Monday, November 24, 2003

Home safely -- just.

London is reassuringly cold and damp but there's nowhere better to curl under a thick duvet after a few weeks in the tropics. I've returned to a pile of unpaid bills (including two fines for driving in a bus lane -- oops!), letters for missed appointments and a stack of stinking washing that's threatening to overwhelm my flat. It's going to take me a while to plough through that little lot.

The return journey was not without incident. On Sunday I was up at 7, intending to head to the spider market a couple of hours outside Phnom Penh, where traders buy and sell thousands of tarantulas which are then cooked as a local delicacy.

I thought it'd make a great radio piece and Sean was eager to take some photos.

I felt a little off colour as we set out but I thought little of it.....probably the prospect of having to eat a freshly-fried spider for the purposes of the radio report, I thought.

Ten minutes after setting off, however, I stuck my head out of the window of the jeep and sprayed a line of unsuspecting Cambodians with the contents of my stomach. I immediately went back to the hotel and spent the next 10 hours in a state of what can delicately be described as "considerable discomfort." I won't go into the gory details but needless to say it involved toilets, sinks and a lot of groaning on my part. In a reversal of Newton's laws of gravity, what went down very quickly came back up.

I thought there'd be no way I'd make my Sunday evening flight as I couldn't even stand up without liquid seeping from one or other end. I desperately dosed myself up with just about everything I could find in the magic medical pack the BBC issues to journalists travelling abroad -- antibiotics, anti-emetics, Auntie Ediths -- you name it, I took it. Amazingly, it seemed to do the trick.

By the time came to pack I was just about fit enought to fly and the thought of being stranded in Phnom Penh for a week feeling like death gave me the adrenaline boost I needed to get to the airport.

After negotiating check-in, security checks and passport control in a nauseous sweat I thought the best thing to do was knock myself out for as long as possible. An elephant-strength valium ensured that I slept though most of the Bangkok to London flight and I awoke feeling weak but over the worst.

I think I'll live to tell the tale but my weighing scales tell me I've lost half a stone in the process.


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