I once met a woman who had a tattoo of her world travels. It started in New York,ended in Melbourne and included copies of her visas and passport stamps. It was brilliant. As we were in London at the time, I guessed that there was more pain ahead.
It set me thinking about writing travel book. I’d call it The Trip – about my many falls in foreign lands.
Such as in front of a queue of hundreds outside the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, where among the many, many people who tried to pick me up, offer water, plasters, sympathy and advice about shoes, was an Englishwoman who – while I was still prone – started on a litany of her falls.
We traded tumbles. She kicked off with an embarrassing incident in the food hall of M&S Coventry. I parried with a flat-on-the-face episode outside a café in Rome where a very charming young man (small) tried to pick me (not small) up. Two excited ladies rushed out of the café. My Italian is negligible, but by the universal language of indignation I got the drift. “That hole! It was bound to happen! How many times have we told the council? Signora, you have a claim!” I threw in a bonus fantasy tale of how he described the episode to mama over spaghetti.
She came back with a fall off the chair at the dentist. I offered a flattened banana bush in Cambodia. She rallied with a situation on the Paris metro. I gave her that thing that happened in Oslo. As she paused for thought I closed in with a nasty scrape in the Hebrides.
She scored with an account of the time she fell out of her car outside the school gates and her kids walked straight past her. Laughter from English speakers in the queue. I recognised a strong, late surge. Desperate, I traded my killer blow – the time I staggered off the plane at Charles de Gaulle and was caught by the man ahead of me. My sparring partner, recognising a closer, held up the gloves.
My saviour hurried away, so I’ll take this opportunity to say thanks a lot, Michael O’Leary.
Incidentally, the glossary of my book will include the frequent faller’s universal plea: “No, I’m ok, go away” – in five languages.
Entries to The Irish Times Travel Writer competition, in association with Travel Department, are now closed. The winning writer will be announced on October 29th in The Irish Times Magazine. See irishtimes.com/travelwriter