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My Summer Break

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First, I want to apologize for my silence the last couple of months, and equally for the arrogant implication that anyone might care either way. Actually the contrition is more to do with the guilt I feel at appearing to shirk my Protestant work ethic. Although, as your current administration would refute in any policy discussion, the reality is a little more complicated,

My summer plans were to leave London and reach Beijing in time to prevent the national embarrassment of Great Britain's segment in the Olympic Closing Ceremony. When I was a teenager in the West Yorkshire coalfield in the seventies, I risked daily verbal and physical abuse by having long hair and carrying Led Zeppelin records. A risk I took happily, for I was making a statement. I can't now remember exactly what it was--I was a teenager, and the flawless ideologies of our adolescent world-view disappear synchronously with the zits. But whatever that statement was, it was definitely not one of hope that one day Jimmy Page could perform Whole Lotta Love on the top deck of a London bus with the winner of a TV talent competition surrounded by a bunch of umbrella-wielding dancers who give the impression that Britain is now a nation comprised largely of mentally unstable mime-artists on the wrong medication. And he was wearing a suit.

Clearly, I failed. My fundamental tactical error was the decision to travel from London to Beijing overland on public transport for ecological reasons, and through meditational bouts of hitch-hiking, to get in touch with my inner hippy. (I have since learned that my inner hippy moved to Taos, New Mexico in the early 1980s and after conquering a severe peyote dependency is now big in real estate and turquoise. Unfortunately for me he sacrificed all my rights to a cut of the profits in a pre-nup agreement with his first wife, whom he met in group therapy when they had both been completely struck out of the second draft of a Tom Robbins novel).

Returning to my main point; I was making good headway to Beijing until I ended up having a drink in a bar in Tbilisi in early August with the Georgian government.

You know how it is. You get talking, no one speaks each others' languages, so for the first little while you're just exchanging the names of internationally renowned soccer stars, accompanied by appropriate gestures of approval or disdain. Usually this is enough to create an atmosphere of supranational bonhomie. Then someone buys a round of vodka, you buy one back, someone buys a case, it would be rude to leave...three cases in, there's a miraculous phase where language gaps are bridged by those cunning little chains of hydrocarbons, everybody is happily catharting away, letting out their most deeply locked up hang-ups at a far cheaper rate than shrinks charge for the fifty-minute hour. Every blini is still finding a mouth first time.

Then you start throwing out hypothetical solutions to your problems, which is still good--free association helps purge the demons. Most blinis still finding the mouth.

Then there was a hazy patch...I remember a lot of meaningful spitting in an Eastward direction, and I have a note-pad which seems to bear evidence to me undergoing a crash course in Georgian swear words, all of which had the epithet "Russian" somewhere attached to them.

Somehow there had been for a while this old American guy in the corner--gruff voice, smile like an anaconda at meal time, bald...regular guy, very polite, seemed to appear suddenly, in a puff of sulfurous smoke....told us he had a pacemaker but nothing for it to connect to. Seemed to find that funny...the laugh of someone who would find it funny if the Fire Brigade came round to rescue an old lady's cat from a tree and then drove their truck over it on the way home...saying he'd never liked the Russians either, and if the Georgians wanted to do something about it, he'd be right behind them.

Well, next morning, turns out the Georgians had launched a surprise attack on an army 26 times bigger than their own. Everyone, blinis stuck to the face. American guy, nowhere to be seen. Just a lingering smell of sulfur. Although at some previous point amid my fitful slumber, I do seem to recall a resounding dastardly laugh of triumph, mixed with the receding clatter of a Blackhawk's rotor blades.

I couldn't hang around, as I knew I would now have problems keeping on schedule; ground invasions in my experience, always seem to mess up a public transport system almost as much as privatization. Moreover, I have a strong allergy to incoming shellfire.

Sadly, I failed to reach Beijing in time, despite my best efforts. These included a chance meeting on the Silk Road and high-speed ride on the back of a giant orc (the mythical birds from the Arabian Nights, as opposed to the large goblins originating from Mordor--they're just fictional.). The orc explained to me however that they too were in danger of extinction owing to the current chronic shrinkage of the human imagination. Not to mention trigger-happy NATO drone-controllers all over Central Asia. But that's a story for another time.

Finally running out of funds on the Tibetan Steppes, I resourcefully coated myself in mud and mailed myself to the British Museum in London masquerading as a Chinese terracotta warrior. I was one of the hits of the exhibition, drawing huge crowds who were mesmerized by my occasional and barely discernible movement. My cover was blown one evening when I was caught ordering food in a nearby takeaway by the Deputy Curator of the Chinese Department. Despite my protestations, my imposture was proven when it was pointed out that a genuine Chinese warrior from the Qin Dynasty would never have eaten noodles with a fork.

So it's back to the mundane quotidian everyday world of composing tautologous adjectival lists and finding new ways of chatting innocuously with my cockney neighbors about the rain without openly addressing the fact that London will be mostly underwater by 2012. An upside of this may be a curtailing of the next installment of that opening ceremony.

There are patches of blue sky on the horizon though. (Only in a strictly metaphorical sense, of course--I live in London).

We see Sarah Palin as the only vice-presidential candidate who can look credible toting an assault rifle while wearing a bikini. Let's get real--Joe Biden would look ridiculous dressed like that. Pray God you make the right choice in November, you beautiful children, and last best hope of Enlightenment Rationalism.

And today it is possible that the start of the Large Hadron Collider experiment in Switzerland could create a mini black hole and bring about the end of the world. So many politicians would feel so cheated.

I'm rather hoping it happens; apparently the odds against that black hole appearing are 8 billion to one. Let me tell you--I was round the betting shop first thing this morning and there's a ten-pound note guaranteeing that if that black hole does show up and start eating the universe, I'm going to be one happy man.

All information in this article conforms to the standards of truth and reality as established by President Bush's recent speech at the National Defense College.