And I Say: It’s All Right


While the world reels under the pressure of a triple-dip recession — solely caused, as we all know, by all those scrounging poor people, teachers, students, health workers and single parents— it’s sometimes difficult to find anything to smile at, especially if you happen to be sitting in a queue in an unemployment office. Waiting your turn to be told they have nothing for you is a soul-destroying pastime. In Spain it must be a worse experience then most. Unemployment is currently running at 25% and it would be very easy to interpret any light at the end of any tunnel to be, as HMHB rightly said, the light of an oncoming train.

There are some, however, who are at least trying to bring a little joy into the lives of those who have been left on the scrap heap, waiting for jobs that just aren’t there. Take this Flash Mob in Spain which a Radio Station sent over to the local Job Centre to try to cheer up people. You will be shocked to hear that I am deeply sceptical of Flash Mobs, but this lot seemed to stir things deep inside me. Not always a good thing, I know. But having heard so many appalling cover versions of Beatles tracks by mono-browed, mancunian, misery-peddlers the Gallagher Brothers, this made a nice refreshing change.

Thanks go to Simon the Strine for sharing with us.

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Preferred Lies


About this time a two years ago I was in Kentucky trying to find a decent pint. A bunch of selected chums and I had gone over there to lay to rest the myth that the colony had thrown away the recipe for beer when they threw all that tea into the water in Boston a few years ago.

We were also there, of course, to witness one of the world’s great sporting events: The Ryder Cup. A couple of us had been to one before, in Spain 1997, and it was an experience we wanted to repeat. The build-up the matches was electric. Louisville had been invaded by thousands of European fans, including seemingly half of Ireland, and the locals couldn’t have been nicer about it (especially after they realised how much Guinness they were gonna sell that week).

The US fans were passionate about a victory which had eluded them for several years and they did their very best to cheer their team on as American captain Paul Azinger‘s 12 men visited the bars and restaurants down the main drag the night before the match. Every steakhouse and every bourbon house rang to the sound of the American chant:

USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! “USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!”

It was impressive stuff. American fists were pumping, the US flags were waving and, having failed to find a decent local brew, we sank endless pints of Irish stout, soaking up both the alcohol and the atmosphere. One woman tapped me on my shoulder.
“Please tell your friends that we’re not all like that” she said, motioning towards a crowd of jumping, star spangled piss-heads in full rabble-rousing flow.
“Don’t be daft” says I “there’s nothing wrong in cheering for your team. We’re loving it”. It was true, too. I’d never seen this sort of patriotic fervour up close and whatever side you were rooting for, it was pretty impressive.
“We just wish you’d get yourself a better song” I added.”

Our team warm up. That shirt still doesn't fit me.

The whole week’s experience was truly sensational. The golf was mesmerising, especially by US team, and the fans were nothing if not generous, friendly and fair. We’d arrived with the slight worry that they wouldn’t respect either spirit of the competition or the etiquette of a golf crowd. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Yes they were loud, yes they where one-eyed, but they were shouting for the home team, and no-one could have denied them that.

“USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! “USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!”

We tried to join in, but couldn’t remember the words.

One damper on the whole proceedings was when the bars were shut on the Sunday morning (they play God Squad rules over there), but we managed to survive on coke and muffins until the allotted opening time. As we sat there on that final day, perched above the 9th green and witnessed the gradual collapse of the Europeans, our new american friends were truly kind and sympathetic to our plight. They neither gushed nor gloated. I like to think we were magnanimous in defeat.

As we shook hands and said our goodbyes one elderly woman said to us “See you in Wales in two years”
“Sod that!” said our Gary “We’ll see you in Chicago in four”
“You guys not going to Newport?” asked her husband incredulously
“Nah” squarked our Gavin, “It’s a khazi and it’ll be underwater in October”.

I don’t think she knew what “khazi” meant. She gave signs of understanding “underwater”.

I didn’t sleep much last night. So excited about this weekend. Genuinely nervous. I’m spending the whole three days lying on the couch, not intending to miss a shot. Went downstairs at 6 am to make a cup of tea and prepare. Put the fire on warm and curl up on the couch. I can get a decent pint from my fridge when I need one (it won’t be long).

