Robbie F and Me
Updated: Jun 11
About to enter an authoritarian state with that has a zero tolerance for international media. Over one shoulder, a bag of incrimination. Things don't look good and it seems that on this obstacle course I am about to unceremoniously crash into the first hurdle with the indignity of a fosbury flopping Sumo.
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 he is here to ensure my dream of Burmese Dreaming doesn't disappear in a waft of non existent smoke before a spark has been seen.
Customs: they 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 us colluding CIA infiltrators that have come here to destabilise this nation.
A cartoon talk bubble emanates from the top of my head. It says "F*ck!". My stomach plays the rollicking fourth movement of a discordant symphony that has been banging away 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.
At that time, 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. I am no gunging ho warrior. The toilet can attest to that.
A few hours on and as I am ushered towards my own personal baggage inspection table, my mind churns out my oft repeated attempt at self-assurance: hounds like to keep it simple. Simpler to dispatch prying eyes before having to take steps to rip them out. Detention - possible- some awkward questions - likely - and then invariable deportation. I can deal with that. Anticipation is more painful than reality.
A moment of relief - the hound to sniff out my crime is to be 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 ice cave. Her well trained finger knows automatically to point at my bag of guilt. On the table and open it up. I'm doomed.
Robbie, now is the time, 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. I won a Robbie doll.
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 whispered to me that Robbie should come too. I removed the base of my camera bag and laid it on top of the video cameras, a fragile pretence of concealment, but it served as a bed upon which Robbie could comfortably lie, and that is where I place him. And thus we journey together to the totalitarian state of Myanmar.
The salivating werewolf opens my camera bag. 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 who poses no threat to her nation. Without further ado, she zips up the camera 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 of my $10-a-night Rangoon guest house I leave him on the bed head . He is picked up by a cleaner who gifts the figurine to a 12 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.