mexico

Bat Man of Mexico

Once upon a time, back in very early 2003, I took a look at Mexico. I knew little about the country. Desert, sombreros, tequila, two World Cups and a crime wave. I was looking for a TEFL course, and there was one in Guadalajara that was cheap. So I took a look at Mexico. There was, of course, an awful lot more to the country than I knew of. That’s not my fault. Mexico wasn’t (and Cancun apart, still isn’t) on the British radar.

One thing in particular caught my attention. A factoid, stating that Mexico was one of a small number of countries that contain a majority of the world’s flora and fauna. What the hell – in a desert?! It turns out that there’s plenty of jungle about too. I was intrigued. I carried on looking. The rest, as they say, is history.

The BBC had a fascinating documentary a couple of nights ago, all about one of the heroes who is trying to save Mexico’s incredible biodiversity. Specifically, bats. And by default, also tequila. It was a really enjoyable and informative programme. Mrs P was once one of those with a negative view of bats. Not any more. Rodrigo Medellin is a modern day, real life superhero. Truly the Bat Man of Mexico.

The show is on BBC iPlayer for the next five days at the time of writing. Click the link in the paragraph above. If you life outside the UK, you will probably need to know how to work a proxy server.  If not, then watch this completely unrelated documentary on the most insane animal on this planet, the Honey Badger. I’d like one as a pet.  Mrs P wouldn’t. Nor would my neighbours. Nor any other animal within a 25 mile radius.

Death On Grass

Thirty years ago, Torvill and Dean enchanted the world at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo with their rendition of Bolero. Their performance won gold and set records as they scored a set of perfect sixes. Their routine changed ice skating. They creatively elongated their performance to fit the musical score by staying on their knees at the beginning, and they introduced ‘death on ice’ to the sport with their finale, collapsing on to the white stuff as if they’d been shot. It started a trend. Before you knew it, skaters were finishing their dances with more and more elaborate death routines. Appearing to have simply been shot was ‘old school’. Skaters mimicked being mown down by Gatling guns, or from being slashed with a thousand cyanide laced blades. Yes, it became ridiculous. Utterly absurd.

Football has its own version of death on ice. I shall call it ‘Death on Grass’. Others refer to it simply as diving or cheating. The more eloquent commentator refers to it as simulation. But it’s far more than that. It is truly performance art. It’s a dance. It’s a talent. Some are better at it than others. And it is played to an audience of three. True, there may be tens of thousands in the crowds and tens of millions watching at home on television. But the performance is purely for the benefit of the referee and his two assistants on the line. The referee signals his approval of the dance in question by blowing his whistle and awarding the match to the team who performed Death on Grass the best over the 90 minutes.

The evidence that it is an art form and not cheating? Every time you hear someone say ‘well, it’s part of the game these days‘. Or, ‘...I know, but that Robben, he’s just so good at it‘. Or even, ‘…yes, but if you leave a leg out, you know what he’s going to do‘. Even my own argument against diving is an admission. ‘But it shouldn’t be part of the game’. That I say the word shouldn’t as opposed to isn’t is a confession that I know that actually, when all is said and done, it is. And so it continues. Our beloved, beautiful game continues to be shamed and gamed by artists performing Death on Grass.

Some of it is almost Monty Python-esque. Death by shooting, slashing, from a piano dropped on the player from a great height. Death by being shoved in a tumble dryer or from being struck by a bulldozer. Some look like they are in a rabid death throe. Do you remember Indiana Jones and all those lucky escapes he had from certain doom? Did you ever wonder what those scenes would have looked like if he hadn’t escaped? Watch a game of football and all will be revealed. When and where exactly did all this nonsense start? I do not know. But being British I will point an accusing finger at the continentals. Especially the Italians. But you know the Germans are probably at the centre of it all. Bloody Germans. Where will it end? Hopefully before several team mates go so far as to get together and choreograph  ‘death by nuclear blast’.

Football has spent the last week completely focussed on the Luis Suarez biting incident. It shocked the entire sport. You don’t bite on the football field, Luis! You are an animal! But what were the actual consequences of his bite. Not to make light of the trivial bruising to Chiellini’s shoulder, but the consequences to the result were as they should have been. On the field that day, none. After the event, the offender was punished. You could argue that Suarez should have been sent off, and that this might have altered the final outcome. I accept that. But his action in itself did not influence the scoreline.

