IT’S EASY TO TALK
1Pain in the ass
7 The Big. KO
8Kitz/Jane of Wales
10 Break down
11 Dutch courage
12Beware the Greeks
15 Footing the Bills
16 Black Dog
17 X Mas
18 Valentine/Walking the line
19 The Germans
21 Own Goal
22 Gambling Man
24 Uncle Buck
25 Leo and Co
26 Marta part 1
27 Punch and Judy
28 One singer
31 Marta part2
32 Keep them close
33 Monkey on our back
34 Wind/ fooled again
36 Up shit creak without a paddle
37Stuck in the middle
38 The Choice is yours
39Silence in court
Pain in the ass
Living in a Multi cultural community was always going to be a problem, given the complexity of our lives and the inevitable baggage. I guess in our defence it was all about survival, after all like most of the World we’d seen our assets half overnight and we were, not to put too fine a point on it, struggling. Things may have been different had one or 2 issues been resolved in the beginning however as one wag said ‘There’s no point in looking back you only strain your neck’
These days everyone involved in my/our acrimonious divorce had moved on and the once bitter acrimony to some extent a memory. Back then we were living with Helens parents and one evening over dinner we explained our predicament. The following morning, having had time to digest both the food and our predicament Helens father suggested we speak with an average golfer/ Professional lawyer by the name of Robert. This we did, however as history will show we chose not to heed his advice and instead do our own thing which I guess in hind sight was irresponsible. Fast forward to today
Due to an impending wedding taking place in Edinburgh we that is Helen and I were invited back to the UK and given it was one of our daughters who was tying the knot, a ‘no show!’ wasn’t an option. A quick call to Robert was required. I guess, after all this time he may have considered my call for advice a shade impertinent, then again, given he was a Lawyer perhaps not, anyhow niceties over I cut to the chase explained my predicament and asked for advice and to be honest he was extremely helpful.
With a visit to the UK on the horizon and the possibility of returning permanently I figured it made sense to take advantage of the money we’d paid over the years for private health cover by having a few potential problems resolved. For me, both problems were recurring. One was the pain in my right knee and the other; my bleeding ass.
1st port of call was to Doctor Valerie. As per usual she did what she did with aplomb; pity really considering I was made to drop my trousers while she viewed the passage to the abyss. Inspection over she confirmed the obvious, I did indeed have piles problems. As for the knee: again it was self evidently buggered. While I sorted what needed sorting Valerie made a couple of calls and hey! presto, in the wink of an eye I had appointments with two specialists; Pile expert Dr Salgado and Knee specialist Dr Martin
Within days I met with Dr Salgado and his female assistant and endured the humiliation of dropping my pants in preparation of having a thorough inspection of my bum innards. Inspection over I pulled up my strides, again tucked in what needed tucking in and sat down to hear what the Doc had to say. Basically he couldn’t assess my situation i.e. cancerous or otherwise without going in! And going in meant a general anaesthetic and an overnight stay in Malaga hospital holly molley!
Next stop; the knee doctor. From the word go I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Doc Martin. He showed more interest in my beloved than my knee and his salacious innuendoes were what one would associate with a near the knuckle comedian than a doctor. As for his diagnosis! Unsurprisingly, the knee had to be x rayed before he could comment. I could have told him that.
A few days later having completed the x rays we returned to Dr Martin where, once again we were forced to listen to his double entrées while he perused the results of the x ray. Seems I had the knees of a 70 yr old and given I was-- well considerably younger, this was not good news. Apparently all was not lost and on the basis I was prepared to shell out 300€ for some magic Gel (the equivalent to silicone) the knee could be given a stay of execution. When questioned as to why? I had to pay for the gel he simply said that my private health cover didn’t cover this procedure oh! And by way of helping me reduce the cost of the product he suggested I buy from a place down town, who it would appear could sell it to me for 200€! Perhaps this is/was a scam in the making.
One week later around mid day saw me and Helen arrive at the Hospital in Malaga and by 9 pm that same evening I’d been done so to speak, that is to say the doctors assistant had prepared me, Dr Salgado had gone in and did what he had to do; end result, overwhelming success. No sign of cancer, only an understandable pain in the ass due to the operation. When I awoke I was lying in a comfy single bed and lying adjacent in a single bed, Helen, spark out
The following week Helen, having decided she should also take advantage of the situation made an appointment with Doctor Valerie and two days later we arrived at the doctor’s surgery. Lest you were unaware; when Helen puts her mind to something, that something is carried out with military precision. No stone is left unturned; everything is put under the microscope and analysed. The doc having known Helen for a number of years expected nothing less and she wasn’t to be disappointed. Every sinew, bone, nerve put under the microscope and every nook and cranny investigated apart that was from the saga that was the ongoing menopause
Due in the main to the political agenda surrounding the urbanisation I was ‘in effect’ sacked by my beloved and with the sacking came a loss of income. This of course was a huge dent, to my huge ego; however, the silver lining was that I wouldn’t be called upon to prostitute myself by doffing my cap and bowing to those I despised. The real down side to all of this however this was we had a substantial mortgage to pay, food to buy, and very little by way of income. How on earth were we going to square this circle?
Fortuitously via a genuine, long term friendship we were being paid €60 per month to manage an apartment in the urbanisation and with the management came repairs and opportunity. Opportunity No1 came by way of a web site; a ‘holiday’ web site to be precise and within days of logging on we received more enquires than we could handle. Opportunity No 2 came by way of a neighbour. An English female neighbour, as it happens who was going through an awkward divorce and by way of persuasion figured renting her apartment would at the very least pay for the community fees, which to be honest at circa 5k/annum was substantial. Only slight problem for her was the apartment needed freshening up before it could be let and of course for the meagre sum of €300 I was the very boy to do the freshening Opportunity No 3 was the involvement of transportation. Helen had, at one time worked for a closet gay chap who’s business it was to organise golf ‘T’ times, transportation to and from golf courses and pick-ups to and from the airport etc. consequently we cut a deal whereby we would promote his transportation facility to those who rented property from us and in return he would pay us a10% commission
Once again we had a business; albeit a tiny business, nevertheless given we had this god awful mortgage hanging around our neck it was a start. Problem was I struggled to come to terms with charging friends for my services. Especially when each and each time they arrived at the urbanisation for a break they treated us like royalty. Whenever we ventured out for dinner they invariably picked up the tab and believe me picking up the tab in Marbella can be as much as a small village’s debt. Don’t get me wrong I was more than happy to be out there working. It kept me from the house and saved me and Helen from killing one another. I wasn’t however prepared to ask for the cash. Asking for money just wasn’t’/isn’t in my DNA. For a while; metaphorical speaking Helen carried out the financial dirty work, until she tired of baling me out and told me to grow some balls. Insults not withstanding, I looked towards my nether regions and agreed and; albeit reluctantly, began raising invoices which my friends duly paid, without fuss or enquiry.
Life on the coast was similar to life in most places. Some days were good and some bad. Naturally the weather was a bonus; however truth is nobody does anything different, Human nature and its frailties transcends everywhere, as I will now demonstrate.
We bumped into a female friend of ours recently. A woman, who too all intents and purposes had embraced the Spanish way of life. Amid the chat she recalled a few stories of her recent dealings with the Spanish
One bright morning, having just moved into her apartment our friend heard the familiar sound of the fruit and vegetable guy announcing his arrival and so, given she lived in a relatively remote area she figured why not! and off she went. Shopping over, she figured she the guy around €18 and so she handed him a €20 and waited, but to no avail. When confronted with regards to the outstanding €2 the man in the van grunted like an ape, shoved 2 oranges into her bag and in effect told her to fuck off! Somehow or other she kept her council and walked off. Moments later having given the incident some thought she returned to the van, pulled out a banana, tore back the skin, grunted like a gorilla and handed it to the monkey behind the counter. I’m betting he didn’t, nor will he ever, understand the significance of her actions. P.S. She never did go back to the fruit and veg/man.
One bright sunny morning en route to the bank the same woman decided to pull over and stop for coffee. Coffee over she stepped inside the bar handed the girl €5 and in return was handed 3 Euros! As she was about to leave she noticed that the man who had been drinking a coffee opposite walked to the bar, put down a Euro and walked off. Intrigued by the apparent disparity she asked the girl why? She had paid more for her coffee than the man, to which the girl simply shrugged her shoulders and said it was because he was a local.
