“I know the perfect beach for us to camp on,” smiled Fry as he barreled the car around the single track road that hugs the banks of Loch Lomond; rear-ending other vehicles like he was a white van man driving around a Formula 1 circuit. “My dad and I found this really cool secluded cove once when open-water kayaking. It’s not too far from the little seaside town of Arisaig so should be easy enough for us to find from the land. Man, this weather is a peach. I’m hoping that there will be a host of foreign girls playing topless volleyball there when we arrive.”
Our original idea had been a bit more grandiose. Having walked the length of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William, we then planned to take the Jabobite steam train across the Glenfinnan Viaduct to its terminus in the port of Malaig, where we would be able to get a well-deserved pint of beer in The Old Forge, Britain’s most remote pub. Unfortunately, with the Jacobite having been used as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films, ticket prices for that particular route were substantially higher than for your standard Scotrail journey. Being lazy, Wolfy also point-blank refused to waste valuable vacation days from work to simply walk, so we scrapped the idea of re-enacting the famous scene where Ron and Harry catch up with the train in their flying Ford Anglia and opted for a weekend’s camping instead.
Fry’s optimistic delusions kept us entertained for the length of our five-hour journey, and distracted us from the impending death situations he seemed to place us in on every bend in the road. There is a cult novel within the Scottish mountaineering community by Richard Happer called The Hills Are Stuffed With Swedish Girls, which I guessed he might have recently read and mistaken for actual events. In the book, two lads decide that a week in the hills is exactly what their other best mate needs after getting dumped by his girlfriend. Convincing him that mythically hot European girls do actually come to Scotland on outdoors holidays, the three set off with their pet cat on what turns out to be a hilarious journey filled with more ups and downs than the hills they traverse. Being a novel, they do also bump into some rather charming Swedish girls along the way, of course. Only when we arrived in Arisaig and pulled over to pick-up some supplies did Fry eventually snap back into reality.
“We’re going to need matches, kindling, burgers, sausages, rolls, ketchup, marshmallows, and plenty of beer,” said Wolfy, compiling a mental shopping list as we entered the town’s sole convenience store. I wasn’t too optimistic, but with a little searching, we actually managed to tick everything off. The owner of the shop clearly knew his customer demographic and needs.
“Swedish girls, here we come,” yelled Fry as we shoved everything in the boot and continued on our quest. The guy was more excited than a kid waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve and might have left burn marks on the road as the tyres screeched away. Five minutes later we were pulling into a beachside car park.
“Here we go,” he grinned, darting up a nearby sand dune with the nimbleness of a billy goat and leaving Wolfy and I lugging the tents and food behind. It felt more like we were heading to a music festival than on a boy’s camping trip. Reaching the top of the bank and casting his eyes presumably across the beckoning shoreline on the other side, Fry suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. “You won’t believe this,” he exclaimed, turning back to face us and shouting down. “You will not believe this.”
“If there are Swedish girls over this ridge,” I said to Wolfy, “then I’ll eat my hat.”
“You’re not wearing a hat,” he replied as we raced up as fast as the weight we were carrying would let us.
“My hypothetical hat,” I panted, gunning to find out what had excited Fry so much. Reaching the top, out of breath, we too were stopped dead in our tracks. “No fucking way,” I yelled. A couple stood on the otherwise empty beach throwing a Frisbee to one another. And both were stark naked.
“Check out the piece on him,” I said as he dived to catch the plastic disk, his rather well-endowed penis spinning around like a helicopter rotor blade.”
“Should we offer them some wood?” laughed Fry, teeing me up for the joke. “The fire they have going is an embarrassment.”
“I think the last thing you need to offer that guy is some wood,” I chuckled as we made our way down. “His girlfriend definitely doesn’t need any of our marshmallows, either,” I added, commented on her rather rotund physique. Spotting us, the pair absolutely shat the pants that neither of them was at that moment wearing and darted into the seclusion of their one-man tent.
“This looks to be a good a spot as any,” announced Wolfy, dumping the tents he was carrying on the sand about 50m past the naked ramblers. “High enough to avoid the rising tide and a nice grassy knoll over there on which we can build our bonfire.”
“And close enough to cockblock your man over there from getting any action tonight,” I smiled.
“Did you see her?” commented Wolfy. “I think we’re doing him a favour.”
