Spain 2, Oct 2004
October 24, 2004 GMT
10th Oct 04. Jimena de la Frontera.
Sunday morning. Outside the front door, double-size ants are manhandling chunks of vegetation up the path. Inside the front door, a large but not yet double-size man is eating anchovy pate sandwiches for breakfast. Augustus Pablo bumps away in the background thanks to the miracle of the iTrip, which turns the iPod into a miniature radio station.
This is my last week in Europe. The flat I've rented for a week - for a bargain rate - is the most chilled out place I've stayed in so far. Last night I watched "Brief Encounter" with a cat and some cheap wine.
As always, belly-laugh followed belly-laugh until we were both exhausted and the cat, still hiccuping with mirth, begged me to order it a taxi.
At last! At long, unholy LARST I've got a front door with a hatch in the top half.
This means I can lean out and shout "Hola"'s, and, later in the day, drunken threats to passers-by, but -crucially- it means I can do it with no trousers on. It's the rural equivalent of being a newsreader.
I'm so relaxed I can scarcely be arsed to breathe. My daily routine in Jimena is as follows.
1. Wake up at 4am following a Lariam induced dream, this morning's involving inappropriate defecation. Go back to sleep.
2. Wake up at 5am to the resonant sqwawking of a cockerel somewhere in the valley. If I had to get up at 7 and go to work this would become increasingly upsetting, but I don't. Go back to sleep.
3. Wake up at 8.30 to sun streaming in through the blinds. Yawn. Maybe scratch. Go back to sleep.
4. Wake up at 9.30. Actually get out of bed and make "Cowboy Coffee" - i.e. filter coffee without the filter, using two mugs and a sieve. Combine with landlady's marrow and ginger jam and a fag for the ideal breakfast.
5. Ablute at a pace a snail would find irritating.
6. Buy bread at the baker's, all of two minutes walk away.
7. Clamber aboard the hog and belt around the hairpins for an hour.
8. Eat more food. Maybe drink a bit of beer.
9. 3.30 - siesta time.
10. Repeat stage 7.
11. Repeat stage 8 until bedtime.
It's all so easy and good that the horsefly of guilt occasionally buzzes around my flanks. It's the job of seconds to flatten it with a lazy swat.
The high point of today is knee-bucklingly good tapas at a bar down the hill, washed down with freezing cold San Miguel. At first I sit outside and realise I'm sitting next to a table of UK expats. For a few minutes I think it'd be nice to have a chat, and then I hear one of them use taxi-driver code for "I am a complete tosser - stay away", i.e. "I'm not being racist, but..."
45 minutes of sour, bigoted, Daily Mail-reading crap on the subject of immigrants follows. They're talking about UK immigrants of course. Not people who move to Spain. That's entirely different. If you took the trouble to read the Mail a bit more often you'd know that.
12th Oct 04. Jimena-Gibraltar-Jimena.
Hang on - my mum's got an exam tomorrow and I'm pottering about like a retired person. Has the world finally eaten the towel, thrown up its chips and run stark shouting mad?
Gibraltar. It's only a rock we rule, but I like it. Like it. Yes I do!
Gibraltar is so wrong it must be right. British bobbies on the beat; but we're driving on the wrong side of the road. Proper traffic lights with a commanding presence in the thoroughfare; yet it's 82f in mid-October. Grimaces all round when I try to pay for my chorizo sandwich with Euros.
It's like a not-quite-right British theme park in California. Or one of those novels where someone else won WW2 and Gib's all thats left.
Blimey! I just got a smile out of the barmaid. Up until now she's had a face like a morosely-dispositioned horse that has woken on Monday morning to find itself at the nadir of a bipolar cycle. With a sore throat. Cheer up love! It might never ha... Oh... I see that it already has...
It is the hour of the warm glow, my friend. I've just met some lovely, nice, unbigoted, happy English people from the Midlands. They, like me, were a touch the worse for wear re. drinksh, but their enthusiasm for Spain shone through the booze mist like, er, a fog-light or something.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 02:56 PM
8th Oct 04. Ubrique, Andalucia.
