2015, Cape Clear, Ultimate Frisbee

Self taught frisbee prodigy found on Irish speaking Island

By @SimonCocking

Raised in a sightly drafty abode


speaking no English, on a wild wind swept island off the Southern most part of Ireland, Sarah Paddle Swim’s unceasing search for future Irish ultimate talent has yielded unexpected results.


Here, in the middle of nowhere,


we found an amazing future padawan ultimate frisbee player. Self taught, from watching youtube videos and live WCBU streams (when working), we found Phoebe Nieves.


Speaking only Irish we think this may be the one to bring balance back to Irish ultimate. Watch this space for more details. All we need to do now is safely negotiate the boat back to ‘Ireland’ as the locals call it.


Adventure, Ed Stafford, Fiji, Travel

Naked and Marooned

Naked and Marooned book

2014 Ed Stafford

60 days, dropped, naked, on an island. Though, with some safety supports in case he got really sick. I imagine that after Bear Grylls shows, they had to be a little more upfront about what was actually there and what wasn’t – some of those scenes where he declares ‘I am completely alone’ and yet you’re wondering who is filming him from that angle 60 feet up a tree. Stafford clearly explains he is self filming, but has a designated drop point where he will put filled up memory cards. On another island, 8 miles away, is his emergency rescue team.

You might think that 60 days isn’t that long to be completely alone. Though of course how often do we even manage to be alone for even a few hours, let alone a whole day.  This meant that very quickly he began to realise his mental health was going to be as important as his physical.

Books like this you enjoy for the escapist nature of them. It’s great that he’s living on a tropical island. It’s a nice idea, but the challenge is that you get dragged down into dealing with the day to day challenges. For him, it’s the thirst, hunger, and the physical discomfort of his drafty cave. When it came to writing up the book, he was able to look back and celebrate the sunsets. In many ways this is a good metaphor for our own daily lives, where we do have beauty and special moments, but the challenge is to enjoy them, without being distracted by the day to day annoyances of life.

This book follows a traditional narrative arc. He gradually gets better at catching food, water, and improving his shelter. However the whole way through he talks about how much he missed his partner, and questioning why he decided to do it. The book then takes an interesting turn in the epilogue section.

Thor Heyerdahl

In many explorer books, the woman at home is celebrated, and yet at the same time you wonder if he loves her so much why did they leave them alone for so long. A good example is Thor Heyerdahl. A legendary explorer, Kon Tiki Voyage and other mega adventures. I love Heyerdahl’s adventures, but the whole time I read his books I wondered about the partner and children that he left at home for long, long periods of time. In his autobiography too, as he sails through the fascinating stories of his life, there is always a trusty woman at home. His rock etc, etc, and then you realise, with no explanation, their name has changed, and he’s married to someone else. I mention this because Stafford’s book is different to this.

Plot spoiler, if you don’t want to know what happened after the show, stop reading.

Up to this point, his story was quite normal, in an extreme adventure sort of way. Then there is a break in story, followed by a large number of tally marks. Time has passed, and, suddenly … his girl friend is calling the doctor. Turns out he is having a nervous breakdown. Then you get the big reveal. Reading the book, you do wonder why he wanted to be away from everyone for so long. Yes we like the idea of it, but we don’t actually, really, want to be gone for so so long. I’ve been home alone, completely alone, (yes it was a long long time ago), and after less than two days I was talking to the cat more than necessary.

Stafford’s psychologist is summonsed from Chiswick and tells him that it’s more normal to react in this way, a post traumatic stress reaction. He then speculates that maybe he wanted to do all of his extreme challenges (he also spent 2 1/2 years tracing the route of the Amazon) because he was adopted. At which point you put your hand to your head and say doh! Of course it all makes sense, but still a pretty extreme way to deal with it.

On the island he has his epiphany. p302

“As the penny dropped I couldn’t stop smiling. I was so elated that I radiated gratitude and happiness, the whites of my eyes shining like wet moons. I saw how I’d always been trying to get somewhere, never satisfied with who I was or where I was. But the moment I stopped trying so hard I came to understand what I’d already got.”

