of exploring Ankor Wat and Pnom Phen, we had finally ended up at the beaches on the south coast, and left it rather late to get back to catch our flight home from Bangkok. We had to get to the thai border before 5pm, when it closed for the day, in order to get the night bus to Bangkok, and catch our flight the following day. We had studied the map, and it really didn't seem that far, so we were feeling fairly confident. Well, for the first 20 mins of the journey anyway...

After an hour of "stretching our legs" we went back to our drivers in the auto-repair shop, who were still busy dismantling our vehicle, and asked them once again when we would be leaving. One of them managed to tear himself away from the hammering and drilling long enough to say, "Maybe one hour more". Another hour?? This was ridiculous! We weren't even outside of the town limits yet and we had already wasted potentially 2 hours "fixing" a vehicle which they obviously already knew was broken when they'd picked us up! But what could we do? Well, nothing, obviously, so we went and had some suspicious looking fried rice from a dusty little food stall and waited...

After three hours, the drivers had decided that the van couldn't be fixed by hitting the various engine parts, and replaced them all back under the bonnet. So, the van was still broken (it kept jumping from 4th to 3rd gear whenever we picked up any speed), but at least we were moving again! For a while. We countinued driving into the middle of nowhere and gradually the "dust road" became a "mud track", which eventually became just "mud with tracks in it". Then we came to our first river crossing. Four fishing boats had been tied together and covered in planks to create a makeshift car-ferry, and after another long wait we boarded along with a few other vehicles. The other vehicles were all pick up trucks and apperared to belong to a wealthy family (in Cambodian terms this means someone who can afford new trainers for their children), who had filled the backs of the trucks with security guards wielding AK 47's. We all felt rather uncomfortable with all those guns around, and were glad when the ferry finally started to move.

Upon reaching the other side, we jumped ashore and waited for our van. All the other cars drove off up the dusty road, but our van remained unmoved. We had a flat battery! A few men started to gather round the van and attempted to "squat start" it. This involves getting a group of men to squat around the van and argue about the problem until it solves itself, and is not dissimilar to the method used in the auto-repair shop, although it involves less hammering and drilling. After thirty minutes of failed squat start attempts, a rather sizable queue of cars had built up trying to get back across the river in the opposite direction. Horns were being liberally applied to the situation in an attempt to get it moving, and eventually our group of squatting men decided to push the van out of the way. After another half an hour, to everyones surprise, the squat starting was actually sucessful and we were moving once more.

We managed two more boat ferry crossings without too much fuss, and apart from the usual 'sliding through mud next to thousand foot drops', the journey seemed to have taken a turn for the better. We were 30 mins from the border town of Ko Kong, and we had 1 hour until the border closed. It was starting to seem like we might make it after all! As we reached the bottom of yet another winding mountain mud-slide, we were amazed to see stretching out before us the biggest, widest, flattest stretch of "road" we had seen in Cambodia so far! We were saved! Finally the gods had smiled on us, and we all sat back to relax as the van enthusiastically took advantage of the level terrain in front of it and picked up speed. Then, without any warning, the van turned off the main road at high speed, careering onto a tiny mud track, and drove, or more to the point "dove", straight into a muddy puddle about 2 feet deep. The wheels spun, water sprayed, but the van wasn't going anywhere. The rear wheels weren't even touching the ground. We were screwed. The driver, who was about 19 and not exactly the brightest of men, continued to rev the engine and spin the wheels in the hope that this approach might suddenly work. I dont know, perhaps he thought if he spun the wheels for long enough he'd actually empty the puddle and we could drive away. Anyhow, we all got out and the squatting technique was employed once more. The local village, obviously very amused by the whole affair, came and joined the squatting. You'd think with this much squatting power it would be easy to move the van, but for some reason it just wasn't working. I tried suggesting we convert all the "squatting power" into "pushing power", but my suggestion was greeted with laughs and cries of "It cant be done!", so I shut my mouth.

Then our drivers came up with the wonderfully bad idea of trying to jack the van up by placing a small, hydraulic jack, underwater, in the soft mud. I tried to explain why this wouldn't work, but they continued anyway, convinced that by holding the jack under the opaque brown water and pumping vigourously, eventually something would happen. In fact, nothing happened. The jack didn't even extend, let alone lift the van! After about half an hour of watching the drivers try the jack in every angle concievable, it became apparant that the reason the villagers weren't helping us push the van was that we weren't paying them, and that the reason we weren't paying them was because the drivers were trying to save money. A little gentle persuasion was used and they finally relented, and after a bit of baragaining between our drivers and the villagers, finally the squatting men stood.