The following day I wandered into the local Builders merchant. A place where normally I feel charmed if the guy behind the desk refrains from spitting in my face and lo and behold ‘Sad Sack’, as I’d christened him actually said, albeit begrudgingly “Buenos Dias (good morning) jumping Jesus! You could have knocked me over with a grape.
As I say, life was fractious and money tight and I often wondered if our relationship could withstand the pressures. Not that we had a choice, as Churchill once said ‘if you are going through hell; keep going.’
I guess it was around February when the daughter who married in Edinburgh on November called to ask for our help: Well not so much ask; as plead with us and in particular me to get my sorry ass back to the Capital ASAP, the reason? She and new hubby, having spoken to people in the industry decided to rent their property over the Festival period and surprise, surprise their apartment wasn’t anywhere near the standard required. Stevie Wonder could have made that call.
Due in part to emotional blackmail/ compassion, Helen and I agreed to return to Edinburgh on the 16th of February, on a mission impossible. Well not really a mission; more an undertaking to transform our kids apartment from a slum environment to habitable surroundings. No big deal on the grand scale of things. I’d been fitting kitchens, bathrooms and re modelling apartments for years. Only difference this time was it was a non paying job: a labour of love if you like.
The renovation work in itself was no big deal; Travelling to Edinburgh and back on the other hand would be arduous. Helen, as was her privilege opted to fly from Malaga to Edinburgh. I on the other hand was left with little option but to take the planes, boats, trains and auto-mobiles route, alone.
Ironically in November 2012 when the Bride and Groom craved my attendance at their wedding they pulled out all the stops. Nothing was too much trouble. Back then when I arrived by ferry on the West coast they both travelled all the way from the East to collect me and had done so without so much as a whimper. On this occasion however the newly-weds were less accommodating. Apparently, due to work scheduling; and get this; having to walk the dogs; they were struggling to come get me, ergo; could I see my way to getting myself through to Edinburgh via the bus.
And so it was that on the day of departure we left our apartment around 10 am and by 10,45am had arrived at Malaga airport. 2 hours later having bade my beloved a fond farewell I was in the sky along with 200 human beings, each and every one fighting for storage space as if their life depended on it. 4 hours later, having arrived in Dublin airport it was once again onwards and upwards, destination Edinburgh, well not quite. From Dublin airport I boarded a bus which would take me to within ½ mile of the train station. Suitcase in hand, I negotiated my way through the town to the station and 3 hours later, having paid the equivalent of what it may cost for a new suit I arrived in Belfast. Two hours later, having taken care of business I hopped into a taxi, heading for the port where, having loitered with intent for 2 hours I embarked on the PO ferry; destination Scotland. By around 10pm the ship docked on the other side of the Irish Sea, whereupon, having collected my gear I disembarked and set off in search of the bus. Bus duly located, I boarded and by around arrived in Edinburgh. Again I disembarked, collected my luggage and via shanks pony i.e. on foot, made my way from the bus station to the apartment. Final time of arrival; Midnight
Around 1am I collapsed into a bed beside Helen and by 3am awoke to the unendurable sound of traffic. Swear to God for one horrible second I thought we were ‘sleeping in a bed, on the road’ To be honest had we been ‘sleeping in a bed on the road’ the noise could not have been more thunderous. The root causes of the problems were (a) we were in fact sleeping above a major road and (b) the windows were so thin I swear I could have thrown a tea leaf through them. For the remainder of the night we both lay partially awake and partially asleep and in the morning rose like the waking dead. Nevertheless sleep deprivation or otherwise we had a job to do and do it we would. It was time to don the superman vest. That same day we hauled out the old kitchen, had it taken away and by around 9pm we both ground to a halt. We needed beverage and sustenance; big time, and so it was off to the local pub/bistro.
To be fair; Edinburgh is a major player in terms of history, culture etc. it’s also happens to be the Capital City of Scotland, thus expectations regarding dining etc. are always going to be high and rightly so. Byblos was the bistro we entered and I’m glad to report it was befitting the area in that it ticked our boxes and almost before our bums hit seats we had ordered. Don’t quite recall what we ordered that evening but whatever it was it fitted the bill. Having said that, I guess on this occasion a plate of dog food and bowl of tap water, would have been welcome.
Duly fed and watered we returned to the apartment only to be greeted by our Kid, her two pedigree dogs and her new hubby. Amid chat I mentioned the bedroom road noise, to which they both seemed perplexed. ‘Had they ever slept in that room’? I enquired, ‘no’ came the reply! ‘Would it be OK? For us to sleep in the pull down bed in the lounge’ Said I ‘No problem’ they muttered, in unison. And so, having pulled down the bed and clambered in, it was ‘goodnight’ from me and ‘goodnight’ from her. I would like to say we slept like babies; truth is we didn’t sleep at all. Unbeknown to us, directly below the apartment was a disco/night club. Not just any old night club I might add. in terms of decibels probably the most raucous/ noisiest night club known to mankind. The din kicked off around midnight and carried on until either the police arrived or Dawn came up. Either way it seemed to last forever. The thing that struck me most about this event was that throughout the night I could actually hear what the people on the street were saying to one another other to such a degree I almost wanted to question some of their statements. ‘Was Pete a dirty rotten bastard for cheating on Debbie?’ ‘Was Tania a slag?’ ‘Did Roger have a spare joint?’ etc. all discussed and debated with remarkable clarity
Around 7am we rose bleary eyed. Initially we both felt irritated by the late night shenanigans until; over a brew we realised it had been an eventful; nay educational; experience. Problem for us now was where to go. Where, within these walls would we get a good night’s sleep? And on the assumption that the answer would be assuredly negative; how would we cope? Transpire because of the hours and effort we were putting in, the noise wasn’t really an issue, there could have been a brass band marching down the street and we would have simply looked to one another before turning over; although having said that we had our moments
One morning around 4 am, while the party downstairs was just beginning we heard in the distance the familiar sound of a fire engine. Although the noise seemed to be coming our way; we initially paid little heed, until the decibel level increased and the fire engine seemed in close proximity and sure enough when I peered through the tattered curtains, there it was, a bloody great fire engine, so close to the apartment I felt I could have climbed on board.
The 3 weeks spent in Edinburgh were on occasion thought provoking, especially with regards to our daughters. Although all four were successful and self- sufficient in their own right; their chosen beaus were less so. Our oldest Daughter, aged 30 years had a 45yr old boyfriend/ hypochondriac with a personality disorder. The second oldest, aged 28 had only recently hooked up with a 24yr old boyfriend fostering religious tendencies. One of the twins aged 25yrs of age had married a Mexican dentist with insecurity problems and the one we were staying with had married a guy who relied on his new wife the way a child relies on Mothers milk.
One Saturday morning, amid torrential rainfall my partner in crime decided she needed a coffee and so in the interest of having an easy life off we set; destination Starbucks. As per usual we waited patiently in the queue until finally it was our turn. ‘Two coffees please, in a cup, not a plastic container if you don’t mind; a cup!’ His response to this day astounds me. ‘Sorry sir, can’t do coffee in a cup on a Saturday.’ clearly I didn’t hear correctly so I repeated the request to which he again replied ‘sorry sir, don’t do coffee in a cup on Saturday’s. We both looked at each other in bewilderment. Whoa! ‘Pray tell why can’t you give us a coffee in a cup?’ To which he unashamedly replied ‘we only employ a dishwasher on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; its company policy.’ my retort; to coin a phrase ‘you cannot be serious?’ Which, Judging by the look on his face he most assuredly was.
