I can’t help but let out a shriek. My husband is on his back, eyes closed, concentrating on the business at hand, so he naturally assumes that my cry has something to do with his technique.
‘Was that good or bad?’ he asks, opening his eyes. At which point he too sees the family, who are now standing in a line at the end of our bed.
Out of the generous number books I was gifted by a friend, this one was the one that I was looking forward to the most. I love travel, I enjoy travel writing, I like to think I have a fairly easy sense of humour, this had to be winner.
For me, the joy of travel writing is that you learn about the traveller, as they learn about the place they are travelling through, what makes a funny travel story is something that happens unexpectedly, or makes the traveller react or behave in a way that they would not normally do, or is so off the wall as to be bewilderingly funny. What I realised is that when you take these humorous escapades out of that context, they read like any number of inane magazine articles, and in a compilation such as this, it’s as if each writer is trying to outdo the others, trying too hard to turn something that isn’t funny into the funniest story in the world. It wasn’t helped by the sheer number of them, that turned what I thought would be a light read into what felt like a test of endurance. Indeed had I read them in a magazine I probably would have enjoyed them more, perhaps I should of dipped in and out, but I have a bookshelf of accusing books to work my way through, such is my addiction. If you’re thinking of reading this, my advice is to dip..
There were some good stories, almost all of which were the last ones in the book. Jeff Greenwald’s Left Luggage was genuinely funny, Kathie Kertesz’s The Prince and I highlights how you can really be in the right place at the right time with surprising results but perhaps the best story was Wangara’s Cross, by Joshuah Clark, which remained in my memory for it’s bitter-sweet humour and made a poignant ending to what was otherwise a long slow journey.
At the Dum Dum baggage claim, the single carousel was nearly annihilated; it looked like a model, in miniature, of an Indian train derailment. The metal fins were bent, and forced their way ahead with a shrieking, grinding noise, like sheet metal being fed into a paper shredder. The little burlap curtain, where the luggage usually makes it’s entrance, had been torn off. Even the rubber rail had been removed, no doubt reincarnated as the jury-rigged bumper of a Calcutta taxi,