Day 35 – Ayahuasca Part II

After the first magical ceremony we were on spiritual overdrive. The Ayahuasca goddess had let us into her beautiful, natural world and nothing could stop us.

We started the next day with a cleanse, jumping into a freshwater stream at the bottom of the hill, one by one dipping our heads three times underwater to clear the cobwebs from the night before. It was cold.

Two of the group went for a walk and foraged a selection of delicious fruits and berries. The line between foraging and scrumping is a little blurry when you’re still full of DMT and pass a pomegranate tree in someone’s front garden.

fruit.jpgFeeling my newfound bond with the animals I let a house fly land repeatedly on my arms and legs; rather than swatting it away I let it go about its business: “I’m a friend of the flies, you can land wherever you want pal.” A red shield bug got agitated as I coaxed him onto my hand: “Fear not little bug, I come in peace.” I was clearly still under the influence as I fell over on my way to the toilet.

As recommended we took a full day off the black stuff after our first ceremony to recover. I wouldn’t say any of us were quite compos mentis but a proper sleep and a rest did us all good.

Next on the agenda was a short ritual around Hannah’s cauldron – each of us wrote on a piece of paper something we wanted to get rid of, lit the paper on fire and cast it into the pot to burn away.

Impatience.jpgMy patience was soon tested as we looked for a bicycle pump. I delved among dust and cobwebs in the exposed basement, dislodging a couple of dead snails as I searched. After 20 minutes and three laps of the musty drawers I was about to abort mission when I checked a new drawer inside the house and a brand new pump appeared – thanks Auntie Ayahuasca.

In preparation for our second ceremony we took a plant bath. This involved Ru and Hannah picking a selection of healing and medicinal plants from around the garden – lavender, rosemary, hibiscus and other flowers – before leaving them to soak in water for a few hours.

Plant bath.jpgThis felt like the perfect opportunity for Tarzan to get his speedos on. I was instructed to rub the brown, plant-infused concoction into every crack and orifice. It was cold.

speedo-plant-bath.jpgAfter all this bonding with nature we expected an even better second trip. In contrast to the nervous excitement of the first ceremony there was a reverential atmosphere as we went through the rituals, banishing dark spirits as the medicine flowed.

I asked Ayahuasca for a better understanding of the universe and my own place within it. Not much then. I sat in a new spot, buckled up and got ready for the ride.

Similarly to round one the first two drinks had no effect and I purged after my third cup. I sat waiting for the magic and was again greeted with a whole lot of nothing. I thought back to the cauldron and tried to relax…then the ceremony drew to a close, the lights came on and it was over.

Was I being impatient? Had I been greedy in my request? Maybe I was being punished for eating a couple of biscuits earlier that day, or maybe I simply hadn’t drunk enough.

It was clearly working on others: Hasina was occupied by spirits as she incanted a tribal chant and Justin was in pleasuretown, giggling and whooping as if he was being tickled aggressively with a feather duster.

As Andy had also felt very little we reassessed the situation and let doubt creep in. Maybe the talk of spirits and nature was just a way to make sense of all the discomfort and vomiting. Maybe we were putting lipstick on a DMT pig.

As one of the group mistakenly trusted a fart and followed through for the second time that night we laughed at how ridiculous it all felt: when you subtract the hallucinations all you are left with is nausea and a few buckets of human waste.

Ru told us there would be ups and downs and that each person would find their own meaning from the experience, even long after the retreat was over; perhaps we needed to be brought down to earth and this was all part of the journey.

I decided to keep the faith but after glimpsing something otherworldly in the first ceremony this felt like a major speedbump; either the magic was wearing off or this was another necessary stage in Ayahuasca’s masterplan…

Next stop: Ayahuasca Part III 

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Day seven. Speedos and self-reflection

Words of the Day

Speedo: 1. Informal, short for speedometer 2. Trademark, men’s brief, tight, swimming trunks

Misogynist: a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women

Yep, speedos and misogyny. Buckle up people, shit’s about to get real. But let’s ease into it….