In the UK, we currently use an opt-in policy for organ donation. This means that, in order for a person’s organs to be used medically once they have deceased, they have to have registered and given their consent to be an organ donor during their lifetime. From the current statistics which I could source, this currently stands at 62% of the British population, with as low as a 34% consent rate among potential black, Asian, and minority ethnic donors. In my opinion, with the current rapid advancements in medical science and increased opportunities to save lives, not having the supply of organs available for treatment is preposterous; and it stems from this ludicrously outdated ‘opt-in’ policy.
Let’s take Austria as an example on the other hand; that beautiful central European country with its mountainous terrain, incredible architecture, dynastic history, and a 99.8% organ donation consent rate. What makes the difference between this near perfect registration figure and the measly 12% of the population being registered in bordering Germany? Austria has an ‘opt-out’ policy; meaning that, unless you have specifically refused, there is presumed consent that you intend to donate your organs to medical use when they expire.
Now I get it, people are lazy (sorry, busy). Joining, or removing, themselves some arbitrary list is not exactly top of their priorities list. What happens if we had an ‘opt-out’ policy in the UK and someone’s organs were accidentally donated because they forgot to untick the box? The grieving family would be distraught. Well, tough. If you are too dumb to request to keep your organs when you have the option, then you don’t deserve to have them; especially when they are of zero use to you. I have not yet come across a single rational argument as to why we have not followed Austria in changing to an ‘opt-out’ organ donation policy.
But, ‘just as we should not dictate how other people live, we should not dictate how they die,’ said Victoria from Staffordshire when yougov.co.uk conducted a survey on this very issue. Well, Victoria, first of all, nobody is dictating how a person dies. I’m not standing there with a gun in one hand and a hacksaw in the other, asking them which vital sign I should render useless first. Just opt-out. It’s in the name, it’s an ‘option’.
But, ‘this issue is a very sensitive one and I feel it should be entirely voluntary,’ said Golfy from Lincolnshire. Are you as stupid as your name sounds, Golfy? What part of this entire suggestion is not voluntary? Unless you are illiterate, it takes no more, and no less, effort to untick a box as it does to tick a box.
But, ‘an opt-out system will be costly and complicated to implement- as it is, the system is easy to manage,’ argued Frances from Suffolk. Sorry Frances, let’s not let administration concerns get in the way of saving human lives.
But, ‘giving something as precious as an organ is a deeply personal matter and not something that the medical profession should simply assume as a matter of course. What if my religious beliefs go against this?’
Please, please, please. If you haven’t already done so, then register. It can be done online in less than five minutes, and may well help save one, if not more lives. Take my lungs, take my kidneys, take my heart; God knows girls have in the past and I never gave them permission. New life goal: Be the skeleton hanging at the front of a middle-school biology classroom.
Isn’t is also a rather nice, albeit nihilistic, thought as well that you could still be able to help the world even once you’ve passed?
Sunday 19th March 2017
After two days spent surfing the polluted waves of Kuta Beach, I headed north to the town of Seminyak and checked into Capsule Hostel, which at the time was the highest rated backpacker accommodation on the whole of Bali. Entering my assigned dorm I could have been mistaken for sneaking backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In a fully-booked room of twelve beds I was the only penis present and, as I unpacked my dirty laundry, girls came in and out of the showers wrapped in nothing but towels. Girls pranced around in sexy lingerie whilst doing their make-up in the mirror. Girls stood around stark naked, unsure about what outfit to put on for that night. Girls. Girls. Girls.
The cause for the dorm to be turned into a dressing room was the Single Fin party that took place each Sunday at a beach club in Uluwatu. Sitting down at the long wooden bench in the hostel’s communal bar area and taking a sip of my first beer, an American collegiate rower called Nick told me that Capsule offered a two-hour party bus to the venue and back. He also informed me that he was without a bed for the night, the receptionist having apparently cancelled his extended booking, and that someone in his dorm the previous evening had pissed themselves. We raised a cheers and chinked our second beers.
I got onto the party bus carrying my third beer and found myself talking to a German dude called Soren and his older sister. I cracked a fourth beer whilst telling them about a friend of mine who once lost a large amount of money investing in Kazakh oil fields. Having held in a piss for so long that I was convinced I was going to give myself a urinary tract infection, we finally stopped for a toilet break. I pushed my way to the front of the bus, raced into the roadside shitter, and proceeded to let out a golden stream of glory with more pressure than a fire hose. I then replenished myself with a fifth beer before retaking my seat.
