Monday 27th April 1998
Reached the unstunning conclusion that if you have to get up at 3.30 am, take an hour’s taxi ride to the airport, then have a three and-a-half hour flight to Gran Canaria it’s probably unwise to drink lots of lager and have a huge curry from the Bhaji Take Out the night before.
Somewhere over the Atlantic ocean blue ice was falling with an unmistakable hint of Chicken Madras.
Iain and I arrived in Gran Canaria and from this point onwards we were making things up as we went along. We had no local currency, just a stash of English bank notes we’d got from cash machines the night before, no idea of where we were going to stay and no idea how to get there. Brilliant! The adventure was just beginning.
Within an hour we were sat by the beach at Puerto Rico, enjoying a couple of beers and had gleaned some info from an English girl working at the bar on where to find a cheap hotel. An hour later we had an excellent room at the Maracaibo with a shower, cooker, fridge, balcony and sea view for a mere ten pounds each per night. We didn’t waste time unpacking but headed straight for the beach and our first dip in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, some seventy miles from the east coast of Africa – bliss! Things were going exceptionally well.
That night we headed of to the centre of town (which wasn’t far as Puerto Rico is tiny) to perform a preliminary recce in the search for the Unidentified Fathering Object – we’ll call him Mr. X in order to preserve Colin Fisher’s anonymity. As there was a pub quiz at La Fiesta we decided the postpone our detective work until tomorrow and get a feel for local culture by enjoying the many fine beverages on offer (especially lager).
(Cultural Footnote: It’s surprising how similar Spanish culture is to our own. Union Jacks dominate the facade of every bar, egg and chips seems to be the staple diet of the locals, they have bingo, pub quizzes, staff who speak English with such impeccable colloquial accents you’d be convinced they all came from Leeds or Newcastle, and a Gary Lineker theme pub – amazing!)
After whipping us up into a frenzy with the pub quiz, La Fiesta then offered us the Zenith of light entertainment – The Elvis Impersonator. Actually he was pretty good, the only thing which shattered our wilful suspension of disbelief that this really WAS The King was his banter with the audience between songs. Granted it was delivered with Elvis’s deep Southern drawl, but did Mr. Presley ever say things like “anyone here from Bradford tonight?”? I think not.
An old bloke sat at the next table was smoking a joint. He offered it to us. What a nice man. He was from Leeds, never goes a single day without rolling a Marley. Kindly gave us a joint of our own. Pretty soon we were stoned and drunk, we were giggling uncontrollably and beginning to worry that The King might take this personally. It was time to go – to the next bar.
Outside every bar in Gran Canaria there seems to be a pretty young British girl whose job it is to entice gullible young lads into their particular bar with promises of free tequila shots and cheap beer. How could we resist? Best of all the beer really was cheap and the tequila plentiful.
Somehow we made it back to the hotel, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever remember how……
Don’t miss the next thrilling instalments of ‘Roistering With Intent” – including ‘Dads, Tarot Cards and Spider Monkeys’ , ‘In Search of the Mythical Tapas’, ‘German Tanning Efficiency’, ‘Three drug deals and a hair extension’ , and ‘Close Encounters of the Stoned Kind’………….
In the first instalment of ‘Roistering’ we left our two drunken heroes stumbling around in their hotel room trying to work out how the hell they managed to get there. One thing was for sure, the bottle of red wine we’d opened before we went out to allow to breathe had lost it’s previous appeal. Iain later developed an intimate relationship with the bathroom floor as he nakedly crawled commando style across the linoleum in a desperate bid to reach the toilet and pray to the Porcelain God before firing a bolt of chunder.
Our gallant adventurers were certainly off to a cracking start.
Tuesday April 28th
Where was I? Why was the sun shining? Why did I have an unquenchable thirst? Who let that pig inside my head? Slowly the answers drifted into my transom – Gran Canaria. Ditto. Dehydration. I let the pig inside my head. There was only one possible course of action to take if our two dashing leading men were to make any sort of recovery – THE FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST. Fortunately, despite being in a Spanish territory off the east coast of Morocco, this wasn’t hard to find. As we padded gently along the promenade, the same girl who’d help us find accommodation yesterday kindly informed us that we could get a big fry up at the bar where she worked and they served “proper sausages – none of those German things”.
Our breakfast hit the spot like a German V2 bomb falling on Coventry.
Having made a partial recovery our two intrepid P.I.s were ready to begin the search for Mr.X.
We went to the beach.
Later, our search began in earnest. But he wasn’t in Ernest so we began by going undercover as two tourists recovering from hangovers and seeking redemption at the Royal Oak British Pub. Pretty soon we had our first concrete lead…….
Previously in “Roistering With Intent”;
Lager, curry, flight, lager, beach, lager, more lager, Elvis, hash, lager, tequila, the darkness…..
The haze, the light, the realisation, the agony, the sausages.
We left our hardy-livered heroes at the Royal Oak British Pub, engaged in the subtle and delicate art of detection. First rule of private investigation – ask a barman.
Jason: Do you know Colin Fisher?
Barman: Colin. Yes. Sets up his fortune telling computer just by the entrance to this plaza at about six o’clock.
It was that easy! We knew where he would be that night. Now I was truly frightened. Part of me had thought, before coming on this trip, that at least if I didn’t find my father then I could always say I’d looked. A bit like MacMurphy in ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’ after he couldn’t lift the sink and throw it through the wall but at least feels the satisfaction of having tried. Now I was confronted with the dilemma of what on earth to do next? This isn’t something they teach you in school – you never have classes entitled “How to Confront Your Biological Father”. Perhaps there should be. If we lived in America this situation would be easy. I’d simply get us both on the Jerry Springer show and announce it to him on TV. Some huge woman would probably run out from the audience and start hitting him, the audience would begin a tribalistic chant of “GO JERRY!” and at the end of it all Jerry would deliver a short moralistic sermon on the evils of illegitimacy. The show would have some snazzy title like “Hey Pop! I’m Your Son!”. If only I was American. I would have had a lifetime of TV education to prepare me for such an event. But, being a repressed Brit I was completely at a loss.
I finally decided on a plan. Tonight Iain and I would introduce ourselves to him. I would simply say something like “remember my uncle? You used to work with him when you were a pianist. He told me to look you up while I was here.” We’d have our fortunes read and then retreat to form a new plan of attack. We’d opted for the proceed slowly and cautiously approach. This, however, didn’t make Tuesday night any less bizarre……..
Still to come – ‘The Tarot Never Lies’, ‘Hey Pop! I’m Your Son!’, ‘The Blues Boozers’, ‘Jeeps Without Germans’, ‘Germans Without Clothes’, ‘Vodka Martinis – Stirred not Shaken’ and ‘Keep Watching The Skies’.
Don’t miss the next action-packed instalment of R.W.I.
To quickly recap. Our spunky heroes, having begun the quest to find Unidentified Fathering Object Colin Fisher, soon became distracted by pretty girls, booze, marijuana and sausages. However, by day two we’d somehow stumbled across the information we were looking for. This naturally presented the dilemma of what to do next. Undeterred, our foolhardy protagonists had decided that tonight was the night when i would finally look my father in the eyes……..
Roistering 4 – The Next Generation
Actually, I’d once looked my father in the eyes before without either of us knowing it. Mum and I bumped into him at Blackpool Fairground when he was earning a living taking photographs of people with a monkey on their shoulder. Strangely enough I can recall that early childhood event. I can’t really recall him but I do remember Mum saying to me, “he used to be a brilliant classical pianist but gave it all up to do this”. That was the only time we’d ever met and Mum gave nothing away. I don’t think he even realised I’d been born about nine months after they’d been together. It’s quite funny really, most fathers have memories of their offspring taking their first faltering steps, burbling their first words, going off to school etc. But I suppose if you asked Colin Fisher about his recollections of fatherhood he’d have to say “I once put a monkey on my son’s shoulders”.