So the travel diary without any travel ends here. I’m writing this from the south of Spain, where my mum recently bought a lovely little holiday home in Quesada, on the Costa Blanca. Quesada is not the most authentic of Spanish retreats; there are more Irish pubs than tapas bars and shop owners greet customers in English, but it’s cheap, cheerful and, most importantly for mum, sunny over 300 days of the year.

After a late flight in I woke up to the sounds of cicadas and chainsaws (next door is doing some landscaping work) and rays of Spanish sunshine piercing the blinds. So this is it, the real start of my journey. Will I find my ‘perfect paradise,’ like the day I sat next to Sarah Slater on the bus to the school playing fields?

I emerged from the poolside room, towel in hand, ready to occupy the prime sunbed location next to the olive tree; as I opened the door and made a few steps in pursuit of my prize, the path to the sunbed was blocked by what could only be an apparition – my Uncle Bill in a pair of speedos.

Uncle Bill

The horror I experienced in that moment was not due to the speedos themselves. I love speedos. I rock speedos. Few men are more comfortable in the garment, or so I thought until I saw Uncle Bill. It was the way he wore them, with such panache and insouciance, like they were an old pair of jeans.

Fashion runs deep in the Jones family. Mum can make anything on her sewing machine, my sister Steph is smashing her career at Alexander McQueen, and I….I have some nice shoes. And, like all fashionistas, Uncle Bill knows how to accessorise. The trainers and hat were clearly on point, but you need to look a little closer to see the true genius of the man.

“Is that a piece of toilet roll on your face, Bill?”
“No, Oliver, it’s a nose protector made from toilet roll, it’s what the Australian cricketers wear.”
And that was that.


Will the real OJ please stand up put some shorts on 

Uncle Bill is worthy of a dedicated blog post, but for now I want to talk more about speedos. And firstly let me apologise to team America who use the singular form, speedo. In Britain we wear them as a pair.

With my friends I have become almost synonymous with speedos. Rarely would a pool party go by without me stripping off and showing off in my latest number. Whether it was the poolside supermodel catwalk (I can do male and female) or my snakey-hipped, pelvis-thrusting dance moves, I have never been shy to don some budgie-smugglers and act the fool.

So who is this (cute, sexy) man? Speedos, Lycra and fancy dress seem to have become a part of my DNA in recent years. A cursory flick through my Facebook profile pictures would appear to confirm it.

But why is there hardly a single picture of me in normal clothing? Why am I always showing off and who is this persona I have created? Is it the real me or just some social media derivative? Ok, deep breath, this is the ‘buckle up’ part….

Around 18 months ago I found out that a man who had met me only twice had described me as a misogynist.

The emotion I felt upon hearing this was like the opposite of a mic drop. Horrified.

I do not dislike, despise, or have strong prejudices against women. The two friends who told me about it (one male, one female) vigorously defended my honour in the resulting discussion. However, the man in question was not stupid. He knew what it meant and would not have used it without reason. What had I done or said that could make someone use such a sickening and emotive word to describe me?

The answer was twofold, both in the things I had done and the things I had said.

Had I ever objectified women? Honestly, yes.
Had I ever shown a lack of respect towards women? Another yes.

And in fuelling the fire of my party boy, speedos-wearing, ‘superlad’ persona I was telling stories which reinforced this totally unacceptable behaviour.

The first step is admitting you have a problem and, as you can see, I’m working on changing my story. In the 18 months or so since this happened I have been living closer to the values that are most important to me – respect, honesty, humility – but I’m still a work in progress.

My close friends and family know who I am and how I roll, but I have a way to go before the persona, online and offline, catches up.

For now, here’s a picture of me, and an unknown accomplice (hi Kenny), in Las Vegas in 2009, sporting the original banana hammock. I do not intend to stop wearing my speedos, I just hope to be a better person underneath them.

And on that note I’m overdue some pool time….as I didn’t bring my speedos I will be wearing shorts.


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