Thursday 31 December 2009

By mistake

This year we stayed at home on purpose. The time for reflection, dining with folk we haven't seen for a long time, reading, listening and taking a walk on Hampstead Heath with friends Simon and Patricia - with uncanny winter light over the semi-frozen ponds, as above, and little dogs leaping high over streamlets - seemed right. Even the light work load was pleasurable; I'm glad I got to hear two virtuoso piano recitals of mostly rare rep - Liszt Sonata excepted - by Miroslav Kultyshev and Daniel Grimwood. And as I walked back from the Wigmore, the lights of London were indeed pretty, as my godson once remarked on the flight back from Venice while everyone else was being sick from plunging and soaring in 70mph winds.

In the meantime our dear friend the Houri went on holiday, Withnail-fashion, 'by mistake'. His text is worth reproducing as a cautionary tale of what can go wrong with the seasonal spirit of adventure. We've been there.

A text from paradise…started strangely in Colombo where hotel room overlooked a machine gun emplacement. This means a casual holiday snap from room window would have led to imprisonment. We move inland to famous and beautiful jungle ecohotel ‘impressively one mile long’. First night ate like a prince and this followed by four days’ trauma with a violent attack of the two bob bits. I’m on 15 tablets a day. Disgusting rehydration salts and sightseeing, alcohol and food have been cancelled. I’m eating like a sparrow. The sumptuous feasts laid out for hotel guests at breakfast and dinner a rebuke not a pleasure. For me a little dry bread and some bland soup. An Algerian convict would sneer and curl his lip at so Spartan a bill of fare. It is New Year’s Eve and have not been able to have my second set of pills because monkeys entered my room as I slept and stole them from off my table. I lie here texting as my nausea returns with the quaint sight of the monkey mocking me by licking up the remnants of my rehydration salts which it also stole and nonchalantly lifting its tail and peeing down the back of my balcony chair. Yes, I have come on holiday by mistake. Happy New Year.

Jungles are sometimes best viewed, preferably monkeyless, from the safety of the northern hemisphere, as in the case of the Madagascan wonderland at the heart of our now-beloved Zurich's fabulous succulentenhaus.

It should be added that none of this has deterred us from planning our 2010 investigation of the Georgian mountain wilds, as prompted at last week's party by Peter Nasmyth and the excellent little walking book he sent by way of encouragement.

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