Well, where to begin?
I think the two or three faithful followers of this all know the story but if you have happened upon this by some other route, here is a synopsis of what has happened in the intervening period.
The last entry on this blog was in April 2010, when I had to cut short a trip to Southeast Asian due to my Mother having become very ill. I got home, as you will know if you have read it and, despite the efforts of the Craigavon Area Hospital to effect a different outcome, she recovered and returned home vowing never to go into hospital again. They really treated her appallingly in that place to the extent she came home, frail as she was, with bruises that were obviously the result of ill-treatment, but enough of that. Cancer eventually took it's toll on 20th September 2010, and we buried my Mother three days later as is the custom in my part of the world. She lies now in the graveyard of St. Mark's Church, Ballymore (the church featured in the last blog) alongside a poet which I know would have pleased her.
I don't want to dwell on this too much, and it is probably of no interest to whatever readers there may be but I have to say that the event, sad as it obviously was, really showed the best of Northern Ireland people, and I feel it my duty to recognize them here. The "ladies of the Parish" effectively took over our house to greet and cater for the many visitors, they were magnificent. As is well documented elsewhere in this blog, I am not a religious man but the Revd. Shane Forster, our local vicar, was wonderful and the eulogy he gave was simply beautiful. A reading, chosen by my Mother with more than a hint of mischief and a hymn from my Fathers male voice choir all ensured that my dear Mother had a fitting send off.
So fast forward to now.
I was never much in favour of keeping a blog, for a number of reasons but a few friends, one in particular, encouraged me to do so and I am rather glad I did. I don't read back often but it is enjoyable occasionally and other friends have told me that they liked reading it, which is all to the good. I am led to believe that the story of the prospective Lao bride being produced for me caused great hilarity in at least one household in East London. Hello girls. One of my objections to a blog is that I think it is the height of arrogance, an arrogance magnified to obscene levels by that benighted Facebook. Who gives a damn if you have just gone to the shop and bought a pint of milk and are now going to do the washing up? Do you really think you are that important? I certainly don't. As you can see, I have not mellowed any in the intervening period so, if you are easily offended, probably best not to read any more. I am far too old now to sit quiet when something annoys me, and an increasing amount of things do. I think I have earned my "grumpy old man" status and well played people like Rick Wakeman, Ian Hislop and Jeremy Clarkson.
So, why have I revived it? Well, I really only wanted to have it as a means of "contact" on long overseas trips and I have not really had one of those since this blog finished last time. Certainly, I had a wonderful trip to Serbia, Macedonia and, briefly, Albania earlier this year which I thoroughly enjoyed although it was not really of a long enough duration to warrant re-opening this. The reason I mention this and it is, unusually for me, relevant is that it was a VT meet. VT meet, I hear you cry? Well, actually I don't since there is probably nobody reading this and I am deluding myself again or else, if you are there, you are thinking VT is some sort of odd disease. Actually, it is not, it is a travel website that I contribute to and love very dearly. I have no idea how to do hyperlinks on this blog so you will have to cut and paste www.virtualtourist.com . When you go there, go to the "Meet Members" section, type in member name planxty and voila, there I will be.
I know this will sound odd but on VT we have meetings all over the world. Yes, yes, I know your Mother told you not to meet strangers you met online and that is very good advice for a teenager but that is what I do. I had a delightful lunch today in a Thai restaurant in Makati in Manila with a lovely group comprising a Canadian couple in their sixties celebrating 40 years of happy marriage, a lunatic Dane called Claus who cycled from Copenhagen to Tirana (Albania) for fun once and a Singaporean business woman currently employed here. Good friends all.
OK, so I have blown my big line, you know where I am now. I am in the Philippines, a place I have long wanted to visit, so another one ticked off the list. Unfortunately, the list is still very long, I don't think I'll ever do all I want to but you can only do so much and I have been very lucky to have visited the places I have.. So here I am, going for dinner and traditional Philippino entertainment tomorrow with about 30 like-minded people, many of whom I have met already, some I know online and some I have never even heard of. Happy days indeed. On Friday I fly to Boracay for the big meeting proper.
Apparently Boracay is one of those "paradise" islands you see in glossy magazines in dentists waiting rooms but are probably too.preoccupied about your imminent root canal work to appreciate. I'll let you know what the reality is in due course. We have a weekend of beach parties, music (I've already been co-opted to play, along with a Danish professional pianist), island hopping on local fishing boats and the Ati Atihan festival (google it) which is apparently like a mini Rio Carneval and one of the most important festivals in the Philippines. It all sounds good to me and thanks for coming back if any of you have, I Will try to keep up to date here.