With everyone lifting and pushing, it didn't take long to get the van back on the road once more. This time we managed to move for about 2 minutes before coming to the next ferry crossing.

The ferry was undergoing repairs, and a guy wearing a welder's mask seemed to be trying to cut it in two. We asked him when the ferry would leave. "When I’ve finished this", he replied. "When will that be?", we asked. He answered with a shrug, flicked down his mask, and dissapeared behind a fountain of blue sparks. Accepting that we had missed the border, I bought a beer and a banana from a sweet old lady with a toothy grin, and sat down at the side of the road with all the other waiting people. After all, this was Cambodia, not Camden. Who was I to say things should run faster or smoother? Was I about to make a difference? No. So, having resigned ourselves to missing the border, and subsequently our flight home, we were finally able to relax and just enjoy the situation for what it was: a fantastic chance to experience a pace of life that was still dictated, not by timetables and deadlines, but by the number of delays you encountered.

Friday, March 19, 2004

I have just spent bloody ages manually changing every hyphen and quotation mark in this piece so I can post it up. If anyone can explain to me why "slanted" quotation marks as produced my MS word are not acceptable for putting on the web, please tell me how I can avoid them in future!!! Anyway, here's one of my attempts to re-write my travel tales to send off to magazines for publishing... pleae let me know what you think and offer critisism...

Mountain Man Billy:

The skies were truly awe-inspiring. I felt like a Greek god, standing up in the clouds and unleashing rain and lightning on the tiny villages in the valleys below. Then a fresh flurry of rain hit me in the face and I was reminded of my real place in the scheme of things: I was a tiny, soft, defenceless mammal, stranded on the top of an unforgiving mountain with only a sleeping bag, a Swiss Army Knife, a box of matches and an overhanging rock for protection.

We had set off early that morning from the village of Daramkot, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. My travelling companions were Shevach, an Israeli guy who stayed in the room next to me, and Sunil, the owner of the guesthouse we were staying in. Shevach had never been trekking before, and was a little nervous about whether he was fit enough to make it to the top. Sunil, on the other hand, was the fittest man I had ever met. He was incredibly skinny, but every ounce of him was constructed from hard, wiry muscle. His dream was to join the army, and he would run miles every day and practice "nun-chucks" in the front yard for hours. He told us that he used to be a mountain guide, so when he offered to take us on a trek for free we were happy to accept his offer. The plan was to head to Triund, at the top of the first pass, camp the night in a cave there, then head to the snowline and the main cave the following day, before returning on the third day. We headed off after a quick breakfast, despite Shevach and I having serious reservations about the state of the weather. It was completely overcast, and in my rather experienced english opinion, looked like rain. Sunil, however, assured us that it definitely, 100 percent, would not rain, and seeing as he was local and had grown up in this area, we took his word for it. After about 4 hours we reached Triund. The view is incredible. Behind you is the valley stretching down towards Dharamkot, McLeod Ganj, and Dharamasala, and in front of you tower the Himalayas, snow capped peaks reaching up into the clouds.

Almost as soon as we reached Triund, the sun came out. Feeling foolish for not having trusted Sunil's mountain wisdom, we lay in the sun eating instant noodles and marvelled at the panorama before us. Then, in the space of about five minutes, the sky turned black and the first drops of rain began to fall. Shevach and I forced our strained legs to propel us full speed up a very steep and rocky slope to the cave in which we were to spend the night. By the time we got up there the rain was coming in strong and we only just got our bags into the shelter of the cave in time. I say 'cave', but really it was just a rocky overhang, at the side of which some shepherds had built a simple dry-stone wall to keep some of the wind out. It was starting to get really quite cold and I was very glad to have my thermal long johns with me! The storm continued to get worse and the wind was becoming gale force, but the view from the cave was so epic that we didn't really mind. You could see the mountains behind, the valley in front, and directly below us, a small group of ancient looking trees, their branches festooned with buddhist prayer flags. Buddhist prayer flags are strings of flags in all different colours, like you might see at a village fete but square instead of triangular. Each flag has a prayer or mantra printed on it, and Buddhists believe that when the wind blows, it carries the positive prayers with it. As I watched from my cave, the flags looked as though they were going to tear free as they fought with the wind to cling onto their string, and I thought to myself that there must be a sizable ocean of good vibes streaming off of those flags at that moment. As we sat in the relative shelter of our cave, I thanked the many gods for making the wind blow across our cave rather than into it. We may have been missing out on a shower of positive prayers, but we were also being spared from a pelting of freezing water! Shevach had decided to bring everything he didn't need and nothing he did need. He had, for example, a CD Player and portable speakers, but no coat. I have to admit though, having "ambient ethnic chill out" music playing in the background as we watched the storm through the wide rectangular entrance of our "cave" did give the whole experience a very movie-like feel!

