A thought plonked it’s self in me a while ago, on a whimsical whim, to go to all of the countries in the world. It sounds, on face value, like an impossible task. It certainly isn’t impossible. But on my hideously curt budget I think it just might be. But one can certainly dream can’t one? I asked Mr Google how many countries there are in the world, and it’s not as simple a question to answer as I might have thought/ hoped.
Apparently most of the current “World Almanacs” use 193 countries, but this doesn’t take in to account some places like Kosovo and Palestine et al. I have no idea why. On the other hand, the US State Department recognizes 194 independent countries. But in this case it’s the US and A’s political agenda which is making the final cuts e.g it includes the good old Kosovians, but not the good old Taiwanese, as the good old Chinese claim that Taiwan (the ROC) is just a little, whingeing upstart province of China. On top of that, apparently our fair isles are not dissected in most estimates either! Which is a joke, and for the purpose of my tally England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ARE proper seperate countries. So put that on the internet and you can come to me if you want to argue the toss, but I wouldn’t if I were you because I mean it. And I’m pretty sure you would get the rough edge of my tongue if you pursued the topic with me in an ernest fashion… I’m just saying…. yeah? Also Denmark reckons it pretty much owns Greenland so some count them as one too. Anyway, all in all it’s an arithmetic nightmare.
The newest country, I learned, is South Sudan which earned it’s independence by referendum after years of civil war, in July 2011. Here’s it shiny new flag:
It’s a good flag, I am a bit of a flagologist so I should know. When Libya gained independence they decided just to have a green rectangle as a flag. Nothing else, just green. Errr… hello? Where are the frikkin dragons or wizards? SPICE IT UP LADS. But while looking for info on the Libyan flag, I got a literal LOL from this Translation companies website:
Don’t worry lads, I got a sheet of A4, a green felt tip and a scanner, I reckon I got it covered.
So I counted how many countries I’ve done so far: 26, and decided that 196 would be my target country figure; It turns out I have been to 13.2% of all of the countries in the world. I think that’s a solid start, but I’m relatively sure I will never go to Iran or Iraq or Ghana. But who knows, places change right? I suppose just 40 years ago no one would have imagined going on holiday to Cambodia or Vietnam. Maybe there is hope. To be fair though, them there Middle Easters are pretty screwed.
So, to start my plans, what I decided I would do is give you a run down of my score sheet so far, and a one or two line anecdote for each place visited. And, just as a side note, this list is for my sake and not yours, so don’t feel compelled to continue reading if rigor mortis sets in. OK? So… In no particular order:
1] England – Yes it counts, but I have no anecdotes about England, except for that one time… oh I’ve probably told you before…
2] Scotland – My little brother Joel, probably about 6 years of age, fell over, head first, in a boat and got the mesh pattern of the metal hull imprinted on his forehead for a whole day. I ate haggis.
3] Wales – As a small child, our family stayed in a small cottage on a Farmer’s land for our Summer holiday a few years in a row. Each year, as a 7-10 year old, I found myself more and more attracted to the farmer’s 20 year old daughter. Just a few months ago, when I relayed that tale to my Mother she told me that the girl in question was actually slightly “special.”
4] Ireland – I played at a Radio 1 Pop festival in Ireland and during the taxi ride to the venue (before midday) there were drunk preteens lining the hedges all the way along the country roads, puking and sleeping. Joy to the world.
5] France – University holiday, 12 of us, hired mini van. Took van to car park, got under the height barrier at the entrance of the car park, the concrete barrier at the upper level was a foot lower than the entrance barrier so we had to reverse anti-clockwise down the spiral ramp. No one ever said the French were patient.
6] Holland – My little brother puked on a tram, most probably in no small part due to an overdose of their uncommonly cheap chocolate milk.
7] Belgium – I have eaten breakfast in Belgium on a number of occasions, normally on my way to a country where I had a better anecdote waiting to happen to me.
8] Spain – I saw Isis play at a festival at 3:30am with the moon setting in to the sea as a backdrop. Not funny, but as I said, this list is for me, and you know where the door is. It’s that black “x” top right yeah?
9] Italy – It was about 11 years ago and I had what I hope was the last falling out I ever have with my Mum. Funny thing was, it was about staying out too late at the ice cream bar with my brothers! To be fair I was in the wrong though…
10] Vatican City – No humour, just the biggest building you will ever see. Quite incredible, sick and frightening all at the very same time. Literally awe inspiring; and yes, I’m sure not everyone counts it as a proper country, but I do.
11] Malta – I finally established a proper phobia of swimming in the sea.
12] Luxembourg – Question to nice lady at the camp site reception: “So… what language do you speak here?” Swift answer from the nice lady at the camp site reception: “Luxembourgish”…. silence.
13] Germany – Mini break to Berlin. Got caught on their underground system without a ticket: £60 fine, booked flights home in the wrong month: £300 charge, eating noodle sandwiches for the whole of the next month: priceless.
14] Singapore – Ended up hanging out with a Scottish folk band who were all resplendent in traditional garb, sporrans and all. We went to an infamous club held in a shopping centre, called Four Floors of Whores.
15] Malaysia – I ate Chicken hearts in Kuala Lumpur.
16] Thailand – I found out I am allergic to a fruit called Durian.
17] Laos – I have never killed anything higher up the food chain than an insect. In Laos, on a fishing trip on the Mekong I attempted to kill my first fish but I just made it’s eye bleed and then it came alive again. I am a crap boy.
18] Burma – I was there for less than an hour but I had a gun pointed at me and was offered cheap whiskey and viagra multiple times.
19] Cambodia – Stayed in a hotel which was attached to a large bar which had death trap walk ways in the rafters and live crocodiles you could feed for ten pence.
20] Vietnam – Got robbed of all our cash, no one spoke English, wandered, ;ate aqt night, in to the town centre of Rach Gia to find a cash point with a cash card that I knew didn’t work, got lost immediately and was eventually shown home by a couple of tiny kids on their bikes. Boy o boy was I pleased to see the hotel.
21] Japan – Did Karaoke on our last night in Tokyo, got smashed, missed alarm for flight, had to navigate the Tokyo underground massively hanging on ultra cheap white wine…. made it…. just.
22] Australia – Met a tour guide who used to be a trucker and he said that when he was falling asleep at the wheel he would shot gun a can of Coke and the burning of the bubbles would keep him good for a few more miles. And if that didn’t work he would slowly veer in to the central reservation until he was so close he had to swerve away, and that would release enough Adrenaline to cut through any sleepiness.
23] New Zealand – Had very little money, one night slept in the van by a road, got shot at by NZ chavs with a pellet gun, smashed our empty beer bottles and dented our van. Hire company did not notice, no penalty incurred. Win.
24] America – I was blessed with the pleasure of seeing someone high on Meth; he was curled up under the sink in the toilets of the Viper rooms in LA listening to a recording of himself playing the didgeridoo on a Dictaphone. On a positive note he was absolutely loving it.
25] Greece – I got addicted to a Lilo
26] Czech Republic – A Russian, midget, lady of the night offered me her services. I declined gracefully. I’m English.