What's a man to do in Kathmandu? Pretty much anything he wants is the steadfast answer.
Sick of dull caravan-anchored holidays in Britain that plagued my ill-charmed childhood, adventure called and I responded.
I'd previously been to Nepal four years before I decided that I must go again.. to return to a country I loved so much. The first time around, I'd never seen anything like the mayhem that literally littered the streets of the country's vibrant capital in Kathmandu.
People pushed, shoved, fannied around and fiddled all day and all night, with young teen-aged boys, hands full of hashish, sneakily doing the rounds. So-called innocent kids selling drugs in broad daylight, actually openly admitting to selling the stuff in full view of everyone that passed them by. Hashish, hashish, they sang, but nobody responded. Tourists in particular realise that the risk - sometimes - just isn't worth it, especially given the often tough sentences doled out to those fools who can't resist the temptation of getting a little high. I'd much rather 'get high' by climbing Mount Everest, but that was miles away from the city - and the air up there was far harder to breathe than the equivalent air down in the smog-choked Kathmandu Valley.
The first trip I made was as a full-blown tourist. I clearly remember looking around some of the city's exquisite temples and being approached by an elderly beggar woman. Politely she asked if I could kindly drum-up some spare change for her. She looked to have not eaten for a good few days, 'cept for the odd crumb here and there, so I fumbled through my holy pockets and came up trumps. Shaking my head with a tourist's best grin of sympathy, she spat in my face and changed my life. I wanted to help her, I really did. But I couldn't, and that stark realisation hurt.
Relieved at having been granted a month's luxuriant leave from work, I had three weeks to get to know the country and its people as well as I could - and I was already off: to a bad start. It was perhaps just the dirty urban sprawl of the city that brought out the worst in me. For some reason I thought that one of the elderly Sadhu men who lift heavy rocks with their drooping manhood deserved to be laughed at. What kind of way was that to make a living, I wondered, as tourists walked by and gawked, all the while tossing spare rupees their way, finding it difficult to believe that a man could perform such wonders. It was no laughing matter though. And no miracle either. It was simply mind over matter.
The presence of divine religion everywhere seemed all-consuming. Most Nepalese people that I met would sooner run over an innocent pedestrian walking on a sidewalk than injure one of the many cows that lazed around in the roads. And it wasn't just 'back' roads but the main arterial roads into the capital city that cows sprawled themselves about on.
I wasn't prepared for the amount of time and effort that the majority of the population of the country injected into praying to their God(s) or Goddess(es) above. Back in England I hadn't really had time for religion of any sort.
My parents, I had always presumed, were atheists.
I say that I presumed they were because, quite simply, I never truly knew for sure.
I just know they never confided their beliefs or their faith in me, which hurt.
They were the type of people who rushed about with their daily lives and turned a blind eye to just
about everything and everyone else.
There wasn't room for God in their busy little lives, which always made me wonder
if there would be room for my parents in God's wider world.
I'm young. I'm immortal. Isn't that what most people in their twenties, thirties, forties and even fifties think? I bet many people change their views on religion considerably as they grow older and the harsh learning curve of life's gradient steepens in proportion to each year that passes in due course. As their family and friends gradually die off and they find themselves suddenly very alone in the world, the romantic notion that there might just be an afterlife surely zooms into focus far more briskly. If you think that praying might prolong your life, you do it.
If you think you've fallen in love with a complete stranger after knowing them for little more than a few hours, you make sacrifices above and beyond the usual call of duty.
And that's what I did. I fell in love and never looked back. Well, at least I didn't look back until the bullets started flying and the screams rung true. When somebody is getting a little too trigger happy for their own good and your own sanity, it's only natural to at least feign interest in what genuinely might be your last few precious moments on earth as a living, breathing man of the world - because even fear is worth savouring..
Fiction - COLD WAR TALES- THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS By Denis Price
The piercing insistent wail of the siren woke him. `For Christ`s sake now what!` Over the tannoy the
smooth expensive voice intoned languidly that this was only a drill and that all personnel
should continue with their normal duties.
He groaned and thought, this is my normal
Fiction - Kat Out of the Bag Chapter One By Steve Rudd
Above all else it was ignorance and arrogance that helped me pack my bags.
The ignorance and arrogance of myself, that was, and everyone else.
I was only interested in people and past-times that furthered humanity. And what was wrong with that?
Fiction - Scrawls Of The Unexpected By Mark Pollard
Professor Colin Pillinger, lead scientist on the Beagle II programme, was calm but well pissed off
inside. He had been clinging to the idea that his £35 million Mars Probe was stuck in a crater,
waiting for some narrow rays of sunlight to banish the shade for a few precious hours each day
in order that
Fiction - A Short Story - The Beaver Stalker By The J.E.M. Cult
I stepped out into the cold frosty air.
I pulled my muffler tighter round my hands and crunched across the frozen grass. Today was the first day of the beaver season- and by golly, I was sure gonna get me one.
I love beavers. I can't help it. There's just something about stroking that damp fur that sends me
Fiction - The Art Of Being Alone In A Crowded Bar By Rich Mills
What music are you into, man? The American exchange student who had earlier introduced himself, without any regard for Jean-Paul's need to be alone, suddenly threw a curve-ball of a question in his direction.
Well I listen to... What followed was a definitive list of bands from Jean-Paul's wide ranging rare vinyl
Fiction - Old Tired & Completely Rucked By Martin Dale
Of course, I used to be big league me. Right up there with the bigwigs I was. Every game I'd be out there, working my socks off for the club.
I'd be at the bottom of every ruck, in the thick of every maul, I'd cover more of the pitch than anyone else on the team.
Pretty good really, now that I come to think about it,
Fiction - From a Spirited Beginning By Martin Dale
My earliest memory? Isolation.
Being small, vulnerable, completely alone. I was surrounded by seemingly alien life, one with the life, but at the same time different, distinct. I came from this being, but I was no longer completely a part of it. I had a separate consciousness. No. Not yet. That was to come. At that time it was only an instinct.
Fiction - Halloween - One For The Road
by Nicholas Boldock
Jason Travis tip-tapped the steering wheel in time to the music blaring from the car's speakers. He glanced at the digital clock on the dashboard - 16:53. The sky was darkening, even at this early summer hour, not as a result of the setting sun but brought about by the lumbering grey rain clouds overhead.
Fiction - Telling Lies by Nicholas Boldock
At half past five Harry arranged all the papers on his desk into neat piles, as he always did before going home. He shoved his pens into the blue plastic desk tidy and shut down his PC. He performed this same ritual every evening, did it automatically, even unconsciously. He felt overjoyed to be finally going home - the days seemed to be getting longer and longer and longer - even though home, to Harry, was only marginally more bearable than work.