Canavan’s Column - February 28, 2013

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
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IN Blackpool the other day, near the Houndshill centre, I stumbled upon a man on his knees with his arms 

He was looking to the sky and murmuring.

I thought he was in need of help so stopped and asked if he was OK.

He looked at me with surprise, said he was absolutely fine and that he was meditating.

He was called Brian – a slightly disappointing name for someone who meditates; I’d rather hoped for Moonface or Angel Dust – and 
explained he did it twice a day,
every day.

He normally did it at home but had been shopping with his wife and had, he told me, felt a little stressed (probably as his better half was trying on a 150 quid dress in Debenhams) and felt the need to nip outside and “find some inner peace”.

Now some may mock at this but not me. I find it intriguing.

Number one, how lovely we’re not all the same and people do different, quirky things. Number two, if it helps someone relax and overcome whatever troubles are in their life, then great and who are we to take the mickey?

It did, however, remind me of the one occasion when meditation 
really got on my wick.

I was in Peru a few years ago on a trip to the famous Machu Picchu, which is essentially a pile of old bricks but due to damn good marketing (and possibly, I’ll concede, some priceless historic value) has become one of the must-see places on earth.

Reaching Machu Picchu on foot is tough but memorable, especially in my case as about 10 foot ahead of me on the climb up was a young and not unattractive Danish girl with a large tear in the bottom area of her denim shorts.

She kept turning around, apologising for being slow and waving for me to go past. I told her I was happy at her pace and would stay just behind her. It was a glorious walk.

But I digress. Once at Macchu Picchu, there is a final place to see - Huayna Picchu, a separate small but steep hill, about a 45 minute climb. There, when you reach the top, is the ultimate view. You look down over the Machu Picchu site. It is a spine-tingling, wonderful, glorious, incredibly peaceful moment.

Not in our case. As we reached the top, we found two other people there. One was a middle-aged woman wearing a jumper that would have been rejected by the producers of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat as too garish. She was stood on the summit, waving her arms like a seagull.

To her side was a man with a beard so unkempt it looked like he’d been marooned on a faraway island for the previous six months. He was playing a Bob Dylan song on an acoustic guitar.

The pair were singing. I say singing, it was more like less than 
melodic humming – you could 
argue a little like Victoria in her Spice Girl days.

My friend and I stood patiently for five minutes, waiting for them to finish what might have been The Times They Are A-Changing or equally as possibly Mr Tambourine Man (it was hard to tell), before venturing up the courage to ask if we could step on the summit for a moment (there is only room for two people at a time).

They stopped singing, turned round sharply and the woman - an American, who had a book of poetry in her hand - told us she was meditating and “in the midst of releasing her soul to god”.

“That’s fine,” I smiled, “but could you possibly get a move on with your releasing?”

Twenty minutes later, with this US double act still at it, my friend and I got fed up and, after briefly considering but rejecting using brute force to throw them and their guitar off the top of the mountain, gave up and wandered away.

What should have been a once-in-a-lifetime moment never happened.

Am I bitter? Of course not, as the fact I’m still harping on about it six years later clearly demonstrates.

So meditation. It’s fine, so long as it’s in the right spot.

THERE’S seems to be an awful lot of media fuss over the fact half our beef appears to be dead horse. But the odd thing is that no one on the street seems too bothered.

A colleague at The Gazette went to Ikea a couple of weeks ago and had two plates of meatballs. She didn’t drive specifically to Warrington just to eat meatballs, I hasten to add. No, she went to buy a AP245 Open Storage Unit With Adjustable Side Flaps for the lounge, but felt peckish while there.

Anyhow, when news broke this week that traces of horse had been found in Ikea’s balls, so to speak, my colleague shrugged her shoulders and remarked: “They’re so delicious I wouldn’t care if they had puppies in them”.

Before any dog lovers inundate me with angry letters, it was a flippant remark which she didn’t mean. Indeed she much prefers the taste of cat.

But getting back to the case in point, this scandal doesn’t seem to be causing panic among the population, which begs the question why?

It is, when you think about it, horrendous. Our grub, which we trustingly buy from reputable outlets, contains traces of an animal not normally associated with our food chain. The veterinary drug phenylbutazone (known as bute – a drug not allowed to enter the human food chain) is in some of the horsemeat. This is terrible, yet there’s still no real panic.

And the reason of course is because no one, not even those really clever scientists with big beards and the word ‘professor’ before their names, can prove our health is at risk.

Indeed one expert claimed we’d have to eat 200 horsemeat burgers contaminated with bute in a single day before we felt any ill-effects.

That’s why no one on the street is concerned. This scandal is a matter of 
principle, not consequence.