For us this was a shocking state of affairs. Starbucks! A Worldwide brand; a company making millions of pounds profit and yet they couldn’t afford to give a cup cleaning job to a kid! More importantly they! That is Starbucks seem to have decided/ dictated that like it or not, on a Saturday you will drink from a plastic/ paper cup whether you bloody well like it or not! From that day forth I vowed I’d spread the news ref the shit hole they call Starbucks and the way they treat their customers. A vow I aim to fulfil starting now
From what little we gleaned; Edinburgh (Starbucks not withstanding) was, (as much as it pains me to admit) deserving of its title that is the Capital City of Scotland. Vibrant, Multicultural, diverse, everyone scurrying around: everyone on a mission. Apart that is for the weather which for the record was atrocious. For the forthcoming 3 weeks or so we worked like dogs F.O.C and through adversity somehow completed the task and all for the material sum of 3,500 English/Scottish pounds. New fitted kitchen; tiled kitchen walls; tiled bathroom walls; wooden flooring throughout and every wall and ceiling painted to everyone’s satisfaction, adding somewhere in the region of 20k to the value of the property
Mission having been accomplished it was time to return to sunny Spain. Finally no more discomfort, late night noise, duffel coats, Wellington’s, torrential rain, sleet and wind. Only shorts and t shirts, early morning walking along the beach front and lots of scantily clad women. First I had to get there and given the times of the planes, trains, taxis, ships and buses, the trip would require an overnight stay in Dublin
Two days later I arrived at Malaga Airport, where I was met by my beloved. It felt good to be back and the fresh air and the sun simply confirmed what I already thought, which was at my age I could no longer hope to sustain manual work in a cold country. Any future work that came my way would be done in the sun.
Throughout the forthcoming few days everything in the garden was rosy. Favourable discussion, decent home-made food and a few kisses and cuddles for good measure. A blind man could see it would never last. Predictably a few weeks down the line the debates became progressively heated, the food invariably of the ‘carry out’ variety and kisses and cuddles events of the past. By way of avoiding conflict I busied myself writing, visiting the garbage more often than is deemed healthy and when the occasions occurred doing paid work around the urbanisation
To this end, one day I was fixing a neighbour’s external lighting system when two guys appeared. Initially I was dismissive of their arrival and carried on working, until that is, the younger of them beckoned me over and flashed a badge: they were undercover cops! In Spanish they asked if the president was home and in pigeon English I said I was unsure. They then, with a degree of hubris went on to ask which apartment she lived in, to which I rather reluctantly pointed them in the general direction.
The moment they were out of sight I phoned Helen to tip her the wink, before packing up my tools and taking off; to where? I hear you ask, to a pre ordained vantage point which allowed me to view what was going down without outside interference. Within minutes of knocking on our door the 2 young policemen, accompanied by Helen left our apartment and made their way to the office. This meant only one thing; the C.C.T.V cameras and their search for evidence; evidence of what? I had no idea. While they tried to unravel the complexities of the cameras I returned to our apartment, switched on the TV and via a pre installed connection to the cameras watched with intrigue. Fortuitously 20 minutes later they left having achieved very little of whatever it was they were searching for. They did however take down Helens phone number before leaving, while informing her they would be returning within the next few days with a computer specialist
Our apartment had been on the market for quite some time and though we’d had our fair share of viewings nobody had, to date, made an offer. Don’t be misled into thinking we wanted to sell: we didn’t; problem was the mortgage repayments were killing us. Six months down the line, despite calling in lots of markers and making a concerted effort to enhance the apartment, we still hadn’t sold and with very little by way of funds coming in and a substantial amount going out we were quite literally living on borrowed time.
Providentially as has been documented Helen was the President of the urbanisation in which we lived, ergo whenever someone needed something they knocked on our door. Not that someone tap, tap, tapping on our door at unsociable hours was welcome, the point was that from this we, that is to say I was offered all and any repair / maintenance work on the go and natural enhanced the prospect of me making a few bob. Granted the pittance received would never see us return to millionaire status; it did none the less to some extent keep the wolves from the door. The main problem was the inordinate amount of socializing / prostituting we had to endure in order to keep those who voted for Helen happy. Failure to do so would result in the re-election of the old Spanish president and for as long as Helen had breath in her body that just wasn’t going to happen
Invariably some of the work I undertook was looked upon as a favour; a vote catcher if you like. Not that this was ever said in public; sometimes things are so obvious they don’t need explaining. Having come from working class stock I’d had years of experience in dealing with those who had plenty and in general they were the ones who were parsimonious. Pretty often it was like trying to get blood from a stone, Sure they’d offer you a beer, a lunch, dinner perhaps but you try squeezing them for money; and suddenly they become deaf or in desperate need to pee some people call it taking the piss. Unfortunately beer, lunch, trinkets etc. don’t pay the mortgage. On many occasions I would leave someone’s house having repaired their water boiler, or clogged sink etc. with little more than a complimentary ‘thanks mate!’ In retrospect I was my own worst enemy in that I never pushed anyone for reimbursement. Quite to the contrary; despite being raised in the back streets of a City renowned for violence and poverty I had an aversion to holding out my hand in search of remuneration; choosing instead to leave it Helen, who, it must be said, did it with aplomb.
Come spring time and once again we were on the merry go round. Owners began arriving and two such people were those Welsh rarebits known to all as Robert the dopey bastard and long suffering wife Jane As I may have previously mentioned Robert was a diminutive, rotund 70 yr old successful businessman, cursed with a face only a Mother could love. Clearly, apart from being a Millionaire Robert hadn’t cut a great deal with the good Lord. Wife Jane fared no better, correction Jane fared worse. Her face was so badly deformed; she’d been nicknamed elephant woman. To add insult to injury she was also a chain smoking, alcoholic, who just happened to be as deaf as a statue. Not withstanding all of this, they were both extremely nice people; albeit in a strange sort of way. Moreover, they were generous to a fault, which given our ever depleting financial situation was to some extent a god send
One evening, in an attempt to appease our old Jewish friend Kitz, we invited her to join us at a quiz night. The event took place every Thursday in a bar known as the ‘Hogan stand’, which, .incidentally was named after Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan who was shot dead at the ground during a challenge between Tipperary and Dublin on November 21, 1920 (Bloody Sunday) however I digress. The rules of engagement were that each team had to have a ‘team name’ and each team had to have no more than 7 players. All the teams on this particular occasion had at least 5 players, apart from ours, we had three! Rather creatively we christened our team the ‘Wee three’ and by around 9pm we were up and running. I have since discovered a Quiz night with Kitz borders on the insane; as I will now demonstrate.
Question 1 ‘who in the song stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni?’ The correct answer is of course Yankee Doodle Dandy. Kitz’s answer! ‘Robin Hood’ At that point I realised it was going to be a long night. Question 2 ‘How many loafs of bread are in a Bakers dozen?’ Correct answer is of course 13. ’Kitz’s riposte 14 Question 3 ‘Who marched right up to the top of the hill and marched back down again?’ Answer, the Grand old Duke of York. Kitz’s answer ‘Sir Edmund Hillary’ Time for a sharp exit. On my return from the toilet I noticed a Looky Looky man (Nigerian, street trader) had appeared on the scene. He was plying his trade by way of selling wares such as; handbags, watches, sunglasses announcing, straight faced to the masses that all items came with a 10 year guarantee! Reckon he confused 10 year with 10 minute! By the end of the evening the results were in and in 8th place were the ‘Wee three’. I guess one might conclude that 8th place wasn’t bad for a 3 man/woman team until, that is I tell you only 8 teams participated! Around midnight we arrived home mentally exhausted.
