In Sight of the End

My son Leon, aka my marketing manager, asked me this morning,

“Can you remember when you last wrote anything on your website?”

“No.”

“Well neither can anyone else, because it was so long ago.  Don’t you think you should do something about it?”

“Yes. What?”

“Why don’t you quote something funny from your next book? Preferably using words of more than one syllable!”

“Leon, I have just this minute finished editing one of the chapters in the new book, and it left me in tears. And I don’t mean tears of laughter either. I can’t think of anything funny right now!”

“Oh.  Well when you’ve got over that bit, work on something.  Please!”

So here I am, working on it.

You know, this authorship lark isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Well, not when you’re as disorganised as I am.  For a start I have to be in the right mood to write.  This ‘2000 words a day between muesli-o-clock and a healthy lunch’ routine doesn’t happen on the street where I live.  If I’m not in the write frame of mind it’s an absolute waste of time.

This was proven earlier in the year when I gave myself a dressing down, for not ‘getting on with book 3’, as my current masterpiece is imaginatively referred to.  So I sat in front of my laptop and instead of playing spider solitaire I wrote about some random occurrence circa 1985 in Lusaka.

I actually managed to almost complete a whole chapter.  Then other lifely commitments (like cooking or sitting making up new words ) overtook my time, so it was a few days before I returned to my book-ing.  As is my wont, I read through the piece I had begun, before proceeding to finish it off, to find that I had actually written the biggest load of boring drivel conceivable.  You’d be better entertained by reading the Smith section in a telephone directory (for those of you who can remember those!).

Another issue thwarting the progress of book 3 is that I ran out of letters. No, I don’t mean A,B,C,D,E… letters, but Dear Ethel, type letters.

The material for my first two books was a doddle to establish because I had scores of copy letters I had written to family and friends reminding me of what had happened in my life.  But after living in Zambia for over four years, and had my folks visit us there and see what life was like, these letters became less frequent, so I now have to rely on my memory – a very risky source.

But fear not, dear reader, for the good news is that I have now actually reached the end.  Admittedly a few bits in the middle need a little tweaking here and there, and a multitude of editors have yet to be unleashed on its contents to annihilate the typos and unscramble the grammatical errors, but the end is in sight, as the policeman said to the flasher.

And you’ll be delighted to hear that book 3 does, in fact, contain lots of funny bits.

 

PS.  Don’t worry, I’ll have worked out a real title for Book 3 before it’s published.

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INTO AFRICA SKETCHES

Chapter 3

One of the first things to come under discussion, apart from 24 packets of butter, was the dog.  And when I say dog, I mean a DOG, although anyone could be excused for thinking she was a lion.  Her name was Nina and she was the biggest Great Dane I had ever clapped eyes on.

Unfortunately she had been seriously ill with tick fever and consequently was as thin as a rake, with every bone protruding under her sand-coloured coat.  One of our obligations to her owners was to try and build her back up to full size.  Full size?

We were relieved to find that none of the children were afraid of her, despite never having come across such a large dog before, let alone have to share their home with one.

F Kids with Nina

 

Chapter 4

We were shown our new house and it more than makes up for the lack of decent shopping facilities.

The house is a sort of straight zig-zag shape.  Or an elongated H with the top right arm and bottom left leg missing. This is extremely difficult to describe in words.  I’ll draw you a sketch. 

It is in Riverside, the same residential suburb as we are in at the moment, only about a mile further down the road and stands on a large corner plot bounded by a high, fancy concrete wall.  It has a big garden with trees and stuff, most of which I have yet to identify.

F 16 McFrazier Road 2

 

Chapter 5

Shortly after the exodus of women, came the labour force being driven home.

Hundreds of men crammed in the back of lorries, which came in a multitude of shapes and sizes.  But they didn’t just stand up in the trucks, they also sat on the roof of the cab, or on the rear and side panels, with their arses hanging over the edge.  The state of some of the roads in Kitwe left a lot to be desired and as the vehicles bounced in and out of the potholes it was a miracle that the passengers all stayed in, or on, at all.

