There's An Orangutan In My Bed

Robert Daniel

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If someone had written the following list of places I would be sleeping before I left home to go travelling in 1978, I may have stayed in bed.

The magic of life is, you don’t know what’s going to happen next. . Even with the finest planning and infrastructure in place and double checked, nothing is guaranteed.

For those of us who thrive on change this is wonderful, but for people who need to feel in control of their lives the constant change and unpredictability must drive them insane.

I’d like to address this list to me, c/o my home address in Kettering, England in 1978 and at the end of it write ‘Don't Panic’.

I wonder how I would have received such a note, sent back in time from an older me who claims to be wiser but shows no evidence of being so.

During seven eventful years before moving to Australia I hitched, train-ed, bus-ed, flew, floated and walked whichever way I fancied going. The days were interesting and exciting, but the nights!

I slept in a lime pit, in a shed used to mark out soccer pitches in France. Beside a long dead donkey on a Greek Island, in a dry river-bed which was far from dry in the morning. I woke up swimming.

On top of a small cliff, waking up in the morning at the bottom of the cliff. On a slip road to a quarry, waking up to find massive quarry trucks blundering past not ten feet away from our heads, in a grandstand over looking the Monaco Grand Prix just after the tunnel section, up a tree spread eagled between branches, onboard an Egyptian fishing boat and underneath a bush in Basel in mid winter.

Jetty’s while dangling a line over the side fishing for breakfast, in the doorway of a sex shop, on steps, rocks, inside several caves, inside a well, underneath a peach tree so all I had to do was reach up for breakfast.

Under a grape vine peeling myself grapes, on top of several roof tops, on football pitches, inside an ancient Olympic Stadium, tucked up on a luggage rack on trains, trams, wrecked trains, castles, building sites, monasteries, on a marble tomb, inside the gardens at the Palace of Versailles as well as in a collection of tents, planes, buses, trains, cars, motorcycle side-cars and the side of a shed 3000 feet above a permanent glacier.

And I wasn’t being particularly adventurous either, and I certainly wasn’t out there trying to be controversial.

There were houses as well, 5 star hotels, no star hotels, backpackers, youth hostels, guest houses, caravan parks, bed and breakfasts, ferries and fishing boats and these are just from the top of my head.

But for a life to get interesting, it does need a push sometimes. Sitting back and waiting for something to happen is rarely enough.

Each one of those sleeping places were adventures in their own right and wouldn’t have happened at all had I not taken the immense step of walking out of the house for the first time. That’s the hardest part, the bit that can make your heart race.

If, while taking that first tentative step out of a safe home a man had come up and handed me a not saying ‘Keep going Rob, soon you’ll be sharing a bedroom in Lyon with a fully grown live orangutan ‘, I wonder what I would have said?

I am a children's author, and run creative writing, memory and self esteem workshops in schools around the world. is an online creative writing studio for writers and illustrators of all ages, and we sell and give away new children's stories for your kids to enjoy.

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