I think this is why we enjoy travel books. They are great stories, they inspire us, and they also help to give us a point of reference to look at what we do have around us now, and to try and value appreciate this. We will never be as rich or successful as someone else might appear to be, but it shouldn’t matter so much to us, and our own inner peace / calm / serenity / sense of perspective.

His website has good resources and information 

I’ve yet to find the whole series yet online, but here are some snippets from the show.

Naked ana Marooned TV show


After a lot of searching, lofts, a mixture of photo albums, and other people’s digital copies of fotos, here are some of the images to go with the text of “Sam in El Salvador”, summer of ’92. Arrival! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA La Frontera, crossing the border. He’s stopped by soldiers, who search his bag, looking for those fashion crime jumpers. I’m on top of the bus taking pictures OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The buses are all pretty brightly coloured   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA So far so normal, even met some English girls!   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Didn’t last … OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Getting weirder,  passt, wanna buy a horse (picture)? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   That’s not a mike, it is a bottle of salsa ingles (Worcester sauce to us) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Time for the bending bamboo tree episode 922977_608140175943443_922441702259036566_n10014665_608140512610076_7706286158838278627_n 1535107_608140552610072_8305704128989202905_nOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Relief, with some nice locals, didn’t quite catch what gang they were a member of.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA La Libertad, looks idyllic, bar the near drowning episode of course! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA sam-in-el-salvador-long-short-story

El Salvador, Photography, Travel

Sam in el Salvador, the pictures to go with the story

El Salvador, Humour, Travel

Sam In El Salvador – long short story

Sam in El Salvador, Summer of ‘92


See pictures here 

Sam, my brother, sadly can’t be with us here today in Dublin. He was supposed to come over courtesy of The Sun, Ryan Air and a £29 flight, give or take tax. He’s got an audition, which might be the role that crosses the line and takes him into a high octane acting career. I hope he got the part now he’s missed the flight. It makes me think of the last time he came to visit me. It all worked out in the end and he even sort of had a good time but it was certainly a bizarre ‘what I did with my 2 weeks of annual leave from the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries’.

Sam in El Salvador, he didn’t even know where he was going. He bought a flight to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, arranged while we, Sharron and I, were out in the Atlantic / Caribbean Ocean learning how to scuba dive on the island of Utilla, one of three bay islands off shore from La Ceiba. Three and a half hours by boat or 15 minutes and ten dollars by plane to fly there. Details arranged by phone. Quick conversation, mother complaining how much it was costing.

Oh by the way Sam’s coming to see you, so you’d better meet him and look after him.

Yes, of course I will.

Well you just do that then, he’s flying to the big town in Honduras, that’s where you are isn’t it?

The capital?

I think, so you’d better be there.

Yes yes.

And do you know how much these fone calls are costing me, or rather you I should say seeing as you’ll be paying me half won’t you?

Yes yes ok, when is he coming then?

The way our own travel plans were going we would have ‘done’ Honduras by the time he arrived. After the phone call we continued eastward along the coast as far as the roads went, and then even further, hiking along the beach, hitching rides on a cargo boat delivering supplies to the coastal villages. Into the Mosquito coast, no roads, no electricity, no pumped water, just hoards of missionaries. A month later we reached Tegoose as the Peace Corps boys called it. Tegucigalpa, city of silver. To collect Sam and break it to him we were off to El Salvador. We hadn’t been there, he hadn’t either naturally and that was the plan. The civil war had just ended, or at least paused, and the 12 year struggle had been followed by 6 months of peace, so it should be fine, shouldn’t it ? Yeah yeah.

Sam was escorted to Heathrow by dad to make sure he got on the plane, though it soon became apparent he hadn’t helped Sam with any of his packing. Passengers tumbled out, finally spindly, tall skinny looking, here was our man. Out he came, rucksack awkwardly draped over one shoulder, sliding off, in his hands a fading-fast sad looking Sainsburys bag. Corners of boxes and wrapping paper already disheveled poking through.

Sam, Sam !  Hello.

Hi, gotta stop somewhere.

He quickly reached a wall and allowed the inevitable to happen. The whole outfit, rucksack and plastic mess of ex Sainsburys bag fell in a heap.

Hi Simon, some presents for you from dad. Fuck, fuck, fuck it.

He looked tired. Maybe it was the flight, a long way from London, via the States.