The following Thursday evening, by way of entertaining the Welsh wizard and his Dragon we invited them to join us and Kitz at the Quiz night: goes without saying they tagged along. Helen and I both figured the atmosphere and conviviality would help get us through the evening with as little fuss as possible. Little did we realise, how bizarre the evening would turn out to be. Given it was a rather humid evening I chose to sit outside pre the quiz and to this end Robert accompanied me. Amid man talk Robert confessed, ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink,’ to having enjoyed a torrid affair with his secretary back home. Furthermore whilst in Spain ‘on the pretext of playing golf’ he more often than not visited a local brothel The 69 club was his choice of pleasure and from what little I knew, it was as classy a whore house as one is likely to find in this neck of the woods. It’s worth noting that from the day and hour we met; I recognised Roberts propensity for being a naughty school boy .Foot tapping me under the table every time a female; any female form was within ogling distance was a given. Whether they were tall, short, fat or, thin; made no difference to Robert, as a result a few hours into the evening my shins were showing signs of bruising
Meanwhile, inside the ‘Hogan stand’ our team had opted to give themselves the team name ‘5 happy campers’ which ironically, given the mounting tension between Jane and Kitz was a misnomer. Jane and Kitz were struggling resulting in. Helen, if she’ll pardon the expression being piggy in the middle. To her right sat Jane; an alcoholic, chain smocking, coyote ugly, deaf individual, oblivious to what was surrounding her and to her left; a Jewish woman with a penchant for talking twaddle! Apparently, for reasons known only to herself, Jane decided to test Kitz’s patience by announcing and I quote ‘Helen did you know that whenever Hitler is on TV Robert sits glued to the screen? He’s a big fan, thinks Hitler was great! Yikes! I do believe if someone said they adored Hitler within the confines of my/our family home or in the company of close friends they would at worse be castigated and at best humoured however given Helen was sitting with a Jewish woman / friend; Jane’s outburst beggared the question ‘was this woman on drugs or simply off her face with vodka? To her eternal credit Kitz somehow managed to remain in control of her emotions otherwise who knows what might have been the outcome. To this day I have no idea what possessed Jane to say such a controversial thing! The mind truly boggles. Fortuitously before the situation became untenable the quiz mistress announced the beginning of the Quiz and with it came an assortment of jolly japes and downright nonsense
Question 1 what do the letters S.C.U.B.A represent? Well according to Robert, who incidentally has a doctorate degree in horticulture; the letter S.C.U.B.A stand for Society of Cultural Underwater Breathing Association However according to the Quiz mistress Roberts explanation is quite simply balderdash. The letters S.C.U.B.A. actually denote “Self-Contained, Underwater, Breathing, Apparatus .No difference. From that moment on, any credibility Robert may have held went tits up. From Wizard to wanker; in one fell swoop. Not to be outdone, Jane, his long suffering wife pitched in with ‘Robert, you dopey sod, make yourself useful and fetch me a large vodka and tonic’ to which Robert duly rose from his chair, kept his own council and headed for the bar. As the evening progressed the crowds became a little more raucous in anticipation of the winner and by the half way point Robert was sitting ‘bolt upright’ fast asleep. Around 10pm the quiz mistress announced the end of the quiz and the imminent discovery of the winners, at which point Robert popped up like a mere cat, took himself off to the loo, and on his return announced to all and sundry that due to a lack in concentration he’d pissed all over the floor; charming. As for the results of the quiz. Team aka ‘5 happy campers’ came 10th yep! You guessed it; only 10 teams participated
As luck would have it, two days later Helens Birthday was upon us, thus in order to keep in the good books I did what a man had to do, which in Helens case was to rise around 10am, chauffeur her to her favourite café for ‘pancakes and syrup’ and afterwards chauffeur her to the clothes shops, dig deep and without so much as a how much! Pay for said attire and if lucky be home for 7pm. Unbeknown to me, The Welsh wizard, having caught wind of the occasion, called around 5 pm to congratulate the birthday girl, whilst at the same time inviting himself and his spouse to join us in the celebration!. At the time I remember thinking ‘why is Helen OK! With these Muppet’s joining us for what I figured was a 2 person only gig? I guess, in hindsight it was either all about the votes or the state of our relationship either way the signs weren’t good.
That same evening, we again donned the glad rags, put on a happy face and ventured out to meet the Welsh double act. Earlier on in the day, on the assumption we would be dining together I’d booked a table for two in restaurant known as ‘Taka Taka’. The location was beach front, overlooking Gibraltar and for all intents and purposes a romantic occasion. Clearly my other half didn’t quite see it that way, which is why we arrived as a four ball. Anyhow, the moment we stepped inside the restaurant we were shown to our table and in the blink of an eye Robert ordered ‘champagne for the lady!’ Leaving Jane and me to ponder whether or not we were invisible. After dinner Jane excused herself and made her way to the toilet whereupon Robert piped up ‘Now Jane just remember you had two fried eggs for breakfast which means you have to crap twice!’ Before departing Robert stood up to make his way to the toilet, at which point I could not help but remind him that if he was going for a pee perhaps, given his previous experience of missing; he should consider using the ladies! En route home they both suggested we call in at the sports bar for a night cap and given no one opposed the motion we drew up at the sports bar where once again amid conversation Robert fell asleep
With the AGM due in a few weeks,the atmosphere in our house was to say the least delicate. Spurious diatribe from the ex Spanish president Karmala/ Bad Karma and her cohorts was coming thick and fast and Helen was struggling to fend them off. All day and every day spent e-mailing supporters and non supporters alike and the pressure was beginning to take its toll. AGM, not withstanding, we, as a couple had issues, issues exacerbated by hate mail and the need to justify our every move
As previously documented Andrew Vermeer had at one time been a close friend of ours. Unfortunately having married a London gangsters Moll he’d lost all sense of reason. Due to her obese stature I’d nicknamed her Orca and to be honest I wasn’t being cruel, just honest. As mentioned Orca had at one time been the girlfriend of a London Gangster until, unfortunately due to a debilitating illness he was confined to a wheelchair. I guess in his wisdom the guy figured he needed Orca like a hole in the head and decided to dump her: enter Vermeer.
For whatever reason Orca managed to snare Andrew and in doing so he became half a man. I for one could not comprehend such an intelligent individual being taken in by a bad un! Mind you it happens all the time. These days she was on a mission to oust Helen and she would stoop lower than a snakes or in her case; an elephant’s belly, to achieve her aim For reasons which at the moment remain unclear hubby Andrew lived alone, in London while Orca remained in Spain with her daughter; hardly a receipt for a happy marriage. Having said that, given he was a cocaine sniffing alcoholic and she no stranger to cake I guess it was for the best
Prior to hooking up with Andrew; Orca/ Marion lived in a villa with her disabled husband and daughter and even then she was a bad apple. Her next door neighbour just happened to be a drug dealing Irish guy by the name of Pete, who as previously mentioned smuggled drugs from Amsterdam to Spain and then sold them throughout the land. Being the neighbourly type Orca agreed to keep Pete’s dodgy passports and drug money in the safe, in her villa whenever he and his wife were out of the country on a sojourn , altogether now, ‘wasn’t that nice?’
To be fair to Orca these days she restricted herself to stealing washing powder from supermarkets and at weekends fixing magnets to her electric meter to enjoy free energy. At one stage she befriended our young and some may say handsome Argentinian Gardener and rumour has it he wasn’t only cutting her grass; he may well have been pruning her bushes, if you catch my drift. Despite all of this Vermeer worshipped the plate she ate from.
For reasons known only to her, she concocted all sorts of lies in an attempt to dislodge Helen, which to my mind was futile given both her and Karmala had, in all likelihood never read a book, let alone comprehend basic accounting, or the mechanics of running a business. From the day and hour she hooked up with Andrew our relationship with him was dead in the water, even though ‘again as documented’ a few years back we saved his life.
Fast forward a few years and what we were dealing with now was a Man with a selective memory, a Man poisoned with spurious diatribe by his evil partner; a drug induced idiot; a fraction of the man he once was; a once intellectual genius reduced to a pill popping, drug taking imbecile; sad really. It’s my guess that before too long, Andrew would either drink himself to death or like his father before him top himself. Hope I’m around when it happens.
As for Orca, let’s put it this way; if there was a course in stupidity, she would have had an honours degree. Clearly this town wasn’t big enough for Orca, Karmala and Helen. Big question was who would be the last one standing. The smart money was on Helen after all she had read lots of books.
Have to say in terms of determination Karmala was up there with the best of them and the truth would not stand in her way. As far as I could ascertain as long as Karmala’s lips were moving she was lying. In many respects her lies were so preposterous they were laughable, nonetheless for some of the idiots abroad it mattered not. Know what they say ‘if you say something loud enough and often enough people will begin to wonder’ Amid the rabble that was last year’s AGM it was decided by the majority that an audit be carried out covering 3 years of Helens presidency and two of Karmala’s. Why 3 for Helen against 2 for Carmen? Don’t rightly know. Ever since Helens first AGM I had, in effect been persona none gratis; the reason? Well during her 1st AGM a fellow owner/ Spanish prick/Lawyer was in my opinion disrespectful towards my good lady consequently I almost belted him. Not that I in any regret my actions; my only regret is I didn’t actually chin him; perhaps in the future.
