Revenge of the Stumpy Munchkins This Generous Moment


Revenge of the Stumpy Munchkins

This Generous Moment

On not being Interesting

The only body without a tattoo on the West Coast refuses to compromise its artisitic integrity.

Vancouver, British Columbia
10th August, 2001

It was time to leave the east. I had never planned to spend so long there, but I enjoyed the tour so much I was reluctant to hurry along. The Moose bus had been strange: ninety percent of the other travellers were young English students aged 19 to 23. I felt like a dodgy old pervert hanging round the edge of the school bus, an impression heightened by my preference for hanging around with young women.

The reason for that is simple. I can't stand the company of young men. Who could? Smelly creatures, all sweat, hormones and as-yet unfrustrated dreams for the future. At home, my male friends are all around my age, far too long in the tooth for loud grunting noises and irritating ambition.

But my female friends were all good fun. I hoped at first that they liked having me around because I was worldly and sophisticated. Then they told me that I was so "harmless". I could have wept.

Emma and Trish, realized they had found the perfect man, who they could pester, pick on and laugh at without fear of retribution, and refused to leave my side. When in a final flourish I found myself purely incapable of melting the cheese in my pasta sauce and was forced to serve four portions of pasta coated with warm milk, greasy mushroom and heated cheese crud, I thought the girls were going to choke. Then they tried the food.

Slovenia, Location Unknown

And there was Vic, whose view of marriage was "why buy a book when you can join a library?" There was Silver from Korea, whom we taught one phrase in French, voulez-vous couchez avec moi? She disappeared for two days with a Provencal named Guillame. There were the Slovenian girls, whose conversation always began "We are from Slovenija. (Pause) ... Do YOU KNOW where Slovenija IS???"

I guess they must have put it down and forgot where. Try under the sofa. Or in Russia somewhere. Europeans. If they don't even know how to get home, what chance do the rest of us have?

But now it was the end of the east pass of the Moose bus, and our group had to go their seperate ways. And I would be alone again. It has been almost four months of travel now, and I felt weary. Not so much from the physical demands, as from the emotional drain. Continually making new friends, continually saying goodbye. Continually without privacy, without a chance to lay aside my public persona and just vegetate.

Lie in. Play computer games. Drink mouldery pints of Guinness and sit muttering with Richard in the Green St Bar, with Joanne in the Lincoln. Not homesick. Could sink Ireland tomorrow, wouldn't care. But a little... stability, would be nice for a change.

Non-Tattooed Body Art

I wanted to go to Vancouver. So I flew. Via Dallas, Texas, naturally. Leaving Canada, US immigration, leaving US, Canadian immigration. Question: are you arriving from a country affected by foot and mouth disease? Answer: blinks.

I was delayed in Texas for four hours, enough to wallow in a sea of big hair and fat hats, and down home-style slack-jawed goober-mouthed nothingness. Only a little more of that, and I would have been fit for nothing except leadership of the free world.

Finally: Vancouver. I have only just arrived here and I love it already. Mountains, cool sea air. All the hiking, sailing, diving I could ever ask for. I went for a run for a few miles along the beaches yesterday (result: I can't bend my legs today) and exulted in it. I could stay here... but time... time is not on my side. Everyone says, don't judge Vancouver now, wait till you see the rain! As if rain could bother a Limavady Ulsterman. There is so much to do here. So little time.

Of course, this is the West Coast: almost everyone here is tanned, svelte, pierced, tattooed and interesting. I, of course, am unaugmented in any way, and refuse to accept that some doodle on my skin will give me any more character than I already possess. But as I realise this argument is not compelling, I'm thinking of declaring that my non-pierced body is in itself an art object. A white album. A purposely blank canvas. A proletarian scream of rage against the corporate tyranny of the tattoo houses who scheme to control our every thought and deed. That should do it.

Mickery Irish

On an aside, every time I meet you damn foreigners, one you will say something along the lines of: You're from Ireland! You must be interesting! Like, completely mad and drunk all the time!

Sometimes I like to say no, Irish people in general are really very sober and hard working and among the best educated in the world. The drunken image is simply a redundant piece of nineteenth century Anglo-Saxon propaganda that you are perpetuating. If you want serious drinking, try Bristol or Manchester on a Friday night. If you don't get stabbed first.

There is then a short lull as this flies over everyone's head, before they continue unabashed, "Yeah, you Irish, really like to drink and go mad and party, eh? I was in Ireland, great place so friendly everyone always pissed, eh?"

I'd argue further, but what's the use? If I did, it is guaranteed, guaranteed, that the following will happen: an Irish student over on a summer work visa will suddenly pop up, looking all red-haired and leprechaun-ish, pissed out of his head, bare-chested, with someone's knickers on his head, take a huge swig out of his Heineken, belch, shout "WaayHay!" before launching himself backwards into a disused swimming pool. And everyone will shake their heads ruefully, laugh and say, "Those Mad Irish", while I, defeated, look sadly on.

I know he's only putting it on, but what the hell. At least we get to be "interesting". Could be worse. Could be Belgian.



Water Sports


Unusual Friends




Hat & Spoon



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The Facts

Where I stayed
Toronto: Canadiana Backpackers. Clean rooms, cheap, friendly helpful staff, good for meeting people.
Vancouver: HI Vancouver Jericho Beach. Large hostel by the sea. Airy, good for the beaches, but far from town.

How I got around: Moose tours. Excellent hop-on/hop-off service. The staff struggle to do their best for you wherever they can.