Welcome to the Hotel Califooooornia!
Blah blah blah blah-blah,
Tumpty tum te-tum,
BUT YOU CAN NEVER LEEEEEAVE!
Not if you're a fluffy little bambi anyway. In that instance, the hotel management will have you machine-gunned. Your extremities will then be boiled and nailed to the wall, saving money on both ornaments and hat pegs.
This is riding-with-your-mouth-open country. It's stunning. The hotel is brand new and stunning. Even the supermarket in Ubrique is stunning, so I go and load up on chorizo and pears and tinned calamari and olives and stuff myself to within an inch of my life before going for a spin round the mountains.
There was an old man of Ubrique
Who urgently needed a lique
He ran down the mountain
And went in the fountain
They put him in jail for a wique.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 02:29 PM
October 08, 2004 GMT
7th October 2004. Utrera, Andalucia.
I'm not one to moan, but Gibraleon was a little bit of a dead-arse dump.
The bars shut at 9pm. What's that aboot? (copyright Kelly Monteith, 1982). Also the weather was relatively awful (i.e. warm but quite cloudy). Utrera is much nicer, but you do have to stifle a scream when you see a baby riding a moped with no helmet on. Helmet law is a bit hazy in Spain (in my mind anyway). I think the story is that you don't have to wear one in built-up areas. There are thousands of two-wheeled vehicles here and they're all 2-stroke pop-pops. No-one wears a helmet. I cannot condone such reckless behaviour. But it is very cool.
Oh Gawd - I've just seen a 2-year old buzz by on a scooter, standing up in the footwell, helmetless. *shudder*.
Don't get me wrong - I don't use the phrase "pop-pops" in a derogatory sense. Scooters are as much, if not more fun in the city as anything else. Who could not weep with admiration at Rupert, on this very website, crossing South America with half a pint of 2-stroke oil, 49cc's of raw power and a t-shirt? The man deserves a gong. Or at least some sort of medal.
If you can't speak Spanish, an Andalucian accent is in no way helpful.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 12:11 PM
October 6th 2004. Gibraleon.
*RATTLE*... Either this is a very badly surfaced motorway or something is amiss with the moto... As I overtake the first of two bumper-to-bumper juggernauts on the A22 towards Faro, the straining and wheezing at anything over 4000 rpm is telling me something's wrong. Something is going to explode or crack or burst or catch fire. At least I know my wheel´s not going to fall off, as a South African mechanic in Portimao fixed it this morning (for an eye-popping €20). The bike manages to hobble to the next service station, and there don't appear to be any logs or dead dogs trapped in the spokes, so I guess it's a fuelling problem. However, guessing what it is and fixing it are two wholly dissimilar sides of two strikingly different coins.
We limp to the next village, Tavira, doing 35mph in the hard shoulder. Luckily, Rui and Brinda live in Tavira.
Rui, I discover later, is on his 13th motorcycle (an 1150GS), and still can't stop himself from waving at every bike that goes by. So I stop and explain.
Having bought me a coffee and generally been human beings of an extremely high quality, they spend the rest of their afternoon with me in a luxuriously appointed fixing shop, making sure I'm OK. Dear Rui & Brinda - you rule.
Imagine my amusement when the problem turns out to be the spare set of keys i'd taped under the seat back in Sussex. They'd become untaped that afternoon, and the little blighters were blocking the air intake.
There's nothing to beat a newly-fixed motorcycle after a couple of hours of "oh god I've broken it" paranoia. I hum all the way into Spain for a night in Gibraleon. The room is a mere 10 euros, although it does smell a bit like faeces.
To keep themselves amused, the Portuguese like to refer to the Spanish as "monkeys". At least they don't hang monkeys believing them to be Frenchmen, as we do in the UK. Or at least those monkeys up in Hartlepool do.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 11:58 AM