February was ‘vote catching’ Month; a time for Orca and Karmala to sneak from their dens in the dead of night in search of votes. As a rule they concentrated on the married/ ‘hubby never around’ type of women knowing (a) they were stupid and (b) they could be brainwashed. One such individual was a new owner, an Italian woman as it happens, by the name of Maria. Maria in conjunction with her long suffering husband Victor had only recently courted us with dinner and fine wine and at that time everything in the garden was rosy. That is until ‘cockroach Karmala’ knocked on her door, spouting spurious rubbish; next thing we knew Maria began to act as if we’d shot one of her kids
It beggared belief that the Italians had crossed to the other side, without allowing Helen the courtesy of an explanation. Jesus! Even criminals are innocent until proven guilty. I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised given the way the Italians run their country in a word ‘Berlusconi’ Not convinced; how about ‘corruption,’ ‘Mafia’ perhaps! I rest my case; I guess you can’t expect those who don’t trust themselves to trust others
Similar to Maria was, the Southern Irish Woman Sandy; you know! The one who’s hubby travels to Cambodia, Thailand etc. on the pretext of doing business. The same guy who told me his company supplied bread to the Russians. Not that any of this mattered to Sandy. As long as hubby kept her in the style she was accustomed Sandy buried her head in the sand. This poor woman was so inept; she couldn’t even drive a car! As for books! She’d probably never read a newspaper, let alone a big book with lots of big words. Apart from inherent stupidity Orca, Maria, Sandy and fellow Irish woman/ neighbour, Kathy had one thing in common i.e. A.W.O.L Husbands
Cockroach/Karmala and Orca had been extremely pro active throughout the previous 3 years in their undying quest to oust Helen, without success and the failings were killing them. In between canvassing Orca continued to steal electricity, washing powder and goodness knows what else while Karmala chose to emulate Dracula by only showing her god awful face when the sun had gone to bed. Helen on the other hand steadfastly refused to canvas for votes, choosing instead, to rely on those who’d stood by her from day dot. Those who reached out to her in times of trouble This made sense since everyone and their grandmother realised that the chances of a Spaniard voting for a Brit was as likely as finding a Pork pie in a synagogue
Around this time Sue; she of the gambling/addiction was back on the scene. Seems she’d managed to persuade hubby, [who if you remember correctly was much older than Sue] to finance the purchase of a Hair/ nail/ Crack, back and sack/ anything you desire salon to the tune of 80k. For the uninitiated, a crack, back and sack procedure is precisely what it says on the tin. That is to say for the princely sum of 70 Euros a professional young woman escorts the client/guy to a private room whereupon, one would presume, instructs the client to disrobe after which he lies back and thinks of England while she cuts and trims the hair growth surrounding his back, his crack/bottom and his sack/scrotum. First time I heard the term I thought it was a wind up. Apparently the ritual is extremely popular with old and young men alike. Purely in the interest of science I must try it sometime.
The salon premises were within 15yards of a 4/5 star hotel and slap bang in the middle of an array of popular bars, thus if Sue played her cards correctly she could indeed be on to a winner. To be fair to Sue she did come up with some entrepreneurial ideas and this was one. Problem with the hairdressing business is that very often the people you employ steal your clientèle. Transpires some of Sue’s stylists! As they like to be known were already doing it. It aint rocket science! All they did was surreptitiously slip a personal business card to the client, mention they could do the job for less the cost, in the comfort of their own home and wait for the call. Its common place in the hair business
By way of promoting the business Sue decided to have an opening party and as you may imagine Sue didn’t do things by halves She pressed John for another 5 k and he handed it over without so much as ‘why do you want 5k Sue?’ By a strange quirk of fate we bumped into her one week before the big day and as expected she invited us to attend. I, as per usual declined the invite with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ and she came back with a ‘you are coming!’ And again as per usual I found myself bowing to those who don’t take no for an answer and tagged along with Helen
As expected, no expense was spared. Live music, pretty hostesses, Pink champagne on ice; white/ red/ blush wine, whisky/Beer etc., you name it she had it all stocked behind the bar. Yes folks she had a custom built bar erected inside her salon especially for the big occasion; this was Marbella after all To coin a Shirley Bassey phrase ‘the minute we walked in the joint’, we were welcomed like royalty, escorted to the buffet and handed the refreshment of our choice which in my case was a large beer and for Helen as expected pink champagne on ice
Aware there is always someone hell bent on spoiling a party I shot a glance around the room and immediately picked out the potential danger man. The chap in question was approximately 30 yrs of age around 5 foot 10 in height, slim, sporting the obligatory broken nose. As luck/ bad luck would have it I chose to stand in the background and people watch while Helen did what every woman was born to do i.e. mingle.
Within minutes of finding a ‘really good people watching spot’ the aforementioned idiot walked towards me, pushed an empty glass in my direction and get this; told, not asked, told me to put the glass on the table to my right. As you can imagine I wasn’t best pleased by this display of bad manners and on the basis that the best form of defence is attack I told! Not asked! Told him to fuck off! I know; he was a really fit 30yr old and I a lumbering 60yr old! That wasn’t/ ain’t the point. Sometimes in life you have to step up to the mark, regardless of the consequence ; this was one. To my surprise/ relief he simply shrugged his shoulders, as if to say ‘no point in getting involved with an old prick who probably would struggle to fight sleep’ and moved on. At this juncture my good lady experienced a senior moment by actually joining me, as did, co incidentally a relatively young couple and their 10 yr old son.
Nina and Darren were both around the late 30’s/ early forties and both were English. Nina worked as a PR girl in Puerto Banus and Darren was a very unassuming London cab driver. We chatted as one does about inane subjects and all in all everything was ticking along nicely. The singer was working his cotton socks off, people were mingling and Helen and I were enjoying the company. Some minutes later I excused myself and headed for the bar. En route I bumped into Sue. Chat, chat, chat ensued followed by more chat, chat, chat, until the chat came to an abrupt halt due to a disturbance in the Salon. Naturally Sue and I walked back into the salon to investigate only to find that there, on the floor; spark out, covered in blood lay the idiot!
According to Helen; the idiot and his equally idiotic girlfriend had unresolved issues with Nina. One thing led to another and in the end it became clear the idiot just wasn’t prepared to kiss and make up. To be fair to Darren I do believe he made a valiant attempt at resolving the problem amicably. Unfortunately the numbskull was having none of it. As Darren made to walk off the idiot tapped him on the shoulder, whereupon Darren, without warning turned around and smacked him squarely on the jaw. En route to the deck Darren thumped him again for good measure thus rendering the guy, at best unconscious and at worse dead! Pandemonium ensued as everyone clambered over one another in a concerted effort to get out of the salon quickly before the cops arrived!
Next Morning, ever keen to find out what happened after we’d left we met Sue for coffee and within minutes of sitting down her phone rang; it was the Idiot. Apparently he wanted to first of all apologise for the previous evening’s disturbance and secondly to ask if she had any info on the guy who knocked him out. Rather deftly Sue swept over his enquiries and as far as we could ascertain that was it. PS everyone agreed the evening was a knock out
One morning whilst in the car, returning from our traditional 30 minute walk, I noticed a portly sort of chap approaching our Jeep. Initially I figured perhaps I’d scrapped his car and he was about to inform me, until, on clearer inspection I recognised this guy; Jesus! It was Michelle D’Grue the Jew hater/Nazi memorabilia collector. We hadn’t seen him for a long time and to be honest he wasn’t wearing at all well. A severe loss of hair; lumbering cadence; and lined forehead were all the signs of rapid ageing.
Amid coffee, having dealt with the niceties he confessed to suffering from depression; which given he was living alone in a rented apartment in the mountains was hardly surprising. He also told us he had a new Spanish girlfriend, which in itself seemed a mite strange; given his abhorrence of all things Spanish. Anyhow, transpires the English/Spanish relationship was more a buddy, buddy thing than a normal relationship.
For all the years we’d known him we couldn’t quit fathom where he got his kicks. Apart from the odd half pint he didn’t drink. He most assuredly didn’t do drugs, he didn’t gamble and to the best of my knowledge he wasn’t gay. Added to which was his complete disinterest in the bevy of beauties meandering along the beach. On the odd occasion Helen went off on a singular mission to bankrupt us, we’d plank our weary butts down in a front line café and chat. Most of time, I paid scant attention to his murmurings and more attention to the scantily clad honey’s meandering along the esplanade. Where I come from this is normal. Every last one of my male friends are of the nudge, nudge, wink, wink variety. Red blooded males who enjoy the associated banter as much as they enjoy ogling the passing eye candy and believe me Marbella is ‘A’ list in the eye candy stakes, which is why? I found his disinterest in this leisure activity somewhat disconcerting.