One of the other great mysteries was the shape of the trucks and buses.  I came to the conclusion that they must buy them from a specialist manufacturer, as they all had the same trait – lopsided bodies and back wheels which took a different route to the front wheels. They looked like they were driving crab-wise.  No wonder so many ended up in ditches.

F Homeward Bound  3

Chapter 8

The It’s-a-Knockout competition was very well organised.  The teams were made up by employees of the various companies operating in and around Kitwe.  We wandered around to watch the various, often hilarious, events which included the usual jousting on a pole; racing – on stilts – through a maze of beer crates; walk the plank – blindfolded, and many more.  The kids were a bit puzzled by all this – they couldn’t understand why grown-ups were playing the sort of games normally associated with children, but on a bigger scale. They took some convincing that they couldn’t join in (and I wouldn’t have minded a shot at a few of them myself).  We eventually strolled back to the rondavel and got around to cooking our food at about 4:00pm.

Ziggy and I were given the privilege of using the braai first in view of the fact that we had the youngest children.  That turned out to be more fortuitous than we had anticipated, because just as we sat down to eat, the heavens opened.  Chaos ensued as everyone tried to squeeze everything, including themselves, inside the area protected by the thatched roof.

Within three minutes we had: twelve adults (I’m not sure where the extra two came from); eight chairs; five kids; a pushchair; two tables; six coolbags; two coolboxes; a beer crate and a potty – all crammed under the twelve-foot diameter roof.

F Rondavel in the Rain 3

Chapter 13

One day Brad came trotting indoors followed closely by Vicki who, being a little snitch at the time, piped up,

“Mummy, Brad’s got a lizard in his hand.”

Naturally I didn’t believe her.  Foolish me.  Next minute Brad put the lizard (actually a gecko) down on the floor and we watched it scuttling around the kitchen.  Really it was not as bad as it sounds, until its tail fell off when Coke pounced on it.    The gecko beat a hasty, stunted retreat and the severed tail continued to wriggle.  URGH.  Until Coke ate it.  DOUBLE URGH!!

On the subject of creepy-crawlies, on another occasion the kids called me to the front door to look at a ‘mosquito’.  It was five inches long.  It was not a mosquito.

We had recently purchased a book entitled Insects of Zambia and after quick reference to this discovered it was a stick insect.  Using some blue tack, I stuck a 50p coin next to it for size comparison and took some photographs.  As the name implies, it looks just like a stick.  On a tree you probably wouldn’t even notice it.  But as we didn’t normally have sticks growing out of our front door we were able to spot it quite easily.

F Stick Insect

Also Chapter 13

If Brandy wasn’t handy Coke would try to bite what/whomsoever was.  He mostly went for the ankles or calves, but in the case of Vicki he took a liking to her fat little bottom, so he tried to grab that.  I was in fits one afternoon watching him chase her up and down the garden, Vicki attempting to outrun him, but standing little chance.   But the funniest sight of all was Coke with Leon.

Leon had been playing in the paddling pool and as usual had no clothes on.  Coke was sniffing about nearby when something very tempting caught his eye, whereupon he hopped up to Leon and tried to bite his little willy.  Naturally, Leon shouted and ran off.  Coke found this a great game and ran after him.  So there was Leon running around the garden, holding onto his spab, with Coke at his side jumping up trying to bite it. Every time he almost succeeded Leon

would yell “Hey” at the top of his voice, at which Cokey would bark.  For the next few minutes all I could hear was – “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, “pitter-patter pitter-patter, HEY, yap, yap”, etc

Eventually Leon came running inside, shouting to the puppy right behind him,

“HEY, you shouldn’t do that to me!”

F Leon with Coke the Biter 3

Chapter 21      (The New Year’s Eve party)

I had brought Ziggy a choice of harem outfits; powder blue or emerald green.  He felt the powder blue was more his colour, saying that it matched his eyes.  When I went into the bedroom to do his makeup, I was totally overwhelmed by the sight before me.  He had already donned his baggy pants, but underneath them he wore his jock strap!