Fucking rucksack, Chris (other brother) lent it to me. It’s a piece of shit it’s broken already.

It did seem to be held together with paper clips and double sided cellotape.

Simon, Simon here are your birthday presents take them. Birthday presents? Yes from your father, you ungrateful bastard, take them my bag weighs a ton.

It was a hot day, nothing too hot but we wore shorts and tee shirts like we did everyday. Sam was standing there in jeans, a chunky synthetic fibers jumper and a jacket bleeding out of the remains of the Sainsburys bag.

Sam, aren’t you hot?

Yes, why?

Why did you bring a jumper and a coat in August?

I thought it might be cold here, you never know, so you don’t think I’ll need it then? No. Oh…

Sam smiled, oh well. Never mind Simon it doesn’t matter. Anyway here are your presents. He quickly unburdened himself dumping them on me. A box of chocolates, dairy milk, great just what I needed. Books, even a hardbacked one, a Terry’s Orange, Turkish delight. I was beginning to suspect these were someone else’s unwanted, now recycled Christmas presents. His plastic bag could now be chucked. Here’s yesterday’s Guardian, ripped and crumpled, he smiled at me.

I thought you’d like that.

Ha ha Sam.

I now had several kilos to add to my already too heavy rucksack, and yet his didn’t seem any lighter. I offered to carry his bag as we went back to collect our stuff and hit the bus to El Salvador. Carrying his pack, 2 weeks worth, it was heavier than mine. Sam what’s in here? Talking to Sharron I left him in conversation and went through his rucksack.


Two more jumpers were in his bag along with several pairs of rugby socks and enough tee shirts to equip a local football team. Below this was his usual habit of bringing loads of tapes half of which were mine and I wished he hadn’t brought. Deeper still, perhaps brought to add ballast was an Oxford English dictionary, hard backed and a folder of about an inch of dog eared tatty hand written pages.

Simon why are you going through my stuff? That’s my story, will you read it when you get a chance ?

I started to launch into a tirade about the amount of stuff he’d brought but no one was interested in hearing it, Sam and Sharron were busy chatting away. Leaving me, as is my obsession trying to come up with ways to reduce the amount of stuff Sam had.

Sam, you’re looking very thin.

Yes Sharron.

Sam as ever spoke in a monotonal flat voice, perhaps the consequence of his desire to be an actor had left him without all accent and tone in his normal speech.

Yes Sharron I was in Egypt in April and I think I lost weight after that.


Well I was pissing blood and shitting all the time, it was most inconvenient, all those bloody Arabs hassling me and me always needing a toilet. I’m sure none of them were proper toilets either. It wasn’t too bad, though I did have to use my hand sometimes.

Sharron politically correct and multiculturally tolerant still spluttered and coughed up some of her sandwich as he told her that.

Sam, Sharron’s eating.

Sorry Simon, I’m sorry. I’m just such an insensitive cunt, sorry Sharron I didn’t mean to offend you. Maybe I should just go home now.

Oh Sam we love you, you know that.

God these Americans always being so fucking nice and loving.

Sam that’s not very nice.

Sorry Sharron, I was only being ironic.

Oh I see she said, which was more than I did, but I decided to keep my mouth shut for the moment.

So, thin and tired, we broke it to him he wasn’t going to spend his holiday in Honduras but El Salvador instead.


He didn’t seem especially bothered by this.

Slappin’ them down 100, 200, 300, four hundred, five   hundred, I can see those fighter planes…., ok El Salvador, fine by me, better not tell mum though she might worry.

We quickly scrambled him onto the bus before he had second thoughts.

The bus thundered on along dusty bumpy roads. Bright stickers lit up the front of bus and on the back a football pitch was painted. Sam looked tired.

Simon, Simon?

Yes Sam?

Simon, can I ask you a question?

Yes Sam.

Ok good, Simon, is it possible to get the driver to stop, no ? It’s just that I really need to go to the toilet, as I was telling Sharron I think my stomach is still not quite right since my visit to Egypt.

Sam, I can’t make the bus stop.

