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My Expletive-&-Knife-Themed Mini-Break…

Is there anything more likely to bring nations together and bestow a collective sense of hatred than alfresco dining being interrupted by a mime artist? If there is I have yet to encounter it.

We all saw him approach – chalky white faced in a leotard and top hat – the destroyer of dreams (the previous morning it had been a euphonium player murdering the hits of Taylor Swift, but this would be way worse…)

But wait, that morning there was a hero in our midst. A fellow diner – German, bearded and flamboyant, jumped from his seat into the path of the cash extrapolator and:

  • Mimed eating his breakfast and rubbed his belly to indicate that he was content.
  • Mimed being trapped in a box.
  • Mimed stabbing the mime artist to death.
  • Held out his hand as if demanding payment.

To add insult to injury one of his friends mimed laughing and clapping (without his hands making contact).

The mime artist mumbled some obscenities under his breath as he walked away, prompting the German to say something that was clearly along the lines of: ‘He can speak – It’s a miracle!’

I would dearly love to take this busker-repelling tactic back with me to Blighty, but alas I am English. Such a direct, grumble-free approach simply isn’t cricket.

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Back at the colonial guesthouse in which I was staying my host asked me if I had yet seen Pablo Picasso’s ghost.

‘He lived in that building right there,’ she said, pointing to an adjacent window, ‘and his apparition can often be seen walking about, trapped in time.’

I smiled, but she seemed deadly serious.

Later that evening her husband called me to the veranda.

‘Martine, come quickly, regard, Pablo Picasso’s ghost, trapped in time…’

I stared down into an empty window.

‘…He was there a moment ago, but left when I called you over.’

Once again my mirth was met with utter sincerity.

‘Wait…he will return…Pablo Picasso…trapped in time.’

An old bald man with white side-burns and a stripy top came to the window, and for a second I thought I was seeing the aforementioned apparition.

‘What’s that in his hand?’ the landlord asked playfully, ‘Is it a pencil? Is it a brush? Hey Pablo…PABLO!’

Pablo flipped us the bird and slammed the shutters.

In the morning I was packing to leave when I noticed a large glob of chewing gum stuck to the sheets. A brief attempt at removing the offending item proved fruitless. I would need a sharp implement of some description. A perusal of the kitchen yielded a large knife. This did the job nicely. On the way back to return the item of cutlery, shirtless and armed, I encountered the landlady. Her warm features grew cold.

Justifications scrolled through my retarded mind:

…I thought I saw Pablo.

…I’m sleep-cooking.

…That’s the U-bend unblocked!

‘Buenos Dias,’ I beamed like a sociopath before making good my escape…

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Sri Lankan Trilogy

Nick’s flight would be arriving in the morning which gave me sixteen hours to kill in the capital. Having flagged down a tuk-tuk (scooter crossed with a pram) I went exploring and quickly found myself in the bustling market district of Pettah. Stopping for a nano second I was immediately accosted by a wiry individual who offered to take my picture.

‘Oh, no thank you,’ I replied. ‘My camera is in the hotel.’

‘We go back to your hotel. I take your picture. You buy me beer.’

‘I don’t want a beer.’

‘I want one.’

‘Well buy one.’

‘No. You buy. I take your picture.’

‘You didn’t take my picture!’

‘Not my fault you forgot your camera.’

‘I didn’t forget my camera. Go away.’

‘NO, YOU BUY ME BEER!’

It took a full out sprint to lose him; weaving between the stalls and disgruntled custodians. The street ended and ahead of me the Indian Ocean stretched out. On the beach a halal barbecue was in full swing. I ordered something called Beef Kottah and was seated at a plastic table next to a chubby gentleman crammed into a misshapen suit. He said hello and handed me a business card that stated he was Mohammed Ali, a spice merchant from Mumbai.

‘I am here on a conference,’ he continued. ‘You give me your phone number. I give you a real good deal on spice.’

‘I don’t tend to buy my spice in bulk so it’s probably not worth your while.’

‘You give me your number anyway?’

‘What are the smallest units you sell in?’

‘Five kilogram bags.’

‘See, I’m never gonna use that much spice.’

‘You never know.’

‘No, I’m pretty sure. Take it easy Mohammed.’

‘If you’re not going to give me your number, give me back my business card.’

I returned to the hotel and found its bar brimming with Brits (over en masse for the cricket). A particularly inebriated Wolverhamptonite greeted me with the immortal words: ‘Won’t you join me in a sorrow-drowning drink. I’ve just been on a disastrous date – hired a helicoptor and an accordian player to impress a local girl, but the accordian couldn’t be heard over the rotary blades – total write-off.’

He took great offence at the suggestion that he was telling porkies and followed up with how, having been declared bankrupt, he couldn’t get incapacity benefit for a (faked) bad back, so had caught a ferry to Belgium and, on the return trip, thrown his passport in the sea and pretended to be Croation so as to seek asylum in the UK.

‘My real name is Mark,’ he stated. ‘I can’t tell you my assumed name.’

‘Shouldn’t that be the other way around?’

‘What?’

‘Shouldn’t you be keeping your real name a secret?’

‘What an earth are you talking about?’

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