Last Sunday, Arjen Robben, a world renowned grand master of Death on Grass, treated the world to a special performance of his art form. Which is, technically, every bit against the rules as biting. The consequences? The Mexican football team were knocked out of the competition. He broke the hearts of more than a hundred million of my compadres and comadres. El Tri’s grand Brazilian adventure was cruelly and unfairly cut short. We were deprived further touchline remonstrations and celebrations by Miguel Herrera. We must suffer further games of Dutch Head Kicking football. Yet, as further evidence of how open to interpretation Death on Grass is, there are arguments on both sides, for and against Robben. But as a fan, I’d rather see Suarez take a nibble out of a players should than see a team cheated out of the whole competition. And then there’s this guy. Who shall henceforth be forever known as What The Hell Oh My God guy. But the Guardian has a more composed view…

For the record, my firm opinion is that Robben dived and cheated. Was there a sliver of contact? I don’t care. Robben clearly played the ref, not the game. Who do I blame? Robben, of course. Plus, his manager. Indeed, I blame all managers. I always find the post match interviews galling, having to listen to a manger ranting and raving about how his side were cheated. Here’s the deal. If the referee is fooled, then the only consequence a player might face for his cheating would be via his manager. I cannot recall a single incidence of a player actually having to face any consequences for diving in a Monday morning meeting with his manager. I have, a couple of times, heard a manager say ‘he’ll have a few words’ with an obvious and persistent diver. Who continues diving the very next week. So one assumes those words were ‘keep it up, son!’

Football mangers will continue to bemoan ‘poor refereeing decisions’. They will continue to send teams out who will attempt to create the perfect conditions to goad a poor decision out of the ref. I will continue to mock their hypocrisy. And nothing will change. Until the governing bodies take firmer action. A television referee for top flight football. Who can view the replay, at different angles, and make an informed and more accurate decision. The game can be brought back and the offender punished.

Some people say this would break up the flow of the game. I argue it will do quite the opposite. If the players can’t get away with it, they won’t do it. The flow of the game will be improved. And games will be decided by goals again, rather than by performance art.

The world of ice skating eventually curbed the ever more evocative interpretations of death. The world of football can do the same, if it imposes its will on to the players taking the field. Let’s not forget that football is a game. It’s sport. It’s not, despite Bill Shankley’s assertion to the contrary, more important than life or death. Twenty years ago yesterday, a sad and non-simulated ‘Death on Grass’ type incident occurred. Colombia’s defender Andres Escobar was gunned down and killed, days after scoring an own goal that knocked his country out of the World Cup in the US.

Colombia was not a safe or happy place at the time. This was only eight years after Colombia had been due to host the World Cup themselves, in 1986, but were forced to give the tournament over to Mexico due to a lack of finance to put the necessary infrastructure in place. It was a shame that such a talented team who had such high expectations had to exit in such a fashion. More of a shame that the defeat lead to the death of one of the team’s stars. I watched a movie/documentary called The Two Escobars a few years ago. It was an excellent film. It’s now on YouTube. Enjoy…

 

 

 

Racism International Inc

How is Mexico better than the UK, asked no one ever. Well, there’s the weather. And the food. And the chicas. And the friendly faces. And especially the weather. And the fresh fruits. And the racists, too. Let’s big it up for the Mexican racists. They don’t, quite frankly, get the credit that they deserve. How so are Mexican racists better than UK racists, you might wonder. Well, I have no scientific proof, empirical evidence or hearsay to offer. Just personal experience.

I have been the ‘victim’ of racial abuse twice. The most recent episode happened just a couple of hundred metres from home, a week or so ago. I had seen the chap loitering about Westbourne, earlier. White, shaven headed, casual attire, chunky set of headphones stuck on his head. He looked a bit spaced out. Looks can be deceiving. Our conversation was more than simply ‘spaced out’.

Are you English?

Errr…(wondering where this is going)..yes.

No, you’re not.

I’m pretty sure I am.

No you’re f*****g not, are you!

Ok. But actually I am.

