"Come meet me at the Heart of Darkness bar in Cambodia ..."
"...and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him - all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination - you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate."
- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.
"Sounds like the sorta place a girl could really kick up her heels," Mayhem says.
Miss Mayhem - she is cursed with humanitarian instincts and an innate need to protect and stand up for vulnerable beings. From the women and children of Gaza to the animals of the wild frontier, she does what she can. I once drove with her from Carnarvon to Exmouth, and along the way she insisted on stopping at every dead roadside kangaroo to check their pouches for joeys. For a while there, the offices of the Northern Guardian resembled an animal shelter, with a sling containing Jasper the Orphaned Joey hanging off Melinda's car seat or journalist's chair. We also had a rather large blue heeler prowling the office, whom Mayhem had saved from a bullet at the pound.
Melinda Mayhem - she just won't take cruelty and suffering lying down. Apart from in the S&M dungeons, of course.
Things did get a bit out of hand up at that North West paper. Not only with the introduction of the animals. On the morning that i returned to work after a five-week stint in the psychiatric ward, suffering from "exhaustion", Mayhem and i went to the servo before work and bought matching black cowboy hats. I was wearing some spurs that i had bought on a whim on eBay. When we marched into the newspaper office that morning, looking like fugitives from the set of Gunsmoke, my manager looked apprehensive.
"So ... Mark," she said, her voice quavering. We both turned and glowered at her from under our stetsons. "Are you going to be ... okay?"
"I've never felt better," i said, spurs jangling as i stomped off to make my first coffee of the day.
"Fuck America, as they say in the classics," i say to Mayhem. "Come meet me at the Heart of Darkness bar in Cambodia. We can start afresh."
"Yes, i suppose if you're going to have a rant at people in a bar there are certain advantages to doing it in a place where no-one can understand you," she says.
"And i suggest you bring your disguise," i say. "It is against the law to take Cambodia's ancient treasures out of the country, and that's how we'll be making our money until we can land jobs - we'll be selling Khmer stone statuary on eBay. If things get too hot, we'll slip into our disguises and make a run for it on the motorcycle up to Siem Reap, where we can hide out at Carlo's rooftop bar and grill til things cool down. I know a place in Bangkok where i can pick up a cheap 1960s Suzuki on the way to the border."
"Excellent," says Mayhem. "That sounds like a plan. I'll dress like a man - that should confuse the communist government and the CIA. What about you?"
"I'll wear your blonde wig. But if i have to dress as a woman then you should ride on the front of the bike - that way we'll attract less attention."
"Good thinking, Art Director."
"So i'll meet you in Phnom Penh?"
"A kettleful of venomous snakes wouldn't keep me away," she declares.
It's good to have sensible travel plans. I fly out next week.