But this time I was armed with knowledge and on a mission to find the missing piece in the jigsaw of myself. I’d come this far. It felt strange but there was no turning back. I wasn’t going to tell him the true nature of my journey tonight but I was actually going to see a glimpse of what could be my future self. The great irony was I was also going to get him to make a computer prediction of my future. As you’ll find out soon, it proved uncannily accurate…….
Apologies for keeping everyone in suspense following ‘R4’, but it’s hard finding the time to write when you’re busy being a spy, international playboy and bus-top tour guide.
…..Having enjoyed an Epicurean repast of Spanish Omelette (very difficult to find bearing in mind that the staple diet of your average Gran Canarian would appear to be egg and chips) our plucky young adventurers were ready to make the first foray into The Fatherdome – a place of mystery, monkeys and uncanny supernatural predictions.
We arrived at the designated time at the booth by the supermarket (although any building which sells ice lollies and flip flops seems to count as a supermarket on the tiny island) and there he was. The Unidentified Fathering Object had been identified for the first time in 27 years. We stood a safe distance away and gazed on in wonderment at a slightly podgy, grey haired man with a marvellous Oliver Reed Moustache. I looked at him. Iain looked at him. I looked at Iain. Iain looked at me. We both looked back to Colin not knowing what to do next. I tried to summon up an eloquent summation of the moment – something profound and quotable for my memoirs;
“Bugger me! It’s me Dad.”
“Well, what shall we do now?” asked Iain.
“Let’s go for a drink.”
“I respect you for that matey. These are on me.” (I was so glad Iain was with me on this trip – a true kindred spirit).
One lager later and we were ready to venture forth and find out what the cards would portend for our future.
But you’ll have to wait until next time for that……
Ok, ok, ok. This will please the moaners and whingers amongst you ‘orrible lot (and you know who you are) who’ve been demanding that Roistering details the first meeting between Colin and I. But to those impatient souls I say this;
Roistering With Intent is a gripping serialisation based upon true events. It is in the nature of a serial to leave the reader on the edge of their pants at the end of each thrilling instalment. These are the rules of the genre and even I would not be so bold as to break them for fear that the Poodles of Retribution should be released from Hell and piss upon the Lamppost of Folly.
The names of characters, places and brands of lager remain unchanged so as not to protect the guilty.
So there I was, having just clapped eyes on my father and feeling decidedly odd and somewhat dazed. I didn’t feel any great wave of emotion or any overpowering filial bond – I never expected to. How could I? He was, after all, a complete stranger, just some bloke stood at a booth. A long time ago he gave me a sperm – just the one. I’ve received bigger and more expensive presents since then – like the brilliant Action Man Helicopter I got for my ninth birthday or the roller blades Mum bought me this Christmas (one day I may consider growing up – nab, bugger it, I bloody won’t) – but that tiny little Jason fish was one small gift that I really wanted to say ‘thank you’ for. Besides, I wanted to evaluate my chances of going bald.
“OK Iain. Let’s go to work.”
We walked over to Colin and his fortune telling computer.
A very suspicious look came over his face. No one ever actually approaches a booth of this kind, instead it’s the stall holder’s job to entice people to part with their pesetas using their charm and cheeky banter. Who were these chaps and what did they want? Protection money? Revenge for a prediction which went horribly awry? Very reluctantly he replied “Yes?”
“How do. My Uncle told me to look you up whilst I was here. You used to work with him when you were a musician. Sam Read.”
Suspicion instantly became relief. This wasn’t some Sicilian ‘Bring Me the Head of Colin Fisher’ scenario, just the nephew of an old friend and his mate on holiday. We began to chat……
…..Oh bollocks, Gwyneth Paltrow’s just showed up at the house again and wants to take yet another look at my collection of antique underpants. I think she’s stalking me. Until next time.
Sorry for the delay but I’ve been languishing on Coconut Island for the past week. Somehow I thought that after the adventure in Gran Canaria life couldn’t get any weirder (especially when you find out what Iain and I saw on the last night of our quest), but travelling round England in the guise of Captain Jason Coconut with my own boatcar, desert island and bikini clad wife really takes the coconut biscuit. Anyway, once Roistering reaches it’s gripping climax I’ll tell you all about the tour in my next serialisation “Fear and Loathing on Coconut Island”. You have been warned.
We left our Knights Templar by a fortune telling booth, having just discovered the Holy Grail of fatherhood, Colin Fisher. Having reassured Colin that we weren’t the local Mafia we struck up a conversation which, for me (and also for Iain as he told me later) had a profound undercurrent of surrealism running through the entire meeting. It’s hard trying to remain cool and Fonz-like during moments such as this – and this was a moment.
I have this theory that there are certain things in life which qualify as true ‘moments’. You can’t categorise them or rationalise them – they simply exist as a brief quantum event in the space-time continuum. In the same way that an atomic particle can spontaneously pop into existence, be given spin, colour, charge, charm, mass, velocity and direction (yet according to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle we can never truly measure all of it’s properties) before spontaneously popping out of existence without anyone ever knowing why it came into existence in the first place, moments can occur in life which defy all of our attempts to measure their cause, effect, significance, value, meaning, etc. As Homer Simpson once so profoundly put it – life is “just a bunch of stuff that happens”. Sometimes out of that stuff there pops into existence a moment. For me at least, this was one of them.
“How do. My Uncle told me to look you up whilst I was here. You used to work with him when you were a musician. Sam Read.”
“Ah Sam. We worked together years ago. I remember how we’d all drive home drunk after playing gigs in Liverpool. Good musician Sam – great guitarist.”
“Yeh, he taught me how to play. Do you play anymore?”
“I’m getting back into it now, playing better than I have in years. I had to give up because I was drinking too much and it affected my playing. Became alcoholic. Haven’t had a drink for nine years now.”
I was beginning to like this man. He seemed totally open and honest. I’d only met him a minute or so ago and already he was talking quite candidly about his drinking problem.
“I hear that you studied with John Ogden?”
“Yes, I was very close to John. Amazing technique, perhaps the greatest pianist of our time.”
“Didn’t he die recently?”
“Yes, back in 1989. A waste of an amazing talent. Put it all into perspective really. How’s your Mum? Did she ever get married………”
More to follow. Must go and iron my sailor’s outfit.
At last! Roistering lives on. There are those amongst you who thought I’d given up on this story just when it was about to get interesting. As if I could be such a tease. No, the simple reason for the prolonged gap was the intervention of Captain Coconut. Now he’s been laid to rest (though there are rumours of a resurrection tour) I can crack on with this sordid little tale of bastardy, drugs and aliens.
To quickly recap; after much stalling involving lager and sausages Iain and I had finally come face to tash with my father – the gloriously non-balding Colin Fisher. Colin was still in the dark about my mission, I’d planned that little bombshell for the following night, instead we were making our first tentative foray into the Fatherdome.
“How’s your Mum? Did she ever get married?”
At this point I was beginning to wonder if Colin was beginning to suspect that he had more to do with me being here (here in the existentialist sense of the word, not here as in ‘here in Gran Canaria’) than I’d led him to believe.
“No, she never married.” Iain and I were watching his expressions and listening to his intonations very carefully. We seemed to be venturing into dangerous territory and every word spoken seemed strangely loaded.
False alarm. If he did have any inkling of what was going on he did a very good job of not showing it. We were still safely in the realms of polite conversation.
“So how long have you lived here?”
“About four years. Came away to make a fresh start and haven’t been back to England since. Well, I did go back in November for a couple of days as it was my mother’s funeral, but that doesn’t really count as a holiday.” Iain immediately realised the significance of what he’d just said. It wasn’t until about twenty minutes later that it struck me.
“Oh, sorry to hear that.”
“I’m going to Blackpool for a couple of weeks in June. It’ll be my first real trip home”.
“Actually, I once met you in Blackpool. You once took a picture of me with a monkey on my shoulder”.