There was a strange pause. Where does the conversation go from here? I shrugged and decided to let him finish it with himself, and carried on walking. A moment later I heard him launch into a tirade of colourful language, with the gist being that I should go home to my own country. It was utterly surreal. For those who might be passing this way for the first time, I should qualify, or rather disqualify, his ham fisted attempt at racial profiling. I am white, 6 foot tall, blue/grey eyes, fair haired and when my skin does have any colour to it, after a little too much sun, you would most definitely associate the tone with English Lobster Red. I was born in London to parents born in London to grandparent born in London and so on. I have an unmistakeably English accent.

How did my racist friend get it so wrong? One can only assume that he’d made up his mind that I was a Polish or other European immigrant and felt it unnecessary to remove those bulky headphones in order to confirm his initial prejudice by actually listening to my responses. In the industry of racial ignorance and hatred, the bar for membership is already set pretty low. This guy dropped it on the floor. Dang, he buried it.

Once upon a time in Mexico, I was asked by a homeless chap for some pesos. I had none. After I had walked a safe distance past he started yelling. ‘Pinch ingles!!’ Over and over. Well, at least three times. Was I offended? No, I was thoroughly impressed. He had managed to identify my nationality correctly, and had not gone for the more likely and obvious Yankee critique. See, Mexican racists are better than British racists. They’re smarter, more thoughtful and more considerate. One nil to Mexico.

Racial prejudice is alive and well, everywhere. Sometimes it’s overt. Often it’s disguised by those who attempt to disguise their prejudice as ‘refreshing candor’. You know the sort. The sentence starts with, ‘I’m not racist, but…‘. And then there are those who are simply unthinkingly ignorant. The latter bunch are not necessarily a bad sort. Just poorly informed, or maybe inclined to speak then think, or perhaps just expressing negative experiences of their own.

The ethnic demographic did change noticeably during my time in Mexico. There are now tons of Polish people in the UK. I like them. They are easy to spot. They are the guys who are usually working that bit harder than the others. My racist friend should take note of that when next choosing a recipient for his ignorance. And amend his spiel – go back and work hard and be productive in your own country while I despoil the local environment and waste perfectly good air by my continuing refusal to cease breathing. Personally, I think we could do with a few more Poles and a few less Brits.

There is a downside to all this immigration though. I thought upon returning to England that I’d be safe to use my real name again when out and about.  Hugh Juan could be retired. Alas, it was not to pass. This was a better attempt that some, but it’s not the right spelling. And I do hope Mrs P didn’t notice her new name…

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Past, Present Imperfect

Isn’t YouTube one of the most wonderful inventions ever? It’s an archive that seems to know no bounds. Whatever you want to watch, no matter how old it is, you can find it on YouTube. It’s not even all illegal. Though a fair share of it does have  pretty dubious looking copyright issues. What I like is how legitimate companies have embraced YouTube as an archiver though. One of the latest examples being British Pathe, who have dumped everything they’ve got on Google’s servers.

But perhaps history viewed through British eyes isn’t your thing. There’s a Mexican contigent who visit me in my corner of the web. And I have something for you, if you haven’t found it already. The excellent Canal Once has a series, La Ciudad de Mexico en el tiempo. Look back at one of the greatest city’s on the planet as it evolved, revolted, devolved and turned into the wonderfully ghastly mess it is today.

This series is not viewed through British eyes. Although one can’t help but feel that it would have been nice if it had been filmed through a British lens with a British camera crew. The Pathe guys, perhaps…

Let’s jump to the present. There are a few television presenters I watch out for, not wanting to miss a show they make. Simon Reeve is one. Anthony Bourdain is another. The later is an American chef, who like to tour the world. His most recent show took him to Mexico City and on to Oaxaca. It was a good show. But I couldn’t help but feel that there was an odd balance in the story between decapitated bodies and fabulous Mexico cooking.

It would have been nice to see some of the more positive non culinary aspects of Mexico make the final cut. Life in DF is more than ‘shoot a policeman, have a taco. Behead a narco, have a taco. Hang an informer from a bridge, have a taco’. But the over riding theme of corruption that runs through the show, encompassing every part of Mexican life, is a true and sad fact that holds the city and nation back. Badly. Many believe the War on Drugs to be a failure. It’s clearly been a raging success. You just, perhaps, didn’t fully understand what the desired outcome was.  Bourdain will also introduce you to the poor chef/restaurateur that fell victim to the daughter of a government official recently.

