Despite twenty years of strict Islamic rule, prostitution still exists in Iran. In some areas of downtown Shiraz, I think it was, for example, transvestites, mutilants, mutants, dwarves, and animals were readily available for sexual gratification, but only at a price. In one rather unattractive establishment—flaking stucco and buzzing neon—(“Señor Culo”) admittedly run by non-Iranians—Mexicans, I think—absurd!— a Mexican enclave in Iran!—I  was offered both a sandpaper handjob and a chilli-pepper enema for less than 80 US dollars. Translating that into culinary terms, I could have had several thousand first-class Persian meals for the same price. I’m not interested in all this S&M stuff myself, but my boss is, or at least he believes busloads of jerk-fuck Germans read our fascist shit-rag in the international edition.


Turkey, too, offers excellent value for the budget traveller. Despite the litter in the streets (and what city doesn’t have a litter problem these days!), Iranian houses are scrupulously clean, and none of our touring party suffered any stomach upsets, which is more than can be said for Chicago! (A group of obese fucks from Texas, their pockets stuffed with complimentary chips from Atlanta, barfed-out on bad burgers off Maxwell Street and went down—went down badly—the stupid fucks. If they’d stuck to Iranian food, they’d have been fine.)


Okay, so Iranian food is excellent value, dollar for dollar, but the problem was that I really didn’t have time to go into Persian restaurants and sample the fare. I was altogether too fucking busy; the best I could do was to gobble the odd hotdog and Whopper, with the odd slab of pizza thrown in. My God, pizza has got to be one of the worst foods around. I can put up with Pizza Express, but as for the rest. I was amazed at how many burger restaurants there were in Iran, though I don’t suppose my sponsors will care for my broadcasting that. There were fucking Burger Kings everywhere, which is just as well, as I can’t eat at McDonald’s, it’s altogether too fucking gloomy. There were also plenty of other places I recognised: Denny’s, Big Boys, International House of Pancakes, Taco Bell; the Americanisation of the Middle East continues apace. I also didn’t know that gambling was permitted in Iran, but  I hadn’t really spent a lot of time brushing up on my facts before arriving. I’m not really all that interested in food. If Murdoch wants to know about food, he could have sent one of those obese egomaniacs from the food columns. Christ, imagine eating for a living; imagine the uncontrolled farting, the enforced colonic irrigations, or the violent retchings after another filthy fucking Chinese meal in Soho, sitting opposite a cadaverous but fashionably-dressed heroin junkie, himself a fucking food critic. Jesus.


Something of the rich irony which offers itself to travellers, if they are sensitive enough to perceive it, if they have ears to hear: a tiny art cinema—I don’t remember its name, possibly “The Electric Shah”—there was a picture of Ayatollah Khomeini somewhere in the lobby—and I don’t read Persian—frequented by the Iranian working classes and Mexicans and theological students—fresh from interviews with mullahs—was showing a forgettable little B-number featuring Sally Field as a witless American sucked into the Iranian morass. The film itself could easily be endured with a joint or hip-flask, but what was startling about it was its hostility to the Iranian ideal and its insensitive questioning of palpable Iranian truths. This type of cheap propagandising does the West no good and only makes the Iranians more determined to immerse themselves in confusion, degradation, and fuck-headedness. It’s as simple as that, if you think about it. The sooner Hollywood gets its act together, the better. And across the road, at a gaudy multiplex, a gigantic poster of Arnold Schwarzenegger, with an unsettling hard-on, surrounded by post-coital women, in another flagrantly anti-Islamic diatribe. The arrogance of the West can, at times, be truly breathtaking, and not a little embarrassing. Imagine, for example, if you went to a foreign country—like Pakistan—and had to see films in which Westerners and harmless hippies and stupid bloody drug-mules were ridiculed and humiliated by fucking  khaki-clad swine with military moustaches! Which reminds me, the guy sitting next to me—I’m convinced it was Michael Winner—had never seen a Doris Wishman film either. I struggled to keep awake during the film; if it hadn’t been for my hipflask, I’d never have made it, I couldn’t believe that Sally Field would be stupid enough to marry an Iranian, but she did.

What is Sally doing these days?

They played Willie Nelson as the credits came up, and my god I felt fucking homesick.


I’m not interested in food.


Iran is a vast country; it is possible to get quite lost in its cavernous interior. I had expected mile after mile of desert; and of course the desert is inescapable, but there are also many cool forests and grassy lowlands. Food is cheap and plentiful, and all the talk of terrorism and public executions is greatly exaggerated. Our air-conditioned coaches were of the highest standard, and very comfortable; and I was surprised (and a little disappointed!) never once to have been asked for a bribe or baksheesh by any of the many Islamic officials with whom I was in constant contact. Quaint old customs such as haggling for the price of a bus trip have completely disappeared. We were each issued with legible tickets, and the busses left exactly on time, so there have been some noticeable improvements to everyday life under the mullahs.


