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DAY 271: Racing stuff

29 May

WHEN Tiger told me about the Turkish pharmacy with fat leeches in jars sitting in the window, I knew I had to buy some and race them. I’ve already had one on me during the Day of a Thousand Fucks, so racing them was the next most obvious thing to do.

The pharmacy, in North London, is stacked with curious supplements and extracts – including snail extract – but I’m hopping from one foot to the other waiting for the woman to get off the phone so that I can buy my leeches. The longer she’s on the phone, the more I’m unsure as to how I’m going to phrase it.

As it turns out, the leeches are not for sale. Instead, the chemist slaps them on whatever part of your body is ailing – for fifty quid a leech – just like in the olden days. The chemist says they usually set the leeches free afterwards to avoid cross-contamination, but that some of the locals are in uproar about this, so there is going to be a meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether the leeches should be freed or killed in alcohol.

Anyway, the long and short of it is I can’t have them, so I have to resort to a plan b. This strikes me a few days later at the seaside, as the family set out to go crab fishing. Bait worms would make good stand-in leeches – in fact better, as they’re less likely to stick to your fingers as you set them on the racetrack.

I’m thwarted once again, as it turns out we’re using bacon for bait, which is rubbish at racing. And so, plan c: racing crabs.

I mark out a track and set two tiddlers down, drawing a crowd of young onlookers who are totally jealous that they didn’t think of this. There’s a lot of screaming and carrying on, and one crab definitely wins, but they’d set off before I could name them or put money down. Void!

I'm better at crab racing than Photoshop.

The little buggers kept going sideways.

Keeper? Yes, with practise could race anything.

DAY 261: Wearing fish socks

19 May

THE old codger in vest and shorts has to be practically hoiked out of the water by the spa orderlies, so keen is he to get his feet nibbled free of every callous by carnivorous fish.

When it’s my turn, my tootsies are given a cursory wipe-down in a pan of water and then I swivel around on the bench to lower them into the trough. (I say trough, but it’s a fairly fancy trough in a spa primping ‘My Heart Will Go On’ on panpipes.)

The moment my feet make impact with water, hundreds of tiny carp are onto me like seagulls on a chip. I can feel each individual one chomping frantically, but overall the sensation is like being tickled with eels. Some of the sardine-sized tiddlers worm their way between my toes – taking liberties, it feels like – while others work their way up my legs.

I’ve been wanting to try a ‘fish pedicure’ for ages, but they haven’t really done the rounds in Australia, and they’re fast getting banned across the US. These epidermis munchers are supposed to leave you with glossy soft skin, rather than grizzled heels, plus I’m hoping they’ll nosh off the peculiar itchy rash that I’ve been cursed with these last few weeks.

Health officials in the US point out that cosmetology tools need to be discarded or sanitised after each use – particularly cosmetology tools that eat your flesh and then someone else’s – and that it’s impractical to chuck out fish or bake them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. This has led spas to protest that they use individual tanks, regularly clean out water, and install UV light sterilisation. Although, not the spas over here in Kuala Lumpur, which have a more communal, convivial vibe.

Back in my hotel room my feet are prickling. Hopefully they’re just prickling with fear.

Keeper? Probably not one of my greatest ideas.

DAY 260: Hooning around an Arabian stud farm

18 May

AS IF to mock my own experience of being wedged into bushes, six-year-old Billie is tearing up the paddock on a miniature quad bike, gunning the throttle and hooning down slopes with a fearless stare in our direction.

She brings the bike to a splattering halt in front of us. “I’ve got four horses,” she announces.

So we head up the hill to see them.

This stud farm outside Launceston breeds Arabian horses for endurance racing, and the majestic beasts are everywhere, rearing up, cycling their front hooves and psyching each other out. They’re bred for Tom Quilty endurance racing: 160km across country in one day. A ‘strapper’ has to hose down the horse at intervals to get its heart rate down to a vet-approved bpm, then it’s off full-pelt again. I’m glad I’m not being dared to get on one.

“You big sooky la la,” Billie admonishes as I hesitate at the electric fence. I hand Old Dog my latte, which he accepts with a grimace, and duck under. Bloody hell, they breed them tough around here.

As we ascend the paddock, horses come up for a mild-mannered look, until we decide to take a closer inspection of the foals, at which point a whole field’s worth of horses start clustering us. I turn around and there’s a nose right in my face.