 

 

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Religious Marsupials

It comes up now and again in conversation when talking about my former life south of the Rio Bravo. Mexicans are Catholics, right? Yeah. They are. Sort of. Well. Yes, they are I guess, but…you see, they’re kinda like Catholics. Actually no, they aren’t. Some of them. Shucks, who knows.

Mexicans are Catholics like marsupials are mammals. Almost the same. But not quite the same. They do have very distinct differences. Many Mexicans identify themselves as Guadalupeans, after the rather famous virginal patron* saint of the country. The story of the good lady is here. Then there’s Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death. He’s a favourite of the criminal fraternity of Mexico, who will go to offer prayers in the hope of a successful heist. The Vatican doesn’t approve. What do they think about the increasing number of exorcisms? There is Day of the Dead, another quasi-Catholic festival.

Then there’s San Judas Tadeo. If you’re in Mexico City on the 28th of the month, you’ll see a constant stream of young guys and gals carrying their statues on the way to a church not far from Belles Artes, on Avenida Reforma. When the Catholic faith travelled to foreign waters from its European heartland, there was bound to be a bit of assimilation of local beliefs and customs. I couldn’t honestly say whether the rest of Latin America has as distinct a variant of Catholicism as Mexico. Perhaps other expats can clue me in. But for sure, Mexican Catholicism is a unique, separate, even cultish offspring of the original.

The point of this story? Today is Guadalupe’s big day.  Millions upon millions of people will go to the Basilica de Guadalupe on an annual pilgrimage. It’s quite the spectacle. Parades of banner waving groups walk miles upon miles to get there. Many will crawl on their knees. Some will do so just for the last stretch. Others for far longer distances. You can visit the Basilica any day of the year and you’ll see some scraping skin off their legs.

You should visit the Basilica by the way, if you happen to be in the vicinity. The churches and the gardens are both worth the trip to this northern part of the city. I went several times. Here’s a short video I shot the last time I went, which was too long ago. It’s one part of Mexico’s Catholic-ish faith. There are lots of other facets. Some surprising, others bizarre. Some are charming or even enchanting. Other parts are plain nuts. But none of it is ever boring.

*I’m not Catholic, not much of a believer in religious virgins, and I do know the cure for those who are afflicted with that particular condition. Normally I can’t resist cracking a gag, and be damned with any offence I cause. But hey. It is her big day. So I’ll pass this opportunity up, just this once…

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Viva Mexico!

Happy Independence Day to all you Mexicans and Mexican affiliated persons. I wish I could be there to join in all the merriment. Alas, I cannot. Not in person. But if you are browsing the pages of CNN this weekend, you might see me drift by, in a manner of speaking, CNN wrote recently and asked to use one of my photos. To be quite honest, I wouldn’t regard the one they chose as being my finest Independence Day photo by a long shot. But I was happy to oblige. Here’s the page. The screenshot is below.

You might know this if your read my Mexile Photoblog. This post is the one in question. It was nice of CNN to ask. Many publishers don’t bother. There’s another post regards that on my photoblog. That’s this one here. I have been writing on that blog perhaps more than I have here. I’m still working on the pros/cons, benefits/losses of operating two blogs. And the concepts that define the two. It’s work in progress. Is it necessary? If I want to monetize my digital scribbling, then yes it is. And I do want to monetize it!

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Through The Keyhole

Back in the early 1990′s I used to watch, amongst other numerous examples of televisual tripe, a programme called, Through the Keyhole. The recently departed Sir David Frost presented, with the annoyingly nasal drone of Lloyd Grossman guiding viewers through the homes of the rich and famous. One can but assume that the kudos Frost earned from interviewing Nixon had by now been lost. And that the owners of their homes were fading stars or otherwise desperate for a little more attention before dropping from the public spotlight entirely.

I’m neither famous nor wealthy, and there’s no star presenter I can call on to guest write this post. You’ll have to make do with just me, multitasking as presenter, guide and personality all in one.  It’s a brief tour. Unlike the show, there are no prizes for guessing which personality is hiding behind that keyhole. It’s not a secret.