Wanda, fuck you.

Fuck you.


Nothing can quite prepare the budget traveller for the breathtakingly beautiful Holy City of Ashfakhan (I think it was called, I don’t know, I can’t be sure), unquestionably the pearl-jewel of the Persian crown. It is the cradle of Iranian Shia Islam, and offers breathtaking views of mosques and fortified emplacements and scholarly colleges. It is also the home of a superb Iranian jade, much of which has been beautifully incorporated into mosaics and elaborate arabesque decorations of the breathtakingly highest architectural standard. Aggressive modern neon spoils much of the fucking city now, advertising a raft of products of a singularly secular vulgarity: “Save Dollars!” “Big Discounts.” Westernization has crippled many ancient cities of the third world, nowhere more so than this dump, which is hardly worth visiting now, despite the fact that the Iranian embassy had told me it was a “must.” Some of these embassies really ought to update their facts. Christ, that bum-fucking chargé d’affaires must be one of the biggest fucking idiots I’ve met in a month. When I saw his fag-trimmed beard, surgical shirt, and moist eyes, I feared the worst.


I was planning on writing something positive about Iranian cinema, but I couldn’t think of what the fuck to write, and anyway, Iranian films are terrifyingly boring. I remember reading about the restrictions placed by the mullahs on Iranian directors, fantastic Bunuelian nonsense: no sexual themes; no intersex kissing; no women on screen except in chadors with facial grills; no womens’ voices on the soundtrack; no women in roles of any importance; no female genitalia except for filmed clitoridectomies; no villains to be given Islamic names; no filming of dog turds in the street, lest they appear to be spelling out Koranic verses; every scene must depict people at prayer; the West must be shown in a bad light; the only permitted theme is the triumph of martyrdom, and so on.

Actually, I think I did once see one of those films, probably at the NFT in London.

And, sure enough, I don’t remember seeing a single fucking dog turd on the screen.


Which reminds me.

On my way back from Iran, flying via Qantas or some such, considerably the worse for drink, I was overwhelmed by the symmetry of the idea of blue ice over the blue mosque.

I looked out of the porthole.

God, it gets claustrophobic in these fucking Zeppelins.

Sure enough, a kaleidoscopic view of a holy city; surely Ashfakhan, or whatever it’s called, the beautiful blue city of Iranian jade mosaics, millions of miles below us, pearl of Isphahan, Scimitar of Hussein, guardian of the Nile, temple of Babylon.

“Captain!” I screamed, “Captain! Let these fucks have a chunk of blue!”

Blue ice, for those who don’t know, is airline-speak for the contents of the planes’ latrines, i.e. a shit soup suspended in a blue disinfectant, frozen into deadly blocks of ice by the altitude.

There was a shudder of turbulence as the Captain opened the bays and dumped a Big Boy on the hapless devotees below.

I rolled around in my seat, pissing myself.

And guess what the in-flight film was called ?

Blue Ice, with Michael Caine! I just couldn’t stop pissing!

The stewardess—her tits all over the place—told me the plot was about an airline pilot dropping lumps of blue shit over the Middle East. I was shrieking like a horse; I nearly died of laughter! Caine must have been the pilot! I can imagine him sitting there in his fucking pilot’s hat. Get Carter is one of my all-time great films. Pretty liberal of the Iranians to show Blue Ice on a domestic flight. “Take me back to London”: I love the way Caine says that. I wish I could go back to London; Iran is not my idea of home. I begged the stewardess for a gentle handjob, but she said fuck off, I think. Is that any way to talk to a passenger? And the newspapers on board the plane were full of stories of people in Essex nearly being killed by lumps of blue ice crashing through their houses. Christ, imagine sitting there, getting a handjob from a Lufthansa hostess in front of the telly, when the next minute a huge flying fucking frozen blue turd, the size of a fucking Volkswagen, bursts through your roof, fucking up your bedroom and smashing your fucking Ikea kitchen to bits! Unbelievably dangerous, living in the flight path of a major airport. But if you think about it, the world is now so criss-crossed with flight-paths, you could as easily be killed by bad luck blue ice in Patagonia as in Essex. Perhaps that’s what did for Bruce Chatwin, poor sod, he ought to have looked up into the sky.


Fuck this.


But there is a point at which the sanctimony of a place like Iran can get to be altogether too much. Reminders of its ancient religious heritage were everywhere; the endless minaret, in every shape or form, from dinky little tower, no more than a chimney stack, to full priapic skyscraper. At street level, Tehran can be overwhelming; the minarets towering over you, and pressing down on you; the bustle of the traffic and the startling canary-yellow taxis trying to run you over.