Then the rain turned to hail. The sky was so dark by now that we had to use a torch in order to see enough to light a fire. The temperature was dropping faster than the price of a sarong on an empty beach. We really were incredibly exposed up there, but thankfully the wind kept it's course, and the 45 degree rain continued to hurl itself past our cave rather than into it. At one point the storm eased up slightly and we were able to venture out of the cave in search of nourishment. Finding food wasn't hard, as the only structure on the mountaintop was a small wooden shack run by a young Indian guy that sold chai (indian tea), chocolate, biscuits etc. When we arrived, he was busy preparing rice and dahl for a small group of bedraggled looking foreigners who were huddled around a small fire in front of the stall. Once I got closer I realised I knew them from Dharamkot, the village where I was staying. After hearing their story I started to see my sleeping arrangement in a totally different light: there were seven of them squeezed into a tiny cave with no bedding at all!

I slept fairly well despite the intense cold, but was awoken just before dawn by Shevach snoring. After a few failed attempts to silence him with my elbow, I gave in and decided to get up. Sunil had been telling us the day before that it definitely wouldn't rain, then that it would stop after 20 minutes, then that it would stop after a few hours, then that it would be clear tomorrow... Well, it was tomorrow now, and although the rain had stopped, the sky was still looking ominous. We lit the fire and thawed ourselves for a while before heading to the small chai shop further down the mountain. The wind was still very strong, and it was miserably cold. We looked over towards the snow-covered mountains that were supposed to be our destination. Sunil assured us that it was no problem, we could continue to the snowline, and that the rain would not return. I was starting to have doubts about Sunil's ability to accurately predict the weather, and after about fifteen minutes of trekking thru the gales and biting cold, Shevach was the first to stop and say he was going back. Sunil asked me if I wanted to continue. I looked up at the snow-covered peak and saw the thick white clouds of snow and hail moving purposefully across it.... "Not into that!" I said, and we decided to head back before the worst weather returned.

As we walked away from probable death and towards hot cups of chai and cold bars of Cadbury's chocolate, Sunil began to make a rather sudden about turn in his attitude to the weather as well. "Billy, you're a very clever man!" he said, "You're a real mountain man! To continue into that would have been very stupid I think, no?". "To be honest", I said, "I don't know anything about mountains really, because where I come from there are no real mountains. But one thing we do have is rain. Lots of it. I am something of a rain expert, and that...", I pointed back at the monstrous grey cloud that had been blocking our path, "looks like rain to me". Sunil looked back at the cloud and then stared at me with something approaching awe. "Mountain man Billy...", he muttered. Feeling a little uncomfortable with all this undeserved praise, I hurried ahead to check on Shevach.

As soon as we started to descend into the valley, the weather made a complete U-turn. The clouds disappeared and the sun blazed down from a clear blue sky. Fleeces and windbreakers were lashed onto packs and sunglasses dug out from beneath dirty bedding. But instead of being uplifted by the sun, we were actually feeling a bit depressed. Maybe we should have continued... Maybe my english rain predicting powers weren't so powerful after all... We trekked most of the remainder of the way in silence, trying to pretend we weren't disappointed to be going home. When we finally reached our guesthouse in Dharamkot and pulled off our dirty boots and socks however, we were so excited to be back in civilisation (a hot bucket of water to shower with and no toilet!) that we forgot all about wanting to sleep in caves and climb mountains and settled back to eat unhealthy amounts of chocolate. Then, only five minutes after arriving back, the sky suddenly went black and unleashed the most torrential rain I had seen since arriving in India! Two days of it! Feeling thoroughly pleased with ourselves, we sat back and watched the paths become rivers from the dryness of our front porch. Perhaps "Mountain Man Billy" wasn't such a bad name after all...