There’s obviously a Mexican connection here, and perhaps an interest in photography? And a contrast in movement too, thrown in for good measure. Are those medals we see, possibly with a Mexico City Marathon medallion amongst them? It’s fair to say that these probably weren’t won by a turtle. Although turtles are clearer considered winners in this household. There’a also a book, which one could only assume is for learning Spanish to be used in taxis and at Lucha Libre events. Finally, a mass of cables under a table. Perhaps we are getting the point of the post.

That table is an heirloom. Once upon a time it was the dinner table in a household of five in North West London. It’s a fold-away sort of a table that grew wings even below Red Bull was invented. It was my grandfathers. Then my mothers. It is decades old, older than myself. It’s currently in my possession, but is no longer used for meal times. Today it is my workstation. Can you imagine what the chaps and chapesses who made/packed/sold this table would have made of this photo if they’d seen it back in the 50s/60s? There is no photo of Mrs P on the desk, I’m sorry to say. Just a little clock that I’ve had since forever. Which has its time set by an atomic clock to tell Mrs P how late she is for work to the absolute nano second.

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Once upon a time I spent a good deal more on my tech. I had a huge purpose built workstation with the latest 19″ CRT flat screen monitor, the latest PC money could buy (which I built myself)  a 5 speaker sound system, a secondary PC and a very comfy executive chair. That was ten years ago. I was single back then, and earned substantially more than I do today. Alas. Times change.

Today, I prefer to keep things simple. I like wireless, although the mess of cables underneath my chair suggest otherwise. Had I the money, I’d own an iMac, with a wireless printer, mouse, keyboard and single Bose (or similar) speaker. I’m a bit of a way off from the promised land though. But the important thing is that the laptop is a half decent unit. It serves me well. Those of you who follow along have seen all the photos of where I’ve been. Now you’ve seen where the adventures are put together, ready for the digital world.

Kudos to señor Calypso, and his idea to open the keyholes of the Mexican blogging community. Of which I like to consider myself an honorary member, rather than former member. You can regard me as a future member, if you wish. Although, looking at Mr Calypso’s set up, maybe he just wanted to show off. I’m not sure how a man can have so much tech in his life, and be married! He’s a very lucky guy!

Independence Lights

I recently received an email, via Flickr (where else?) from CNN. September is Independence Month throughout a fair number of Latin American countries, and CNN wanted to feature one of my old photos for their CNN Celebrates series, via iReport. I have to be honest, it’s far from the best photo I ever took of a Mexican Independence Day. But if they like it, then who am I to argue. I added a few world to the photo. Whether they are ever printed I do not know. So I put the appropriate effort into the draft. That’s to say, not much. Anyway, I now have a CNN profile and iReport page….

Mexico City is full of colour at any time of year. But September brings a burst of reds whites and greens that cover the city in cloth flags, plastic bunting and sparkling lights. There’s a buzz in the air as Independence Day approaches. Come the middle of the month, the country unconditionally unites to cheer to El Grito – the shout of independence. Nowhere in the city do the lights shine brighter, the crowds grow larger or are the cheers shouted louder than in the Zocalo, the huge central square in the heart of the metropolis.

Mexico 2013

This video has been around for a little while. It makes Mexico City seem a very tempting destination. Heck, you all know full well it is a very tempting city. The Shakira of cities. Although I do wonder – how many of the 20 million odd souls calling Mexico City home would recognize this Mexico City? Not too high a percentage I suspect. I can’t quite get over an English person declaring that they never imagined they’d find a castle in the middle of a city. Ummm. Tower of London? I much preferred this video. It’s an oldie, but it’s still very cool.

The VisitMexico campaign have uploaded quite a few new videos since I last looked, including the one I linked too in the first sentence of this post. I particularly like the Estado de Mexico One. But the video I’ve decided to post here is the best of the bunch. All of these videos do very closely follow the format, style and atmosphere laid down by the Bicentenario videos from 2010. And that is no bad thing at all. Incidentally, this is where my new theme pays off. Videos are much more watchable within the post at this size.