It would appear that whilst he frittered away in the mountains doing whatever it is people do in Mountains, his woman chose to live with her Mother in the heart of Marbella, and as one would expect she wasn’t up for change. No wonder he was depressed. As I say, ever since we’d known him he’d been an enigmatic individual. A guy obsessed with Nazi memorabilia and an intrinsic hatred of Jews and from what little we could glean this hadn’t changed. One thing was for sure he was indeed suffering from acute depression. In a moment of weakness we suggested he walk with us on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays; starting time 7.30 am and lo and behold he agreed.
Two days later at 7,30am precisely we rendezvoused at the agreed place and off we set with purpose. From the outset it was clear the guy hadn’t been engineered to walk and the new track suit and new training shoes only endorsed our reservations. Ten minutes into the walk, he was blowing. Clearly these lungs hadn’t been exercised in a long time. To be fair to D’Grue he never uttered a word, which I guess was down to his incapacity to draw breath. Twenty minutes into the walk and the puffing became more pronounced to such a degree that the puffs seemed more of a wheeze than a puff. As calculated; our thirty minutes of walking traditionally brought us to our pit stop/ coffee break café, at which point he quite literally slumped into a seat!
Apart for listening to him rattle his gums about this and that, it was lovely to sit by the sea and enjoy whatever life had to offer. Problem is, observation is my strong point which meant that while sitting there enduring him and his conversation I couldn’t help but notice that rather than clean the glass sliding doors a few minutes before the tourists began arriving at 9am the Spanish cleaner began cleaning at precisely 9 am and on the basis that the doors had to be closed for cleaning she simply pulled the switch, thus every time someone came up to the door and it didn’t open they looked around, scratched their heads and walked off looking somewhat bemused. Whatever management were thinking in not having the doors cleaned before customers/clients arrived, god only knows. Then again down on the coast the mantra is ‘be as difficult as possible.’ and ‘don’t under any circumstance take the logical stance when the illogical one will do more damage’ p. s. For the record, I counted how many people approached the sliding doors, stood to see if they’d open and then walk away flummoxed. It came to a grand total of 43 during a period of20 minutes. Observations apart, our walking with a loony continued for around 2 weeks, at which point the e-mails started coming through. ‘Hi! Sorry; can’t make it today have an appointment with the Doctor/hospital/ garage/ plumber/ Dog etc. clearly the future reference him walking 3 days a week wasn’t bright.
To be honest we were both nonplussed by his defaulting. His Mantra/Doctrine was always about the Jewish community and not in a positive way. Thing is, we are both open minded people who never judged a book by its cover, indeed our neighbour and dear friend was as Jewish as Kosher steak. D’Grue obviously had a troubled mind, perhaps exacerbated by his discovery that his loss of testosterone was largely down to the illness that was depression. .NB for the record he got off lightly. Days after he defaulted on the walking we included an upstairs run of 45 treads, carried out 3 times in our itinerary: We still do it to this day.
Truth is D’Grue and I were as different as cats and dogs. I was a working class guy from the back streets of the UK and he an upper class individual who figured poverty was a crime.. While Mr D’Grue spoke with an infliction associated with confident middle/ upper class gents. Likewise my speech and intonation was reflective of my background Not so long ago he worked as a trader in the stock market and by all account made good money. These days U tube was his thing. Forever sending me political and racial diatribe which I had no intention of viewing. To do so may be misconstrued by those who watch as being supportive of him and his propaganda when clearly this was far from the truth
If I’m honest, being sacked by the president, due to her being bullied, did have an effect on both me and the relationship, in that although I wasn’t earning I was still expected to look out for Helen and when called upon, bail her out. Although no longer on the payroll I wasn’t oblivious to what was going on around the urbanisation, which was due in the main to my continual traipsing to and from the garbage. Almost every time I took off, I either spotted something was amiss in the urbanisation or spoke to someone who would unconsciously supply me with information regarding the enemy
Seemed to me that even though I was minding her back and relaying what I felt was important; Helen was going in the other direction. Whereby in the past she’d come off the phone and inform me of what was going on; these days I had to ask. Just as; whenever she returned from a meeting with Ronda at admin she’d keep her own council, where in the past she couldn’t wait to get back to dish the dirt. Once again I was forced to ask and when I did you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d wet the bed, given her reaction
Goes without saying none of this was for public consumption, our business was our business, ergo despite the growing tension; I prostituted myself in the name of the cause, without compulsion. One example came around early May; Midnight as it happens when my mobile rang. On the other end was a drunken Finnish chap called Marc, a chap who in all honesty was a really nice individual. Tonight however I was beginning to have my doubts. When asked why he was calling me at midnight? His retort was and I quote ‘Sorry to call at this time of the evening buddy but me and my friends can’t get in the gate! My retort ‘Hi Marc, Don’t you have your gate remote with you? His drunken response; ‘yep, sure do man, me and Greta/ wife have our remotes, problem is the batteries seem to be flat. And so once again it was down to me to haul my weary ass from the comfort of my bed, shove on some clothing, traipse to the gate and with a smile let them in, whilst having to endure the diatribe associated with drunken people on the way back. Not my favourite gig
With the atmosphere in house similar to that of the moon i.e. none existent I decided to nip down to the super market and pick up some bread. To get to the supermarket you need to go past the local bar and just as I was approaching said establishment I heard the dulcet tones of Giovanni/ John to his friends. ‘Hey! Joe how ya doin? Come and ave a drink, old buddy. Barman! A beer for me friend’ ‘Gio it’s hardly 3pm and you’re drinking. Can’t you wait until at least 6pm?’ His reply ‘Must be 6pm somewhere the world’
With the beginning of June and the renewal of my passport imminent I realised I had some serious decisions to make. Primarily the 64 thousand dollar question; should I stay or should I go? To stay in Spain and apply for my passport by post would ensure (a) A life; however fractious spent in the sunshine (b) a roof over my head © a future, however fraught, with the love of my life; me! Only joking! Helen! On the down side; if I things went tits up I would be unable to get back to the UK even if so desired Alternatively should I decide to go back to the UK and apply for my passport and it wasn’t renewed! I would be (a) stranded in the UK without a home. (b) Have little money © be subjected to the prospect of dealing with the god-awful weather and (d) life without Helen; what to do? Pack a bag to the hilt? Or apply from within? Decisions; decisions; decisions! To add to the dichotomy Helen and I had taken to sleeping in separate beds and when couples resort to sleeping alone they invariably end up alone!
Decision made, I arranged the transportation and set off once again, destination UK by way of planes, boats, trains and auto-mobiles Naturally once our Edinburgh Daughter caught wind of my impending arrival she was on the phone pleading with me to rearrange my schedule to include a trip to the Capital. Apparently she had won a contract to rent her apartment over the Edinburgh Festival season and as a result would make a bucket load of mullah, provided, the snagging was fixed; how could I refuse this non remuneration event?
On this occasion Glasgow, not Edinburgh was my 1st port of call. Not only did I have business to attend to I had family to visit and number one on my list was my son, his wife and my granddaughter. Without going into detail; my son and I had only been reunited for around 4 years. For the preceding 10 we hadn’t spoken; the fundamental reason? Having met and fallen in love with Helen I’d up sticks and walked out on him, his Mother, his brother and to a lesser degree his sister. It’s not something I’m proud of, nor is it something I regret. He was 18yrs old at the time, his brother 16 and their sister 12. These days we both worked hard at burying the past and concentrating on the future; the future being his daughter/ my granddaughter. Fortuitously Helen had arranged for me to stay with her best friend and her partner, both Lesbians, both as different as butter and jam and both wonderful in their own individual way.
The apartment was located slap bang in the in the heart of a busy thoroughfare and once again I was reunited with my old enemy; noise. Noise not withstanding, I enjoyed living with the girls, we had history. I’d lived with them in America and the UK on many occasions; accordingly we understood the rules of engagement. On my first day, by way of assuring the girls I would be no trouble I insisted on doing my own cooking. Big, big mistake. As Helen often said, tongue in cheek. ‘Joe let me take you somewhere you’ve never been! Followed by the punch line; ‘the Kitchen!’ I’d like to record that although I was undoubtedly less than competent in the kitchen I was however extremely proficient at fixing the apparatus.