We got off the bus in Uluwatu and I went into the convenience store across the street where I purchased a sixth beer, proceeded to drink said beer in front of the cashier, and then bought a seventh. It hadn’t taken me long to realise that Single Fin was not going to be the type of party I’d enjoy. There were more pretentious fuck boys hanging around than in the smoking area of an upper-west-side New York nightclub. Therefore, whilst everyone else entered the establishment I ordered a pizza and got inadvertently involved in a drug deal. Some dude was looking to jack off some questionable weed to drunk westerners and a preppy wanker with swooping hair and wearing an elephant embroidered plaid shirt was being suckered in. After some deliberation and CSI forensic levels of investigation, however, it was concluded that he’d been suckered for some oregano instead of prime green. I laughed. “If you’re not going to smoke that can I have it to garnish my pizza with?” At this comment, the preppy wanker nearly swung for me so I departed and spent the next four hours trolling everyone in sight that I could find. When this got boring, I then bantered with Nick. He had met a lovely Canadian girl who had a spare bed in her room because her friend was off with one of the pre-described fuck boys for the evening. Everything resolved, I passed out on the bus back to Seminyak, woke up briefly for another snack when we stopped at McDonald’s, and then passed out in my hostel bed.
Monday 20th March 2017
Trying to stomach some food at the same wooden bench where I’d started drinking the previous day, I looked over to my left and enviously watched a tattoo-covered, beardy, guy demolishing a burger and fries in record time. Fraser was also from Glasgow, Scotland and we quickly made acquaintance with one another. We had such a good bond, in fact, that a week later we would go hunting for dragons together on the small Indonesian island of Komodo. After a full day of barely moving and talking utter shit, in a way that only Scottish people can do, we grabbed Nick and headed to a watering hole in Seminyak town called La Favela. It had, quite simply, the best atmosphere of any drinking establishment I’ve ever set foot it. And I’ve tested a lot off establishments in coming to that decision. Perhaps it was the chilled-out, foliage-covered, patio area; perhaps it was the selection of drinks on offer; perhaps it was the type of crowd that had been drawn in, or perhaps it was simply because it had polar-opposite vibes to Single Fin. Whatever it was, I was completely in my element.
The Canadian girl who had been kind enough to let Nick use the spare bed in her room, her dishevelled friend and a bunch of other people joined us in the utopia. One was a crazy Dutch guy who, after initially being rejected by a pair of lesbians, ended up necking off with a gorgeous Latina girl against the bar as we all danced around the heavenly air-conditioned dance floor. A laser light show played in perfect time with the tunes; the DJ playing club banger after club banger. I may not have been able to point a finger as to why I found La Favela so awesome, but I could certainly stomp a foot along to the beat of the music.
At stupid o’clock, Nick, Fraser, and I exited the club in search of a sensible bite to eat. The three of us had agreed to get a boat to the Gili party islands the following morning and were conscious about potential sea-sickness. The Dutch guy, however, wasn’t. “Kaasoufle,” he yelled, pointing across the street. “Bitterballen! Oh my God, frikandel!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Directly opposite La Favela was a traditional Dutch hole-in-the-wall. I used to live in the Netherlands when studying, so for me what happened next wasn’t a real surprise, but the others looked on in absurdness as the Dutch guy marched quickly over; jammed some money in a slot between the bricks; opened a release door, and took out his fried treats from within. Fast food the traditional Dutch way. As he bit into his battered cheese sticks a look of glee spread across his face, and at that moment he must have been the happiest man on the island. It’s amazing what a bit of home comfort can do to a grown man when on a different continent 12,000km away.
Tuesday 21st March 2017
I clung onto the railings for dear life as waves came crashing over the top of the speedboat. With no seats left indoors the three of us had been instructed by the lunatic captain to sit on the roof. Little did we realise upon tentatively agreeing to do so, however, that he would proceed to lead us directly into the eye of a thunderstorm. Not that we had much say in the matter. As reggae music blasted from a crackling speaker, we were simultaneously drenched to the bone whilst being fumigated from the five outboard motors working overtime to keep us upright. “Fancy a beer?” asked Fraser, unzipping his bag in a moment of steadiness to reveal three cans. “Do I ever,” said Nick, cracking open a cold one.
