Tuesday, December 28, 2004

In my living room, in a large tank, there live two turtles Ronnie and Reggie. They belong to my flatmate's girlfriend and, whilst he is visiting her somewhere in the southern hemisphere, it seems that I am their daddy. One's big fat and greedy, the other small and prone to anxiously withdraw into his shell.

The problem with turtles is that their life spans are about as long as a human's. This means that if you get one as a pet, you have the responsibility of looking after it for the rest of your life. Making them the last pet I would choose – especially considering their tank takes up space that a sofa could otherwise inhabit. Bah.

And this reality is what many parents tried to inflict upon themselves and their children in the eighties after the much-watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started a fad for the hard round eating-machines. I never watched this flagon of other peoples toss, but I remember enough about it to say that it was like Charlie's Angels, but with turtles. In sewers.

I tried to tie bandanas around my turtles eyes but they weren't having any of it.

And here is the interesting thing about it: After a relatively short amount of time, hundreds of annoyed parents flushed said animals down their toilets thusly populating the sewers with turtles and setting up the possibility that a shit children’s cartoon could have become the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy.

The full extent of my ambition however is simply to keep the things alive until Tom returns from porking his woman on a Fiji beach. When I told people about Ronnie and Reggie's existence some told me that turtles are virtually indestructible. So to see the little one (cannot remember which ones are which) eating very little recently is a bit scary. Should the little bastard die a day before Tom comes back I'll be in trouble; a one-day turtle hunt would produce an unsatisfactory result so preparation is key. I'm already scouting pet shops for identical replacement turtles.

So you should not be surprised to hear that it is not the turtles I am worried about following Boxing Day's tsunami in SE Asia. I never visited any of the Andaman Coast beaches on the Western coast of Thailand but I went to a few similar coastal resorts and spent many weeks in Thailand. Therefore images of suffering and destruction have been doubly affective to my mind as I am fully able to imagine the lives and places that have been affected.

I cannot really speak for those citizens of Sri Lanka, India, Sumatra or the small islands around that area, but Thais are a philosophical bunch. Life will go on after the clean up; places and people will not be allowed to pass out of memory; prayers and shrines will be offered; always eager to eek out any opportunity, buildings will be re-erected; and normal life, accompanied with smiley faces, will eventually return.

I hope these areas recover quickly and I hope people realise that such events occur both randomly and extremely rarely and that tourism - which is vital to so many locals livelihoods on the coasts - quickly returns, because these are magnificent places full of beautiful and friendly people.

For the very latest news, apart from the obvious sites, try visiting Tsunami Blogs.

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