At this point Colin turned to the woman working on the next stall. “You hear that? I once took a picture of him at Blackpool fairground when I had the monkey. Isn’t it funny how your past always catches up with you?”
This was becoming too surreal. “Isn’t it funny how your past always catches up with you?” He’s saying this to his illegitimate son and he’s talking about a bloody monkey. Bizarre overload imminent – DANGER WILL ROBINSON!!!! RED ALERT!!!! MAN THE LIFEBOATS!!!! ICEBERG AHEAD!!!! RUN!!!!! It was time to beat a hasty retreat, but not before we’d had our futures foretold by his fortune telling computer.
Obviously this was a strange, if not unique, scenario. Imagine, if you will, a Hollywood scriptwriter trying to pitch this story to film director Ron ‘Parenthood’ Howard.
“Ok Ron, it’s like this. We have this son – let’s say Michael J. Fox and he has a dad – except he doesn’t know who his dad is and his dad doesn’t know he has a son. You with me so far Ron? Anyway, Michael’s character, let’s call him Jack Danger, gets robbed and suddenly thinks ‘life stinks’ (this is where Michael gets the chance to show his emotional depth as an actor and lose his ‘Teenwolf’ image – the same way that you lost your Richie Cunningham image from Happy Days). So, filled with feelings of anger, self-pity, pessimism, you know real kinda Robert De Niro stuff – maybe we could have a vigilante subplot for the kids? – Jack calls up his mom and says “Hi mom, just been robbed. Life can’t get any worse. By the way, who’s my pop, because if he’s a low-life, pimpin’ gangsta, drug addict, serial killin’ mutha it really doesn’t matter anymore.”
So cut to the chase. Jack’s fear were groundless. His father isn’t like leatherface in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (hey, maybe we could have like some interesting dream sequence in which Jack pulls of leatherface’s mask of human skin only to reveal Jack’s own face staring back at him – cool). His dad was some sort of concert pianist who, now just run with this for a moment Ron, gave it all up to work with a monkey. Ok Ron, I can see I’m losing you here but just hang on in there, this is deep man, real deep.
We do lot’s of character development stuff and introduce Jack’s friend Iain (I see Johnny Depp), who happens to be a Private Detective. He locates Colin in Gran Canaria and they go off on this like quest – real King Arthur/Terry Gilliam stuff. It’s like a road movie, a detective movie and a Tarzan adventure.
Now Ron I know you’re a busy man and you want to go shopping for baseball caps real soon so I’ll make this quick.
We have this scene. It’s like a tableau. A sultry Canarian night. A fortune telling booth. Jack and Iain are there, face to face with Jack’s Father (I see Bob Hoskin’s). They talk about monkeys and then Jack’s pop reads their fortunes. Like Ron man. What a scene. How Surreal. All those layers of meaning. Deep shit man. Really Deep. Only you could film this.
So, whaddaya think Ron….?”
So what did the oracle portend? Colin offered us a discount if we had both our Horoscopes and Tarot cards read by computer. We still have them. You’ve got to admit, it’s an unusual holiday souvenir.
Hello Jason……This is your personal Astroscope….
Date of Birth – Thursday 2 July 1970 :- 10162 Days old [I hadn’t been counting]…
Thursday Child Has Far to Go….
You were Born under the Star Sign of Cancer
Behind your hard outer shell [do I have a hard outer shell?] lies a sensitive caring personality. The Family unit is of great importance to you [already becoming spooky]…Some Cancerians are a bit lazy and don’t have much ambition. They need to be constantly told that they are loved. Diana Rigg, Ringo Starr [nice one] and Lady Diana [not her again, she gets in everything these days].
…Chinese year of the Dog
This indicates that your life tends to be tinged with anxiety and that you become obsessed with trivia [There’s nothing trivial about Roger Moore!]……..
..Alan Bates, David Niven and Kate Bush [a good selection of dogs].
…And now your Horoscope
…. Your sex life should be sensational at least until next Wednesday. Then it becomes rather too much of a good thing. [What sex life??? Didn’t know computers were capable of taking the piss] At work a new element is introduced and you may find yourself doing more writing [Roistering?], speaking or travelling [Coconut Island tour?]
– A reasonable Horoscope but the real coup de grace was to come in the Tarot reading –
Card Number 61
This card represents a person who is about to enter your life or may be a part of your life already. You will not be able to ignore this very powerful man, he may be a skilled business man, someone in government or a strong fatherly figure.
Things had just gone beyond any reasonable person’s weirdness threshold. It was time for Iain and I to go to the pub and reflect.
We said our goodbyes to Colin and went to the nearest bar. They had a Karaoke evening on. It had to be done. Meet dad – sing karaoke. Why not? As we were making our selection (we wanted to do a slow Elvis number but the manager was keen for us to do something more up tempo to get the audience going) a thought occurred to me.
“Bloody hell Iain, that was me Gran that died in November.”
“I know mate, I thought that as soon as he said his mother had died. I thought ‘That’s Jason’s Gran.'”
“Funny old game innit?”
To be continued……
Sorry for the huge delay, as you probably know I’ve been away from Gormenghast’s (that’s the name of our house) operations centre for the past few weeks. Here ’till tomorrow so I may as well knock up the next instalment of Roistering.
You may remember that things were getting decidedly supernormal within the domain of The Fatherdome and Our two Magnum P.I.s had beat a hasty retreat to the nearest bar where we left them trying to select a Karaoke song which met with the manager’s approval. Inspired by the performance of the Elvis Impersonator at La Fiesta the previous night (yes we are still only on day two) Iain and I favoured ‘Love me Tender’ or ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, five minutes later we were up on stage strutting our stuff to ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’ from The Blues Brothers. It wasn’t our choice and I did feel somewhat ridiculous having to say “And we’re so happy to see so many members of Illinois law enforcement community” in a place perpetually sans Americans. Still, we performed the song with passion, gusto and even attempted to mimic the dance moves of Jake and Elwood Blues. However, our free-form interpretation of both the music and lyrics seemed lost on the audience and we could sense them slipping away from us. We mustered all our soulful reserves for the big finale and somehow managed to recover some ground before ambling off the stage to a gentle ripple of polite applause from a very bemused looking crowd, who must have been thinking to themselves “why the hell didn’t they do something simple like Love Me Tender?’. Next to grace the stage was an eight year old girl who brought the house down with a tear-jerking rendition of ‘I Believe I Can Fly’. Call us old cynics but Iain and I thought that she was shamelessly using her cute appeal to entice the crowd.
We left. Day two was finally coming to an end…almost.
Back at the Maracaibo hotel Iain and I wasted no time in accessing our booze reserves from the previous night. By midnight the outdoor pool had never looked more inviting. We gathered our provisions (wine , glasses, towels, etc) and headed downstairs for a dip. This was the life. England, work, money, bills all seemed to exist in some far way world. It was a moment of beautiful serenity – then Iain fell on his arse. It was a glorious fall though, almost balletic. If I was going to fall on my arse I hope I could do it in the same way. A good arse fall involves continued forward momentum and an upward motion of the legs resulting in the arse being the initial point of contact between body and floor. It also helps if the fall is immediately followed by a direct reference to the arse – “Ow! Me arse!” Iain’s poolside fall fulfilled all the criteria for a good arse fall and, if a panel of judges had been present, he would no doubt have scored maximum points for both technical merit and artistic interpretation.
And that was day two. It had started with a hangover and ended with a magnificent fall, but somewhere along the line I’d met my dad. Now all I had to do was tell him. Would I do it? Could I summon the courage? What would I say? What would he say? You’ll have to wait a couple of instalments to find out because in the next Roistering our two rugged adventurers go on a jeep safari – no Germans Guaranteed.