“Where are we staying tonight?” I asked him as we, somewhat remarkably, put our feet on the dry sands of Gili Trawangan without throwing up our Dutch dinner. “My mate’s place,” he responded, leading Fraser and me up onto the cobbled main street and past heaps of rubble. In January 2017, the local government had come along and bulldozed all the beach bars that had been built on the water side of the road, claiming that they had been constructed illegally and without proper permission. They had never bothered disposing of the resultant debris, however, and it spread out as a horrific eyesore for the tourists and incessant reminder for the locals of who’s really in charge. “Awesome,” said Fraser. “I didn’t realise that you had a friend on the island. I thought we were just booking into a hostel.” “That is the name of the hostel,” laughed Nick in response. “It’s called My Mate’s Place.”
“What’s your wifi password?” I asked the guy behind the desk after checking in. “Go fuck yourself,” he responded. “Sorry?” I frowned, taken aback. “‘Gofuckyourself’,” he repeated. “That’s the wifi password. No spaces between the words.” I chuckled. These were my type of people.
Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Nick and Fraser went on a booze cruise where, much to the displeasure of the steroid-induced fuck boys with their sleeve tattoos and two-figure-IQs, Nick showed a Godly feat of superhuman strength that sent palpitations around hearts of the women on board by pulling himself out of the ocean and back onto the boat one-handed. As they stared at this Hulk in awe, Fraser sat back, topped up his sunburn, and simply announced, ‘he came with me’.
Whilst they were sailing the seven seas, I went for a bike ride around the island with a posse who had assembled at the hostel. ‘You look familiar,’ I said to the expressive American bloke I found myself peddling alongside. ‘I get that a lot,’ laughed Eric, getting out his phone. ‘Recognise this photo?” Squinting my eyes to focus on the screen being hit by the glare of the powerful sun, I could just about make out the iconic photograph of Angelina Jolie posing in a slit-leg black dress on the red carpet of a Hollywood premiere. ‘Of course,’ I said, puzzled. ‘Well, zoom in and you might be surprised,’ he chuckled. Eric worked as a production coordinator on large annual events such as the Oscars Award Ceremony and the Super Bowl halftime show, where his daily job involved brushing shoulders with Hollywood’s elite from Oprah to Tom Hanks to Bruno Mars; the latter who he once had to fetch a very specific tuna & cheese melt sandwich for. Sure enough, standing suited and booted behind Angelina’s exposed right shoulder, was the guy cycling next to me, a Cheshire cat grin spread across his face. “You have seen me before,” he laughed.
“What’s that cat over there doing?” asked a fucked-up Eric later that evening whilst Nick made-out with a Norwegian girl called, and I shit you not, Asshole. He’d consumed a bag of magic mushrooms right before we’d headed out to the bar street and was beginning to hallucinate. ‘That’s a bottle of juice,’ laughed Fraser, grimacing as Eric gave him an apologetic slap on his sunburnt back.
Thursday 23rd March 2017
Shaken awake by an earthquake registering 7.1 on the Richter scale, Fraser and I said goodbye to Nick (he was off to pursue a business venture in Brazil) and introduced ourselves to an English dude who was hanging around the hostel. Ben had come to Gili Trawangan on holiday; lost his passport; missed his flight home; learnt fluent Indonesian; married a Balinese girl; been adopted by a local family; set up the booze cruise which Fraser and Nick had been in attendance the previous day, and then got divorced. As we sat down to have a beer with him, a disheartened Ben told us that he was in the process of designing an app for visiting tourists in an attempt to save his marriage. He’d been on the island for three years. “Want to come to my house and smoke some blunts?” he asked, lonely and looking for company. “Sorry man,” I said. “That’s not really my thing.” He was a good bloke and I hoped for his sake that things would work out for him.
Friday 24th March 2017
Sat around the wooden benches in the common area of the hostel, Brendan, the owner of My Mate’s Place, introduced us to a drinking game called ‘mushroom cup’. It was a load of fun and as I tried to balance a beer bottle on the ass of a Canadian slut who would go on to bang an Afghan guy later that evening, Brendan proceeded to lose at his own game in spectacular fashion and became blind-drunk. A large Canadian dude in a Hawaiian shirt at the other end of the table, much displeased at the acts of his fellow countrywoman, said that he recognised us from Capsule Hostel and the Single Fin party; a miracle considering that I’d barely even set foot in the bar itself.