God would it be like this all the time? And then the bus slowed down of it’s own accord. A few potholes slalomed and then, yes he was in luck, we were stopping for a 15 minute meal stop. Sam tore off the bus at lightning speed. Only after he left did I wonder if he’d find the toilets as he didn’t speak Spanish. I hoped he’d work it out, you want to give your younger siblings as much credit as possible. Had a piss and some sort of fried plantain snack. Ready, refreshed people began squeezing themselves back on the bus. The driver honked, time to go, and, nope, no sign of Sam. Fuck where had he gone, how could he have got himself lost in such a tiny area.

Running round, where the fuck was he. Finally found a rusty old steel door wedged shut.

Sam, SAM is that you in there?

God Simon do you have to disturb me.

Sam you’ve been ages the bus is leaving, you’ve got to come now.

Jesus Simon can’t you wait a second I have problems with my stomach at the moment, just give me a few more minutes.

The bus honked again, insistent, it was leaving whether or not the gringos chose to get on board.

No Sam, Sam it’s got to be now.

Fucking hell a man can’t even shit in peace, I’ll just finish wiping……,

Yes yes Sam spare me the details.

I got him back on the bus and we were away, all systems flying off to El Salvador. A detail at the border, no problem with the English boys passports, Sam and I were gaily granted 2 week visas. For Sharron though, and obviously an American imperialist they only gave her a 5 day visa. This could be a problem, but for now at least we were in.

It was already getting dark when the bus arrived in San Miguel so we decided to get a hotel there and Sam was fading fast after his travels. Here he was, on holiday now, two weeks hard earned annual leave, well as hard earned as it takes in the civil service, a most benevolent employer whose only difference between being on the dole and working was the fact you got better paid and you had to sign on/in, roughly, 5 times a week. He was fast asleep, I hoped it would be ok and he’d have a good time.

Next morning, after heavy persuasion I convinced him he didn’t need to wear his jumper or even his coat. The day however began slightly chilly with a grey sky, nevertheless we decided to visit the local attraction. The local outdoors swimming pool, altos de la cueva, high caves ? Off we headed after a slightly unsuccessful breakfast. Sharron and I ate the local delicacy of pupusas, small stuffed white flour tortillas. They came either with meat, cheese or refried beans inside. Tasty enough with plenty large jars of pickled cabbage and chillis to jazz up the pupusas. Sam however was doubtful about these and asked if we didn’t mind if he had a hamburger. For breakfast?, but he was on holiday….

To the swimming pools, Sam with another Sainsburys plastic bag, till it turned out it was the original one, just repaired with some cellotape and staples he’d brought. Inside his bag Shoot football magazine and a big A 4 sized log book in which he was replaying the entire fixtures of the football league with the aid of a couple of dice and a pencil. And Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, which I was sure he’d been reading the last time I’d seen him a year before. So we trooped off to the pool. As we walked I began to wonder why we were attracting so much attention.

There’s no other Westerners around silly, Sharron pointed out. It was true we hadn’t seen anyone else since arriving in El Salvador, and not in this quiet town. Not too surprising really, the civil war had only finished 6 months before, it was hardly a tourist hot spot, and any Westerners they had seen were probably US soldiers. ‘Military instructors’ or some other euphemism – teaching locals how to torture and interrogate in more efficient ways. Hopefully we didn’t look like CIA or anything. Luckily Sam in his Stone Roses tee shirt and his very white limbs and awkward gait was doing his best to prove otherwise.

We arrived at the swimming pool, it was tatty and in need of a lick of paint or two. Paid our 2 colones entrance, about 40 cents. Inside it seemed like a normal day at the swimming pools. People sun bathing and swimming, young boys kissing their young sweet hearts and families tucking into watermelons and big picnic spreads. Nothing extravagant just lots of families out the day. We quietly found a less crowded section and staked out a patch for ourselves. Soon though it was apparent weren’t as anonymous as we’d hoped. Still we did our own thing and for now we were left to ourselves.

To break up the heat Sam and I went for a swim leaving Sharron to look after the stuff. The pool was crowded, full of bodies, swimming, paddling, playing ball, everyone doing their own thing. Sam and I started playing our own game too. The pool was so crowded you couldn’t see from one end to the other. The idea then was both of you started at opposite ends and, negotiating all the human hiding posts you tried to sneak up on the other one. We played this a couple of times until we started hearing hisses and psstss coming from all around. Everyone else in the pool it seemed had noticed me looking for Sam and so wanted to point to where he was hiding in the swimming pool. The game had to abandoned due to audience participation.