It’s been pissing down on the course all night. The course is sodden. Underwater. They’re playing preferred lies. The rain in Wales in October is torrential. Now who could have predicted that?

Spanish Stroll


Don’t you love getting sprayed with someone else’s waste product when you’re standing at a urinal ? I know I do. I was standing at the trough the other evening, resplendent in my ever-present summer shorts, when a fella came into the pub toilet to begin his business. Now I don’t know what he produced from his fly (I’m far to polite to look) but by the feel of the mist that started to cover my right leg, I suspect it was some sort of steam lance.

He was presumably in a hurry to force it out and finish quickly as he started after and finished before me then returned to the bar before I had time to zip up. I stood there, thoroughly dejected with damp leg and one moist tennis shoe. If you think it’s tough washing your shin in a pub toilet basin, try cocking that leg up to the nozzle of the hand-drier, then come up with a plausible explanation as to what you’re doing to the next bloke that comes in for a pee.

I suppose I might have pointed out the error of his ways to my urinary assailant while he was imitating a garden sprinkler, but being a lover not a fighter I didn’t want to get into a fist fight with a man who not only was a good deal larger than me (in nearly every department) and who’s fist were covered in wee.

I should have asked him what he was up to for the net week as I could do with him in my garden. We’re off for a week, taking the herberts to Spain and I need someone to water the plants while I’m away. With a natural talent such as his, my chillies, carrots and peppers would be sure to get a good watering. As it is, I am relying on my parents to pop over and administer the watering can to the veg patch, and at least that way my produce won’t have a faint lager aftertaste.

So the annual trip with the four kids has arrived and, as usual, I’m pottering around Railway Cuttings making sure I have everything I will possibly need for the holiday, and all the time taking my mind off the fact I have to get on a plane in the morning (why is there always a plane crash somewhere in the world just before I go to Gatwick?).

At the moment, the suitcase list reads (in order of importance): Medical bag; loo roll; passport; tea bags; playing cards; cribbage board; iPod; reading matter; money (if applicable); TomTom; swim shorts and clothes.

You’ll notice I have not felt the need to include a Spanish phrase book. The kids tell me that at least two of them have a working knowledge of the language, but more importantly I fear that fluent cockney, brummie and scouse are the dominant languages where we’re going. I’m less likely to use “Dos cervezas, por favor” than I will “‘scuse me mate, can you shut the fuck up?”. I’m expecting to see many more signs for Ye Olde Red Lion than I will Vino y Tapas. Fish n chips and a cup of tea are likely to be the local delicacies, rather than chorizo, paella or Rioja.

Yes, the Inglés will be there in force and I thank the little baby Jesus that we have booked a villa and pool all to ourselves so I need be nowhere near them. Last year in Italy we stumbled across very few Brits and bloody marvellous it was too. I’m not sure we’ll be so lucky this time round. So the plan (well, my plan anyway) is to spend a goodly amount of time stocking up in the local supermarket then eating and drinking ourselves stupid around the pool. Give me a German, an Italian, a Frenchman or even a Spaniard to chat to at the bar and I’ll be as happy as Larry (depending on how happy Larry is, of course), but I find it hard to embrace my compatriots as they try to Anglicise the world. Maybe I’ll pretend to be Australian ? Maybe not.

If we do find ourselves outside the confines of our villa we shall be vigilant. The first sign of a pair of Union Jack shorts on the beach and we will retreat to base camp; any Barnsley bullshit that they “don’t do a decent pint of bitter over here” will result on us leaving the premises; 18-30 holiday rep organizing foreskin-drinking contests will be kept out of sight of the children and, more importantly, me. I have very low tolerance and embarrassment levels when it comes to the English abroad and look forward to avoiding any pink, tattooed nause from Nottingham holding court in a bar and giving us his thoughts on football or motor racing.

All that aside, I’m thoroughly looking forward a week with the kids and won’t let anything detract from it. Bring on the San Miguel, the gambas pil pil and the Tortillas. Bring on the large scotches in Gatwick and bring on a smooth and scream-free flight. At least there won’t be a bloke giving me a free shower in the plane’s khazi.

Oh, Olé!