The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life


You know, I know, we all know that we should not make decisions when we are tired.

We are, at this moment, recovering from our folly in not heeding this maxim: our only excuse being that we were too tired to remember it.

Every month or so we take the car into San Jose to stock up with items unobtainable – or more expensive – in our little town.

Earl Grey tea…rice noodles… bones and ox kidneys for the dogs…cheap tomatoes…fencing wire from the Chinese tat emporium… five kilo lumps of fresh cheese from Turrialba and proper wholemeal bread from a baker who seems to be the only one in the area to be able to make  a loaf which is neither sweet nor as heavy as  lead once ingested.

Buying in bulk as we do, on the return trip the car is loaded with crates and sacks the contents of which have to be sorted, packed and divided between stores, fridge and freezer – after feeding the chickens, the ducks, the lambs and the dogs, not to speak of ourselves.

We have always done this in one form or another, but we are not getting any younger and there are moments when the mounds of kidneys to be diced and packed, peppers to be grilled and skinned and the rest of the gallimaufry awaiting attention can feel daunting.

That was the situation last week when the ‘phone rang.

Leo answered it: I paid no attention, assuming it was the chap who was supposed to come with his bulldozer the next day, checking that all was in order.

Then Leo came round into the kitchen, looking shell shocked.

‘I’ve done something awful.’

‘You haven’t cancelled him?’

‘No! It’s something else entirely….I knew I shouldn’t have done it while I was talking to him…’

It turned out that the man on the ‘phone had been one of the fleurons of  Leo’s family tree….his half brother.

The son of his father’s Spanish mistress.

Twenty plus years younger than Leo.

Last sighted over twenty years ago.

Who was not only in Costa Rica but was at that very minute in a taxi bringing him from our little town and should be at our gate shortly.

Well, not shortly.

We were sorting out the sheep for the evening when the taxi drew up at the house gates along the road.

The assembled dogs arrived, giving tongue.

A lugubrious face peered from the rear window. For some time.

Eventually, prompted by the taxi driver requesting payment, the entire person descended and the taxi departed.

The dogs bayed cheerfully.

The person shuffled.

The dogs bayed again….

‘Well, come in’ said Leo.

‘I don’t know how to open the gate’…

He was not, you understand, frightened of dogs..he was allergic. They were filthy things, carriers of disease…

The nine carriers of disease barked and leapt for joy..they don’t often get visitors who behave like the man whose feet are being shot at in the Westerns and intended to make the most of it.

Finally the Will Kemp of Estepona made it to the house and sank into a chair on the balcony.

He had, it appeared, come to Costa Rica to find the only remaining member of his family. Given that he has endless cousins on his mother’s side and Leo’s sister and brother all living this seemed a little thin.

As Leo had carefully never given him his address after the last encounter, he had had, he said, to track us down.

Would the great white hunter like something to drink? Tea, coffee, beer, fruit juice?


He did not like tea, Costa Rican coffee was disgusting, fruit juice – God only knew what fruit was involved out here…and he was allergic to beer as he was gluten intolerant.

Happily involved with a bottle of banana wine he expanded. On his gluten intolerance.

After some ten minutes of a blow by blow description of fifteen years of diarrhea I thought it time to cook supper.

He was at my shoulder in a flash.

No condiments! I will be ill!

So we had plain fried fish, fried potatoes and fried tomatoes…not what we had planned for ourselves.but if he had a diet problem…

I dished up.

Where is the salt…there is no flavour to this food…

He managed to finish half a bottle of banana wine – luckily it had a label indicating that it was a Sauvignon/Semillon from Argentina or no doubt he would not have touched it – discoursing the while on his gluten intolerance and its problems, in the presence of a man who has two major illnesses and had recently spent five days completely paralysed in a major hospital.

Reminded – by me – of Leo’s problems he brushed them aside. Leo should take out private insurance, as he had done. Private medicine showed him that he was gluten intolerant and it changed his life

I left them to it while I washed up.

Leo then enjoyed a session of hearing how dreadful Costa Rica was…no culture, childish television, terrible food….why had we moved there? And to this awful house?

Digital Camera

Had he seen any of the sights?

Yes…the Teatro Nacional…nothing special..


Museums? Pre-columbian gold? Jade? Contemporary Arts?

What museums? Oh yes, there was a hole in the ground by the theatre, but it looked dirty…and he might get mugged…


Pity he missed that experience…

Clearly he had thought to stay with us on his jolly to Costa Rica…but the dogs had put paid to that so eventually he departed by taxi, promising to return in a few days’ time.

‘Come early,’ said Leo. ‘I’m better in the mornings. And if you get here in the morning Danilo can pick you up at the bus station which will save you getting another taxi.