Wednesday April 29th
Some people go abroad and never really leave home. Others don’t. Iain and I considered ourselves to belong to the latter category. We didn’t want the ease of package holidays with pre-booked hotels, all inclusive meals (of the home cooked variety) and inane travel representatives. No, we weren’t mere tourists, instead we believed ourselves to be the archetypal ‘travellers’ – brave, inquisitive, ready for action and adventure, calm, cool and composed in the face of danger and positively oozing savoir-faire. That’s why we decided to go on a jeep safari; to get away from the beaches and the tourists and see the untamed heart of the island. However, there is one dictum upon which both the timid tourist and fearless traveller will always agree – avoid the Germans.
Iain and I had yet to encounter the teutonic hoards which descend en masse upon Gran Canaria each year, but we were becoming increasingly aware of their existence. The previous day just prior to our detective work at the Royal Oak pub, we’d notice a small tourist information booth offering jeep safaris, boat trips, watersports, etc. It was, of course, the idea of a safari that appealed to our Indiana Jones sensibilities so we decided to make some enquiries.
“He does the safaris for the English on Wednesdays and Fridays” said the Oirish girl in the booth.
“What about other days?” Asked Iain.
“Oh that’s when he takes out the Germans. You don’t want to go with them.”
“Does he do the tours in German too then?”
“Oh no, but you wouldn’t be wanting to go with the Germans.”
We tried to maintain some semblance of political correctness by muttering something like “well, we’re not really bothered” but the knowing smile of the girl in the booth tacitly acknowledged the fact that this was just an attempt to save face and that no one, but no one who’s a Brit goes on a day out with the dreaded Hun. They may have lost the war but they’ve been fighting us on the beaches ever since.
We booked our tickets for the following day – Brit Day. Our encounter with the Germanic tribes had been avoided, but, as you’ll soon learn, the full terror of the Master Race was still to come.
The jeep safari was to depart from Macdonalds at 9 a.m Wednesday morning. This was not good, we were both hung over and Iain was complaining of a sore arse – the result of sunburn and his spectacular poolside fall. A greasy spoon breakfast was urgently required. Macdonalds was out of the question for a number of reasons;
1) Macdonalds is an out of control corporate monster. Devouring culture in favour of conformity in it’s unstoppable Godzilla-like global assault on society. Empire building has never been so bland.
2) It’s shit with piss on it.
Fortunately there was a greasy spoon across the road which promised a hearty repast of egg, sausage, bacon, beans, mushrooms, fried bread and, of course, a cuppa tea – the perfect combination for soaking up alcohol from the body’s fragile alco-system. There was a bloke on the table next to us still drinking beer. He told us he’d been on an all night bender and was obviously in no mood for quitting. He did, however, ask us the code for England so he could call his Mum. Perhaps he was homesick. Bless.
Iain was still not firing on all cylinders. A selection of Country and Western favourites was being played over the Cafe’s sound system, on a nearby corner was a mechanical horse which would occasionally make horsy noises. Iain failed to notice the horse….
“Funny isn’t it, the way they’ve recorded horse sounds on these songs.”
“What do mean? That’s not part of the music. There’s a bloody mechanical horse over there you plonker!”
“Well, how was I to know? I just thought that as it’s Country and Western it’s fair to assume it would include the sound of horses. Anyway, it’s too early, my brains not fully functioning yet.”
Then the jeep arrived, we were about to begin our journey to the interior – in search of the real Gran Canaria….
Wednesday. The Jeep Safari begins. Safari? So goody!
Our travelling companions for the day were a very sweet English family (chatty Grandma, lovely Mum, doting Dad and bright seven year old boy) and a French couple who spoke very little English but smiled a lot and seemed to be enjoying themselves (I tried to tell them my one French knock-knock joke, they gave a polite and slightly bemused look of amusement/bewilderment).
Dave was our driver/guide. This was his company. He’d left behind his humdrum life back in Blighty and come to Gran Canaria to do what he loves the most – drive like a maniac on narrow, high, curvy roads. Yes, Dave was one of life’s thrillseekers and he was keen to share his love of near death experiences with his passengers. Fortunately, everyone in the jeep was game for some danger and excitement. I’ll never forget the thrill standing up and holding onto the roll bar and all the passengers leaning with the jeep as we took the tightest of corners at unfeasably high speeds. It was like being in The A-Team.
We saw some spectacular sights – extinct volcanoes, lakes, forests, a camel park, but the award for Most Outstanding Natural Wonder must go to the Dagenham Cleavage we saw by a roadside snack van. For those amongst you who are unfamiliar with the term Dagenham Cleavage, this in fact refers to the world-wide phenomenon of the workman’s bottom – the titillating hint of bottom crack exposed when a fat workman gets down on the job. This bloke’s cleavage was incredible! You could have parked your bike in it. He was enormous, sat on a very small stool, leaning forward and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts which covered only a very minor surface area of his lower bottom. I had to take a photograph. Maybe I should send it in to Workman’s Weekly – show them how it should be done.
The jeep safari had been a great adventure, and best of all it had taken my mind off my plan for the evening – telling Colin Fisher he was my father. Stuff suicidal cornering, this was going to be the scariest part of the day……
Captain Coconut is no more. I’m home again and glad to be here. Time to finish this once and for all….
Wednesday Night – “In Search of the Mythical Tapas” and “Hey Pop! I’m Your Son.”
The safari had been an excellent diversion from the job at hand, but the time had come to make my final and most terrifying leap into The Fatherdome and I can honestly say that I’d never felt more nervous. How do you tell a total stranger he’s your father? Forget steel, this was going to take cojones of pure Kryptonite. There was no way I could do this on an empty stomach, so Iain and I decided to seek out a traditional Spanish tapas bar. If this food gave Spanish men the courage to face down a raging bull whilst wearing a ridiculous hat and effeminate trousers then maybe it would work for me. The only trouble was, despite Gran Canaria being a Spanish territory, the supposedly indigenous tapas proved to be damned elusive. So alien was the concept of sampling the local culture to the majority of waiters we questioned, that Iain and I were beginning to feel rather maverick.
“Do you serve tapas here?”
“Yes, you know – Spanish food.”
“We have omelettes.”
“No, we want tapas.”
“What about a curry?”
“No, we want to try real Spanish food.”
“Do you know where we can get tapas?”
“No, try asking the bloke at the Chinese restaurant over there. He might know.”
(Bloody hell, finding tapas was proving much more difficult than it had been finding my Dad.)
We finally found the near mythical tapas bar down a small sidestreet. Not only did it serve Spanish food, but Spanish people ate there too – so that’s where they’d all been hiding (probably trying to avoid the Germans).
Despite such arduous searching I can’t even remember if the food was good or bad. It could have been Macdonalds for all the attention I was paying to the qui sine. Tapas was the last thing on my mind: my main concern was with Papas. His fortune telling booth was just around the corner and I knew he’d be there by now. Last night he’d told me about my future, tonight I was going to tell him a little about his past.
So, it had come this far. I could have just left things as they were, knowing that at least I’d seen my father, but that would have been a cowardly retreat. We came with a mission and I wasn’t about to bottle out on the brink of completion (tempting though it was). Time for the big push…
Iain went to Snoopy’s Bar, awaiting reports of my reconnaissance and mustering the lager reserves. I walked to the entrance of the plaza where Colin had his fortune telling stall. I paced. I hovered. I tried to rehearse my opening line but the more I thought about what I was going to say the more difficult it became finding the right words;
“Hey Dad!” – NO
“Do you know who my father is? I’ll give you three guesses.” – NO
“I’ve got something of yours. Your DNA!!!” – NO
“I’m so glad you’re not bald. Do you know why?” – NO, NO, NO, NO!
Fuck it! Just go and tell him. I waited for his customers to leave, braced my steel cojones and manfully strode up to the stall.
“Hello. So what do you do then?” Arrrrrgghhhh. Bollocks! He’s made a pre-emptive strike by establishing polite conversation. Now, instead of just coming out with it I would have to try and steer the talk towards paternity.