“I probably didn’t speak to you that night because I was in a bit of a bad mood,” he admitted. “The previous night I was asleep in my bed when I felt a warm sensation rubbing against my leg. Startled, I awoke to find a naked German girl squatting at the end of my bed and pissing on me. Her eyes were bloodshot red like she had been possessed by the devil and she was so off her face on mushrooms that when I tried to ask her what the hell she was doing she just stared through me like I was a poltergeist. I’ve had better night’s sleep.”
Saturday 25th March 2017
“I’ve got a text from Ben,” said Fraser as we lazed about on some beanbags. Both of us had decided that it was far too hot to be outside on this day, our last on Gili Trawangan before making the short trip to the more chilled out sister island of Gili Air. “He’s offered to take us on a private snorkelling trip and drop us off at our next stop so that we don’t have to worry about getting the public ferry boat.” I had reservations about this, Ben being the type of person who would probably struggle to organise a piss up in a brewery, so was relieved when a second message came through to say that his offer, unfortunately, had to be revoked because the engine on the boat he’d sourced had blown up on the way across the bay.
Fraser and I went back to Plan A, which saw us lugging our bags across Gili Air from the public ferry port on the south side of the island to Begadang Backpackers, the hippie commune style accommodation we’d booked for a few nights for the sole reason that it had a pineapple-shaped swimming pool. No complaints could, therefore, be made when we found out that our beds for the night were nothing but a couple of dirty mattresses on a raised bamboo plinth; an al fresco affair exposed entirely to the elements and with only torn mosquito nets for protection. As I dumped my bag and took a seat I spotted a familiar face lounging in one of the hammocks. “Eric,” I exclaimed as a naked Indonesian child suddenly sprinted across the clearing and dive bombed into the pool. “Fancy seeing you here. How are things?”
“Not too well, man,” he admitted, his voice shaky and weak. “I had my first ever diving lesson today and my body failed to adjust to the change in pressure correctly. Whilst underwater during training I started to bleed from my nose and ears into my mask. I looked like one of those Scream Masks that kids dress up in at Halloween. Safe to say that it will also be my last ever diving lesson.”
Sunday 26th March 2017
With Gili Air being very much a chill-out island compared to the rowdy and boisterous Trawangan, we hung around the pool all day and ate, lazily paying an extra charge for delivery even although the restaurant was literally just across the road. We also figured out that this is where the naked kid had appeared from the day before, his father clearly having turned his back on the little nipper for one second too long. Lauren, a cool New Yorker who had studied down in New Orleans, considered helping me put together a novel sports day by making the best use of the basketball hoop, volleyball court, and tightrope that were set up, but in the end, it seemed like too much effort in the sweltering heat.
Instead, I spent the day worrying about the gnarly purple mark that had appeared across my translucent white chest, morbidly guessing that I’d somehow either contracted meningitis or that it was varicose veins that had formed because I was pregnant. Fraser and Lauren told me that I was being over-dramatic and that my self-diagnosis may be slightly off.
Monday 27th March 2017
Convincing Lauren to come back to Seminyak with us with the promise of an epic night out in La Favela, the three of us got a return boat to Bali and Fraser ordered take away McDonald’s to the Capsule bar area (just because he could). In our room, we met Peter, a PE teacher and basketball star from Germany with his own Facebook fan page. He broke the sad news to us that, because it was Balinese New Year that day, La Favela was closed, but then quickly heightened our spirits by showing us a video of him doing a rhythmic gymnastics floor routine in front of his students; black leotard, pompoms, and all.
Following a rather uninspiring and extremely amateurish parade that made its way through the town centre with no real gusto, we returned to the hostel to find out that we would then be locked-in for over twenty-four hours. From 6 am the next morning until 6 am the following morning nobody on the island was allowed to go outside or use any form or artificial light as a form of respect to the Gods. As an atheist, I opposed to such restrictions, but then was reminded that the Balinese police may not see my logical protests in such a similar light; or with any light at all.
Prepared for the occasion, Peter got out a bottle of whisky that he had hidden in his rucksack and we headed to the rooftop for some star gazing. There, whilst trying to pick out the North Star and forgetting I was still in the southern hemisphere, I met a girl from my hometown who used to shag a mate of mine. Small world. As hostel management came and confiscated Peter’s whisky, we called it a night, called the next day void, and hit the hay. Two months later, Peter and I would rendezvous in Cambodia to play cowboys and Indians in a war museum with real firearms. Fraser and Lauren would reconvene in New Zealand to spend four weeks cruising around both islands on a hop-on-hop-off party bus. None of us would forget our time in Bali and the crazy people we met.