Two days later we had a ‘phone call at ten to two. He is in our little town, at the bus station

‘Wait there and we will pick you up in about twenty minutes.’

‘No! I will get a taxi! I cannot stand around in this shithole!’


Some ten minutes later a taxi driver called us.

‘Can you give me directions?’

‘Yes, sure..they are working 0n the bridge so you will have to come by the back road..’

Voice from the back of the taxi…go by the bridge…go by the bridge…

They eventually arrived an hour later having tried the bridge to find that it is impassable during working hours and so have had to retrace their steps via the back road.

Again the lugubrious face waited a long time in the taxi.

It dawned on us that he was waiting for us to pay the driver.

As the driver was of our view that he will wait a long time until hell freezes over the face was obliged to pay.

He entered the house. the dogs, roused from post prandial slumber, eyed him hopefully, but there was no sign of dancing.

Leo, rashly, asked if he had had lunch.


Well, we have something left from our lunch…chille con carne.

By this time I had retired to bed, having broken my big toe the previous day. Leo was in control.

‘What is in the sauce?’

Leo showed him the chili sauce which I use. The ingredients label is in Spanish – the only language which he understands.

‘No! I cannot eat that! I will be  ill! It contains gluten!’

Later examination showed that there is no gluten in the listed ingredients.

He decided to make for himself a Spanish tortilla..potatoes, onions and eggs.

Some half an hour later I emerged to find that he had taken off his shirt..revealing a revoltingly hairy back….had half peeled and then discarded slightly blemished potatoes which were now useless…had taken only the hen eggs – as being brown – and had used almost a whole bottle of olive oil – super expensive here.

He beamed at me.

Did I know how to make a Spanish tortilla?

Indeed I did, without need of his tuition. I also, in the words of the old music hall song, knew how to raise a bunion on his Spanish onion should I catch him bending tonight

While I cleared up the carnage he told me at length how awful Costa Rican food was.

How it cost him 12,000 colones to be sure to get a gluten free meal.

Why didn’t he go to the caffs on the market? Rice, beans and protein for about 2,000.


A mou of disgust. He could not possibly enter such a place…

Then he asked why we had no mangoes as they were in season…well, they are at lower altitudes, but ours won’t be ripe for a month yet.
‘But they are in season’….
He wanted us to show him the finca…I could not walk far thanks to the curse of the toe and Leo certainly couldn’t but directed him down the one and only road which runs alongside our land.
The dogs escorted him to the gate, hopeful of dancing….but he disappointed them..
I made us some tea.
He returned  ten minutes later saying that he was worried that he might get lost.
Oh, what were we drinking? Tea…no, he would have a coffee. That man must have hearing so acute that he can hear the clink of a tea cup at a mile’s distance.
Leo then suffered a long recital of how none of his mother’s family would have anything to do with him. Hardly surprising since she worked all her life to support him while he lazed about on benefits and her handouts and at her death sold her house  to live on the proceeds. Not something to endear himself to people who loved his mother.
Then followed a far from delicate enquiry as to Leo’s testamentary dispositions…..and the strength of family ties.
Supper time eventually came.
Leo had point blank refused to eat another meal like that of the first evening and asked me to make a Balti….absolutely no gluten in the recipe ingredients.
I called them to the table and put the Balti, the rice and his tortilla on the table.
Our guest settled himself.
First, though,  he had to wash out the wineglass at his place setting.  An insect had settled in it…probably alive with gluten.
Then he complained about the dogs settling in in expectation around us.
I invited him to start, indicating the Balti.
He smirked and said that he could not take gluten…didn’t I remember?
I showed him the herbs and spices I used….all gluten free – including red pepper flakes – ‘gluten free’ on the label.
He licked a finger, pushed it into the flakes and licked it again. No, it had gluten. He could taste it..
I left the table. Before I raised that bunion..
He ate the tortilla he had made, complaining to Leo that I had knowingly made something he could not eat.
Leo told him that while he was quite right not to eat something containing gluten, he had been told – and had been shown – that the meal was gluten free and that once he had finished his meal Leo would call him a taxi.
‘No..later. I can make another tortilla if I’m hungry.’
Why? He had come thousands of miles to visit Leo …how could Leo throw him out?
Quite easily. No effort at all.
I was in the bedroom, seething quietly, when he barged in – knock? Call? Gracious me no! He wished to explain that thanks to me cooking something he could not eat his brother was going to throw him out It was not his fault if he could not eat something full of gluten…
I was not polite in two languages.
Having called a taxi Leo escorted him to the door and went to clear the  table.
He then made a reappearance in the bedroom and I was even less polite in two languages.
Leo removed him with an energy unexpected in a man of his age and health and he finally left with the carriers of disease barking in triumph as the taxi pulled away..
With any luck it will take him another twenty years before he tries again.