I don’t know if you’ve had any experience of jock straps.  In my opinion they are not a pretty sight at the best of times; but exposed beneath sheer, powder blue chiffon…

Well, it was just something else – the eye-catcher being the huge bulge at the front and bare arse framed by the narrow straps at the rear, you certainly didn’t need to use your imagination.

F Ziggy in the jock strap 3

 

Chapter 22

I mentioned earlier that the majority of the women always appeared to have a baby strapped to their backs with a shawl or large towel.  This lady had obviously been feeding her child when she got the exciting news about the washing powder, consequently the baby was strapped to her chest.

To put it politely, she was not a small woman.  In fact she had breasts the size of water melons and she had obviously not had time – or perhaps she just forgot, or possibly never even intended – to tuck away the current milk dispenser when she commenced her sprint.

The child, probably about six or seven months of age, was not to be deterred in its endeavours to gain sustenance and as the woman ran, her ginormous breast bounced around before her with the babe frantically trying to catch the generous nipple in its mouth every time the tit swung in his direction.  How the mite wasn’t knocked unconscious by this weighty appendage I do not know.

I’m sorry, but I laughed until I cried.  I just couldn’t help it.  Thank goodness I was hidden away in the car at the time.

F Woman with baby outside ZCBC

Chapter 26

Mfuwe Lodge consisted of several semi-detached wooden chalets surrounding the main facility, which comprised Reception/shop, a lounge/bar and dining room.  The facilities were quite basic but pleasant.

A large area overlooked the Mfuwe Lagoon, which was home to some creatures and watering-hole to many more.  Immediately in front of the lodge grounds the lagoon water butted against a dam-type façade, presumably to prevent the various animals from walking straight out of the water to enjoy the human company.  Otherwise the lagoon was mostly surrounded by trees and bushes.

In the water we could see hippos, well their ears at least, as the rest of the head and body was completely submerged.  I privately wondered if hippos could breathe through their ears.  Every so often one would raise its head out of the water and yawn expansively, exposing massive tusks and a cavernous mouth large enough to swallow a small car.  These visual displays were interspersed by a strange hippo communication which sounded like a very stout old-English gentleman slowly laughing “haw, haw, haw, haw, haw” at a modest witticism. There were also lots of birds, many heard but not seen and vice versa, which at future times we became quite interested in spotting and identifying.

F Mfuwe Lodge

Chapter 31

Continuation of letter to my parents…

The kids are fine.  In fact the Terrible Trio have latched onto a new game.  They pile into the wheelbarrow – sometimes complete with Cokey – and persuade Jackman the gardener to push them all over the garden, which he does, at GREAT speed.  He has them screaming with delight as he winds his way around the trees at a precarious angle.  How the dog stays in without being able to hold on is quite beyond me.  It is hilarious to watch.

F Wheelbarrow rompF Wheelbarrow romp

 

Chapter 33

Then we heard sounds of movement in a bush nearby, but before we could reach it the thieving bastard managed to run off into the vlei.  However, there we were lucky enough to discover the cassette player, one of the large Onyo speakers and my wicker basket – stuffed full with a variety of goodies.

The next move was to get the car, so Ziggy fetched the car keys and tore off down McFrazier Road whilst I stood over the recovered loot wielding my axe.

It was only at this moment that I looked down, to see that my attire for this venture was not entirely appropriate – or fitting to be more precise.

Wearing only the corduroy overalls, my tits were sticking out either side of the bib like a pair of puppies peeking out from behind a pillar.  Thank goodness the thieves had been running in the opposite direction. The mind boggles at what a sight my far from petite, bouncing boobs presented as I tore down the drive screaming like a banshee and waving my axe.

F Axewoman & Knifeman

Chapter 36

This was our first experience of school Races – other than our own half a lifetime ago. I had forgotten how much fun kiddies races were and while still taken quite seriously by some budding athletes, our three weren’t exactly in that league.

Leon was very inventive in the sack race.  Instead of jumping awkwardly along like the other kids, resembling constipated kangaroos, he stuck a foot in each corner of the sack and proceeded to walk, very slowly, up the track.  The level of concentration on his face whilst doing this was classical.  When he reached the finishing line he just stood and waited there, wearing a big fat grin, for someone to come along and remove him from his sack.

