Dateline: Dinnertime, Thursday Evening.
It was a beautiful night in London, and I was hovering just outside of London Bridge tube station, trying to get my iPhone to work. I was meeting PG for dinner, and I had delayed our meeting time once already. He constantly accused me of being a flake — that my phone would not turn on so I could let him know I had, in fact, arrived (and on time) was not helping my reputation.
PG was just back from another of his post-Soviet jaunts, this time to climb Mt Elbrus — the tallest peak in Europe. My British friends all seemed to have a love/hate relationship with the Former Soviet Union — several of them having been expats in Russia; many of them flocking to the bloc countries on holiday whenever the occasion struck. PG was the best example of this: since I’d last seen him, he’d been to Russia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, and Bosnia.
I’d last seen him in…May.
I finally got the phone to turn on, and no sooner had the vodafone bars popped up than the damned thing was ringing with PG on the other end of the line. We found each other quickly.
You look great! I exclaimed when I laid eyes upon him. How are your feet? He looked at me strangely. PG had a habit of posting photos of his feet and wounds on Facebook: That time he surgically removed his big toenail; that time he got a blister the size of his house key; etc. As if showing us the casualties were proxies for posting photos of the events themselves. PG had even sat at dinner one night with D and me and flipped through about 20 minutes worth of wound photos on his iPhone.
I found the humour in the photos, and had started to pass along his latest posts as “This Week in PG’s Feet and Wounds Illustrated.” I think I found it so funny because I was just as guilty of posting photos of my feet — albeit, in shoes; sans wounds.
After we had exchanged proper hellos, I said: Come here, let me take a photo of us. Of our feet! I looked down. PG was wearing those dreadful footie shoes.
Then we proceeded to our dinner destination, walking along the river with a view of the Bridge; the Paralympic symbol dangling from the top.
So tell me about this climb you just completed, I said.
He launched into his discussion of Mt Elbrus. It was about 5,600m up. That’s 18,500 ft in your language.
This led us to a discussion of British English versus American English — a topic he loved — and the various and sundry distinctions between British and American culture. Which led us, naturally, to…guns.
His point went something like: You bloody Americans and your guns. What do you even need those things for?
And my response was something like: I see your point about assault rifles and high powered weapons, but hunting rifles? There’s nothing wrong with the average sportsman owning a hunting rifle.
That was when it got weird.
I’ll have to paraphrase, and I won’t do PG justice because I can’t recall his argument verbatim, but our conversation quickly devolved from discussing the third runway at Heathrow; the Cabinet reshuffle; the American obsession with guns, to…reasons why we should do away with weapons entirely and go out and chase our food “back in nature.”
You see, you just get a bunch of your mates together, and you go out after, say, a wild boar, and you try to outsmart it. Kill it with your bare hands. Wrestle it.
I’m sorry. What?
You know, wrestle it. Man on beast.
At that point, I started to laugh so hard I began to cry.
Why are you laughing?
I’m just picturing all of the British men I know, half-naked in a field, trying to wrestle a wild boar. It doesn’t end well.
We wouldn’t be half-naked! There’d be a lot of…tweed. It would be very civilised. Calling each other Nigel and Brian and all of that. “Over here, buddy!” And so you’d get your mates and you’d suround the beast
Buddy? What are you, Americans?! I’d think you’d be saying “old chap,” or something! And what is this greco-roman boar wrestling?!
Old chap — that’s another word for penis. Maybe “old boy.” But then you’d also have cows, and cows would be easier than, say, boar, because cows just stand there in a field so you could simply take them down.
He continued: Until the cows start to evolve! And grandaddy cow passes on to baby cow all of the evasive tactics, so WE have to adapt and so on and so forth.
But God gave us the brains to invent…guns. Why not just shoot the cow or the boar?
He gave me a dirty look and began to moo.
With that, we fininshed our dinner and walked out of the restaurant, the thought striking me all the while that perhaps neither PG nor I was suited for a life in the country.