60 thoughts on “The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life”

    1. There’s a reason why he doesn’t announce his intention to visit…so you don’t have a chance to say no!
      The worst of it is that he seems to think he is doing you a favour by imposing himself on you!

  1. I was transported back to the early 50s…I had a similarly afflicted ‘uncle” My mother suffered his visits because he was married to her oldest friend, but the list of forbidden foods was long…

    1. I can cope with the food faddists…can cope better if I have warning of their arrival….but someone who can’t read a list of ingredients in his own language is something else.

  2. Good for you and Leo both. This Spaniard who bliighted your life sounds a real parasite and doesn’t even have the saving grace of being grateful.
    Good riddance.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. Not so much kindness..more like taken aback and poor survival skills. Leo only remembered why he chucked him out twenty years ago after he put the ‘phone down.

  3. Wonderful!
    There are however questions.
    Why did you not set the dogs on him?
    How did he survive a kitchen full of sharp impliments?
    Where did he find the money to travel that far?
    Can I have some Banana Wine?
    I am also intrigued to see all those pots on the veranda while all those dogs charge around. How many will be there this time next week?
    Poor Leo how well he handled that situation, I hope it did not upset his metabolism, indeed it might have helped.
    I would liek a transcript of your outburst, in two languages, as I could sell this to ‘soap opera’ makers in two countries and live for years of the proceeds.
    I wnder if he got mugged by a gluten free gangster at the airport…?

    1. I can just see the encounter…
      ‘Stop! Is there any gluten on your knife…?’

      The dogs regarded him as a source of entertainment. In the words of Joyce Grenfell …they never bite their friends…or clowns.
      He brought his own knife, with which he managed to cut himself on the face and left wet bloody towels on the bathroom floor.
      I don’t think he stints himself on jollies, even though the proceeds of the sale of his mother’s house are running down with the low interest rates of recent years…anyway, apart from his Spanish pension to look forward to he intends – having dual nationality as having been born in England – to apply for a U.K. pension as well. I didn’t like to tell him that said U.K. pension would hardly pay for his gluten free meal in Costa Rica…
      Re banana wine Ordinarily I would have brought you a bottle on my next trip – but for complicated reasons I will only be bringing a carry on bag when flying out of CR so it will have to wait for a later trip. I shan’t forget, though.
      The experience has, as it is fashionable to say, brought us together. We can;t stop smiling at the thought of getting rid of him.

    1. We shouldn’t have done….he mucked up a busy day when we were tired …we should have shown him the door pronto.
      Still the dog enjoyed his little dance…

  4. Hairy-backed plonker. I am sorry such a creature inflicted himself upon you and I salute your efforts to cater to his foibles. Hee hee, if only he knew about the banana wine!

    He will make an excellent character for a novel ……..

    1. What joy if bananas contained gluten…but I can’t be that lucky…
      Should you wish to write the novel I can supply further and better particulars……with that family you could do a whole Forsyte saga!

  5. . . when I tell you that ‘I know a guy and his team’ I am not joking! They are not expensive and sometimes offer a discount if they feel in need of practice or a general refresher.

  6. I so look forward to your posts, knowing they are going to be so good – I know I should be wishing you a quiet life but that would deprive us all of a jolly good read. Hope your toe is better.

    1. Rashly I went shopping today and jammed the toe in the step up to the car seat….passers by had a wonderful chance to extend their English vocabulary with a ‘putain de merde’ thrown in for good measure.

      Life is generally quiet….it is what one might call the high spots that urge me to blog…better for the blood pressure.

  7. Ha ha, sorry but I could not help but laugh. When are you going to write your book? So many great stories to tell..
    It does though make me glad that I am an only child and both my parents were as well. Hopefully nobody will come out of the wood work that I have never heard of before 🙂 N has one sister, and one nephew that live in Ozz, generally far too busy to visit other than once when I was here alone, N was still working in the UK!! I did have to bite my lip a few times but it could have been much worse if they had been gluten free :-)))
    All the very best to you both, Diane

    1. Forgot to say hope the toe soon gets better, I broke mine on a squash court some years ago and it was mighty painful for some time! Diane

      1. The toe is making its presence felt…and I’m hoping it will clear up before I go to visit my mother otherwise she will be pushing me in her wheelchair!

        I share your relief in having no relatives ready to leap from the woodwork – most of Leo’s are fine but this one takes the biscuit! No, what am I thinking! I’d forgotten about the gluten…

        I just don’t see a book ever happening. I’ve tried a couple of times but there are just too many disturbances – usually of the ‘where is’ and ‘have you seen my’ variety. By the time there is peace in the evening I just want to read or watch the box!