Profiteering Masterclass

Recently I came across an advert on the Guardian – Blogging Masterclass courses. They’ll take you by the hand and guide you through the jargon, how to sign up a WordPress account, how to customise it, how to add a domain name, how to use social media and how to use text and images. At a staggering £400 per person. I kid you not, £400 per person. Pound Sterling. Real money.To be fair, the price does include lunch. Which really, really needs to be caviar and champagne. And plenty of it.

What the heck?! I’m in the wrong bleeding job! Seriously. I need to start my own business providing basic tuition to gullible old folk with more money than sense ‘beginners’. The first course will be entitled ‘How To Get Online And Survive The First Hour On The Web Without A Nigerian Scammer Emptying Your Bank Account‘. Anyone who is willing to pay £400 for a WordPress beginners course is surely going to be interested in what I have to offer. And by emptying their bank accounts myself before any shady character in Lagos has the chance, I will be delivering the service as promised.

I’m sure there is a career out there somewhere for me in web design/tuition/writing/something or other. I just need to find my niche and then find the time to fill it. Till then, I will continue to regale anyone who passes by with whatever I am droning on about in this here blog. Writing a bloggers guide did occur to me, but I dropped it. It’s been done before. A million times.

I will say this. Blogging is free. Don’t be paying anyone £400 to essentially teach you what you’ll pick up yourself within ten minutes of loading up your web browser. Just plough ahead, and learn with experience. If you’re really unsure, then watch someone else have a go. This is where I introduce the most famous non-blogger on the Mexican blog scene. Now an ex-non-blogger. Gringo Suelto is up and running, after many years of vague but unfulfilled threats to start scribing his own blog rather than scribbling all over other peoples, in their comments sections.  Kim G has generously scattered his wit and wisdom far and wide across the blogosphere for years, but now has a blog of his own to call home. Yay!

Gringo Suelto is going to be an interesting blog to read. First of all, because the writer has so much to share, so many stories to tell and a way with words that is always thought provoking and engaging. But it will also be interesting to see how he develops the blog. What style or theme he settles on. Is there a ‘technical art’ to blogging? I have my theme. One of them is to base a post around my photographs. So here are four photos. Completely irrelevant to this post, but there’s just not enough to say about them to merit a post of their own.

Four photos on A4 that I found recently. I took them ten years ago. My old Honda Pantheon scooter, a couple of snow scenes from our garden/field and my sisters pet owl. I sold the scooter when I fled to Mexico, the snow eventually melted and the owl escaped one day, never to be seen again. Yes, I’m pretty short on inspiration. Scraping the dregs from the bottom of the blogging barrel. I just have nothin’ far ya. Perhaps now is a good time to click on the link to Gringo Suelto and escape the tedium of the Mexile…

 

A Shorts Story

There are very few photos of me from my Mexico 2003 trip. I count just five. Four of them are terrible/blurry/too dark. The one below is the sole photo I’m ok about. It’s interesting to see how I’ve aged. Actually, it’s hugely disappointing that I’ve aged. I was always hoping I’d be ‘the one’. The exception. Live forever, and all that. I’m not sure that’s working out for me. Such is life. I sure have fewer lines on my face back then. And a trimmer waist. I was but 30 when this photo was taken.

I heard recently that you are no longer allowed to climb up pyramids in Mexico, including Chichen Itza and Teotihuacan. Have I heard right?! I’m wearing my favorite Red Sea tee shirt in the photo. And the most comfortable pair of shorts I ever owned. Light weight, with long knee length legs, but sturdy enough that I could keep change in my pockets without the coins pulling them down to my ankles.

I still have that tee shirt. It’s a bit worse for wear these days. To put it mildly. The shorts bit the dust a year later in Costa Rica. I’d spent an hour chatting to a girl in the lounge of a hostel without realizing the shorts had become very torn in an awkward location. The little general was very much ‘on view’. Parading, if you like. Fortunately, though, not standing to attention. She didn’t mention it. Very decent of her. But she absolutely can’t have missed it.

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Faces of Mexico Past

Once upon a time, I enjoyed backpacking. It’s a culture, not just an activity. Overnight buses, cramped dorms, sleepless nights, do-it-yourself tours. I’m not a backpacker anymore. Those days are gone. I don’t need luxury. But I do like to have my own room. I can handle a thin mattress. But I don’t much want to clamber up a ladder to the top bunk.  There’s an awful lot about backpacking that an intelligent person doesn’t miss. And look, I’m forty years old. My joints creak a little these days. There is one thing that I do miss though. The people you meet.

