Needs Must When the Devil Drives

Sardines, anyone?

A problem requiring a quick solution saw me on a plane for Spain – via the U.S.A. and their dreaded airports. I had sworn never to darken their doors again after my last experience some years ago, but needs must when the devil drives. It was high season for travel to Europe, the direct flights were full and it was half the price of British Airways, even if I could have booked a seat with them.

I had a further complication. My wonky ankle had all but collapsed and it was not a good moment to travel further than a stagger from bedroom to bathroom, from bathroom to kitchen and then a lengthy rest in a chair. Still, needs must and all that.

As it turned out, it was to be a blessing as I booked wheelchair assistance for the connections through the U.S. airports and although the vehicles provided were not the equal of a London Transport diesel engine ninety seven horsepower omnibus – what could be? –

they were indeed a transport of delight. Collected on the airbridge at Houston and whisked away to one of those carts that always pass you empty when you are gloomily dragging your luggage for what seems like miles to encounter the warm embrace of immigration officials and Homeland Security goons….. it was another world.

Decanted into further wheelchair for the obligatory passage of what is laughingly called security my kind hispanic assistant passed several entrances into the inferno of queues and bawled orders until she found me a quieter entrance, with no queues and a friendly welcome. Well, for me…not for her. The distinctly caucasian officer gave her a hard time over the renewal of her badge – which was not due for another month. Hassle for the hell of it.

All continued well…I was allowed pre boarding which gave me time to hobble my way to the back of the ‘plane to a seat I had booked, in the aisle, near the loos, with room in the overboard locker for my case. Sardine class, of course, but at least the essentials were in place. The flight was packed….but the two seats next to me were still empty…hope rose, only to be crushed as barging up the far aisle came two fake panama hats. The lead number was borne by a large man in red trousers, the other by a woman whose long suffering expression resembled that of one who waits , plastic bag in hand, while the dog performs his business.

Red trousers identified the seats. Without pleasure.

‘We’re separated, Ursula!’

You would think that perusal of the tickets might have alerted him to that earlier…but men in red trousers are not noted for brain.

Turned to me, announcing loudly

‘I’m in the middle seat but I’m taking the aisle.’

He could have taken take the high road or the low road for all I cared…yet it was an opening gambit had I but realised it.

Having settled Ursula into her seat on the other side of the aisle, red trousers started to look for space in the lockers for his case. There was none. He was obliged to go forward, well forward, before he could find a gap and returned to base – in the free aisle seat, -spreading out his affairs on the middle seat and opening his newspaper.

So absorbed was he that when the stewards were trying to rejig all the cases, he did not notice that they were asking who owned his….I suppose we were minutes away from an unidentified luggage emergency when Ursula alerted him and he sprang to his feet, bellowing that he was not going messed around and demanding that his case was restowed immediately.

Finally he was mollified and returned to his newspaper, muttering that he had had enough of all this…but more was to come. The ticket holder of the aisle seat finally appeared…a mild young man who made it clear that he would like the seat that he had booked, so red trousers gathered his gear and plumped down next to me, clearly not happy.

Turning to me he said, in a tone of en haut de bas,

‘I am giving you sufficient space and I expect reciprocity’.

Clearly, someone who liked to impose himself on those around him…

I am told that when annoyed I sound like Princess Anne and I certainly borrowed one of her better known phrases in telling him to ‘Naff off’, though in a version more suited to his level of comprehension.

After which, peace reigned for the duration of the flight.

I made a brief stop in London, mainly to sort out a few things with my bank and to do the essential food shopping, staying with my friend in the now gentrified Kensal Rise.

Gentrified always seems to me to be a misnomer…most of those moving into the area would be – or would have been, my timescale becoming collapsed as I grow older – looked down upon by the country gentry who, while being so often shit in a silk stocking themselves, could tell a nylon stocking when they saw it.

I had become accustomed to the organic butcher, the vegan coffee shops and the wine merchant selling bio filth…to the fearsome juggernaut prams in which the slightly clad mothers protected their offspring from contact with the outside world…to the massive four by four cars lining roads where housing had been built long before the possession of cars had been envisaged, but a new horror had emerged. The electric scooter.

As if cyclists – as in self righteous ponces in lycra as opposed to people who wear bicycle clips – aren’t bad enough….now these pests have come to haunt us, moving swiftly and silently, giving no warning on road or pavement, mounted by some prat in a cycling helmet with no idea just how infantile he or she looks.

It would be wrong to state that Kensal Rise is going to the dogs…even if the canine sex toy has been removed from the pet shop window. The hardware shop is still there…the corner shops still exist…and so do the original inhabitants, though these grow fewer over the years. Yet there is a more serious change. Drug related shootings have become, if not common, frequent enough to be shrugged off as ‘oh, another one’. A link with the new inhabitants’ habits, perhaps?

If so, shit in lycra leggings.

Off then, to Barcelona, the ‘plane so delayed that we did not arrive until the early hours, plenty of time for the earworm bequeathed me by my father to surface,

‘We are some of the nuts of Barcelona,

We think it such fun

We’re going to be hung.’

It has bothered me so much that I eventually looked it up in the Mudcat Cafe site, that source of all that is wild and wonderful, only to discover that father’s version differed radically from the original.

