Thursday, October 28, 2021

Around The World In Eighty Words : 9. IRONING



The Story So Far .....

It started as a harmless question during one of those long lockdown days: was it possible to travel virtually around the world in just eighty word changes to my what3words geolocation code and return to my starting point?. For a companion I had my six year old labradoodle, Lucy, and seeing as it is a virtual trip I allow her to speak occasionally (although she never makes much sense). My starting point was the what3word location code for my desk at home - /// - and so far our travels have taken us to such diverse places as America, Australia, Libya, Ireland - and precariously balancing on a floating plank in the middle of the North Sea. Somewhere along the line, we invented a rule that we take it in turns at choosing a new word which will take us to a new, unknown, location. Our last stop was in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia (///sake.wink.quite) at which point Lucy chose the next of our eighty words - ironing.

“You said it!.” “No I didn’t!” “Yes, you did. I distinctly heard you say it”

Lucy and I had been arguing like this for what seemed like the best part of an afternoon. In truth, there was little else to do, as we were walking through the Karakum Desert in south-east Turkmenistan.

“You said “Ironing”, I know you did”, I tried to sound authoritative, which is not easy to do when you are in the middle of a desert with a defiant dog and nothing to sustain you other than a quarter of sherbet lemons.

“It was not “ironing”, it was merely the sound of satisfaction at having located that last piece of Chinese dumpling that had been stuck to my tail.” Lucy said that, which is a good thing as you would have reason to worry if it had been me. “And I hate all this sand, it gets right into your paws.” Lucy said that as well.

Whether we liked it or not - whether we intended it or not - we finished up with a what3words code of ///ironing.wink.quite, and that had placed us in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. It could have been worse, I suppose, another two hundred and fifty miles south and we would have been in Afghanistan with more than an excess of sand to put up with. I’m not sure than the Taliban are quite ready for a talking dog just yet.

Even if we were to avoid Afghanistan to the south, we were still faced with Uzbekistan to the north, or Tajikistan to the east - it is really difficult to avoid a stan in this part of the world - so I had decided to head west, heading further into Turkmenistan.

“There’s a city called Mary about fifty miles west of here where there is a hotel with a swimming pool, free wifi, and free breakfasts,” I said after consulting the guidebook.

“Does it have a bar?” Lucy had become quite attached to a glass or two of stout of an evening ever since our trip to Dublin

“No, I don’t think so,” I said, “but they have a whole selection of fruit juices.” At that point Lucy insisted on consulting the guidebook herself - which was a pointless exercise because she was not a good reader.

“Let’s go to Merv”, she said, “it’s only thirty odd miles away and is the largest city in the world: surely a dog can get a decent pint of Guinness there”.

“No, no, no,”, I said, “it was the largest city in the world 900 years ago, it’s nothing but a series of spectacular ruins these days.”

And so the argument continued as we made our way over the endless sand dunes. “Mary”, I said. “Merv” she countered. “Mary”, “Merv.” Eventually I said “Hang about there is a village even closer, only about 12 miles away, we could try that.” “What’s it called?”, asked my dog. I checked the map again - “ahh, no, perhaps not - it’s called Perv.” We continued on through the sand, occasionally stopping to have another chorus of “You said ironing / No I didn’t.”

 Eventually we decided that there was nothing for it but to abandon the delights of Turkmenistan and move onto a new word and hence a new location. I told Lucy in no uncertain terms that it was my turn to choose a new word and that we would see a return to something like logic in our word choices. “Seeing that we are stuck with “ironing” for a bit” what about having an ironing basket”, I said. So, look out ///ironing.basket.quite, here we come.

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Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...