A good few years ago we had a place in the North West near an airbase where they trained fast-jet pilots. As an exercise these guys used to bring a Tornado in to land just so that its wheels touched the tarmac in a puff of smoke and then pull on the burners and take off again. This more or less describes what my last month has been like.
After some tearing around UK for business, two weeks in Glasgow saw me arrive at a derelict property, remove the entire contents of it and then systematically replace everything inside from kitchen to carpets and tiles to toilets, toiling day and night, mainly on my own. I will admit I didn’t get it completed as I was relying on some tradesmen - you know what those mythical illusive chaps are like - but I did give it a good kick at the ball. This was the first real experience I have had with Glaswegians and I have to admit the locals were a fantastic and friendly bunch of folks. One by one the neighbours would drop by for a nosey, bringing a cup of tea and a biscuit and one even offered to pop down to Tesco to get my shopping. I couldn’t believe how far removed this was from the reputation that the 'weegies' have for nicking stuff, beating each other up - especially the English - and generally being a bunch of drunken hard-cases. To cap it all, the weather was so glorious for the whole duration, as they enjoyed the first decent summer for a couple of years. Another week is scheduled shortly and I am quite looking forward to it, not least because I am still fed up with the miserable weather here in France where it has rained constantly since Christmas.
During that trip another thing I experienced for the first time was that of the man-shed - a residence from residence where gentlemen of a certain age while away the hours to get 'oot the hoos!' In this instance, the old guy who had lived there had since passed away but a few minutes in his 'shed' gave me a complete potted history of the chap in his prime, and what a proud guy he must have been. Wooden tools, alphabetically marked draws full of nails screws and obsolete bits of plumbing, a handy work-bench and garden equipment worn thin with age. Back then, and possibly still, a working man would pop out to the pub and have a couple of pints and then wander back home to ponder life in his own domain, safe in the knowledge that his wife knew where he was but wasn’t going to batter his ears for being a drunk and cluttering up the sitting room. In one corner, the tell-tale sign of an aerial socket would suggest that he might just have the footie on in there as well. It almost brought a tear to my eye, especially when a couple of Romanians removed the whole thing under my instruction, leaving nothing but a bare patch of earth to mark the spot. I have no idea what they did with it after that, some things are better left unasked.
You might question why I had to use some bogus method of disposing of unwanted stuff but the answer is quite simple - because the local council are so far up their own jacksie they can see the sunrise through their ears! These days local government is so infested by ecomentalists that we are dictated to that absolutely everything has to be recycled. Maybe not so much in the countryside but if you live in a city you will be indoctrinated to pop along in your Volvo estate to the local tip every week, sit in a queue of like-minded folks, awaiting your turn to put you old Kenwood mixer, MFI TV stand or Hostess trolley in the correct container. You even get issued with a map to help you do this which you can take home and be smug about. That is, unless you drive a white van. You see, van drivers are the anti-christ of recycling, hell bent on destroying the world faster than Dr Evil. The fact I merely darkened the door of West Glasgow's 'dump' with my Hertz vanload of nuclear waste was enough to get me a criminal record and a three month stretch in Barlinnie. Despite my protestations that I was carrying nothing more lethal than a used wooden kitchen cut no ice with 'Jock the important' who claimed it was still classed as industrial waste and I would need to pay a few hundred quid to dispose of it. After a futile argument, I succumbed and suggested I would revert back to what normal countryside folks would do - and have a bonfire instead. However, Jock didn’t appear too keen on this either, especially when I started unloading it on the side of the road and breaking out with the Swan Vestas! After yet more negotiations, a ream of paperwork and a few phone calls, I was eventually allowed to drive in and unload it, only to be bawled at by yet more dictatorial custodians of the planet for driving in the wrong lane and parking in the incorrect location. Hence, the whole recycling experience got me so irritated that I have no choice but to revert to the gypsy community with barely a pang of guilt!
Anyway, a few days later, after another quick touchdown in the French rain, and we are in South West Spain, so far removed from the madness that we could have been on planet Sane. Conil de Fronterra is a place we have been before and one we love, purely because nobody north of the British Chanel knows of its existence. Although only a few hours from Malaga, for a whole week we never so much as heard a British voice, let alone saw a tattoo or fish and chip bar, as I mended my bones in the glorious sunshine, interspersed with gin and seafood, for a whole week.
To relay the pleasure of this experience back to our friends we made an attempt to take a 'selfie' but soon realised we are not very good at this task. No matter how hard I tried, every photo highlighted my burnt peeling nose making me look a bit like a scarlet artichoke. We tried the 'soft-focus' setting on the camera but even a blurred beetroot will never make a red rose. Someone suggested we used that height of vanity, a selfie-stick, but it appears they don’t make them long enough for the likes of us! Oh well, we know we had a good time, and that's all that really matters.
PS, don’t be in too much of a hurry to get rid of that hostess trolley, apparently they are right back in fashion. You heard it here first!