Hastening from the airport I discovered that the Barcelona Sants railway station did not open until 5.30 a.m. giving me a few hours to sit on a stone block by the entrance. I was approached by a young woman carrying a rose who told me, in French, that I was in great danger, sitting outside a station at night, and should come to her house. I had a feeling that I or my purse might be in more danger in her house and politely refused her kind offer.

My block is on the far side of the zebra crossing.

Shortly afterwards I made the acquaintance of a chap from Bolivia, working in Montpellier and going to visit his family in Valencia. He had missed the bus and found, like me, that the station was closed. I learned a lot about the comparison between life as a legal immigrant in Spain as opposed to France…he could not wait for his contract to end to return to Valencia. We talked food, politics…all the usual stuff, before being joined by an elderly man who had himself come from Montpellier on his way to Alicante and who had, too, missed his bus.

He was one of the ‘gilets jaunes’, pleased to inform me that the movement was still active – especially in Montpellier where the brutality of police tactics served only to keep the action going.

Why, he wanted to know, were there no ‘gilets jaunes’ in the U.K., where people were being bled dry even more than in France? The only answer I had was that identity politics in the U.K. had effectively divided the those parts of the population likely to rise up…so they were fighting each other for state resources rather than the state itself.

In the days of fake news and the hegemony of the media barons, if you want the lowdown, sit outside Barcelona Sants in the early hours of the morning.

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The Wanderer’s Return

thisamericangirl.com

Before we go any further…..these are calves…agreed? Small, appealing manageable creatures….

My return has not been a resounding success.

It was not a good idea to leave Spain with mother on Sunday, travel all day, settle her in, cook a meal, pack and leave at 2.00 am on Monday for the airport.

London Heathrow Terminal 4 was not a good idea either.
Very few service staff in the forecourse and an insistence that the clients use ‘print it yourself’ check in slips.
By the time I had fathomed where to slide in my passport and which way up and had discovered that to swipe a bank card you need to move it in and out of a slot I was in an ill humour…the situation not improved by the multiplicity of staff within the tape bound snake toward the actual check in who seemed to want to see the already swiped passport, and ask damnfool questions about where exactly I was resident.

Once past security the shopping area was fine if you’re a fool who likes to be parted from your money but otherwise distinctly useless….and again overstaffed with ladies in mauve who were quite capable of telling you where to find expensive rubbish and not so hot on telling you where to find the decidedly scarce destination indicators.

It had not been a good idea not to bring sandwiches.
The Caviar House and Prunier stand was just setting up for the day, their staff wearing those absurb black hats that these days denote catering staff whose management has ideas above the quality of their product.
Dining Street resembled a cross between a dilapidated Wimpy and something left over from the Olympics publicity team.
And as for Costa and the poncily named Apostrophe…forget it. One look at the stuff being loaded onto the shelves and the hungriest would renounce eating something that looked as though it had been flung together by primary school children inadequately trained in finger painting.

Not to speak of the prices.
You could easily slim if you had to live in the post security area of Terminal 4.

The flight was fine…if you like being in the middle seat with no way to turn on your reading light when every last idiot in a window seat has pulled down their window blind in order to watch crap on the laughingly called entertainment system.
No other seat with a working reading light available.

Breaking my glasses and losing the important lens was not too hot either.
I had to spend four hours on the connecting flight staring at the map that shows how slowly the plane is approaching the destination and then crowning disaster, picked up the wrong case at the baggage claim.

It was the same colour, it had the same purple through baggage tag….but it was not mine.
A working pair of glasses might have avoided that…

The airline were on the ‘phone as I hit the front door.

I returned, and discovered how easy it would be to blow up the airport.

The airline office is behind the check in desks. Without a question, without control, I toddled in to hand in the bag and to retrieve my own.
Yes, there are security cameras, but there is nothing whatsoever to stop you from dropping into the loo, depositing a bomb in the waste bin and toddling on your merry way again.
Oddly enough, the other party had not claimed the missing case….mine had been discovered forlornly on the caroussel….so goodness only knows what that was about.

I returned home. I had supper. I went to bed.
As I switched on the light there was a noise as if of a herd of elephants bellowing.
Underneath my window.

What the blazes is that?

Ah.

That reply, so small in itself but so pregnant with meaning.

You remember I told you I’d bought some calves?

Yes, I did remember the project being mentioned.

Well, that’s them.

After a night of bellowing and banging about below, morning brought enlightenment.
cattle 005

Five seven month old Brahma crosses, weighing some 200 kilos apiece, testicles still very much attached and missing their mothers.

So far one has escaped via the stream, chased the new neighbour’s horse, charged through his corral upsetting the fire over which he was cooking his mid day soup and returned via the drive taking with him a stand of ornamental gingers.

The new neighbour, far from complaining, helped in the recapture.
It brightened up his day apparently as he is currently living in a horsebox having been thrown out by his wife for losing the contents of his lorry while boozing instead of coming straight home from the feria…and lunch at ours was better than lunch at his.

The Men are busy strengthening the pen….and the sheep are adjusting to the new normality.
cattle 004

I’m not sure that I am though perhaps it is as well that I have returned as apparently the neighbour has opened negotiations with a view to moving into our currently unused pig pen as providing better shelter in the rainy season…..