Back near the homestead, which is awash with dogs, kittens, mice, motorbikes and kids on motorbikes, a new recruit with beautiful pebble markings is being dressed in the stables. It looks a bit mortified as it’s bustled up in a total of five fetching coats – and that’s without even knowing its picture’s going to be splashed all over the internet.

Keeper? Yes: patting, not racing.

DAY 255: Finding a pub in a paddock

13 May

WE’VE already driven past ‘The Homestead’ – a makeshift saloon on some land 20 minutes out of Launceston, at which you can tether your horse and hit the turps, and now here’s a pub in a paddock.

The sisters boozing on in the main bar are cleaners by trade, and save up every cent to go travelling once a year to see something new – more vital than owning a house back in Geelong, they testify.

They’ve gawked at a woman swimming with snakes in a tank at the Moulin Rouge, sampled olive oil that made them weep in Italy, and travelled the length and breadth of Australia.

Now they’re visiting the Pub in a Paddock (famed secondarily for Priscilla the Beer Drinking Pig) near St Columba Falls, and are quizzing locals on why it’s alleged most Tasmanians have two heads, while screaming in unison at the antics of “local character” Dale.

Dale could be a bushman from any of the black and white photos of loggers and pioneers lining the walls. He sports an unkempt beard, swagman’s hat, a holey jumper, and pants, from the legs of which pepper berries keep a-rolling. He’s keen to disprove the idea that Tasmanians are only interested in inbreeding, and so sings bawdy sea shanties and keeps up a relentless offensive on one sister, who he reckons he’s on a promise with. For every remark about places she should smear her gravy, though, Diane gives it back twice as hard. It’s like porno ping-pong.

Bruce didn't have the same finesse as Dale.

The barman supplies me with a bottle of light beer for a dollar and we all troop outside with a torch to feed Priscilla. (It’s okay, the RSPCA have approved the light beer; although they may not have endorsed 12 bottles a day.)

Priscilla’s not playing ball, having gone to bed, so I climb the fence and try to rouse her — but ominous growling from the sleeping quarters quickly sends me packing again.

Keeper? Best pub ever.

DAY 243: Eating my nemesis

1 May

Eel action shot. I just sicked in my mouth.

 I’VE always had a morbid fear of eels.

I hear what you’re saying – sea snakes are worse – but perhaps because the English don’t eat jellied sea snakes and the beasts don’t hang out in rivers much* or star in porn films so regularly, they don’t rattle my cage.

The Mighty Boosh put it best when they mused:

Eels up inside ya
Findin an entrance where they can
Boring through your mind
Through your tummy
Through your anus

This blog’s named after an Eels song, though, and it’s all about facing your fears, so I order an eel something-or-other at this café in Chinatown and get cracking.

I look a bit like an eel in this frock.

Fortunately, when the thing arrives it’s nicely grilled, and looks and tastes like a bit of white fish. If it was a foot long and covered in jelly, that would be a different story all together.

Keeper? Will have to tackle a jellied eel next in England. Then that’s it.

* Did you know: Eels don’t hang out in watering holes; they only like running water.

DAY 241: Bothering bees

29 Apr

AS we approach the Little Desert on our road trip, we pass this unmanned platoon of beehives, and the bush pirate bid me run through them.

They’re pretty passive bees it has to be said, zigzagging through the air drunkenly. A few try to nest in my hair, but I’m not chased back to the car, so there’s little comedic value.

Keeper? No.

DAY 238: Spotting my first Australian snake

26 Apr

I’VE been trying to spot a snake ’most every day since I moved to Australia five years ago, with no joy.

Today in the Big Desert we stumble across two – a brown one in the road that looks like it’s been squeezed like a raw sausage until it split its casing, and a black one that’s had its spine broken by a car.

Having expressed remorse, some hours after spotting the brown snake, that I didn’t pick it up and do something interesting with it, the bush pirate seizes the chance to hand me the black snake when when he spots it in the road. Erm, grouse.

Keeper? Ready for a wriggler now.

DAY 219: Naming Bob

7 Apr

Bob being picked.

BOB is not my dog, but I’m determined to name him. We had to venture deep into Creepsville country to get the hound, and he guffed eight times on my lap on the journey home. I’m owed this. I need to act fast, before Zo’s kids try and name him.