Vicki on the other hand simply stood rooted to the ground at the starting line, with her face turned sideways and refused to go anywhere.

F A Day at the Races 5

Cemetery Celebrations

I swear on my life – which I value greatly – the article which is the subject of this story was genuinely in our local press a while back.   I simply could not pass up a chance like this.

I almost fell off my chair when I read a headline in the Lifestyle section of the English-language edition of our local Spanish newspaper –

CEMETERY CELEBRATION

The Malaga English cemetery is making friends and entertaining people.”

This was a ‘must read’ if ever I saw one.

“The foundation which took over the running of the cemetery two years ago reported that the burial ground was enjoying a surge of popularity.”

What???  To quote my dear, appropriately departed, Dad, “the mind boggles.”

I can just picture it.  A horde of little old ladies and gentlemen, on hearing that the cemetery was “the place to be” go dashing through the wrought-iron gates, anticipating an exciting game of bingo or sing-along, and instead they trip over the cunningly positioned ‘Welcome to the Cemetery’ sign and WHAM.  Before you know it, there’s a whole heap of people just dying to get in.

But these people are deadly serious.  You can’t make this sort of stuff up.

The article advises there are “almost 2300 ‘friends’ of this cemetery – and the number is growing daily.

No shit!  Is someone scattering organic fertiliser over the graves?  It certainly sounds like a load of manure to me.

Apparently, members of this Association are entitled to discounts at concerts and other functions held at the cemetery.  Does every body get 10% off?  Would you get a double discount for a family crypt?

Can you imagine the music they’d play at these concerts?

Dem Bones

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Live or Let Die

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Bat out of Hell

Three Steps to Heaven

Spirit in the Sky

I Ain’t Got No Body

Sympathy for the Devil

Ghost Busters

And what about all the poor souls who want to get in there for legitimate reasons – like, those who got dead somewhere else first?  Is there enough space for them? Do they have to wait in a different queue like at the airport?   If they were stuck in the queue for a long time (like at Passport Control!) they’d start to smell pretty rank in no time at all, especially in the heat of a Spanish summer I can tell you.

According to the report, Friends of the Cemetery also do “Lantern lit nocturnal tours of the cemetery, to coincide with a full moon”.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear they have Count Dracula and Frankenstein as guest speakers on a good night.  Given the potential for werewolves, these tours must be a howling success.

I told a friend about it and asked if he knew where the cemetery was. He said,

“Yeah, it’s in the dead centre of town.  They reckon it’s a pretty cool place to be.   But apparently the functions at the crematorium are even better.  I’ve heard the chicks are dead hot there.  I think I’ll instigate a Friends of the Crematorium? A hot idea like that would certainly deter grave robbers.”

I warned him this was no joke, and could soon find him digging his own grave if someone ‘on the other side’ heard him making such flippant remarks.

Then, of course, there are the “Interesting Talks”.  The subject matter must be riveting.

“Everyman’s Guide to Embalming”

“Do-It-Yourself Casket Making”

“Grave Digging Workout Routines”

“Headstone Engraving Made Easy”

 

I mean, what else could they possibly talk about sitting around in the middle of a cemetery?

And do they hold Séances?

“Is there anyone out there called John?  If so please knock three times on the ceiling.”

It must be like a bloody earthquake when all those Englishmen start rapping on their coffin lids.

No thank you very much.  A glass of vino in front of the telly is more my style.  You won’t catch me joining ‘Friends of the English Cemetery’.

“Not over my dead body, you won’t”, as a true Burtonian would say.

 

 

 

Innovative suggestions for the enhancement of my report will be read with interest.  And all reviews/comments will be gratefully received. AP

Small Black Plastic Gubbins

I had a lovely Christmas, thank you for asking.  It was relatively quiet, mostly due to the fact that Brad was missing.  He and his girlfriend are in South Africa where they are spending Christmas at Mabalingwe Game Lodge with her family.  I had a phone call this morning (Boxing Day) from a ‘Police Sergeant Botha’ to say he was sorry to break the news, but my son had been eaten by a lion. I thought it was a hoax to get money out of me so I ignored it.

