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Roundabout from Hell

British people must love roundabouts. I think it becomes clear for an outsider at the latest when you do some driving yourself in the UK. Sometimes it seems that the number of roundabouts in some smaller villages is greater than their population. (Although, the word is that half of world's roundabouts are located in France. However, I've driven only a bit in France, so Britain remains The Kingdom of Roundabouts for me, ok?) British roundabouts are typically your regular circular junctions with an island in the centre, but in many places there are also these mini roundabouts, a mere circle and arrows painted on the road. And then there's The Magic Roundabout.

The first time I was introduced to the Magic Roundabout in Swindon, England was probably in an email from a friend or work mate. It was one of those circular emails that often come with abbreviations like OMG or WTF. And sure, the first glance to a combination of big central island roundabout surrounded by five(!) mini roundabouts looks like something invented by a Marquis de Sade of Traffic Planning during a severe turn of delirium tremens.

The image never left my brains. Many years afterwards me and my wife got a wedding invitation to a certain Loughborough photographer. We booked flights to London and rented a car there. But we didn't take the straightest route to Loughborough, oh no. I still remembered this Britain's gift to the world traffic, so of course we had to take a considerable detour to Swindon. How did we make it? Watch the video:


South-East Asia in Yer Face!

More or less the exact spot where I bought the book.
Lying on the beach on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand in the very end of 2004. A man in his fourties walks in on me to sell his book. He briefly tells he's been backpacking in Asia for years, and that he has written down some stories about his travels and offers his book for few US dollars, euros or some Thai bahts. Can't remember the price any more, but it was very reasonable. He hands me a copy and politely retreats few metres away giving me a possibility to browse through the book before I decide if I want to buy it.

The layout and the general appearance of the book is rather shabby. The pages are obviously Xeroxed in some local Asian copying service shop and stapled together with simple plastic binding. The book or, despite its over 120 pages, merely a booklet, has also plastic covers to make it a bit more book-like rather than just a sheaf of notes. On the cover there is the name of the book, South East Asia in Yer Face and the author, Adrian Robson. Illustrations on the cover look like a mixture of cheesy clip-art pictures. The table of contents reveals stories like Bangkok Girls or Komodo or Bust and by riffling through the pages one very soon notices a generous ration of curse words, occasional poor grammar and typos within the text. The man, Adrian himself, points out that the first story, Bukit Lawang,  is about a flash flood occurence in North Sumatra he barely survived and which actually prompted him to write the whole book. That alone is quite intriguing, especially since we're just couple of days away from the Boxing Day tsunami which hit also Thailand heavily. (By that time we didn't yet realise how bad the disaster actually was, and Koh Chang was untouched by the tidal waves.)

- Well, what the hell, I start, intending to buy the book when I notice weird, almost angry expression on Mr. Robson's face.
- What? he asks looking like daggers drawn.
- I said: What the hell, I'll buy this. How much was it again? I reply, and the author markedly calms down and starts smiling again. We close the deal. Small amount of bahts and a book change owners. Mr. Robson thanks, waves goodbye and continues his stroll on the beach to find the next buyer for a copy of his book.

I later realise that I probably had failed using the expression 'what the hell' as in 'sure, why not'. Adrian most likely first thought I meant something like 'what the hell is this crap'. A good example of how easily you can become misinterpreted by speaking a foreign language with only slightly inadequate intonation. And we're not even talking about tonal languages here.

Well, I didn't read the book right away. Instead it travelled with me back to Finland, where it was buried and forgotten in the bookshelf for several years. I recently discovered it again and finally read it. I was first afraid the stories might be mostly about drinking beer and banging prostitutes, but to my delight the stories were more or less pure rock'n'roll - not forgetting the sex and drugs. In the introduction Adrian Robson tells that apart the flash flood, all incidents described are everyday occurrences that can happen to anyone in South-East Asia, the trick being to be in the wrong place at the right time.
Somewhere in the book Robson mentions he has no previous experience whatsoever on writing, and to be honest, that becomes quite obvious when reading the book. However, after reading all of the stories, and the separate 'Author's Opinions' section at the end, where Robson compares eight different South-East Asian countries, I must say that I'm very happy to own this quite unique piece of travel literature. Actually, many of the happenings in the book are similar to things I'd like to write in this very blog. Adrian Robson writes in a fun and excited way, and with fucking many swear words. This amateur book manages to do what any professional travel book should: It definitely made me want to go traveling again. To Indonesia!