    1. Luckily he is too idle to bump Leo off…though perhaps that was the idea of the knife!
      He does not have manners…has never been introduced to them…would not recognise them if they bit him….

    1. They were, indeed, useless…they were waiting for him to dance again….and why didn’t we think of Monty! With luck our visitor would have been propelled over the balcony into the void below.
      We must be slowing down….

      We had a final contact from him today….Leo answered the ‘phone, and fell to the floor. Luckily a friend was here and we got him to his feet, vaguely aware of a wittering noise from the ‘phone.
      Leo explained to our caller that the break in communications was because he had fallen….our visitor – for it was indeed he – completely ignored this and continued to tell Leo about his gluten intolerance….until Leo put the ‘phone down.

      We have now – from bribes of his conversation – sussed what he was up to. He thinks that as Leo has no children he, as brother, would have a claim on his estate in Spanish law.
      Not under Costa Rican law….and the Spanish place is tied up tight to avoid just that sort of possibility….so I hope that he has wasted plenty of money on his trip.

          1. I have my suspicions….and will inform the person concerned that neither will he qualify for anything on Leo;s death. It was with him in mind we took precautions – not thinking that Mr. Gluten would heave over the horizon.

  8. Good grief, clearly the visitor from hell. Finding fault with everything, insulting his hosts at every turn, claiming a dietary problem that probably doesn’t exist, and generally being utterly obnoxious. And of course with no insight whatever into his obnoxiousness. Yes, hopefully he won’t be back for another 20 years. Even more hopefully, he will have dropped dead from a gluten overdose in the meantime.

    1. I can but hope!
      He was chucked out twenty odd years ago for persistently peeing beside the toilet bowl and, on being upbraided, replying
      ‘Well, they are only old wooden floorboards, not carpet…’

      He hasn’t improved.

  9. I relish a sweet, loving dog, but there are times when a malevolent, snarling hound is called for. This, clearly, was one of those times. Either that, or keep a large constricting snake handy. I hear they’re chock full o’ gluten.

  10. Hi Helen – it’s been a while – hope all is well with you (other than the odd random visitor).

    It’s good to see that good old Scottish hospitality is alive and kicking even in marginally warmer climes. To threaten your guest with mangy dogs and lifespan reducing condiments would be considered bad form in most countries. Could I suggest you maybe take a hospitality course at the local college.

    I’ll go hide under the desk now. 😀

  11. Funny, I thought I had already commented. Maybe the truth is that your vivid description of this person has stayed with me. Eek! a true guest from hell!
    I hadn’t heard the song before, but it is rather good!

    1. His memory does tend to linger….like the small of rotten eggs.
      I like those old music hall songs…there is one running round my head at the moment: ‘I can’t do my bally bottom button up…’

  12. I would give a good deal to have heard you not being polite in two languages, Helen. 🙂 I reckon he got off lightly after such obnoxious behaviour. I’d have been sorely tempted to force-fed him some gluten before tossing him off the verandah.

    Sorry to hear about the toe. Having broken a bone in my foot in the past I know how painful it can be and how it interferes with everyday life. Hope it mends quickly.

    1. I think the toe exacerbated things somewhat….freshly broken, it was making its presence felt!
      I don’t have the same fluency in Spanish abuse as in French – possibly because the need to use it hasn’t arisen as frequently as in France – but I think I acquitted myself well.
      I was surprised how outraged I felt at someone walking into my room uninvited….though why I was surprised when he had arrived at the house uninvited I don’t know!

      I was amused and interested to find that he – illegitimate and not having seen his father since he was eighteen months old – shared the same worship of The Family as Leo’s brother and sister.
      To listen to them you would believe that ‘The Family’ was descended from Our Lord via the Merovingians and Knights Templar, their fortunes drawing from the treasure of Rennes le Chateau instead of originating in black market transactions in the Belgian countryside during the Great War.

      With this mindset it is clear that as I am not a member of The Family anything left by Leo at his death should return to their coffers….a view that Leo does not share. Having been despoiled by his father and brother down the years anything he has made has been by his own efforts – so he has already taken precautions to keep their fingers off, precautions which include the fingers of the gluten obsessed one.

      The toe is improving – thank goodness – but it does make sudden movement inadvisable and I am confined to a disgraceful pair of garden sandals when leaving the house.

  13. Wow, the story and follow-up are fascinating. There is certainly a very black black sheep (or 2, if I remember) in The Family. How tedious to have to suffer such a brute on a broken toe and recent ill health. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
    I damaged the nail of my big toe after Christmas, and that was painful enough. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

    1. The toe is still making itself felt…though getting better, thankfully, but you are right, it did not help the situation!
      I count it fortunate that I never met Leo’s father as Leo tells me that his half brother resembles him in his arrogance and total disregard for others….

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