You bump into all sorts of people on the backpacking trail. They make or break a destination. I had mixed fortunes in Mexico, but only really bummed out twice. Tulum was full of couples, and I was rather the odd one out. And in Guanajuato, I bumped into some Brits bent on a beer binge. We quickly went our separate ways. But mostly the people I met were good bunch.

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I met the gang of guys and girls above on a night bus from Tulum to Palenque. It was a horrible 14 hour journey, and I slept not one wink. As a group we managed to find a single room in Palenque at about 6am and went to bed. They two guys woke us an hour later – they’d booked a trip to the Agua Azul. A place I must return too. It’s tough to fully appreciate somewhere on just an hours sleep.

The two girls on the left, from France, were the only ones I kept in touch with by email, albeit for a brief spell, after the Mexican adventure ended. I also traveled on with them to San Cristobal. The large chap in the green shirt, I remember him for a day’s worth of whining. He broke a sandal. Jeez, it was just a sandal. If he should stumble across this post, I’d like to say sorry for my unspoken contempt for his whining. As I found out later, he was right – it is next to freaking impossible to find a size 11 shoe of any sort in Mexico.

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The crew above I met at San Blas. Two American guys and two British girls. We spent nearly a week on the beach, boating up rivers and drinking in town. I got on better with the guys. But I met the girls again a week or two later in Creel, in the Copper Canyon. We were in the same dorm. They came back very late one night. The lights were out, everyone was asleep, and a full moon bathed the room in a ghostly light.

They decided to chance it. But I wasn’t asleep. I had one eye craftily open. I saw both full moons that night. If the not unattractive blonde girl should by chance find her way to these parts, then I’d just like to say…nice bum.

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The final photo. I remember the guy sitting down was a decent guitarist. He struck up a few riffs, or whatever you call guitar songs, in the town centre one evening. The guy standing up was French. And stone deaf. Travelling by himself. That’s courage for you. Some swine stole his Lonely Planet travel guide, and he had only just started his trip. In the interests of mending a thousand years of broken Anglo French relations, I gave him mine.

I was, after all, virtually at the end of my trip. A bus to Chihuahua beckoned, and then a final bus across the border at Ciudad Juarez/El Paso. I just photocopied the few pages I needed. But my Lonely Planet guide was precious to me. It had taken me across the country. A very loyal companion, so it was. And I had a ton of notes in it. I gave him my address, and he promised to post it back to me.

If my deaf French buddy should happen to read this entry, then I’d just like to say you are a thieving little frog bastard. Give me my bloody book back. Quite frankly, I don’t care if ten years have passed, I still want it. Our ancestors managed to keep grudges going over centuries. A decade is nothing, ya hear me?! No, you probably don’t.. :)

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Memory v Masterpiece

I recently rediscovered a cache of forgotten photos on a CD from a trip to Mexico in 2003. What to do with them? Well, get them all uploaded to Flickr, obviously. But how much did I want to ‘play about’ with them? For the last six months or so I have been going crazy with filters (or more correctly, presets) in Lightroom. Filters are the lazy mans way to create cool photographs without having to worry about owning decent equipment, having any talent or even using ones imagination.

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I am sure my photographs are cooler for all those filters I’ve applied. But those rediscovered photos had me thinking. They contained so many memories. Did I want to play about with them? After all, the application of creative filters distorts the image. It recreates a scene, turning it into something that never was. It’s for artistic purposes only. You gain your masterpiece, but lose a memory.

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In the end, I applied some sensible post processing – cropping, added contrast and the such. And left it at that. I uploaded the results to Flickr. Then I went back and did my filter thang on a select bunch of them. The best of both worlds. I have unlimited space to upload onto Flickr, so what the heck – duplication is fine!

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This exercise has given me a bit of food for thought as to how I approach my photography though. The snaps I take today have little to no nostalgia attached to them. But a decade or more down the road, they will be priceless snapshots of life long ago. Do I want sets on Flickr full of masterpieces or sets full of memories? I must give this some thought and find a balance.