Anyway, Leon and Vicki, along with her boyfriend Sam and best friend Will were here, even though V&S were late arriving, due to both having to work !!! until five o’clock (on Christmas day for goodness sakes!).  We opened lots of presents and my Christmas repast went down well, being served at the correct temperatures without any errors or omissions this year.  (I actually think this was a first.)

Anyway, the reason I’m talking to you now is to share a  list which I just compiled, which I thought might entertain you a little.  You see, my daughter bought me a new bedside lamp for Christmas.  I just went to ‘install’ it, but first had to clear my bedside table.

This is what was on said furniture –

  • Bedside lamp – faulty
  • Hanging from lamp – pair of spectacles, on a cord
  •                                      – fob-watch on a chain
  • Box of tissues, almost new
  • Thick plastic paperclip-sort-of-thing, blue
  • White pearl Button, in tiny plastic packet
  • Small spiral notepad
  • 3 pens (black, red, purple)
  • €1 coin
  • 2 touch-screen sticks (1 lime green, 1 purple)
  • 1 dog biscuit, heart shaped
  • Bottle of Aloe Gel, 1/3 full
  • Small blue emery board
  • Folded tissue, from handypack
  • Small black plastic gubbins, purpose unknown*
  • Vicks Inhaler
  • Zambia K500 note
  • 1x12cm thin black satin ribbon, previously attached to a cardigan shoulder
  • Amstel beer coaster
  • Enough dust to give someone a serious asthma attack

Having cleaned off the dust and removed certain of the duplicated/unnecessary items, my lovely new touch-lamp is now suitably sited.

My old touch-lamp lasted nigh-on seven years before developing a mind of its own, when it randomly began to switch itself on at the most obscure times.  This could be somewhat disconcerting (ie read ‘heart-attack material) if it happened while you were walking through the dark room at night, or suddenly awakened from a deep sleep by a mid-night brightness.

Anyway, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, or bonus day, or two, off if you’re not into it.  We only get one day off here in Spain, no Boxing Day for us.  Of course, I get as many days off as I want, seein’ as ‘ow I’m an old retired person.

In closing I would like to wish you a 2019 filled with good health, a reasonable amount of wealth (no need to be greedy) and tons of happiness.

20181226_142105

PS      I’ve remembered what the small black plastic gubbins is.  It’s the nozzle for the vacuum function on an old, but still partially working, bag sealer stored in the top of a wardrobe. (It fell off as I was chucking the machine into the cupboard, and I couldn’t be arsed to get the steps to fit it back on).

MY SON KEEPS BEATING ME!

 

For readers who think my son Leon is a little sweetie, or those of you who know the older version and think of him as a lovely, smiley (not-so) young man, ever ready to lend a helping hand, think again my friends, because the little b@$!@~d keeps beating me!

I kid you not.  It’s been happening quite a lot lately and I’m not sure how to cope with it.  Only yesterday the bugger beat me at Carcassonne, then Scrabble and finally thrashed me 3-0 at Rummikub!

I know, it’s utterly outrageous.  That’s the thanks I get for teaching him so well when he was a little snot-nose.

And if that’s not bad enough, he almost caused me to have a heart attack this morning.

I was sitting outside on a sunny Spanish day.  It was lovely and peaceful, well relatively, with the only sounds coming from the birds hurling their discarded pine-nut shells onto the patio roof and our Spanish mastiff snoring on the sofa. I sat quietly checking my emails when completely out of the blue (or door behind me) a noise so outrageous almost sent me soaring skywards.

“WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOFITY, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF”.

No, it wasn’t our Labrador, but Leon shouting woofing noises at the top of his voice.

When I climbed down off the rafters I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing, scaring the living daylights out of his mother like that.

“WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOOOOOOF!” he continued.

“LEON!  Stop it!” I yelled at him. “What the **** are you doing?”