“Oh, I’m a tour guide on those London sightseeing buses. It’s really cheesy.” Well done Jase, you arse. This is not the time to be self-deprecating. How’s he to know that I do it all the time? I want him to like me, not think I’m a bloody idiot.
I had to do it now before I confessed to having a fetish for safari suits.
– TESTICULAR STATUS: SOFTENING; CODE YELLOW –
“Erm, you know last night when I said that I was just coming here for a holiday and my Uncle told me to look you up? Well, I wasn’t being entirely truthful. You see I actually came here to find you because….
– TESTICULAR STATUS: JELLY; CODE RED –
..You’re my dad.”
To be continued…..
“No I’m not!”
Of all the reactions I’d envisaged, denial was not one of them. I was stunned and not sure what to say next. Having a father is something you take for granted. We all know that someone is responsible for jump-starting our egg. But I’d forgotten that the same doesn’t apply in reverse. Ever since I’d dismissed the idea that I magically sprung into being from the rosebud in my Gran’s back garden I knew that the person other kids at school referred to as a ‘Dad’ was strangely absent from our house. Not that this bothered me, Dads seemed to serve no particular purpose and they all looked rather large and frightening. But, over the years I’d grown accustomed to the fact that, repulsive though the thought was, I too was the spawn of one of these Dad-creatures. Then, before beginning our Gran Canarian quest, I’d had a couple of months to get used to then fact that this creature was known as Colin Fisher. Poor old Colin had just been confronted with the shocking proposition that this strange little fellow stood before him was a hitherto unknown Son-creature. No wonder he said “no I’m not!.”
“Yes you are,” brilliant comeback Jase “why would I come all this way just to make up something like that?”
Colin was visibly shaken, he was obviously beginning to realise that it was entirely possible that he really was my father.
“But nobody told me – nobody accused me.”
“Nobody told me for twenty seven years, and it wasn’t a case of accusation. Mum decided that she would bring me up alone so she made up a story that she’d got drunk at a party, passed out and had no recollection of who the father might be. Sam [my uncle] knows but he says he worked it out for himself. Mum’s always kept it a secret.”
“But I saw Christine about twelve years ago, outside Marks and Spencers in Lancaster, she never said anything.”
“Well, she wouldn’t would she? Not after so long. She’s never wanted any help bringing me up and she’s been brilliant. I’m not here because I feel that something’s missing, or because I want something from you, I was just naturally curious – wouldn’t anyone be?”
“Well, I don’t know what to say.” Colin now seemed to be in a state of shock. I felt really sorry for him and was beginning to wonder if I’d done the right thing.
“I don’t expect you to know what to say. I’ve had a long time to get used to this and I still don’t know what to say. This is very strange.” Now the surrealism of this encounter was starting to get to me. It was gradually starting to seep into my consciousness that I’d actually done it and I was beginning to feel a little light headed.
We shared a moment’s stunned silence. Neither of us really knowing what to do or say. Then I remembered I had the letter I’d written to him with me, the one that was returned because it had the wrong address.
“I wrote you a letter when I found out. I made up some story and got the address off a bloke called Barry Elfin but it must have been wrong.”
I gave Colin the still unopened letter, he looked at the address and tried to recall if he’d ever lived there.
“You know I’ve had a few different addresses since I’ve lived here. I think I used to live on that road once but the apartment number doesn’t ring a bell. Now it must have been a couple of years ago since Barry was here…….”
I think we both welcomed the opportunity to engage in small talk that the wrongly addressed letter gave us. We chatted about how I’d found him here and I asked him not to phone home and speak to my Mum as I hadn’t yet told her about the purpose of the trip. I feel bad about not telling Mum, so far this is the only secret I’ve ever kept from her. The reason is that if I leave it a while before telling Mum I’ve met Colin she’ll know that enough time has passed for there to be no repercussions. Or perhaps I’m just a coward. I said that if he wants to speak to anyone about me then he should call my uncle who was then staying at my house looking after our cats.
By now Colin was looking extremely upset. I was feeling so sorry for him that I wanted to give him a big hug but I knew I couldn’t. The best thing I could do was leave, give him a chance to think about what I’d said and to read the letter.
“Look, I can see you’re working and I’m taking up your time. Why don’t I leave you to finish here and then maybe later you can read the letter.”
“Well, I should get back to work. I’m only here for a few hours each night. I’ll read the letter when I’m finished.”
We shook hands.
“My address is in then letter if you want to get in touch.”
“Oh I’ll be in touch.” Those were his last words to me.
So far, he hasn’t been in touch…..
You may think that I am disappointed about the way things turn out between Colin and I. An uncomfortable exchange by a fortune telling stall and an unfulfilled promise to get in touch. But that simply isn’t the case. I never really knew why I wanted to tell him, I only know that I did. To have known he was out there somewhere and to have done nothing was something I couldn’t take to the grave with me. Whatever happens next and whatever comes of this, even if it’s absolutely nothing, I’ve done my part. It’s like in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Sean Conerry finally finds the Holy Grail. He doesn’t want to keep it, he’s happy simply to have found it and to know it exists.
You may also think that Roistering ends here but, surprisingly, the weirdness just kept on coming, ending with a spectacular night time climax on a deserted, wave swept jetty by an eerily empty hotel.
Back to Wednesday night. I left Colin’s stall and found Iain at Snoopy’s Bar just around the corner. I told him the details of what happened as he too was keeping a journal and hoping to turn the ups and downs of our lives since the panto cow experience into a novel called ‘Deflating Julio’. Actually, I think Iain’s holiday journal is more accurate than mine as he had more of an objective outlook on the first half of the week, though he really was a part of this and I doubt if I could have done it without him. And he always said the most encouraging things;
“You know mate, you’re a brave man.”
“You think so matey?”
“Definitely. So what are we going to do next? We have the hotel until tomorrow night, do you want to stay here and maybe see Colin again or move on?”
“Let’s move on…” This was a dream come true. I had the opportunity to genuinely say a line that I’d wanted to say ever since I first began having childhood fantasies about being a maverick action hero, a rootless drifter doing good and fighting for the oppressed wherever life tossed him. My jaw hardened, my eyes became all squinty, voice husky, then I spoke that immortal line;
“……Our work here is done.”
Coming soon. Drug Dealers, Naked Germans, Julio the Crocodile, Half-pints of Vodka-Martini and UFOs.
Thursday April 30th
During our stay on Gran Canaria the Thursday was exceptional only for it’s normality. This was the sort of day REAL TOURISTS have. We sunbathed on the beach, swam in the ocean, read our books, wrote our postcards and journals and, of course, ended the day by getting riotously drunk. We hadn’t even planned to go out drinking, we fancied a game of pool and knew of an open air bar with an outdoor table. As we were there – well, we might as well have just the one. A rather nice waitress in a slinky low-cut black number served our drinks. Her name was Jessica, but she said we could simply call her ‘Bird’. Iain and I were rather horrified by this and insisted that we could never be so ungentlemanly. Anyway, Jessica seemed to like us and would keep coming over for a chat when she wasn’t busy – and, naturally, as she was there Iain and I used the opportunity to order more drinks. And that’s how the evening progressed, eventually ending with Iain and I running out of money and Jessica slipping us extra lager when no one was looking. Once again we shambled back to the hotel, opened a bottle of cheap Spanish wine and went for a midnight swim. This, truly, was the life.
Friday May 1st
Woke up at noon, which wasn’t too clever as this was the time we were supposed to check out. Too hungover to do anything in a hurry, we slowly packed, showered then checked-out, profusely apologising to the receptionist as we did so – not that she seemed at all bothered by our lateness, after all it must be a fairly common occurrence. Cured our hangovers by devouring two huge mixed grills at ‘Fat Cat’s Diner’. Glorious. We were now ready to face the day, but nothing could have prepared us to face …..THE GERMANS!
THE THING ABOUT GERMANS IS….