Retiring to the sidelines Sam picked up his Shoot mag and decided to read. Quickly though people formed a circle around him and peered over his shoulder at the photographs. All around smiles and good intentions but still he was getting irate.

Jesus Simon why are they all bothering me ?

Already a few had edged closer and were starting to look at the various photos of Ian Rush in resplendent red, Maradona in blue and white, and even one of a team in yellow blue and green, Brãzil. Sam’s audience began talking amongst themselves about the pictures and then directing rapid fire questions to Sam.

Look, look I’m sorry stop speaking so quickly, I don’t speak Spanish, I don’t understand what you’re saying, Maradona yes Maradona, Argentina, Ian Rush Liverpool, yes yes, look I can’t understand you, no speako dagoe…….

Until then I had left Sam to get on with it, but now I did my best to translate what they were saying to him. He couldn’t come out with any more one liners like that. The people were all smiling their intentions were good it was just Sam wasn’t used to it. Luckily we didn’t get lynched for his no speako dagoe comment. The rest of the day went well, we were offered slices of watermelon, and watched like zoo creatures as we ate them. Smiling, benevolent, happy we liked the watermelon before growing bored and returning to chat to their neighbours again.

Off, San Miguel to San Salvador through a dull flat agricultural landscape, chugging along fields, concrete and dust on either side. Livened up halfway along by the bus breaking down and some how squeezed onto the next two buses that came along. Sharron forced to stand, turning greyer and greyer by the second. Then, just as she was surely about to puke a couple of girls moved up and she was able to sit down and a very messy episode was avoided.

Into San Salvador, typically busy dirty bus station, diesel fumes, black clouds of smoke and rubble-ly ground, potholed. Curving out and round to the right, past a whole series of doors with metal gates, ugly women with make-up and ungainly short lurid miniskirts sitting ten yards back. Staring back at us somewhere between disinterested and dozing.

Found the hotel, big green peeling rooms, proudly peppermint stripped sheets and blankets. Again the weather was grey and overcast. We were starting to realise Sam had left English summer to get a little of a Salvadorian invierno, kinda winter, kinda rainy seasonish, but certainly not an out and out heatwave whatever it was.

That’s ok Simon, sunbathing gives you skin cancer anyway and it was too fucking hot in Egypt so I don’t mind. Can we get some beer please ?

Are you sure that’s a good idea with your bad stomach Sam ?

Oh yes it doesn’t matter, fuck it we only live once don’t we.

And he started humming to himself. At this point the musical theme of the holiday started to come through. Inspired by the eldritchian tones of Andrew Eldritch’s voice in the Sisters of Mercy Sam had taken it upon himself to re-interpret many of the year’s easy listening classics into gothic masterpieces.

I wanna dance with someone,

with somebody that loves me,

e-ve-ry thing I do, I do it for you

I’d lie for you, die for you, oh yeah

He’d even gone out and bought the Whitney and Bryan Adams singles in order to learn all the words. He happened to be in El Salvador but he could have easily been downstairs in the kitchen back home in London, he was as happy as a spinning top, in his own world, happy even as his intestines declared war on him and threw everything at his bowls they could.

Are you alright Sam?

Yes, I just had a bit of an excretion problem, he’d say as he came back singing from another extended visit to the toilets.

Down to downtown San Salvador. Waiting for the bus, after having had breakfast, pupusas again, Sam coaxed to try a few, cajoled on the grounds it could be no harder on his digestive system than the ‘amborgaresas were proving to be. He had one meat and one cheese, washed down with a bottle of some vivaciously looking bottle of pinky red soda. We stood waiting for the bus.

Simon – you must imagine the distinctive way in which he says this, – Sigh – pause – monnnnnnn, Simon is there a toilet nearby?

No I don’t think so, why?

Well it’s just I need to go to the toilet, pause, quite badly.

On one side was a busy road empty of options only full of traffic. On the other side to our right behind the bus shelter was the remains of a long neglected public park. Some scrubby grass and no cover for at least 50 metres. A few trees, at most the thickness of someone’s thigh.