“I’m trying to frighten that bloody dog awake, like she’s been doing to me in the early hours of the morning these last few nights!  WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOOOOF.”

“In the end I brought her into my room.  But after five minutes of settling back down in bed I still couldn’t sleep – because of her snoring!  WOOF, WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!”

I glanced across at the recumbent mastin as she still lay on the sofa, softly snoring.

“Well it didn’t work” I pointed out.

Chilled Martini

ONE OF LIFE’S LITTLE IRRITATIONS

I had just finished my breakfast and was now trying to write.

While I’d been eating a flash of inspiration came to me and I needed to write it down quickly before it abandoned me.  The only trouble was, THE FLY.

It had been zipping around me for the past fifteen minutes and was now beginning to really piss me off.  Quietly whizzing around my head, it had been in my ear, my hair, got me in the eye twice and was constantly landing on the back of my hands.

As quickly as I tried to write the little bugger kept distracting me, both physically and mentally.  My arms were waving around like an octopus in overdrive. As much as I swiped and swatted, the only thing I achieved was two bruised fingers, very messy hair and a broken plate.

It even had the gall to land on my laptop and walk exactly over the words I was typing, knowing full well that I wouldn’t risk swatting the screen.

I was about to give up on the project and the fly when, as it flew right in front of me, purely by chance one quick CLOP resulted in one dead fly.

Yes!   Gocha, you little bastard.

Fly 0  : Ann 1

Now at last I could get on with my work. I picked up my tea for a celebratory slurp.

Thankfully I noticed it just in time, its shiny black body winking up at me from the brown liquid.

OK then, we’ll call it a draw!

FOR SKIN AS SOFT AS A BABY’S…?

I’ve always thought I was pretty good with colours.   I mean, I know the difference between lilac and purple, red and maroon, green and blue obviously, as well as black and brown.  And I definitely know the difference between grey and blonde.   I just needed to make this perfectly clear before I continue.

I was born with blonde hair, but it turned brown somewhere between the age of 2 and 5 (there are photos missing from the album of the actual transition).  I then stayed with dark brown hair for many years, decades in fact, until the latter years when my hair began to fade.  The trouble was, it wasn’t fading very evenly, so I decided to let my hairdresser send it a fairly subtle shade of blonde instead.

But at the beginning of this year I got fed up with this dyeing lark and decided that it was time I admitted defeat and let nature take its course.

That was a couple of cuts ago, so I am now GREY all over.  This is the real me.  A happy grey person.

I am telling you all this because certain of you may want to dispute the issue of whether I’m a grey or blonde after I tell you about my latest little experience.

I am not one to lash out on fancy creams and lotions for my skin.  I might spend a couple of euro on a pot of face cream from Lidl, but as far as the rest of me is concerned, I have always found Johnson’s Baby Lotion quite adequate.  I mean, if it’s good enough for a new-born baby it’s got to be good enough for an old fart.

After a couple of years living in Spain I finished my SA-bought Johnson’s bottleful so have since purchased an equivalent at our local supermarket, which has its own store-brand called Hacendado.  I have always found products bearing the Hacendado label to be of excellent quality.

When I bought the latest bottle I noticed that it looked different as I grabbed it off the shelf but assumed they’d got a new label design.  On getting it home I put it away in the cupboard while I finished off the dregs in the bottom of the previous bottle (which I’d cut the top off to reach  – ever thrifty, me!).

So it was some time before I had occasion to make use of the new bottle for the first time.

I was a little surprised when the squirt of liquid from the pump came out clear instead of white, but figured it must have ‘settled’ while it had been standing in the cupboard, and the liquid had separated into two components.  I gave the bottle a shake and took another squirt but that too came out transparent.

No issue, I thought,  maybe they changed the composition of the substance, and proceeded to rub the moisturising lotion onto my shin.  At that point it turned white.  Ah, that’s novel, I also thought, and continued to rub it onto my leg, doing the other shin also.  Quite soon it absorbed into my skin.

This morning I made the momentous decision to cut my toenails.  I only mention this because during the clipping process my arms came into contact with my shins.  Please do not try to visualise this, it was not a pretty sight!