1) Many German men sport ill-advised facial hair, which always grows straight and thin instead of bushy and thick like the archetypal Brit tash.
2) So do many German women.
3) German’s are ruthlessly efficient in everything they do, including tanning.
4) There is an inverse ratio between the size of a German’s stomach and the size of his posing pouch.
5) They have a worse dress sense than Americans. (More on this topic later).
6) Germans are obsessed with sausages.
7) Germans think lederhosen are romantic.
8) No part of a German’s anatomy could be considered ‘private’.
9) They really do eat pumpernickel for breakfast.
10) The always come in hordes.
And of course….
“They bombed our chippy.”
This is what Iain and I were confronted with upon our arrival at what was supposed to be the Gran Canarian party hotspot Playa Del Ingles (ironically translated as ‘beach of the English’). We took a bus there from Puerto Rico, mistakenly got off a few stops before the town centre and therefore had to walk along the promenade with our bags until we hit the main tourist section. Our plan was simple, do as we had done a few days before and go into a bar, find a nice young waitress and ask her for advice on where to find cheap accommodation. After all, this had worked perfectly last time.
We came across a beachside plaza full of bars and souvenir emporiums and decided this was obviously the place to put Operation El Cheapo into action. But then we began noticing something strange about the bars. Instead of having solid, dependable Brit sounding names like ‘The Royal Oak’, ‘Lineker’s’ ‘The James Joyce’ and our fave ‘The Invincible British Pub’ (I’m serious) all the drinking establishments had strange Germanic names like ‘Mozart’s’, ‘The Rhine land’, ‘Lili Marlene’s’ and ‘Hitler’s Soul Food Diner’ (ok, so I made the last one up but you get the picture). And instead of being staffed by pretty young English rose types, they all seemed to have men in lederhosen serving huge tankards of lager. Suddenly, the horror of our predicament became unnervingly clear – WE WERE ENTIRELY SURROUNDED BY GERMANS! Nothing, not even sitting through three hours of Saving Private Ryan, has brought home to me more the nightmare of the 2nd World War.
In the last instalment we left our two Desperados surrounded by Germans at the ironically monikered beach resort of Playa Del Ingles becoming increasingly frustrated by their inability to find a cheap hotel.
During our wanderings we came across what seemed to be the main square. It was very quiet at this time of day but there was one suspicious looking fellow shuffling around and doing a remarkable job of looking, well, suspicious. He spotted us and made has move;
The word seemed to cause an immediate chemical reaction in Iain’s brain, one which caused terminal meltdown of his judgement system and started a chain reaction that later ended in a catastrophic comedy of errors.
“Iain, this bloke seems a bit dodgy.” This may seem like a ridiculous thing to say, after all he was a drug dealer, but even drug dealers have standards.
“Ok, we might come back later,” said Iain and with that we continued our search for a hotel. We found one just around the corner…..
…..Later that day we were on the rooftop of the hotel, attending to our laundry.
“He’s still there Jase.”
“The drug dealer. I can see him down in the square.”
“Well what do you think? He looks a bit seedy. Do you think he’d rip us off?”
“Nah, it’ll be all right. Besides I’ll check the stuff before we buy any. We’ll pay him a visit before we hit the pubs.”
…..Later that evening.
Iain had decided to do the talking…..
“I thought you said two.”
“Well can I see it?”
The dealer then took a lump of brown matter wrapped in cellophane from his jacket pocket and waved it enticingly in front of Iain’s eyes. The effect was mesmerising, within nanoseconds Iain had handed over 3000 pesetas and was now running off to the nearby churchyard in search of a private spot to inspect the merchandise. I soon caught up with him, he was already looking somewhat perturbed.
“It feels a bit soft a squidgy, and it smells [sniff], smells of nothing really. Bastard! Let’s get our money back.”
Needless to say, in the 30 seconds or so it had taken Iain to deduce we’d been conned, our friendly neighbourhood squidgy lump dealer had disappeared without trace, no doubt happy to have fulfilled his gullible tourist quota for the day, and Iain and I were left contemplating the mind-altering properties of putty.
“I can’t believe I paid him without checking it first. What an idiot!”
“Never mind mate, it’s only 1500 each. It isn’t a lot. Let’s go and get some drinks.”
We began walking through the square and very quickly found ourselves accosted by a group of African women in native dress carrying what appeared to be bags of human hair. (It seemed as if the whole bloody square had picked up the scent of our gullibility). They waved their bags at us;
Sensing a tourist trap I did the only sensible thing. I ran. Iain was not so fortunate. Still somewhat shell-shocked from the hashish debacle he took the bait;
This was the cue for the largest of the African ladies to grab Iain’s head and set to work platting a ‘trendy’ hair extension using strands of the ‘American hair’ she was carrying. I had to do something to try and prevent Iain being ripped off twice within the space of ten minutes. I had to warn him but I knew that if I stopped moving then my scalp would also be prey to the African platters. The simple answer was to run in circles around him shouting;
“Iain run away! Before it’s too late.”
My evasive manoeuvres did not deter one game young lass from giving chase. Armed with only two strands of hair she relentlessly stalked her quarry as I ran backwards, encircling Iain and trying to politely refuse the coiffure offers of my pursuer. The entire scene was like something from a new, updated and politically correct version of Benny Hill.
Realising that it was too late to save Iain I gave up my circling tactics and ran away from the square. There was a phone box around the corner. I telephoned my uncle to see if Colin had called. He hadn’t. I returned to the square and saw that Iain was now free from the throng. Something seemed to be sprouting from the side of his head. Closer inspection revealed this to be a long strand of platted hair which was tied off with some decorative coloured beads.
“How much did that cost you?”
“1000 pesetas, but she wanted 3000.”
“Well done mate. Knocking the price down for something you didn’t actually want in the first place.”
“What could I do? She grabbed my hair and then started chatting to me. She said they’re all from Senegal. I can’t believe that I’ve given away 4000 pesetas in the last ten minutes.”
“Never mind. Now let’s definitely go and get those drinks.”
“How does it look?”
“A bit silly, but I think you should keep it, sort of like an albatross around your neck. The next time anyone approaches you and tries to sell you something it will be a reminder to say “no”.”
A little later we were enjoying a cold beer at the Ministry of Sound. There were a couple of Germans on the table next to us. We could tell they were German because of the straightness of their moustache hair and their 1980s casual clothes. But more on the topic of German fashion later. A friendly Spanish barman brought the next round of drinks to our table. Iain reached into his pocket for some cash and along with his pesetas he also pulled out the lump of Playdough wrapped in cellophane that he’d bought earlier.
“What’s that?” Asked the barman.
“We thought it was hash, but we were ripped off. Here smell.” Iain handed him the lump.
“That’s definitely not hash. But I can get you some good stuff.”
The albatross had flown……
“Jase, this is my shot at redemption. I’ll negotiate a good price and make sure it’s not fake before handing over any more money. I know I can get it right this time. When the barman comes back for the next round I’ll ask him if he can get us some gear.”
“Well, if you’re sure you know what your doing.”
“Trust me mate, this time I won’t get ripped off.”
Iain arranged a meeting in the gents toilet to sample the goods. He came back looking very pleased with himself.
“I did it mate! It’s real and it was only 1000 pesetas. I feel better now – I’ve redeemed myself.”
“Well done Kiddo. We’ll go and smoke some on the sand dunes later.”
The evening progressed as many of our evenings do. We drank, smoked cigarettes, discussed life, the universe, why James Bond is so rubbish now. We became quite chummy with David, the barman who’d sorted our drugs. For some reason we were given party bags full of goodies so we both ended up wearing silly paper hats. The evening was going splendidly well, then Iain realised that his lighter had run out.
“Wait there mate, I’ll just go and buy some matches.”
Finally Iain returned.
“Nowhere’s open. I’ve been all over trying to find somewhere that sells matches or lighters. What are we going to do? We’ve got this gear and no means of creating fire.”
