Monday, 21 February 2011

Why the hell not?

37,000ft above Africa, 7 February 2011

Shortly before wheels down into Nairobi the man sitting across the aisle to me, having observed long haul etiquette for the duration of the trip (and allowing me to indulge my own tried and tested long haul protocol of booze, food, more booze, sentimental movie, little cry, snore), turned to me and said ‘I’m Michael, a pastor in Nairobi, I’m returning from Vancouver, it’s cold in Vancouver, but it’s warm in Kenya’.  He wasn’t bloody joking.  Strength sapping, t-shirt sticking, crazy-making heat, when conversation descends to grunts and sighs (or as my wife has just neatly articulated after several grunts and sighs – ‘it’s too effing hot’).  Shelter is only to be found in the daydreams of your mind, of which I have a particular favourite right now that involves a swimming pool, a running jump, and the shielded eyes of any children that are easily disturbed by (a) excess body hair (more of which later dear reader), (b) flabby white skin, (c) girly shrieks of delight, or (d) all of the above.

Back to our pastor friend though.  We shot the breeze about our impending travels as the plane taxied to its torch-lit passenger walkway, at which point he asked me the direct question that very few have – ‘why’?  He wanted to know why I was taking a year away from my comfortable life, from the career I have nurtured, from my family and friends? I’ve been asked ‘what’ plenty of times – what is the itinerary, what is happening with your stuff, what will you do without Test Match Special? But rarely have I been asked ‘why’?  And I understand this – the interrogator is probably, and justifiably, wary of being bombarded with an ‘eat, pray, love’ line of bullshit, a piece of pompous twattery about finding one’s self, as if your ‘self’ was something to be located out there, rather than something that you can’t leave behind anyway.  Or as the ‘quote of the day’ on the BBC World Service’s Africa Hour would have it: “no matter how far a donkey walks from home, he will never return a horse”.  No? Me neither.

Anyway, my response to Michael, a question to his question, was the phrase that has been running through my mind on a loop for months now - ‘why the hell not?’ (I may have omitted the hell bit out of respect for my charming travelling companion’s profession). He beamed at me, took my hand, and said ‘why not indeed’?

What I didn’t mention to Michael was that having failed to produce any compelling answers to this question myself, ‘why the hell not’ was swiftly joined by its twin, circling through my mind like the lyrics to the last song you heard before you got out of the car - ‘if not now, then when’? A useful little refrain that one, particularly for someone who has Olympic standards of procrastination, who habitually has to-do lists that contain permanent guilt trips like ‘wash car’, ‘iron shirts’, ‘get that rash seen to’.  

So, the whys were replaced by a why not, the when by the now, and as the plane door opened into the steamy Nairobi night, the best thing in my life (who right now has just pulled herself out of a sweat patch, smiled, and started skipping in the midday sun with the group of giggling orphans in our charge) stepped with me onto a new continent, and into another new adventure.  It was at this moment that the looping tape in my mind, with its gentle whirring refrains of positivity, snapped and was replaced by a megaphone blaring, ‘shit, you’re actually doing this, right now’. And, indeed, why the hell not?

<Thanks for reading, pics to follow once internet access is stable. Feel free to leave comments, tell your friends, send blank cheques. If however you are one of the bigoted crazies who dominates You Tube discussion boards then instead please email >

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