1980: A Bloody Kung Fu Fight Against the Finnish

As gangly nineteen year olds, Jon Seal and his mate Brains have cycled two thousand miles through Europe, arriving in Finland. They are only two days away from their destination - the Arctic Circle.

The tent is put up and I sit content in the roadside grass. A dragon appears with alien eyes, legs covered in scales and gossamer wings that smash the air. Admittedly, it is not that big - about the size of a tiny fly - but as it rests on my arm it has to be slain, with an efficient swat.

And then the squadron attacks. I am engulfed in chocking clouds. I slap frantically but the biting starts. I deal with them, by sweeping my hand across my neck and mashing layers of crunchy exoskeleton, smearing myself with my own blood. But as my neck is cleared another section fly in from the sun, chewing my exposed arm. Madly, I thrash but this was a decoy, the real attack is from the main air force going for the soft flesh of the eyelids. The shear numbers are overwhelming.

Retreat is the only way. I run frantically.

Within seconds, their allies in the damp grass beneath my feet are at me with even greater vengeance. Arms flailing, knees pumping and voice screaming, I run back to the tent, frantically scrapping at my legs, neck and scalp. I fumble for the opening and fall inside, zipping it as tightly sealed as I can.

So this is what it is like - Finland. I look at the map and see a pock mark of lakes; mile upon mile of still water, damp grass and peaty cauldrons of midge breeding soup. Finland is no promised land, no adventurer's destination.

I awake to the drone of the beasts clawing on the flysheet.

'Hey guys, I think there's a space here between the teeth of the zip!'

They smell blood.

'What are you going to do?' I shout through the nylon to Brains, camped somewhere by the roadside.

'Carry on, I suppose.'

'You not going back?'


He is going to tough it out. It only underlines my weakness.

'How far you gonna go?'

'Try and make it to the Arctic Circle. It's only midges. Have a good trip.'

I unzip the flap and see his bike disappear up the road.

Zip. I lie back in my tent and think about the calm way he has dealt with it. Maybe, he is right, maybe, this is all in the mind. I think about Kung Fu.

It was not to be missed, Friday evening tele. David Karradine played a Chinese Kung Fu monk who found himself working on the Wild West railroad. Every week, the opening sequence reminded us of his former life. The young monk, Grasshopper, had to perform a series of trials to prove he was ready to leave the temple; he would lift a cauldron filled with red hot coals, he would snatch a pebble from the Master's hand and he had to tread so lightly across a thin carpet of rice paper that it didn't wrinkle and break. 'When you can do this Grasshopper, it will be time for you to leave the temple,' whispered his wise old mentor. I would be Kung Fu.

I pull on my shorts and T shirt, unzip the flap and go about my normal packing up routine. Of course, they come, swarming around my head like tiny nuclear attacks but I am Kung Fu. It is irritation but not pain. It is to be endured, Grasshopper. They crawl under my eyelids. They bite inside my nostrils. They bury into the waxy depths of my ears.

But they can do this. My mind is superior. I am Kung Fu.

The air is black with dots. I breathe and inhale them. They delight in a drunken orgy of blood in the spongy suffocation of my lungs.

But none of this gets to me because I am Kung Fu.

Am I, heck!?

And now I really lose it. They are really going to get it this time. I scream at them, I thrash the air and drive my fists into the gritty clouds. In frenzied chaos, I bundle my sleeping bag and tent into the panniers. Devoid of any logic, in a crazy attempt to leave that dreadful place, I jump on the bike and pedal like fury retreating back down the road to Sweden.

Jon Seal

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