“What about the stove in our room?”
“I’ve got it. We’re in a busy bar. I’ll do a reccy and try to steal a lighter.”
It seemed so simple at the time. Walk casually to the toilets, artfully pocketing someone’s lighter on the way. The trouble was no one had left their lighter in an easily pinchable position. I returned to our table feeling a little deflated.
“No luck. I just couldn’t get a clean shot at a lighter.”
“I’ll have a go then.”
Iain returned equally empty handed. We both tried a few more times but eventually had to concede defeat. It seemed so cruel to be thwarted at the final hurdle, like being given a stash of Playboy magazines then having your hands tied behind your back.
“We must have fire!” I was on a mission now. “I’ll ask David.”
It worked. David lent me his lighter. I was sure he wouldn’t mind if we didn’t return it until tomorrow. We’d finally achieved our objective and everything was now in place for a relaxing star gazing session on the dunes. Without further ado we left the bar and headed for our hotel.
We were about halfway up the escalator leading to the main plaza when Iain suddenly reached for his shirt pocket and shouted “Fuck!”
“What is it?”
“I’ve left my packet of fags on the table.”
“So, what’s the big deal?”
“The drugs are inside.” With that Iain bolted back down the escalator a desperate bid to retrieve his cigarette packet. A minute or so later he was coming back up the escalator, frantically trying to charm a very satisfied looking young girl into parting with the packet of Marlborough Lights she was holding. For once, Iain’s charm seemed to have no effect. In fact the whole thing ended with the girl slapping Iain across the face then scrunching up the cigarette packet and tossing it contemptuously to the floor. Iain quickly examined it’s contents.
“She’d already taken the stuff.”
Poor Iain. He looked so dejected that I thought he was about to cry. Let’s face it, this had not been his best night. He’d managed to spend 5000 pesetas of our joint holiday funds and all he had to show for it was a hippy hair extension.
I returned the lighter to David. There was no point in keeping it now.
“Enjoy the smoke,” he said as I was leaving. Little did he know that someone else was going to be enjoying it on our behalf.
We returned to our hotel. Iain’s mood had progressed beyond demoralisation and he was now in the throws of a full on paddy – stomping about, bashing pans around in the kitchen and cursing himself for the entire evening.
“Calm down mate. Let’s just put this one down to experience. Just say “I’m a great big banana”. What are yer?”
“A great big banana.”
“Good. Let’s get some sleep.”
“Tomorrow night I’ll get it right. I will redeem myself.”
Saturday May 2nd
We actually managed to get up in time for the hotel breakfast, Iain was still going over the previous night and planning his big comeback deal. It was more than just a drug thing now – pride was at stake. Sauntering into the dining hall we were immediately struck by the strange conspiracy of style which seemed to pervade the entire room. Then it became all too clear, we were the only two diners who weren’t German.
Germans have a bizarre dress sense. In many ways they dress very similarly to Americans but with a hint of European perversity. Uptight American casual meets 80s porn. For example, Germans will, without exception, tuck their shirts or T-shirts into denims and short trousers (calling them ‘shorts’ does not accurately reflect the formality with which they are worn) and will often complete the ‘casual outdoor look’ with a designer leather belt. It simply does not work. Neither do shellsuits with gold jewellery, leather trousers without a motorbike, shoulder pads with anything. And the hair! There were so many mullets in that dining room that I could have been attending a convention of ‘Guys That Girls Fought Over on the Jerry Springer Show’. And of course, I’ve already said as much as I’m prepared to say on the subject of the Aryan Ubertash. Compared to our fellow diners Iain and I looked positively grungy (especially Iain with his hair extension). I so desperately wanted to run around the room ruffling hair, and untucking shirts whilst shouting “free yourselves.”
Breakfast was good though, despite the substitution of real sausages for Frankfurters and the inexplicable presence of pumpernickel on the buffet table.
It was over breakfast that Iain finalised the details of his masterplan;
“Right. You keep all the money from now on. I’ll arrange to buy some more gear from David. Once I’ve checked it out you give me 1000 pesetas to buy it. As soon I’ve I get the stuff I’ll give it to you for safekeeping. If it all goes according to plan I’ll feel as if I’ve redeemed myself.”
“Don’t worry mate. You can do it. Eye of the tiger.”
“Cheers Jase. Don’t worry. This time I’m prepared.”
Shortly after breakfast we headed for the beach. Whilst buying our water provisions at the gift shop next to the hotel Iain and I both noticed a life-sized inflatable crocodile. Needless to say, we felt strangely intoxicated by its primordial allure. We knew we’d be back…..
Have you ever noticed that ‘dune’ is an anagram of ‘nude’?
Ah, the sand dunes of Maspalamas. They are truly beautiful. Striding manfully across such soft, curvaceous peaks it’s impossible not to imagine yourself as Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. Climb to the top and your feet sink deeply into the warm sands as you make your ascent. Once you’ve reached the summit, roll down the other side – pure, unadulterated, childlike joy. The winds constantly blow the fine sands around so that if you spend any length of time laying on the dunes you quickly become submerged in a soft, golden sea.
After a couple of hours on the dunes Iain and I were both looking like the literal versions of Mr. Sandman. We needed to head for the water before we became completely mummified.
The beach was about half a mile away and we’d taken the unusual route of approaching it via the dunes. As we got closer Iain noticed something strange.
“That blokes in the nip!”
“Over to the right.”
“Bloody hell! He is. He’s in the nip!”
About fifty yards or so to our right stood an old, fat, bronzed naked man. Undeterred we ventured forth. It was then that we began to notice the round Hobbit holes in the sand – small bunkers which all contained old, fat, bronzed naked people. As we drew closer to the waters edge it became clear that everyone, except ourselves, was old, fat, bronzed, naked AND GERMAN! Yes Iain and I had inadvertently stumbled onto a German nudist beach. A vista of efficiently tanned flabby buttocks, and hundreds of pendulous breasts, which had long since given up the fight against gravity, released from their industrial-strength containment bras.
I’ve never been able to decide whether the popularity of naturism amongst Germans can be attributed to good old-fashioned exhibitionism or ruthless efficiency. They certainly go all out to maximise their tanning performance, even to the extent of shaving off their pubic hair. I know that being comfortable with your body is a good thing, and the Germans should be applauded for their openness, but there was something about being there that was inherently scary. Yet we decided to stay for a while, in order to observe this peculiar cultural phenomenon. We even debated whether or not to take our clothes off too but decided that our milky white British bottoms which rarely get to see the light of day simply couldn’t compete with the dark brown buttocks of our German counterparts. Pretty soon we had about as much as we could take. We headed back to the hotel – we had a crocodile to rescue…..
Anyone who’s visited our house since the Gran Canaria trip will realise that the crocodile we liberated from the gift shop is Julio, who now permanently resides in our bathroom. It took us ages to inflate him, but he was worth it. We spent the rest of the afternoon indulging in Tarzanesque crocodile wrestling antics in our hotel room. Julio’s a feisty bugger and he soon wore us down, a siesta was required then it was off to the Ministry of Sound where Iain was hoping to find redemption……
We’d bought matches and a lighter in advance, and left them in our hotel room for safekeeping. Iain was the negotiator. I was the banker. The plan was a simple one, but experience told us that things could go wrong. We returned to the same bar, sat at the same table and were approached by the same barman. It was like Groundhog Day with Iain as Bill Murray, forced to live the same night over and over again until he gets it right. David was pleased to see that we’d returned.
“Hey guys. How yah doing? Good stuff eh?”
The truth was not an option.
“Yeh, great! Really good.”
Then Iain put Operation Albatross into effect;
“Can we get some more?”
“How much do you want?”
“The same as last night?”
“No problemo amigo.” Then he spotted someone by the entrance. “Hey that guy over there, he’s the dealer. If you ever want something and I’m not around just ask him. Hasta luego.”