How has it gone so far? Well, swimmingly, in the case of Saturday almost literally so. I have seen worse rain but not often. Let's start at the very beginning as Julie Andres once sang in the Sound of Music. A very good place to start. Indeed. Having endured the nightmare that constitutes public transport in London, I got to Heathrow to endure another (security etc.) I am sure that Beelzebub has reserved a special place in the innermost circle of Hell for those parasites who take millions of pounds of our money to allegedly run London Transport.
Having successfully negotiated that, onto the flight to Dubai, courtesy of Emirates Airlines. I really do rate them, they are very good, lovely food, great service, excellent onboard entertainment, the whole works. Having woken early in the morning, I was a bit tired, although I can never sleep on a plane except in business class and my budget doesn't run to that so I thought something light was in order for entertainment. I decided on Puss in Boots, a prequel (what a hideous word) to the Shrek series. I was somewhat perturbed to find that the little seven? year old child next to me was watching the same film. Ho hum. When I first saw her, my heart sank. Who wants to spend eight hours n a plane next to a bloody child? In fairness to her, she was good as gold, well when awake anyway. Once she went to sleep she did a very good job of kicking the you know what out of my right leg but I wasn't going to sleep anyway so no harm done.
We arrived at Dubai airport a bit late but that was of no consequence as I had a three hour layover. At least you can have a smoke, something you cannot do in a British airport courtesy of the petty fascism of the last misGovernment of our country. There are worse places to be, lots to look at and it is absolutely massive. I reckon it must be a mile and a half end to end and he shops are just amazing, you have never seen so much gold in your life unless your name is Kenneth Noye (google that as well)! The second flight, like the first, was completely full, I mean not a single free seat. No problem as I was seated next to a very diminutive Filipina from Mindanao returning from her work in Dubai. I believe there are a lot of people from here working in the middle East. She was great fun and we had a bit of a chat before she went to sleep and I, still unable to sleep, watched another film and sipped on a G&T. Happy days indeed.
On arrival at Manila, things started to go downhill a little. Due to the full flight and a lack of immigration and customs officers, it took me a full hour to clear the airport, so we are now at 2300 and I haven't slept for what now feels like a month. Not wishing to bother about public transport, I got a cab. I quite clearly said to the chap organising them, who spoke good English, that I wanted to go to the South gate of the Chinese Cemetery. OK, I know you will find this odd but no-one knows the name of the tiny little street I am staying in (Felix Huerta if you want to look on Google maps) but everyone knows the cemetery, of which more later. No problem, no problem except that it apparently was. The stupid bugger left me at the North cemetery instead. OK, picture the scene. Your humble narrator, exhausted, jet lagged and in a none to salubrious part of a completely alien town with no bloody idea where he is going to lay his head. As I am fond of saying to a dear friend of mine (you know who you are, and begone FT - sorry in joke there), I was having an adventure. As luck would have it, I was only about 15 minutes walk from where I needed to be. If he had misunderstood diffidently and taken me to the South cemetery in Makati I would have been about six or seven miles from home. Luck one, that.
With the assistance of a few tricycle drivers and a local cop (well, more like a PCSO really, they have community or Barangay semi-official guys here) I eventually wended my weary way to the front door of a very tall building. A private house effectively but with two distinct sides. Including the decking and viewing platform, my side of it runs to seven stories. I was greeted by the young night porter guy, who immediately summoned the owner. What a delightful couple of people. Iced water was immediately called for as I was sweating like the proverbial pig, checking in was a breeze with a long conversation and then Boggi was called for. I am guessing at the spelling of the name here as I have never seen it written down. Boggi is, shall we say, not the sharpest tool in the box (think care in the community reduced to a family level), but is unfailingly cheerful and welcoming, even if I do roll in at some ungodly hour and wake him to let me in. I have to say, the security is excellent, I would have trouble breaching it myself.
Time for bed and up, up and up again we went. I am on the fifth floor. When he pushed the door open I thought I was hallucinating due to lack of sleep. Remember, I had booked this place on a hostel website on the principle of a shared room for two people. I had envisaged a room with two single beds and some other traveller in the other one. How wrong I was. I won't bore you with words but on the principle that a picture paints a thousand of them, I shall post a few here. I am effectively living in a furnished luxury three bedroom flat (obviously I only have one room) for the princely sum of about $20US a night which is about £15. I have not even sat on the gold painted settee yet, I am afraid to!
A quick shower then and off to bed, knowing I had to be up in a very few hours to meet people the next morning. More of that in the next post.
Posted by Fergyguitar at 15:08