Simon, I’ve really got to go.

Fuck, well go behind one of those trees.

I tried not to snigger but it was proving difficult. Urgently he ran to a tree not more than ten meters away. I did my best not to look or notice the faces of the rest of the bus queue. And an already heavily grey sky began to rain.

Sam trudged back.

Simon, Simon, I don’t think I’m very well, my shit, if you can even call it that is pink, do you think I’ve got something serious ?

Sam Sam it’s ok it’s probably only that revolting drink you had….

So sunny San Salvador, Sharron’s visa was already waning and ridiculously she could not get it extended, not in El Salvador anyway. She had to go to Guatemala City to get it. Yep crazy, I’ll do my best to be back in 2 days. Sam make sure he looks after you. And she was off on the next capital to capital bus. Sam didn’t seem too fussed and I scanned the guide book hard trying to find things for us to do for the next couple of days. The Lonely Planet book had really strained itself to come up with something worth doing. Usually in Lonely Planet editions for other places you can read between the lines of their descriptions of places and work out which ones are really worth seeing. With El Salvador however it seemed like there simply wasn’t anything worth seeing.

I had to try, being his big brother and all. I roused him, hassled him and finally persuaded him from replaying the complete football league’s fixture list, whilst doing the whole top 40 re-interpreted by Adrian Eldritch.

Come on Sam how do you fancy going to some swimming pools, listen to the description, ‘Los Chorros, a picnic place just out side of San Salvador with three swimming pools and a man made waterfall, especially popular at the weekends often even to the point of being too overcrowded’. Well there you go, it’s a Tuesday we should be in luck.

We got there to discover we had indeed missed the crush, we were the only people there. Later a couple of drunks showed up and three kids, one looking far too young to be so heavily pregnant, smoking cigarettes and acting as though they were playing truant. The pools and the paths around them were made of concrete slabs, the waterfalls were the same, so it was hardly an excursion into the wild and untamed country side.

Nevermind Simon, Sam reassured me, look what they’re doing. He nodded over to the swimming pool nearest us.

The two lads with the teenage baby factory had swum to the middle of the pool. In the middle was a concrete island and in the middle of the island was a coconut tree. The tree was tall, maybe 20, 25 feet. One of the kids was climbing the tree. The further he climbed the more the tree started to sway, and then as he went higher the whole tree started to bend. No longer climbing up now but outward, and then as his weight began to tip the balance, the whole tree bent and now extended out over the water rather than the concrete island where he’d begun. He now let go and arced down into the water. The other kid did the same, and again a couple of times with monkey like dexterity and then losing interest all three of them trooped off to amuse themselves elsewhere.

Sam how d’ya fancy that ? Hm.

He was dubious.

Come on it can’t be that hard. To prove it, to myself as much as to him, I swam over and started climbing the tree. It wasn’t as easy as it had looked but eventually I got high enough and the tree slowly creaked and began to bend, though I did have to jump up and down on it to make it finally bend and take me out over the water. Relieved I let go and the tree and I returned to more natural positions.

Splash whoosh, fear passed and exhilaration flooded in and swallowed any memories of being scared.

Go on Sam, have a go, look it wasn’t that bad?

He wasn’t sure but I cajoled him into it. He swum over, reached the island and looked at the tree ambivalently. Still, sticking to his task he grimly began to climb the tree. Up he went, and up, and up, and still the tree wasn’t bending, or even looking close to doing so. Skinny enough normally perhaps now, his diarrhea racked body was just too light.

Simon, SI mon, the tree’s not bending.

Er yes Sam I noticed, go higher you’ll be alright.

I can’t my arms are tired.

Already though the tree had bent, not enough to dangle him over the water but enough so that his feet were now higher than his head – to come back now would be harder than to go forward. But still the tree wasn’t bending, Simon, Simon …….. God I hope the tree dropped soon, what would I be able to do otherwise? I didn’t fancy the idea of catching him.


Sam go higher just keep going it will bend in a minute…..

It would wouldn’t it? and just for a moment I wondered about health insurance and if he was covered for falling out of coconut trees. Knowing his luck he’d probably fall onto his head and do something serious – dangling head first downward.

