Sunday, November 20, 2005

Duck in Tunis II

Duck in Tunis II

Friday: Another day of relentless note-taking, filing, writing and filing until finally collapsing with exhaustion at the end of it all.

The Summit wrapped up with an utterly frightening press conference in which human rights groups railed against our generous Tunisian hosts over the unfortunate and completely misunderstood last-minute cancellations of meetings (usually due to a double-booking where a police self-help worskshop entitled “Getting your retaliation in first - the fucking great stick approach” obviously took precedence), clubbings with fucking great sticks and arrests of bewildered hacks and local human rights defenders, who face a, frankly, uncertain future.

Of course, the collected local press corps were having none of this, and the chap from La Presse de Tunisie – a government shill if ever I saw one, present at every event to ensure that no difficult questions got asked - looked like he was about to explode as he attempted the “you too, your name is going in ze book” line of questioning, while the rest of us cowered at the back. “I will only answer questions from journalists” the podium replied to nervous laughter.

Most of us in the press room had already spent most of the day fending off some fat bloke wearing a large jacket with the word “PRESS” written across the back - whose only connection with the media was wandering around looking over our shoulders to check we were playing nice - putting round a petition declaring that “We, the undersigned, thank our generous Tunisian hosts for their wonderful hospitality, and I am completely uninjured”, which will undoubtedly appear on the front page of all Tunisian newspapers before the week is out. We all signed as “Lunchtime O’Booze, The Daily Gnome”.

Friday Part II: Upset that The Register’s Kieren McCarthy has stolen my thunder as this Summit’s Official Done-a-Poo Correspondent, I still feel it is my duty to describe the unique toilet experience at the Kram PalExpo. The Tunisian organisers have looked towards the Chinese way of doing things here, and have employed virtually every citizen of Tunis and its environs for the event. This means every toilet has an army of at least eight cleaners, armed with mops, buckets of water and an endless supply of air freshener. That’s two cleaners per cubicle.

You’d be halfway through an important bowel movement when a gnarled old hand would appear under the door and spray lemon freshness all over your Ben Sherman boots. The cleaners’ diligence with their mops, coupled with the poor aim of the 30,000 others with whom I am sharing this building, also means that the toilet floor is always under at least half an inch of water, adding an exciting uncertainty to your visit. One false move and your nearest change of clothes is a bus ride away. The Summit is filled with soggy-arsed delegates, journalists and King Gyanendra of Nepal.

There is also some sort of hose arrangement adding to the already terrifying toilet risk factor. Some cultures, it appears, do not use paper, but prefer a jet of freezing water up the bum to finish the job, and good luck to them. However, more than one poor European hack in the press centre has sat down on the can and thought “Does this thing work?” with all-too-predictable results.

Saturday: A day off! The big plan is to stay in bed as long as possible, and then take my Hong Kong Phooey towel to the beach. It comes as absolutely no surprise to find that it is raining. So I am instead writing a diary piece, and filing the news item that I was holding over until I got back. You know, the one about p**** f******, that could still get me into a Tunisian pound-me-in-the-ass prison if I’m not careful.

This has been the most boring day of my life. In fact…


The WSIS summit in Tunis ended on Friday. Because my employers didn’t fancy paying 800 pounds for a flight on Saturday, I am obliged to stay in Africa for an extra day, when BA6849 costs a mere 96 squids. I can see their point, to be honest.

Saturday 19th November 2005, then, will go down as the most boring day in my life. So bored was I, that I actually made a list of things that I did because I was bored:

* Made a list of things that I did because I was bored
* Done a poo
* Charged my mobile phone that doesn’t actually work in Tunisia, unless I want to dial a Tunisian number
* Finished Tony Hawks’ “One Hit Wonderland”, to find, with some disappointment, that he doesn’t mention skateboarding at all
* Had a shave
* Done another poo
* Said “bonjour” to the cleaning lady, but drew the line at “Pompt de pompt-pompt”, the filthy mare
* Created a Powerpoint presentation called “SWAAAAN! – A study in peckiness”, featuring the words “SWAAAAN!” and “Done a poo” in a variety of fonts
* Read a leaflet entitled “The development of the internet in Iran” from cover to cover, and thought it interesting
* Considered running amok with a sharpened bottle of Evian water
* Held out long enough until the restaurant opened

You don’t know how lucky you are.

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