With time on my hands I figured I’d go out, get some fresh air, partake of a coffee and perhaps do some shopping; again bad move This was to be my first foray into super market shopping alone; a scary experience. Wandering around the isles I came upon a shelf of discounted tomato soup and given I was partial to soup I figured why not? Carton safely in my basket I moved on and much to my delight came upon freshly baked bread. Bread of the sort that compliments soup and so I thought I’m having some. Beside the basket were transparent bags and beside them what I would term large tweezers! Obviously the tweezers were there to prevent morons such as yours truly lifting the bread by hand and perhaps depending on where your hand had been; prevent an epidemic. Bag in hand I duly scooped up 3 rolls, tossed them into the bag and as I made to move on, it occurred to me that there seemed no way of establishing the price of the bread. In my limited experience normally the price of an item is either on the box/packet or displayed clearly above the product. I was now flummoxed. What to do? How does one establish the cost of an unmarked item, albeit it a few bread rolls? Fortuitously an employee of the supermarket, aware of my dilemma came to my rescue. ‘What seems to be the problem Sir? My response was something akin to ‘how is one expected to know the price of said items given there is no obvious indication; duh?’ His bemused response.‘The people at the checkout counter know how much bread rolls are sir, duh! Well now we know. How the hell I was supposed to establish how much a bread roll was before purchasing; confounds me to this day.
En route, to the check out, I picked up a pack of 6 beers. One of the girls was partial to a beer and given I was a ‘none paying’ guest, I figured a few beers were the least I could do. Shopping over, forever! I returned to the apartment, put the beers in the fridge, popped the soup into the microwave and waited. Five or so minutes later the soup was on/ in the plate, on my lap being immersed in a bread roll. In a word delicious
Later that evening when the girls arrived home I offered them both a beer. Claire; never one for saying no to beer, nodded in the affirmative , while Sheila simply looked at me as if I’d tried to fondle her boobs,while simultaneously removing a bottle of red wine from a cupboard. I duly opened the fridge door, pulled out the beers and with aplomb flicked off the bottle tops and handed one to Claire, who as anticipated gulped it down in one, after which, having regained her breath announced ‘the beer was awful! ‘You cannot be serious’ said I pulling the empty bottle from her hand; the scowl on her face said otherwise. On inspection of the empty bottle I discovered, much to my horror, I had inadvertently picked up a pack of 6 Non Alcoholic beers; Nuff said.
The following day; armed with old and new documentation, I headed, with purpose to the post office, where, with the assistance from the ever so affable lady behind the counter I applied for my new passport. To be honest, the initial cordiality extended by the lady struck a chord with me. Sure I knew the Scots as a nation had a reputation for civility but this seemed above and beyond the call of duty, what was this all about? Then the penny dropped; the geniality extended these days is to a degree insincere. Front line Staff are trained to sell all types of products ranging for death policies to car insurance, which to a degree is why! They appear overtly polite! You may think this is a cynical view. I on the other hand don’t.
Living with the girls hadn’t always been agreeable. Like every relationship we’d had our moments. These days however we were all certainly much older and perhaps a little wiser. Descriptively Claire was the quintessential Dyke in the relationship i.e. spiky hair, aesthetically challenged, rotund, grounded. Sheila was the complete opposite! Attractive, slim, intellectual, and as nervous around the male of the species as a 2 day old kitten
Co habitation came easy. The girls appreciated and understood what some may consider my quirky personality while I in turn understood the dynamics of their relationship, which with regards to a proper relationship was pretty much dead in the water. That’s not to say they didn’t, in their own way still love one another, they most assuredly did, but in a platonic way these days.
Claire was/is a very successful woman. She has a large portfolio of property in Thailand, America and the UK. Sheila on the other hand clung to University life the way a drowning sailor might cling to floating wood. With, at best around 10 days to get through and at worse a life in the UK to look forward to I busied myself as best I could. The apartment was in need of a little T.L.C therefore with the assistance of Claire and more importantly her transportation we set about giving it a makeover
Unlike Sheila; Claire was easy company. No tip toeing around innocuous subject matters, no fears regarding my working class intonation or perceived belligerence, just good old fashioned chat; the way one would do with a best friend. Over the next few days we set about doing whatever needed doing and in the process enjoyed intelligent conversation and camaraderie; moreover the woman could cook! I could live with this woman!
The days spent with Claire were enjoyable, moreover it killed time, which given my set of circumstances was a god send. However Claire had other situations to deal with, situations not requiring my input therefore for the moment we did our own thing. With time to reflect on what may transpire regarding my passport renewal, I hoped, upon hope that my passport would come through; then again good fortune seemed to have deserted me these days. That same day I figured a wander round the city centre might be fun and so I hopped on a city bound bus asked the driver how much and he said something like £1 pound and 50pence. I’d been out of circulation for a number of years no time had I the slightest inclination to board buses.
These days it was either shanks pony or the bus and given the inclement weather, the bus won hands down. £1pound 50 sounded like a reasonable price to pay for a trip into the city and so I handed him £2! He duly put the money in a machine and handed me a ticket. I subsequently loitered with intent; that is, intent to receive my change! And with none forthcoming politely enquired of my lucre, to which he looked at me as if I’d two heads! ‘Sorry mate, you’re old enough to know; no change given on public transport these days!’ Jumping Jesus! Was he for real; apparently.
No matter the size of denomination; be it a £10 £20 £30 or £40 pound note, once you hand it over, you my friend ain’t getting anything back; honest! This new phenomenon blew me away. The realisation that one had to scour around for change before boarding a bus seemed surreal. How could this be? Why had the population been dumbed down into accepting what, I now termed theft? Boy was I pissed off!That same evening I relayed the story to the girls, who incredulously thought nothing of it. What was wrong with these people? It’s a public bus service for Christ sake! Surely if not legally, they are morally obliged to give change. To this day I remain baffled.
The prospect of living permanently in the UK was overwhelmingly depressing, especially Scotland. Not just the rain, but the wind and cold it delivered, all added up to not so much a life, more an existence Rather than becoming clinically depressed and run the risk of perhaps slitting my wrists I figured it was time to catch up with my son. As an Individual he was a laid back, Laissez-faire sort of guy. The sort of individual I’d befriend should we not be connected. With no UK fixed abode to register my application I utilized, with approval, his address. This didn’t in any way contravene or compromise my application since, should I be unlucky with the request I could and possibly would, be living with him short term. Two days later, as arranged, my son, his partner and my granddaughter picked me up outside Claire’s apartment. To their credit they all arrived in respectable attire and this alone pleased me. As you may gather I‘m old school; you know! Respect for your elders, dining etiquette, good manners etc. It’s what fundamentally separates us from monkeys?
En route to his house he appeared nervous. His demeanour and temperament seemed erratic. Time for Daddy bear to probe! ‘So, how you doing big guy, everything ok?’ ‘Yea, same old same old’ said he, before turning to Jackie. ‘Jackie! Don’t think I have enough petrol to get us home!’ she offered no comment! ‘No problem, said I, if my memory serves me correctly there’s a petrol station at the end of this road’ ‘Problem is dad; my salary didn’t come through today!’ Silence! ‘Not to worry kiddo, pull in at the station I’ll stick a few quid in the tank; after all it’s you who’s doing me the favour by coming to collect me!’ And so next pit stop we pulled in, put£20 of petrol in the tank and off we went
By the time we arrived at his house it was around 2 pm and I was so hungry I could, as a Glaswegian may say ‘eat a scabby cat’. Unfortunately as the rhythm goes ‘when we got there, the cupboard was bare’ Huston we had a problem At my behest we drove to the supermarket, picked up some essentials, including a couple of bottles of wine and returned to the house. Around4 pm having demolished a bacon sandwich, I suggested he and I head for the local bar and partake of a little libation. We didn’t see one another very often and this would be an opportune time for a chin-wag; he didn’t disagree! Tonight Jackie would have to make do with the potato crisps and two bottles of plonk. A chore she no doubt relished
The pub was typical of the area. Not rough in a Glaswegian way; more a ‘hand bags at ten paces’ sort of place, nevertheless given we were aliens trouble was always a possibility. ‘Two pints of ‘Belhaven best’ please!’ I piped up and in a few moments the beers arrived on the counter. I duly paid for the drinks, lifted both beers all the while signalling to Graham to follow me to a quiet corner! Once settled, we began chatting about this and that at which point a voice from the bar enquired ‘Are you a Harper?’ Graham and I both turned around as if to say ‘you talking to us!’ ‘Sorry to interrupt mate’ said the man ‘but are you a Harper?’ Time for me to step up to the mark! ‘Are you asking if we play the Harp?’ ‘Naw Naw’ said the reprobate propping up the bar. ‘it’s just that you look like a Harper!’ Me ‘sorry mate I have no idea what you are talking about, I suggest you stay off the drugs!’ Him chuckling en route to our table ‘sorry mate I thought you were a Harper! You know; the Harpers from Sight hill.’ Me ‘nope I have never met a Harper! Let alone belonged to that clan! Now if you don’t mind; I don’t get to see my son very often and would like very much for you to fuck off! And leave us alone!’ For a second the place fell silent. Fortuitously, an old chap hobbled in and requested a whisky, at which point the noise returned and once again all was good with the World! Well not quite.