Then a rip, a wooosh and a splash, the tree bent, his grip gave out and we had splash down. A whiter than before Sam swum over. Deadpan, monotonal. Look the bar’s open now. Can we get a beer now please?

Two days later Sharron came back from her jaunt to Guatemala.

Hi Sam how are you, have you been having a good time ?

Yeah, monotone, it’s been ok, went to see Batman Returns, oh and I shat myself at the bus stop.

Sharron’s bouncy good natured smile sort of slipped before proceeding to tell us about an amazing ‘woman’ she had met from Chorley, London. Woman being what she called every one seemingly over the age of nine in her desire to express solidarity and not demean any of her fellow sisters. The girl was over here doing some sort of earnest research for a project about how sexist Mexican men really were in comparison with the behavioral patterns of young men of the south east of England. I hoped I didn’t get to meet her, or at least have to express too much interest in what sounded like just another terribly worthwhile and meaningless college project. Sharron paused in her description of the project’s thesis as Sam seemed eager to ask a question.



Can I ask you a question?

Not being on the receiving end of this painful ritual I was able to sit back, slug my beer and enjoy it.

Well Sharron is it true that in Guatemala they have a beer called cock beer?

Sharron’s face sort of double took, from shock to recovering social decorum, to confusion, to an unwilling comprehension.

Oh, well, Sam you’re close, it is called Gallo Cerbeza, which she rolled off in an infuriatingly accented way, Rooster beer so to speak.

Oh I get it, Cock, Rooster, Simon why are you such a cunt, setting me up to make me look crude and vulgar.

And now all the dirty looks were carefully leveled at me by Sharron.

Sometimes, sometimes Simon, pause, you can be a real jerk.

Hopefully it was all good natured fun, but when Sam did get his El sally holiday snaps developed – apart from artistic snaps of the many toilets he frequented – there were an awful lot of Sharron trying to beat me up.

So what to do with Sam, we were beginning to face the truth that El Salvador was not really perhaps the greatest places for fun things to do. There was a cloudforest park in the north, but this part of the country was still considered too risky to visit.. Sharron feeling particularly consciousness of her american-ness was not keen to go there. The beach called, but before heading to La Libertad, liberty, I decided Sam should get some culture first.

Culture, what culture, there isn’t any here, the whole place is just bombed out, full of craters and rocket holes!

Yeah yeah Sam don’t try getting all cynical and jaded you’re too young for that.

Don’t, slow steady, mon o tonal, don’t be so, pause to find the right word, so patronising.

That’s not a word.

Don’t spilt hairs Simon.

Yeah Simon, Sharron beamed, don’t be such a wanker.

She smiled wide delivering it in her best English accent.

We headed off to Santa Ana, to be the base for a visit to the edge of the frontiers of where the Mayan empire once reached. The Mayan empire reaching amazing heights of creativity and splendour, throughout Central America. Great temples still remained, Tikal in Guatelmala (pinched for Starwars ) Copan in Honduras, several in Mexico, and even a couple in tiny Belize. And, ……, Tazumal, unheard of before, and after, I’d been to Central America. The guide book however had written about it in most positive terms. ” The Maya ruins of Tazumal are considered the most important in El Salvador…..” The next two paragraphs went onto describe it’s context within the local area and some of the objects found there. But I’m sure it never said anything about concrete. The whole place had been restored by dipping it all in concrete. The effect was one of one big huge slightly soggy sandcastle. Sam looked at it and then me quizically……

Yes I’m sorry it does look a bit odd, sorry I didn’t realise it was going to be like that, but it’s interesting in it’s own way isn’t it?

Simon I was just going to ask if you knew where I could find a toilet, it’s just I need one very urgently.

And off he dashed. We sat on top of the sandpit and waited for him. Down below around us in the grass giggly couples frolicked and stole kisses in the long grass just out of vision of their chaperones.

Do you think he’s enjoying himself Sharron?

Sure he is Simon, stop worrying he seems happy enough.

Sam duly returned.

Ahh, I always feel much better after that, can we go and have a beer now please?

