Saddam Hussein: My part in his downfall
Cover my back, honey, I'm burnin' up out here: A Wartime experiment in over-exposure
No, tomorrow I will be tired. This is just the prelude. I've spent the best part of a day getting from my hotel to my home, and I've not slept for quite a while. Tomorrow I'll wake and figure out what time zone I'm in. And no doubt curse as the realisation hits that I'm late for work.
But hey, I've just got back from a 14-night all-inclusive stay in the Dominican Republic, so spare me the rich tea and sympathy.
And I have to say, as a former all-inclusive virgin (quiet at the back!), more familiar with a rough guide and a ruck-sack, it's pretty easy to get the hang of it. Simply sit/lie down while reading/drinking/eating/smoking/sleeping all day, making sure to vary the current combination occasionally, and before you can say "Regime change!" you'll have whittled away at least a week.
Of course, you may want to leave the confines of the resort every now and then, in which case you'll need to choose one of the offered excursions. These range from the ludicrously over-the-top drinking and FUN-packed trips out on big boats and big trucks (most of which give you the chance to meet some local people, doing local things. Meeting tourists on big trucks, for instance.)
(they're strong, as well. the cocktails, that is.)
I check my email. I know what you mean about the trips, one says, it's like Butlins but with sun and turtles.
(and free bottled water whenever. which is handy)
I opt for a sedate and culturally charged trip to the capital, Santo Domingo, which as luck would have it is but 3 and a half hours away by coach. Unfortunately, some of the roads bear the mark of attention deficit during construction, but to make up for that, navigation is a cinch. To get from the Sirenis resort in Punta Cana to Santo Domingo, for instance, turn right, left, left again, head straight through Higuey, and turn left. Et Voila!.
(blissful room air-con)
On my own for this trip, I end up talking to French-Canadians, Americans sporting charming identical caps, and a Boston-based Irish girl. I learn all about the history of the island, Hispaniola, various members of the Columbus family, and a host of other golden trinkets of information. I take the opportunity to take some really godawful photographs of parts of buildings.
(Eat as much as you like, when you like.)
And on Sunday, my travelling companion for the fortnight and I opted for the relatively peaceful sounding catamaran trip to Saona Island. Hearing our rep use the word 'chill' puts me in a positive mind for the trip. Lying toad. Hour and a half on a coach, followed by a speedboat trip out to the island (anyone ever tried chilling on a speedboat?), with a stop off in 'the living pool', a large, very shallow expanse of water off the coast, replete with starfish. And, on this occasion, rum and coke. And a clever marketing ploy - give the British some hats to wear, then give them some rum, let them laugh a bit with the hats, the give them more rum. Just before you reach dry land, announce the cost of the hats. And watch as they all, without fail, buy 'em. Suckers.
On the island there's more rum, a quick lunch, and a wander up the beach (and fair enough, a few relaxing hammock moments, preciously guarded), before heading back to the mainland on what I assume is a typical common or garden cat, complete with some heavy stereo, and, yes, more free rum. There is too much merenguez for my liking, very close to where I was sitting, trying to look for all the world as casual as you like, while also trying on my best 'don't make me merenguez' face. Fortunately for all, it works.
And then, sadly, too late, I realise I could fry bacon on my shoulder, and frantically rub more factor 15 in.
And my nose is a little below par now, but if you see me, try to say nothing, and try to not let your eyes get drawn too much.
And when the heat was too much, I would retreat to my room, and watch Wolf Blitzer reporting the action from "Operation Syria's Next" (quick hint: when embarking on regime change, one will frequently find benefit in having a regime to change to. Anarchy is not always seen as progress), or watching parts, but never all, of HBO's showings.
Or BBC America, which I didn't even know existed, but which shows great (sometimes) Brit-shows, and is only possible thanks to the unique way the BBC is funded.
And I read. Boy did I read. Yes I did. I read:
- The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
- Happiness, by Will Ferguson
- Country of the Blind, by Christopher Brookmyre
- Lucky You, by Carl Hiassen
- Tishomingo Blues, by Elmore Leonard
- The CEO of the Sofa, by P.J. O'Rourke
- Once more, with feeling, by Victoria Coren and Charlie Skelton
- The sportswriter, by Richard Ford (OK, so I haven't finished this one yet, but it goes on the list all the same)
And I gave up smoking, too. But more of that manana