Anyway, I thought my shin skin felt different to usual, obviously the new baby lotion.

Later in the morning I once again applied some lotion to my legs, and again it came out clear and turned white after I rubbed it in.   I noticed that my skin felt different again and to be honest I wasn’t sure that I liked the feel.  It almost felt sticky.

About an hour ago I decided to rub some onto my arms, but I checked out the contents of the bottle first.  I gave it a good shake then unscrewed the top and withdrew the pumping device, which revealed that the liquid was in fact transparent all the way to the bottom of the container.

I screwed the pump back in place and then, and only then, looked at the writing on the bottle.  It said “Gel a Champu Pieles”.  It was Baby Soap/Shampoo!

No wonder my bloody skin felt sticky – even if it was ‘the most gentle of solutions for young and sensitive skin’ it shouldn’t have been plastered on and left there!

I have now purchased the correct Locion Corporal Hidratante which feels much better, thank you very much, and will soon have skin as soft as a baby’s bum.

Anyone want some baby shampoo?

An Interesting Monday

Well that was an interesting Monday.

Without going into a lot of background, Brad needed to go to a hospital in Benalmadena for a check-up on the surgery he’d had on his left knee.  I was pretty familiar with the route to that place, having had my taxi services called upon on several occasions.  One of the things I knew was that there is often up to a kilometre of stop-start traffic on the hard shoulder leading to the off-ramp we needed to take from the motorway.

So out of curiosity I’d checked out an alternative route on google maps to come in from the opposite direction, with hopefully less traffic.  But I found that this route ideally meant me taking a mountain road from our town to the said motorway.  Having travelled it several times I don’t particularly like that road as it’s full of bends with very few overtaking spots if you got stuck behind something slow, like a horse and trap, or a couple of bloody cyclists.

We stuck to our original route and as we drove the normal roads leading to the Xanet hospital noticed a few banners along one section of road, but thought nothing of it.

Brad’s appointment with his surgeon went extremely well.  She was delighted with his progress and on seeing how well his leg was doing, even suggested that he could start putting weight on it two weeks sooner than would normally be allowed, accompanied by appropriate physiotherapy.  But she went a bit too far for me when she said that she was happy to take this unusual step because Brad was clearly a very responsible person.

How I kept quiet I do not know.  I bit down on my tongue and tightly sealed my lips to stop myself from making any comment which might dispel her trust in her patient.  How I stopped myself from bursting out laughing I do not know.  Thank goodness my almost exploding face was hidden from her view by her computer screen, which she’d turned to one side when she showed Brad a video of the surgery on his knee.  (Can’t wait to watch that!  She gave him a dvd of it!!).

If I’d have told her all the things Brad was ‘responsible’ for she might have changed her mind about his proposed progress, which would then likely result in extra taxi services being required, so I kept ‘mum’.

We left the hospital in good spirits and headed for the car.  With air con on and refreshments suitably distributed we drove away from the parking area to the roundabout which led onto the road heading back towards the motorway.  Except some idiot had strung a shitload of tape across it.  “Road Closed”

“What now?”

“Just follow that car going straight.” Was Brad’s advice.  The bloke in front looked like he knew where he was going, so I did.

Brad soon managed to google a map and told me which way to go to head from then onwards.  It was pretty much part of the route that I had looked at, but coming from the opposite direction.

We drove through a villagey type suburb which was well festooned with colourful bunting and streamers and as we drove on to a more formal bit of road found barriers and taped areas, and progressively more people, in particular, police type people.  It was only then that Brad said,

“Oh, it must be for the Vuelta España.”

“Wonderful.  What the hell is that?”

“It’s a cycle race.  A biggy!  I’d forgotten it was today.  It must be coming along this route.”

“Terrific!”

As we drove along there were loads of barriers and police cars, police motor bikes, and police men. I made a point of not looking at them in case they tried to direct me off down any other strange roads. I was so busy trying to appear like I was determined in my route that I completely missed the turn which would have taken us up onto the motorway heading back the way we’d come.  Still that was now quite a long route from this point, so I wasn’t bothered.