Walking back into the town a whole load of noise, commotion and people. I wonder what’s going on? Maybe it’s a football match I offered. Or a revolution, Sam volunteered. I was thinking maybe it was a demonstration actually said Sharron in an excited way. Before we could begin to debate this the answer revealed itself. FERIA – it was the town’s fair, the day of it’s local saints.

Great there must be beer here and off dashed Sam.

Simon you said you’d keep an eye on him, he is your brother afterall…

the words hung in the air, and unwilling as I was, I realised if I wanted a quiet life I didn’t have much option but to find Sam, already long disappeared into the loud colourful masses. As I left Sharron had already turned to read the pamphlets laid out on a stall full of posters, banners and slogans. FLSN, viva Sandino !, las mujeres de la lucha. An information stall for the guerillas who had been fighting the dictatorship which El Salvador had had for a long time. It looked interesting enough, perhaps, but I probably needed to keep an eye on Sam.

Struggling to order,

poor favour, poor favour, uno beer please !

I slipped in and got his beer for him, nagged him a bit for always having to buy his beers – a bit unfair of course since he ‘no speako’d dagoe’.

Hey, Simon, fancy a game of table football – just like old times when you used to beat me up when I used to win. Behind me was a games area, 4 bendy bars dangling from either side and a white ball frantically whizzing around. Luckily one table was free and we maneuvered our way over, slotted the beer into the holes provided and prepared to do battle. Table football the rematch. Outside I could see Sharron earnestly engaged in a conversation with some woman from the stall, but, sadly? as I quickly went 0 -3 down the lure of table football and doing battle with Sam was stronger.

3 – 6 he quickly finished me off the first time. Eager for revenge I sneaked it 5 -4 the second time before going down 4 – 5 and then 2 – 7 in what had become the third set in a game to 5. 6 -3, then 4- 5, then 5 – 4 left me 3 – 4 down needing 2 from 2 to win. Game on 1 – 0, 2 – 0, 2- -1, 3 -1, 3 – 2, 3- 3, 3 – 4, 4 – 4, 5 – 4. Bastard as we worked our way through our second beers and prepared for the show down game. 0 – 1, 0 – 2, 0 – 3, you wanker, 1 – 3, 2 – 3, 2 – 4, 2- 5 …… 3 – 5, 4 -5, but it didn’t matter he’d won and was gleefully dancing round the table.

Ha ha ha, just like that time in 1983 when we played to a 100 games of pool and I beat you 100 – 98 and you smashed the cue and threw all the pool balls at me, ha ha ha.

Sam beamed and jumped up and down, his day was made.

Hey Sam what you so pleased about? Sharron had finally come looking for us, grown worried that we might have had some mishap or other. Sam told her, and slightly bemused about why this had given him so much joy, proceeded to tell us how interesting her chat had been with some of the veterans from the recently ended civil war. I felt bad I’d missed that, but then with my terrible Spanish I probably wouldn’t have understood and I’d enjoyed playing Sam, even if the bastard had beaten me in the end.

Sam seemed happy about coming to El Salvador, as much as anywhere else he might have gone for his two weeks annual leave. Afterall Simon it will make for some good stories down the pub in Chiswick when I get back home, how many other people will have done that in their summer holidays eh?

There were a few other episodes after that; staying in a brothel for three days, getting stopped by the guards at the border because he had tried to take a picture as he left El Salvador, almost drowning on a very choppy beach called San Diego.

Wouldn’t it be funny if you had to tell mum that I’d drowned in San Diego whilst I was in El Salvador ?

Finally leaving after a final farewell meal in Tegucigalpa in a Chinese restaurant where someone had dropped half the salt cellar into our food, and then finally almost missing the plane because he’d wandered back out of the airport to try and change some El Salvadorian money that he’d found in one of his clutter filled (mostly used tissues ) pockets. With that, bar a few little episodes, he came and went, the time had flown by and I was sad to see him go.

Well Sam it’s been nice having you, I hope you had a good time.

Yeah thanks Simon, thanks Sharron, it was nice to see you, Liverpool are playing tomorrow, I wonder if I’ll get back in time to see the game on the television. Oh Sharron you don’t need to cry, ok then, gruff formal but friendly voice, handshake, bye then, rucksack akimbo off he walked, down the corridor, not looking back once, round the corner, gone.