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Monday 19th June 2006

I went on a tour of the island today which took in a one hour ramble in the rain forest (that makes up over a third of the island's area). Mindful of not ruining my new cool trainers I was delighted to find that there was a local man at the start of the trail who was hiring out wellies from the boot of his car.
I had no socks on and the wellies made an amusing fart sound as I squeezed into them. Weirdly this made me feel embarrassed in front of the six strangers I was sharing this experience with, but none of them seemed to have noticed, or maybe politeness forced them to pretend they hadn't. A fart sound is something oned does not want to hear amongst strangers even if it clearly comes from the combination of skin on rubber. Although I have worn wellied occasionally in the last twenty years - during archaeological digs and rowing expeditions and most recently when my cellar flooded, putting on these flatulent boots took me back thirty years to when I used to put on wellies every time I went to play in the garden. Maybe I rarely wore socks them and so it was the sound that transported me back. Doubtless the wellie fart would have amused me then. But now I am mature and farts hold no kind of comedy value for me at all. Yes. Had I known then that I would essentially make my living by recreating this fart sound in a variety of different contexts I might not have bothered studying so hard at school. But it made me smile to be reminded of my childhood in this unexpected way. Better that than a Madeleine biscuit, hey Proust? That sentence is what google was invented for. Google or a decent education. Having said that most of what I know about Proust comes from Monty Python, so google and wikipedia are godsends to me.
As I started my mini-trek into the forest I realised with some degree of horror that the wellie fart sound was not confined to the moment of pedal introduction. On nearly every step the moistness of my foot (I wasn't sweating, it's just our feet contain a certain amount of moisture -it's one of the reasons we can walk on fire) interacted with the rubberyness of the boot and the tiny pockets of air inside it and a realistic fart noise would sound out into the unspoiled wilderness at the heart of Tobago. Had I been with people I knew I could perhaps have made a little joke to prick the shame I was feeling, but I was with strangers and there was going to be sixty minutes of these foot guffs and even if I made them laugh now, by drawing attention to the problem I would surely only irritate them later. Were they aware of my shame? Were they laughing at me secretly? Surely after a few minutes even the most puerile minded idiot would find the continuation annoying. I should know, as I am the most puerile minded idiot in the world and I stoppped finding it funny after about the five hundreth time.
Truly I didn't find it funny hardly at all, because I was dying a little death every time it happened. Sometimes I thought I had found a way to walk that would stop the sound, but then heavy footfall would produce a louder shoe trumpet than ever. I was unable to enjoy my walk through the forest, so concerned with the social gaffes that my feet were unwittingly and continually making. It reminded me of the amusement that my nephews and niece had had when they got me a pair of farting slippers for Christmas. How funny would they find this? Maybe not as funny now, as they were a bit younger then and are now young adults and thus more mature than me. But with those slippers only only the right foot made the fart sound. Both feet were farting now, making this twice as funny. And I wasn't enjoying the experience this time and doing it on purpose whilst pretending to be embarrassed, I was genuinely unsettled by this quaking in my boots.
After about twenty minutes I managed to remind myself that I was on holiday and should be relaxing and not getting fraught and I accepted that there was nothing I could do about this and managed to mainly ignore it and enjoy what was going on around me. The highlight was seeing a land crab (I had never countenanced such a thing) inside a little hole in a bank of soil beside us. He had a cushy life compared to his sea dwelling cousins down on the rocks by my hotel. No briny waves trying to dislodge him, no bigger crabs fighting or fucking him for territorial advantage, just a cool soily hole in the middle of humid and quiet (save for the sound of flatulent footwear) forest. He was even better looking than his counterparts scrabbling down in the sea, having a fine red shell. We teased him with a little stick which he continually mstook for prey and kept grabbing on to with his pincers. He didn't seem to learn from experience, always hopeful that this time it wouldn't be a stick but something delicious to eat (and I got the impression that this crab would not be content with rock scum - the sea crabs would probably dream of eating a stick). You had to admire his hopefulness. But by the time I wielded the stick he had finally and literally twigged and only gripped the proferred offering in the most perfunctory manner. It was nice to achieve contact with him though. I had worried that he might lose patience with this relentless teasing and decide that enough was enough and leap out and bite me in the face.
Soon enough we were back at the bus and I was returning my wellies to the man in the car and wondering if the smile he gave me was one of friendship, or because he knew the Hell he had put me through. Maybe he'd deliberately given me the farty wellies knowing how uncomfortable it would make me feel.
But the joke was on him because by the end of the trek I had discovered the one advantage of farty footwear. It meant I could do an actual fart and no-one would know. Any unusual smell could be blamed on nature. It was the perfect crime.

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