I reckon Bob looks like a Bob, and I say so. “He can be ‘Robert’ when he misbehaves,” I point out. I can tell Zo’s coming around, because I keep dropping Bob’s name into conversation all the way home until she starts doing it too. We’re in!

I was confused by Bob’s teats, but apparently boys have them too. Look – there’s his doodle on the left.

You say it with a little pause, Blackadder style: “…Bob.”

Keeper? Yes. I would like to name someone’s firstborn next.

DAY 218: Submitting to Boars and Whores

6 Apr

THE moment I clapped eyes on Boars and Whores magazine (not its real name, but pretty close) in a servo in rural NSW, I knew I had to be in it, somehow.

It’s all blokes in camos and night goggles, girls in blood-stained bikinis, and boars with their jaws propped open by sticks. Compelling stuff.

While my mate Stacey is determined I go to a ‘Dog a Hog’ gathering and enter the wet T-shirt competition, I’m hesitant. I need to stay true to myself when hunting down new a new experience (AND SLITTING ITS THROAT), and I like animals. My fundraising efforts for the RSPCA as a child were of what you might call fanatical proportions; I once stood up knock-kneed in school assembly and proposed we test cosmetics on prisoners; and if I hadn’t discovered booze and rock’n’roll and selfish things like that, I’d probably have had an illustrious career breaking into labs and liberating things from cages.

However, Boars and Whores does have a kiddy section, whereby chips off the old block can just send in their artistic impressions of Mum lying atop a freshly slayed grunter in her smalls, or Dad brandishing a Remington and a stubby. That can’t hurt to join in.

A kiddy-wink's pic in the latest issue.

I draw my own depiction of a boar hunt and send it in for consideration. I’ll let you know how I go.

My effort.

Keeper? Yes, I think I will submit more rubbish to magazines.

DAY 207: Rock paper scissoring a route around Tasmania

26 Mar

Bucket in Coles Bay.

I DON’T believe in Destiny, yet today her winged imp Rock Paper Scissors leads us willingly by the balls.

Old Dog suggests we jump in the ute, drive down the mountain he lives on and rock paper scissor our way around Tasmania for 24 hours: whenever we reach a crossroads we’ll hand it over to chance.

I reckon it could be a ploy for him to avoid taking me to tourist trap Wine Glass Bay – now renamed Whine Glass Bay on account of the amount of driving I have to endure to get to the region – but that’s okay.

Having rock paper scissored our way to St Helens, we seek out Cuddle Cove for the night (as recommended by a sentimental soul in the petrol station), dodging as we go a wombat, hawk, owls, pademelons, baby kangaroos, possums, wallabies and one Tasmanian devil. (The wombat was a particularly impressive dodge, considering I yanked Old Dog’s arm away from the wheel and instinctively thrust a pillow over his eyes.) Cuddle Cove’s not signposted, though, so we wind up deep in the bush – with Old Dog playing “just one more corner” for aeons. We tire ourselves out dancing to the car stereo in the dark and watching Bullitt car chases on the laptop.

In the morning it’s toasty warm and we hit the track to find the sea. Rock paper scissors has other ideas, winding us up endless mountain roads until we reach Pioneer and Gladstone – battered towns with few amenities; not so much as a pub. I hadn’t held out much hope that a town called Pioneer would be a relaxing beauty spot, though.

After a stop off at Little Blue Lake – a highly toxic old tin mine some tourists are swimming in – we follow a car with a boat in tow, hoping it’ll lead us to the coast. When we stop at another glassy lake, rendered brown by recent floods washing tea tree into the water, the boat bloke recommends we head towards Tomahawk or Musselroe Bay, so it’s back to a hand of rock paper scissors to thrash it out.

At Mussellroe Bay we see a sign for tomatoes and spinach outside a house and buy some to add to the bread, cheese and pickles we bought earlier. The old woman loans us a knife, and then comes trotting out to the ute. “I thought you were moving on, or I would have given you my chopping board and good knife,” she frets. “I feel so embarrassed!”

The terrain starts to change, turning thicker, wilder, woollier. On an information board we see a picture of a nameless bay surrounded by mountains and beautiful rocks, and Old Dog’s heart is won – but there’s no indication of which way to turn. An hour of rock paper scissors deposits us right on its shores, just in time for sunset and gratuitous nudity.

Strong contender for Toilet Block with the Best View.

Keeper? Tempting to apply rock paper scissors to every decision in life, Dice Man-style, but I’ll definitely use it again on exploratory adventures.