Driving under the motorway we reached the spot we’d have come in at if I’d taken the way I’d Googled earlier.  So off we drove up ‘the pretty way’ to Mijas pueblo.  It looked like it was going to be a long drive as the mountain, which Mijas sat on the other side of, looked ages away.

As we drove along this unfamiliar mountain road I asked Brad if he’d noticed how there seemed to be quite a few people ‘just standing around’ outside buildings for no apparent reason.  There weren’t many settlements along the way, but what there were had bodies outside. (Not dead bodies, you understand!)

As we rounded one bend we came across a crowd of people standing on a wide verge which sat beside a sharp bend that traversed a gully.  I was about 20 metres away from reaching and taking this bend when all of a sudden a cavalcade of vehicles rounded a bend coming from the other side and they would reach the gully section before me.  It would have been too tight a squeeze for us to pass so I quickly pulled over to let them through.

There were loads of them and they were clearly all involved with the cycle race.  There were cars and vans with people packed in ‘em or on ‘em, shouting and waving at the crowd, who reciprocated similarly as they got bombarded with leaflets and flags and dog-knows-what other promotional material.

So we waited.  And waited.  It was only when an ambulance and a police car had gone past that we figured that was the end of ‘em and continued with our journey.

A few kilometres further on, as we rounded another bend, I could see the junction which entered Mijas pueblo (a beautiful touristy town) and it was seething with police and race vehicles and personnel.

But at least I was now in familiar territory

Another issue I have not mentioned thus far is that at the beginning of our excursion Brad had queried a condition with my vehicle, a Renault Kangoo.  Our conversation concluded with the realisation that the clutch on the vehicle was reaching the end of its lifespan.  As the journey progressed I could feel that I was becoming dangerously close to being clutchless.

As we reached the Mijas roundabout I hung a right to take the road back home where we were immediately faced with climbing a rather steep slope.   I drove up the initial section in second gear and only when the gradient decreased a little was I able to risk changing into third gear and eventually fourth.  This stretch of inclination running along the side of the mountain lasted for over a kilometre and wherever feasible was lined along the none-rock-face side with yet more people.

One thing which had long become apparent was that the route we were taking was remarkably free from other traffic.  After passing Mijas we didn’t come across anything in front (which was hardly surprising, given our speed) but similarly neither were we creating a build-up of traffic behind us.  In fact not one vehicle came up behind us.  And we had only encountered four vehicles coming from the opposite direction, which included the Alhaurin to Fuengirola bus which almost took me out on a shallow bend.  Thank goodness I was on the mountain side of the road!

I was actually a little concerned that when we’d met the cavalcade of promotional vehicles earlier, one of their banners had plastered itself to the front grid of the Kangoo, and the officials and police we had encountered since had thought we were part of the ‘crew’.

There were long stretches where there were no spectators, which wasn’t surprising since the road was lined by the rock face of the mountain on our right side and a steep drop to hell and beyond to our left.  But it seemed that the organisers didn’t want the cyclists to be despondent from lack of support, so had colourful banners lining the road instead.

As the road snaked its way along the side of the Sierra de Mijas it consisted of many sharp, blind bends between the banners.  Brad and I became increasingly concerned that on one of them we would suddenly come face to face with out-rider motorbikes carrying backward and forward facing cameramen, followed very closely by over two hundred speeding cyclists, who would be none too happy about our presence.

The journey home – click for video

We both breathed a huge sigh of relief when we reached the main pivotal “BP roundabout” on the outskirts of our home town of Alhaurin el Grande, where the Vuelta España paraphernalia turned onto the A-7053 heading towards Mijas Costa, which we later discovered was the starting point of the race.

We did a very quick shop before I dropped Brad off at his home which is only ten minutes’ drive from mine and by the time I had reached my wi-fi he had already sent me snap shots taken from his television, where he was watching the Vuelta España cyclists already hurtling halfway along the exact same mountain road we had oh so very recently vacated.

Talk about a close call.

What came next! – click for video