Robbie F and Me
Updated: Oct 15
Here I am, about to enter a media access restricted authoritarian state. Over my shoulder, a bag of incrimination. It’s not looking good and it seems that on this particular obstacle course I am about to unceremoniously clatter into the first hurdle with the grace of a fosbury flopping Sumo wrestler.
Then God intervenes.
Listen to the Anfield crowd: there is only one God, scorer of 128 goals, capped 26 times for England, a deity of moral fortitude evidenced by his rebranding CK as a part of the word doCKer in solidarity with striking doCKers.
God is Robbie Fowler.
And right now Robbie stands - actually lies - between me and the dream of Burmese Dreaming disappearing in a waft of non existent smoke before a spark has been lit.
Customs: they can smell the sweat, the inner clamour. It seeps out through pores and on to the olfactories of these wolf-hounds as distinctively as the malodour of decomposing road kill.
A uniformed carnivore pulls me from the regular queue and walks me across to the table where fellow uniforms line up awaiting the opportunity to dismember colluding CIA infiltrators lining up to destabilise this nation.
A cartoon talk bubble emanates from the top of my head. “Oh f*ck” with an oversized exclamation mark. My stomach plays the rollicking fourth movement of a discordant symphony that it has been banging out since waking up this morning.
This morning: a time in a parallel and much more convivial universe. The Sala Thai Guest House, Bangkok. Falling asleep last night had been no problem, 2.00am, after a number of pints downed in a Bangkok pub as Liverpool downed Arsenal in the FA Cup Final.
The realities of today were nowhere to be seen on any conscious horizon.
Not so this morning. Reality bit and my independently functioning stomach starts to bang out its symphony to a regularly visited toilet bowl.
Now, a few hours on and as I am ushered towards my own personal baggage inspection table, my mind churns out it’s oft repeated assurance: hounds like to keep it simple. Simpler to dispatch prying eyes before having to take steps to rip them out. Detention, some awkward questions, and deportation the invariable penalty for detection, and I can deal with that. Anticipation is much more painful.
A moment of relief - my uniform is a lady, hard set and square jawed like an Eastern European tow truck. Nonetheless she is somehow less intimidating than her male counterparts. I squeak meaningless Burmese at her, a failed distraction: her focus is as single pointed as that of a levitating monk meditating in a loin cloth in a Himalayan cave. Her well trained finger knows to point at my bag of guilt. On the table and open it up.
So it’s now or never, Robbie, weave your magic or join me in purgatory.
In the early hours of this morning, as the final whistle blew on 2001s FA Cup final, good fortune crawled from the final swigs of my pint. The post match raffle. 7th prize is mine. A plastic effigy of a footballing deity.
This morning I looked at Robbie and thought, “Sorry mate, there is no place for you on this trip.” But then the heavens parted and they told me Robbie had to come too. I removed the base of my camera bag and laid it on top of the cameras, a fragile pretence of concealment, but it served as a bed upon which Robbie could lie, and that is where I place him. And thus we journey to the totalitarian state of Myanmar.
The salivating werewolf opens my camera bag and there is Robbie staring up at her, garish, ridiculous, unexpected. His plastic eyes cast a mesmerising spell of delusion. The lady in the military uniform realises I am a moron and without any further ado, closes up the bag and waves me through.
Robbie had done his job. The journey that is Burmese Dreaming will begin after all. But deification is a tough gig, and like an ageing Gazza, three days later Robbie is surplus to requirements. When I check out I leave him on the bed head of the $10 a night Rangoon guest house in which I have been staying. He is picked up by a cleaner who gifts the figurine to a 10 year old nephew who mistakes it for Rio Ferdinand and proudly displays it next to the counterfeit Man U premier league title flag hanging on his wall.
Robbie - I am sorry you did not figure in the film credits of Burmese Dreaming. It was an oversight.
And this is a belated thank you.