Back and black

...or, at least, slightly more sun-tanned than I was when I left for pastures Arizonan two weeks ago. Thanks largely to the liberal application of factor 60 sun-block, I managed to survive the furnace of Arizona in June, though I now have a huge respect for those who settled and lived there before the arrival of industrial-strength air-conditioning. A laid-back and unhurried lifestyle becomes less an option, and more a medical necessity, during the months on end when the top daily temperature hits levels never seen in Britain, outside a deep-fat fryer.

My qualms about the wildlife (emphasis on "wild") also proved largely unfounded. The closest call came while tubing down the Salt River -- this involves a group of you roping inner-tubes together and drifting lazily down a local stream for 3-4 hours, a cooler full of beer and snacks occupying another tyre. Fine, except that when you'd wedged in your tube, you can't move with any speed, and believe me, I wanted too, when an F-sized wasp landed on the edge of my tyre. It looked at me; I looked at it; it began an inexorable crawl towards the cool and shady leg of my shorts. I attempted to move, capsized, and executed a manoeuvre not seen in any diving manual, but worthy of at least a 5.8 from the judges. I could swear I heard the sound of waspish sniggering as it flew off.

I returned to this country for one night, before Chris + I headed off to Paris; a potentially fraught affair given her low tolerance for rudeness, and the "somewhat variable" reputation the French have in this area. I've never had any problems; being British, I'm perhaps just too cowed to make a fuss. Thought it best not to tell Chris that, in an obscure part of their penal code, French waiters still have the right to guillotine fractious tourists on the spot. However, there were no major undiplomatic incidents to report: about the worst thing was the train home being delayed three hours. This was especially galling, as it was the night of the Euro2000 final, and so we could only hear the rest of Paris celebrating, as we waited, burdened with luggage and unable to move, in the Eurostar departure lounge at the Gare du Nord.

Otherwise, Paris was enjoyed, and stuff bought, though I drew the line at the fluorescent-pink fur, stuffed-toy Eiffel Tower, complete with beret. Even stumbled across some laser-disks, in the back of a discount music shop (special editions of 12 Monkeys and Crying Freeman for under six quid will do very nicely). The Eiffel Tower was looked at - from the bottom, the queues to go up it being insanely long - the Sacre Couer admired, and Notre Dame drifted past. Perhaps the unexpected highlight was the Museum of Erotic Art, located in a seven-floor building sandwiched between sex-shops in the middle of Pigalle. This was almost completely unerotic, but did introduce me to the totally mad artwork of Jacques Brissot. A lot of his creations remake classic paintings by the likes of Brueghel, using scraps apparently culled from porno mags; the overall effect falls disturbingly between Salvador Dali and Larry Flynt.

I now find myself back in Tulse Hill: normal (dis)service has been resumed, though I feel somewhat gloomy and rather wish it hadn't. Still, immensely cheered by Tony Blair's son getting done for being drunk and incapable -- can anyone arrest Blair Sr. for being sober and incapable? Can't blame the kid for giving false details: "sure, son, pull the other one", would be the inevitable reaction to anyone who gave '10 Downing Street' as their address. Also, very kind of him to provide, by tossing his cookies in Leicester Square, a perfect example of the "drunken, noisy, loutish and anti-social behaviour" the Prime Minister railed against less than a week ago. Proof - as if any more were wanted - that politicians who try to pontificate about morality need to ensure they are wearing bullet-proof socks.


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