To say my son disliked his job is to grossly understate the fact. It’s my guess the job wasn’t the problem but his failings in the professional world. A ‘supervisor’s job’ is, to my mind a decent way to make a living. In his head however, given the innumerable opportunities presented to him by me when he was a young man he should be, to quote Del boy ‘a millionaire by now. ’To exacerbate an already fractious situation at home his wife Jackie seemed to have become a walking zombie. I questioned whether this was due to domesticity and the boredom it brings or was there some dark secret! According to my daughter, with whom I am very close; Jackie seemed overtly familiar with her brother. Apparently at one point, while celebrating something or other in Graham’s mother’s house, Jackie’s brother appeared. Amid the initial chit chat Jackie, who at the time was sitting beside Graham immediately rose from her chair walked across to her brother; sat on his lap and began caressing his hair/neck etc. Say it ain’t so!
On another occasion an incident occurred whereby the same brother and his ex wife were having an altercation of sorts. In his wisdom the brother decided he was going to her house to fight with someone and according to Jackie come hell or high water she was going with him. When challenged by Graham as to the wisdom of such a move, she replied ‘he’s my brother! And I am going with him!’ Asked to choose over her brother or Graham she chose the former, now ain’t that a kick in the head.
I didn’t dislike Jackie; quite to the contrary. She was the Mother of my granddaughter, ergo it was my duty to get to know her and I did. Problem was she was a difficult individual to get to know. When asked her opinion on any thing, she replied in one syllable answers delivered monotone. Jesus! I felt depression setting in just trying to get her to confirm she wanted a cuppa. My biggest concern was my Granddaughter. She was a clever little girl with huge potential, however potential is nothing if not realised and one of the problems she faced was that of an only child. I wasn’t a fan of single child parenting. Indeed in many respects I consider it cruel, here’s why?
Children with siblings will inevitably experience competition and an understanding of sharing. Single children on the other hand tend not to. For example when it rains, as it does with alarming regularity in Scotland .an only child has little option but to stare out the window and wish it would stop. Siblings on the other hand have by definition playmates. Playmates that argue and cuss and perhaps more importantly creatively or otherwise, kill time. Anyhow back to the story. My son’s house, having only 2 bedrooms meant a night on the floor, on a blow up Lillo. Not the best sleep I’ve ever had, then again, not the worst.
Next morning, a Saturday if my memory serves me correctly, ‘ frosty knickers’ as I’d christened Jackie; made breakfast while Graham busied himself trying to establish whether or not he’d money in the bank. Around2 pm he gleefully announced ‘his ship had come in’ the money had been deposited and he was, for the moment a happy puppy. Living hand to mouth isn’t ideal, it triggers anxiety, friction and depression; then again, if people take on debt and live beyond their means what can they expect. To his credit, my son felt bad about having to be bailed out and like the decent guy he is, insisted on buying Lunch before driving me through to Edinburgh
Given he was picking up the tab, it was down to him to choose the venue and when he suggested a ‘little chef restaurant’ I didn’t argue; wish I had! For me the words ‘Little chef’ and ‘restaurant’ are a contradiction in terms and as anticipated the food was foul! Not that told him En route to the Capital it suddenly occurred to me that Edinburgh and Glasgow are so, so different. On the one hand we have Royalty, castles and history, and on the other we have the best folk in the world
Although they both attended the same school Graham and Dawn were not acquainted. I guess it was down to the 7 year age difference. Anyhow we arrived in Edinburgh around 8pm and all four; that is me, my son, his wife and my granddaughter made our way to Dawns apartment and duly introduced to one another. The dogs helped ease the conversation and as expected there were no awkward moments. Around 10pm my son, his daughter and his wife headed home, leaving me to do what a man has to do, which in this case was fix things. And so, for one night only I was back sleeping on the pull down bed, with noise once again my enemy. The following morning I finished what needed finishing and by around 4pm I was ready to go back to Glasgow. Before leaving I figured I might as well take advantage of the eatery called Byblos and it was there I uncovered discrimination of the aged type.
Whilst standing at the bar waiting to be served I noticed a sign on the wall which said and I quote ‘20% discount on all food and drink for students.’ Sacra-blue surely not! (I know don’t call me surely) Why? Offer a discount to students. Most are lazy good for nothing miscreants. Kids whose only mission in life seems to be consummation of as much alcohol and drugs as they can shove down their scrawny throats. Why not include pensioners, couples, families, locals who live in the area? What’s the big deal ref student? Many receive a government grant; some are privy to an interest free loan and more than a few feed of their well heeled parents. Needless to say I didn’t care for their discrimination and I wasn’t slow in expressing my opinion. And so with that little foible taken care of it was onwards and upwards, destination Glasgow. This time I chose to travel by train. No particular reason other than convenience.
Thing about Glasgow is; over the years there’s be quite a bit of mudslinging its way, and perhaps sometimes mud sticks , however, the one thing you can never question? is the overriding hospitality of the indigenous people. Doesn’t matter what time of day or what shop you happen to be frequenting, if you ask for assistance; be it directions or the price of butter you’ll always, always enjoy common courtesies.
Settling into life with the girls was nice. They cooked, I ate. I fixed, they appreciated my efforts. It wasn’t rocket science, more chemistry. Amid dinner one night, one of the girls asked ‘tongue in cheek’ if I’d applied for my bus pass. Eligibility for a bus pass never occurred to me; or perhaps subconsciously I’d ignored the notion; either way given I was a valid 61 ¼ years of age; it seemed a legitimate enquiry
Next morning; once again armed with the correct money I hopped on a bus; destination the city centre. In preparation of my application I’d collated all the documentation necessary and from the moment I walked into the central post office I was treated with the decorum I’d come to expect. Before heading back to the apartment and given I had time on my hands and no one to answer to, I nipped into a street café, found myself a people watching seat, ordered a cup of tea and a scone and watched the world go by. For the record the cuppa and the scone cost around the same price as a new pair of shoes. Time was marching on and from where I was sitting Glasgow was beginning to look glum. The skies had closed ranks and a stiff chill was in the air; it was time for a sharp exit. Once inside the bus I couldn’t help but notice 2 things No1 Glasgow bus travellers actually chat to one another as if long lost friends and No 2There seemed to be an overwhelming amount of ‘bus hopping ethnics’. Swear to god I was the only white man on the bus. This is not a criticism you understand, merely an observation
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Due to a mirade of mitigating circumstances Joe and Helen were forced to relocate to Spain/ Marbella, where having been privy to an accumulation of funds they lived the vida loca. Nice apartment, lovely car and enough money to see them through the years was the plan and all was going well until the arrival of a recession in 2008 and with it a slump in property prices. Despite a severe drop in their standard of living they created a situation whereupon they would make sufficient money to support them throughout the lean years. During those years they met folk from all over the world. Some were nice, some not so nice and others were just plain crazy. This book is all about the people they encountered, their idiosyncratic ways, their political skulduggery and in many cases their downright nastiness, culminating in Helen being accused of mendacity and fraud and being taken to court. The pending court case against Helen is brought about by a wealthy Spanish woman and her cohorts; confirming once again that bullies and racism come in all shapes, colors and sizes Question is will Helen go down for a crime she didn't commit? or will Justice prevail in a country renowned for it's inherent corruption?