I don’t know how long I’d been in the country, or where I’d been, or who I’d seen, but I decided to check into a deserted motel in the middle of nowhere, and do some serious fucking drinking, and come to grips with life.

I started Friday afternoon and kept it going through Saturday and Sunday, wiping the old hard disk, cleansing the mind, polishing the nerves, recalibrating the brain.

Fuck, it was horrible.

I told the woman at the desk to leave me well alone.

Would you believe that at some stage she was sitting at the reception desk without any pants on? I couldn’t believe it; her great naked buttocks and bush pressed hard and flat against the cheap red plastic seat of a bar stool.

For my part, I sat on the side of my dirty double bed, surrounded by other people’s pubic hairs, watching Iranian films on the telly, and drinking.

And drinking.

And vomiting; yes, of course, sick with desolation, and confusion, and the sense of sudden, impending madness.

But the whole horrible ordeal was surprisingly necessary.

And effective.

I’d gone to prison, passing go without collecting, and now I was out.


You can drink your way from one part of the world to another if you want to, if you’ve read enough good books.

I knew that’s what I had to do.

It can be done.

I started in Qom, and 40 bottles later, I was in Reno, with a beautiful girl about to kiss me as only a beautiful girl can.


Don’t you believe it.

It wouldn’t have been possible.

Alcoholic consumption is forbidden in Iran, and can be punishable by death.

So I was quite surprised to find flourishing bars in the downtown areas of most Iranian cities, although these areas are well off the tourist routes. And although I took the risk and drank a few beers myself, I would not recommend this to fellow voyagers, as one is liable to arrest by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. After the downfall of the Shah, such Guards were everywhere to be seen, but now they are more discreet, and the preoccupied tourist could escape seeing one altogether.


Iran is a land of laughter, people laughing all the time, laughing at my questions, stupid, inane giggling.


I don’t know.

A popular tourist resort is the coastal town of Molacca (Mecca?), some miles south of Tehran. I thought Mecca was in Saudi. Anyhow, it can easily be reached by bus, and Visa and Amex are welcomed everywhere. Expect a friendly welcome. Busses leave every seven hours, and the staff are clean, friendly and courteous, and are dressed in modern clothes. There are many souvenir shops along the beachfront, and attractive locally-made handicrafts can be obtained at affordable prices. Buy your handicrafts at the end of the day, so you won’t have the inconvenience of carrying them around with you! Budget tourists are advised to stay away from the Islamic college sector, especially after dusk, owing to poor streetlighting and the presence of hordes of unemployed negroes in bow ties. There is no nightlife to speak of, but the bored, simple-minded, info-barfed westerner can visit the local cinema, where he or she is likely to see the very latest films from Bombay. A bracing non-alcoholic fruit punch is served in the cinema foyer, and soft drinks and other refreshments can easily be obtained from behind the counter, but don’t expect the very latest in Italian ice creams! Fortunately, I had my fucking flask with me. Treat yourself instead to delicious locally-made beverages, such as Persian tea and coffee, made from the finest local chicory. I’ll try them next time; I stuck to Coke. The cinema stank of hash and piss, I don’t know why, not very religious, if you ask me.


Towards the end of my trip, I spent a lot of time on my bed in my hotel room, thinking. Sleeping, actually. Fuck, travelling can make you tired, it can knock you out, it can take away your brain and replace it with liquid concrete. I was resting, but only after I’d faxed my story back to London, that is. Of course, the fax machine wasn’t working, what do you fucking expect. I could see all of Iran from my window. I could have sworn I saw Michael Winner eating a first-class meal in the carpark. I thought of the words of some Japanese Buddhist or the other: “Even these…even these…” Let’s see: in six weeks I’d been rolled, lost all my traveller’s cheques, travelled from one end of Iran to the other, seen and done everything, I was exhausted. But I couldn’t get the thought out of my head, that, of all the bars and gin joints in all the world, this fucking hole had to come into mine.

I wonder if that pamphlet I bought in Whitechapel was even remotely true.

I’d quite like to meet the Galactic Babu; what a stupid fucking name.

Actually, I think I once remember meeting him in Whitechapel.

He claimed to be the Messiah.

Perhaps he gave the pamphlet in person.


It’s come to me; I remember it now, I’ve got it.

Here it is.

On the plane, en route to Iran, or en route out, the in-flight film was Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, with Elliot Gould: all curried cat food, Sterling Hayden, and flagrantly illegal, blasphemous, and uncalled-for shots of dog turds in the street.

But I won’t be putting any of that in my article; the sub would excise it anyway, all they want is some piss about handicrafts, comfortable accommodation, realistic prices, budget meals, and blowjobs and tampon availability; they’re not interested in fucking facts.

Anyway, Elliot Gould kills his best friend.

With a single bullet.

Straight through the third eye.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

The author was a guest of Advance Iran International.


For all installments of “Ice Creamer,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1