Over the Sea to Sierpe

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Demetri Martin does a ‘Sort of’ routine: ‘Sort of’ is such a harmless thing to say. Sort of. It’s just a filler. Sort of – it doesn’t really mean anything. But after certain things, sort of means everything. Like after ‘I love you’ or ‘You’re going to live.’ I spent some time in the office at the hotel in the role of resident flak catcher when a surccession of managers, shipped down here from San Jose, fell apart, cracked up ran into the jungle clutching bottles. A lot of visitors wanted to discuss the internet signal with me, and very few shared my opinion that it was a miracle that we had it. Sort of. We don’t have roads, or phones or cars; there’s twenty foot of rain falling on us, and sometimes we have an internet signal strong enough to suck in mail. That’s amazing.

Comedian No.2, Louis C.K: “Everything’s amazing right now and nobody’s happy”. He tells how he was on a flight that was offering new-fangled, super hi-tech internet access. It packed up, and the man next to him, goes ‘This is bullshit!’. “How quickly” says Louis, “the world owes him something he didn’t even know existed 10 seconds earlier”.

Quite. That’s right. But I need it. For the last few weeks the signal has drifted and flat-lined. Following two days spent swatting mosquitoes and waiting for a page to load, I packed my laptop in bin liners and went to get a boat for the three-hour round trip in driving rain across rough seas, the Hawaii surf of the wet season breaking against the rocks of the river mouth and through the mangroves to the one horse town of Sierpe, (picture attached of the one horse), and the superior internet facilities of Las Vegas, the bar. Unfortunately there wasn’t a boat.

I spent days in the Bucket o’ Blood Bar and at the end of a jetty in the Bay Islands 25 years ago waiting for a mail boat, or a fishing boat, or any boat, to get off the island. It probably wouldn’t be such a trial being stranded there these days, but back then people . . . well, let’s just say they didn’t get many visitors. It brought it all back.  Anyway, yesterday there was a boat, and I shared it with Fitz’s caretaker, William, and his wife Carmen (she of the puma incident), who had some days off.

Obviously there wasn’t a lot going on in Sierpe, because there never is (this, I guess, is its charm – not that it really has charm), but I sat in Las Vegas, checked emails (including one, an invitation to a cider event at the Houses of Parliament, and another, a press trip London-Panama) while crocodiles snapped below, and listened to the usual trio of sleazy guides approach backpackers with some ingenious conversational openers. I strolled about, chatted to a man hosing down his piebald horse, went to Super el Combo but couldn’t see anything I wanted to buy, dropped into the police station to see if they’d found any Colombian drug lords this month (no, actually, they hadn’t). Lorena, who runs the hotel’s Sierpe office, had a new grandson in a back room which she got out for me and the boat captain to have a look at, and then it was time to go home. Away from all this craziness.

There were two tourists on the boat coming back, and plenty of whales and dolphins in the dark, choppy sea.  It’s nice to go to town. Sort of.

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