I've just stumbled back from some penultimate minute shopping (the last minute shopping will take place at the airport in a blind panic) and am now the proud owner of two pairs of antibacterial trousers, a phrase I never expected to find myself typing. They are also UV proof and quick drying, and quite frankly for the price I paid for them I'd hope they could stop a small dirty bomb and bullets at twenty yards.
Up to this point I'd managed to be quite frugal in my preparations; I managed to pick up a second hand rucksack, bought a lot of long sleeved men's shirts from Oxfam and got four desert scarves off eBay for £4 from a bloke who realised that the only people who should wear desert scarves are emo kids or people venturing too far from civilisation to be mocked for it, and presumably also realised that he didn't fall into either of these categories. I also picked up a pair of jungle boots for a very reasonable price from a surprisingly urbane survivalist in an army surplus shop at Waterloo, and in any case the lovely people at Kew paid for them. But sometimes you do have to pay for quality and these trousers didn't just blow the budget, they performed a variety of sexual acts, some illegal, with it.
I wouldn't have minded so much if I could have envisaged myself wearing them at any other time but The Gambia is a Muslim country and quite conservative up river, so they can't be too close fitting. I did try on a pair that was two sizes too large, but as these fell straight off when I did them up I didn't think they were fit for purpose. The ones I bought were a mere one size too large, and the crotch is half way to my knees which isn't a good look on anyone. I felt like a member of All Saints. After I'd spent the best part of £40 a pair on some extremely unflattering trousers, the part of my brain that complains at wanton profligacy promptly overloaded and shorted out and in a daze I then bought a couple of karabiners, an LED lamp and a new water bottle. I then staggered out of Blacks to have a bit of a sit down, came to the depressing realisation that the amount I'd save on travel cards whilst in The Gambia would be more than outweighed by the amount I'd spent on kit and vowed to economise over the coming month by using email instead of text messages and eating Jeff.
At least I will now not have to wander around The Gambia in just my pants, which up to this point had been a source of some concern to me, particularly in dreams. Unfortunately the rest of my shopping trip was less successful. For the record, I think that this is the only intelligent thing I've seen in the media about swine flu – yes there is a lot of hype in the media, no that doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about, using alcohol gel after taking public transport is probably a good idea anyway because an extremely unscientific survey I once carried out in a public toilet convinced me that one woman in three doesn't wash her hands and sorry to be sexist but the figure is almost certainly higher among men. If however you do not already possess alcohol gel then tough, you can't get any for love nor money on the high street because in the panic at the impending aporkalypse the shelves have been picked bare. This is quite annoying if, say, you are going to a country with minimal hygiene infrastructure (at least upriver) and want to avoid picking up something a darn sight more common than the hamdemic. I have so far resisted the temptation to buy "travel wash", which is three times the price and comes in an attractive green bottle but is otherwise the same stuff (shhhh, don't tell everyone).
There will now follow a short paragraph featuring my ladybits. I can only offer my apologies to any of my male readers who may be unsettled by this, but really chaps, you should have accepted that we have them by this stage. Not to beat around the bush (sorry), in a hot, humid climate I'm fairly likely to develop either thrush or cystitis, either of which have more potential to make my trip miserable than a herd of rampaging hippopotami. The best preventative measure is loose-fitting, pure cotton underwear, but being either a saucy little minx or too cheap to buy many pairs of pants I don't seem to have much of this. I did however recall that my Gran used to have some knickers that would have been ideal; large enough to propel a reasonably sized schooner and if memory serves made out of something resembling flannel. That sort of thing would have been ideal, so I headed to Marks and Spencers and was shocked to discover that they no longer stocked anything of the kind. Maybe Myleene Klass refused to wear them or something. I left disappointed, and rather curious as to where today's respectable women of mature years purchased their sensible unmentionables.
Even knickerless, I am now rather more prepared than I was, although I don't know if I'll ever feel prepared enough. Here's hoping that parmageddon doesn't ground all the flights and leave me sitting at home with my two pairs of antimicrobial trousers. Still, I suppose if that does happen I could cut them up and flog them off as facemasks.