Thursday, 10 November 2011

Paradise and Pigs: One Year On

Trips to the Bahamas to see Daddy Mason have been frequently reported here. One of the earliest episodes of Kate in the Countryside saw me duped into a race with some swimming pigs. This week I'm back on Paradise Island with the luminous Americans and their burgers, determined not to repeat that debacle.

Oundle Pig
[True, the Caribbean is not The Countryside, as many followers of Kate in the Countryside have somewhat pedantically observed. However, since even in Oundle the pigs cannot swim we will overlook this for now.] 

In a trip riddled with sporting activity as usual, DM and I started the week with an extremely curious run. It was with a group of people (ranging from youthful to extremely aged) who do jogs interspersed with beer stops. To give you some idea, the running group is sponsored by Sands, the local Bahamian beer. Apparently these Hash House running things take place all over the world. They even  have  a song. This week's run bafflingly took us through rotting rubbish and snakes in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 

But afterwards there was singing and beers on benches in the darkness. It felt like university - though with old people and warm weather. It was brilliant. 

And yes, we did return to Staniel Cay to catch up with the Swimming Pigs and their offspring. Shoot the breeze, admire their athletic physique, that sort of thing. This time last year, the Pig Leaders were first to the boat, pounding the waves with earnest desire for food, while their sweet little piglet chums (see above) paced the shallows, dreaming of when they'd be allowed on the waves.

Feed me Seymour: Bahamian Swimming Pig
I'm afraid to report that on our return this year there were only four pigs to be seen. No piglets. A passing American told us he'd heard there used to be fifty Swimming Pigs on the island. Perhaps they were all resting?

'Where are the piglets?' wailed KITC (devastated).
'I imagine someone's eaten them for supper,' said DM.

Last time their efficiency at swimming / eating / fighting seemed pleasingly noble. Over the past year they have become more terrifying than you could possibly imagine. Hungrily scrabbling at the sides of our boat, they nearly managed to launch themselves in and topple us out.

'Hit them!' advised DM, eagerly taking pictures.
I tapped one with the scraps bucket, which only seemed to exacerbate the problem. 

An American turned up and fed his bacon sandwich to one of the marauding beasts:
'Hah! Look at that y'all - he's eatin PIG!'

We left, trying hard not to think of the implications of this for the missing 46.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Zurich and the Zoo

Clearly the product of a country
that knows how to enjoy itself... 
Zurich might seem an odd place for a holiday. Efficiency and high prices seldom make for the best jaunts. But when an old bandcamp friend, Maestro-in-Training (MiT), moved out there, a visit was planned. And this is how I found myself in the wilds of urban Zurich last weekend with Pegson in tow.

MiT's encyclopaedic knowledge of Zurich was such that, if the conducting thing goes to pot, a fallback guided tour career awaits.

After local architecture, interesting geographical features and places of worship had been covered, we took a tram to the zoo. There are only four topics of conversation possible at any zoo. As follows:

1. Levels of liveliness of favoured beasts. Subtitled: 'Is it dead?'
2. Enclosure size. A certain space meets layman understanding of what is  appropriate for [large-ish animal] to live in. All others declared cruel.
3. Security of dangerous beast enclosures. Subtitled: 'That tiger could absolutely get out of there if it tried'. (Taking into account moats, electric wiring etc.)
4. Physical similarity of beasts to mutual friends. (This should really be at 1. My oft-remarked facial similarity to a monkey makes zoo trips endlessly hilarious. I love it, obviously.)

Passing the Chimp Enclosure for the fourth time that day, I finally dragged Pegson and MiT into another enclosure - the Seal House. They were still chortling about the monkey thing when a seal slid down the window and lay on its back on the tank floor not moving. At that moment a parent carrying its child pushed in front of us to get a closer look at the cute seals.
For Reference: A live seal

Fearful that seal death would scar the child for life, we knew we should intervene. 
'Right.' [whispered]
'Is it dead?'

The seal just lay there. On its back. Not moving.

'Did we just see a seal … die?' I ventured. 

Roaming meant googling 'how do seals sleep?' was out. The silence of death came upon the Seal House. Even the neighbouring months-old child had started to stare.

Other seals slipped by: their cheerful swimming highlighting more and more the stationary dead-ness of our floored friend. 

'Let's hit the gorillas!' Pegson said, gratefully seizing the opportunity for more monkey-based gags.

Nothing to be done. We scuttled past the forlorn seal-loving crowd. The Dead Seal opened one eye. He waggled a fin. Relief broke across the city.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

(Lucky) Escape to the Countryside

Apple Day happened last weekend. For those of you who are not familiar with this illustrious occasion, it celebrates the end of the apple harvest. It is not - as PG (in her other guise as the Apple Hostess) was quick to clarify - the one day in which all apples are picked on all farms. Thank God. It's more an educative opportunity regarding apples.

The weekend's warm up to Apple Sunday was not so cerebral.

Friday's quiet drink with friends involved an accidental visit to the m&m's 'World' in Leicester Square. There, bouncers wore m&m's ties while shop assistants with sad eyes danced uncomfortably to the hyperpop next to m&ms inexplicably arranged to look somewhat like the Beatles

'Just look at all the different flavours of m&m's!' enthused Unlikely Militant Raver, one of the chums, trying to stay upbeat. [There were three (3) flavours.] Failing to fight the place's atmosphere of canned hopelessness with enthusiasm, we left.

It became clear that - to UMR - such an experience could only be topped, post pub, by a visit to a strip club. No matter that it was 9.30 and a third of the party was female - UMR would not be deterred. Attention transferred from chocolate pellets to naked chicks, he struggled to get us on board.

'Come on you bores! It's this great place my Grandad's told me about. (Pause. Confusion.) We'll walk past - see what's going down.'

The club of choice is just by where I work. Which is nice. We approached the bouncer: 

'Oh look! What about this place?' (UMR, acting) 'We could just grab a drink in here guys.'
Bouncer: 'Lads, lads, er, this place is not the sort of place you go for - er - "drinks".'
UMR: Right. What sort of a place is it then?
Bouncer (both awkward and smarmy. Think apologetic Jeremy Kyle): Well, it's got girls in. 
UMR (politely, in manner of enquiry): Girls?
Bouncer (coy): So - er - a bottle of champagne will be … so I mean you'll have to buy drinks for the girls. 
UMR (feigning sudden understanding): Aaah! The girls take their clothes off!
All look at me.
KitC (scrambling for taking-charge-of-the-conversation pleasantries): Er … busy night so far? Good ... turnout? So. Shall I leave?

Thank God for Sunday and the wholesome opportunity to sample the repertoire of this year's apples. Down in the countryside I found an idyll of apple-enthusiasts - not to mention the highlight: PG stashed up in farm outfit. Occasional animals and aesthetically-pleasing children ambled past the apple juice like extras in an Austen remake. Though the long-promised Apple Quiz did not materialise, there were plenty of Enid Blyton activities (apple bobbing, old-school pinball) to make the day an extravaganza of loveliness. Kate in the Countryside restored.