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A Trip Round the In-Continent
by Roger Pattison

Geography was never my strong point at school. The situation wasn't helped as I could never find the classroom. Really though, this has never been big issue because I've never been far enough to need to know where I might be at any given time. The corner shop is a day trip out in my book (that's the book I could never find because it was in the geography room); and I always pack a tent and a primus to go to Tesco just in case.

With this sort of background it has become obvious that I should write travelogues. Let's face it; it's easy to write a travelogue for somewhere you've been to. But I haven't been anywhere, so the World, the Solar System; the Universe, even, is my oyster. Here is a quick spin around my oyster. The colour of your shades I leave to your discretion, but mine are welding goggles.

A Trip Round the In-Continent.

It's a big place, is a continent; and far too big when you're sat next to an incontinent dog on a sight-seeing trip around India after an evening meal of vindaloo; the continent seems never to know when to stop and the incontinent when to go. But, on the other hand, it's not nearly big enough to allow the kind of space you'd like to put between yourself and the next seat.

There's no doubt in my mind that as a travel writer I have a distinct edge over the competition having never been anywhere. Take the following names, for instance:-

Duncan Rhodes, Tim Cahill, Jeff Greenwald.

I’ve never heard of any of them. That’s another plus for not going anywhere; but...if you happen to be one of those folks who do go somewhere? You might read something of one of these much travelled gentlemen, and they would never so much as mention in passing the incontinent dog I sat next to for a million miles. You would therefore be likely to suffer a major disappointment on your trip across the in-continent on meeting that dog; whereas, if I’d written it, you wouldn’t have believed it anyway.

India to me is full of sacred cows and bullshit; a sort of annex of the Houses of Parliament. Having never seen one, I can give a perfect description of a sacred cow. It's brown. That's also my description of just about everything else. I might do Russia next; which will be brown, also.

Just so that you might not miss the point; the only things I know for certain about India is that it's very big, definitely brown, and I've never been anywhere near it. That goes for everything else as well.

The train was an 'Orient Express' sort of thing, built entirely of walnut and corridors that don't go anywhere. They had a pile of small Poirot figurines at the blank wall at the end of each corridor. This was evidently proof of something, but I never found out what. The continent stretched out to infinity across the paddy fields (or whatever), to a golden sun-something, depending a lot on whether it was going down or up. Rather like the lift at Debenhams in Sheffield, that could do strange things when you weren't looking. Thanks to my fellow passenger's (I christened him Dongo-Pongo), problems, I'd survived a good part of the journey with my head stuck out of the window (thereby acquiring enough dead mosquitoes in my teeth to keep the whole train in mozzie vindaloo for a week) except for the odd times I had to pull it in quick to avoid the bits that fell off the engine at intervals. These kept me on my toes like a butterfly in a blizzard (?) and after a week of this exercise, I had a hyper-fit neck and destitute everything else. Well, I wasn't going to start anything with Dongo was I? He was twice my height and weight. It was a mystery how he managed to keep his weight as he evacuated his entire internals every five minutes or so.

Sepia photographs dating from the heyday of the Raj tend to mask the actuality of the transport of the time, as you can't see it at all. Rarely is the romantic vision of the Orient Express responsible for depicting a bald guy with a mouthful of flying insects ducking shrapnel.

The sleeping arrangements were similarly marred. Dongo had the bunk above mine. I slept with an umbrella up. Why I'd actually brought one along in the first place I put down to pessimism. For a continent that only sees a teacupful of rain every fifty years it was bound to pee down when I got there. It always does at Blackpool at any rate. We pulled into the station at Bongawaka, or somewhere, and were besieged by the whole of India in total. I had never realised the extent of the mania for autographs there. I managed to get one of David Beckham and Prince Walter, two sacred cows who had 'David Beckham' and 'Prince Walter' stamped across their arses.

We were transported to our hotel on a fleet of wheelbarrows. Mine was 'David Beckham' and I got its autograph.

The hotel was the epitome of opulence. Silk carpets, gold leaf, fountains; it was just that there was nothing in there I could eat. Dongo was ok; whatever he put in at the front came out of the back within twenty seconds of its disappearance so it didn't seem to matter much. I ate the rush mats. I ran out of them pretty quick because of Dongo's problem; with edibility you really have to draw the line somewhere.
We moved on. I was disappointed that I wasn't wheeled back to the train on David Beckham; the one I had was Adele; she looked about the same though; rusty handles, square wheels and a flat tyre. Nobody's perfect.

The next stage was (we were told by somebody who had plastic tag to remind her of her name), a relatively short jaunt across some open space. Pluto suddenly sprang to mind, but was hurriedly pushed to the back burner. We were going to see a spectacular monument, a stunning piece of history, a never-to-be-forgotten experience. The experience was soon forgotten by me, because I can't remember how to spell it, so the most memorable experience of that leg of the journey was relegated to unsuccessful attempts to hold onto a bowl of soup in the dining car. As it swept past under my nose to the east, most of it dashed against the window and on its fractured and emaciated return journey it fell to the floor, where Dongo pursued it up and down the aisle, swerving and feinting between the diners' legs while they in turn attempted to hold onto their shipwrecked soup.

That was about it for India. We were thrown off the train (unfairly, I thought; it wasn't Dongo's fault that he converted everything he ate into a laxative), and made the long walk back without any form of navigation aid other than feet. Lucky really; with my expertise in geography a map would have been confusing.

Dongo and I lived happily ever after that, having found that he liked to eat sticks of chalk and half bricks which alleviated his irritable bowel syndrome in favour of irritating me.

We might do Eurasia next.

It's brown.

I don't suppose there's much point now.