There were a number of men stood by the entrance, but Iain and I instantly knew which one he was talking about – the one that looked exactly like Al Pacino in Scarface. HOO AAR. This guy had obviously watched too many episodes of Miami Vice. Gelled, slicked back hair, white polo neck, black double-breasted jacket with shoulder pads, baggy black pleated slacks, pointed patent leather shoes and a thick gold chain around his neck. He may as well have had a big neon sign on his head saying “Buy Your Drugs Here.” I had never seen such a living embodiment of a movie stereotype. We were both truly in awe of his style.
A little later I paid a visit to the toilet. I was still quite early and the bar was relatively empty. As I walked into the Gents I noticed that Scarface was up to something in the corner. It seemed he was replacing the bottom tile on the far wall. I quickly ducked out of sight into one of the cubicles. I was very excited because I thought I may have stumbled across the drug dealer’s secret store. As soon as the coast was clear (and I’d been about my business) I dashed back to Iain.
“Guess what mate! I think I’ve found out where Scarface keeps either his drugs or money. There’s a loose tile in the far corner by the urinals. I saw him replacing it as I went in. Imagine, stealing from a drug dealer. Now that’s what I call adventure.”
It was a crazy idea, but hey, we’re crazy guys. There could have been huge roll of cash behind that tile and all we had to do was take a quick look without anyone seeing us. OK, so technically it would have been theft but if there was any money there, it certainly wasn’t earmarked for the local orphanage. Moreover, we were seduced by the opportunity to briefly lick the sweaty underbelly of Playa Del Ingles. We wanted a taste of the dark side. I decided to go back and take another look.
I returned empty handed;
“I managed to move the tile a bit with my foot, and there’s definitely a hole in the wall behind it, but someone came in so I kicked it back into place and left.”
“Let me have a go mate, I’ve got an idea.”
A few minutes later Iain returned;
“It’s empty mate. I dropped some change on the floor by the tile, so if anyone walked in I could pretend to be picking it up. I stuck my hand in an felt around but there was nothing there.”
“Oh well, at least we tried. It was in the spirit of our holiday that we had a go.”
Later in the evening David breezed past and casually dropped a lump of hash onto our table. The next time he breezed past we casually dropped 1000 pesetas on to his tray. Operation Albatross was going smoothly, all we had to do now was make sure we didn’t lose the stuff so Iain gave it to me for safekeeping.
We began to notice the David was casually breezing past our table quite a lot. Not just to serve us drinks or supply us was illegal substances but to chat. An Irish girl that we’d been talking to earlier came over to fill us in.
“Dave’s bi’. He swings both ways,” she turned to me “and he fancies you.”
“Yeh, can’t you tell?”
I looked over to where David was standing, he gave me a wave then proceeded to stick out his tongue and roll it around in the manner of Gene Simmons from Kiss.
“See. What did I tell you? Do you go for men?”
“Well, erm, no offence to David but no.”
“Shame.” And with that she went back to touting for customers outside the bar.
“Why does this always happen to you mate?” Asked Iain.
“I dunno. It’s so unfair. I keep getting approached by men but never any women. What is it about me? Am I excessively camp or something. Sometimes I wish I was gay because then I’d be having a ball instead of living like a bloody monk.”
“I don’t know mate. I don’t understand it.”
“Perhaps we should go and ponder it beneath the stars.”
“Let’s do it.”
We thanked David for all his help and headed back for the hotel, drugs still safely intact. Iain rolled a couple of joints then we set off on the long walk to the dunes. Pretty soon we were relaxing in a bed of soft sand, reaping the rewards of Operation Albatross and gazing wistfully at the night sky. Little did we know, it may well have been gazing back…..
Sunday May 3rd
It was time to move on. Iain had broken free of his Groundhog Deal cycle and there’s only so much pumpernickel a person can take. We thought it would be interesting to get away from the resort towns and spend our last day in one of the older Spanish cities. We consulted the guide books and maps down in the gift shop. Telde wasn’t far, it was an old Spanish municipality with colonial style architecture (not row upon row of prefabricated hotels and time-share apartments) and the second largest city in Gran Canaria. It sounded ideal.
Deflating Julio took some time but we just managed to make the deadline for checking out and were soon on a bus heading north to Telde. The driver was kind enough to tell us when we reached “el centro” and we hopped off with a spring in our step, eager to sample the real Gran Canaria. About an hour later the spring had gone from our steps, in fact our legs felt as if they might never spring again. We’d been walking aimlessly for miles carrying our, by now, very heavy bags (Julio’s no featherweight) in search of a hotel. Telde was indeed old, quaint, colonial, pretty and quiet. Very quiet. Very very quiet. Where the fuck was everybody? Of course, it was a Sunday afternoon, everyone was either attending church or having a siesta. We were beginning to think we were finally done for when a lone Spaniard approached us and asked if we needed any help.
“We can’t find a hotel. We’ve been looking for ages.”
“You won’t find a hotel here. This is a Spanish town not a tourist resort.”
“We know. That’s why we came.”
“Well, there is one place, but it’s quite far from here.”
“Can we walk there?”
“You could, but you’d be better taking a taxi.” (Don’t you just hate it when someone tells you to take a taxi and you have no money?)
“We’ll walk. Can you give us directions?”
Just then a car came around the corner. The man turned and flagged it down.
“You’re in luck, this is my father,” the old gentleman driving the car smiled warmly, “and this is my son.”
“Ola” said the young boy.
“Jump in. We’ll take you to the hotel.”
So there we were, sharing a car with three generations of the same family on our way to a hotel which increasingly appeared to be situated in the middle of nowhere. Actually, it turned out to be situated on the edge of nowhere, a huge cliff to be precise and the effect was breathtaking.
The Hotel Bar el Mar……
Poised strikingly on the eastern cliffs of Gran Canaria the Hotel Bar el Mar was a majestic sight. A huge white concrete edifice with art-deco pretensions set against an impressive rocky backdrop. This gave it an eerily gothic look, the sort of hotel where you’d find European Countess Vampires living a reclusive existence with their nubile young lesbian love slaves. It was fantastic. We checked in immediately.
It soon became obvious that Iain and I were the only people staying at the hotel. Had we perhaps stumbled across the Spanish version of the Overlook hotel From The Shining? Would the hotel caretaker take an axe to our door shouting “here’s Jose!”? No, we’d probably just found ourselves staying at one of Gran Canaria’s pre-tourist boom relics. A survivor from the halcyon days before flip-flops, egg and chips, satellite tv sports, raves, happy hours, bingo, jet-skis, karaoke, time shares, inflatable crocodiles, fat naked Germans, pale drunken Brits. It was all rather civilised. If James Bond came to Gran Canaria he’d stay here. We had a beautiful room in a bewitching hotel – we were going to spend our last night in style.
There was a stone jetty by the hotel. It didn’t protrude directly out into the sea but at a sideways angle parallel to the cliffs so that the waves crashed against the sea-facing edge and a calm tidal pool formed behind. We stood there, hypnotised by the violent, tumultuous beauty of the fierce sea. The waves tossed themselves with suicidal intent against the barricade of rocks defending the jetty, creating tall plumes of white spray. It was like being in a scene from a 19th Century gothic novel – the eerie, deserted lodgings, the raging tempestuous ocean, the desolate windswept locations. We decided to return to the jetty that night with the remainder of our hashish to really soak up the atmosphere.
We left the jetty and hotel in search of food and local culture. The receptionist had told us in which direction we might find civilisation and we eventually came across a small beachside area of shops, bars and restaurants. One place seemed particularly popular with the locals and fortunately for us (as we’d now run out of money) it displayed the VISA sign in the window. Our seafood paella was gorgeous and the beer so cheap that instead of having just the one we decided to stick around and have another six each. We were two very happy amigos by the time we left – thankful that we live in a world in which credit is so recklessly dispensed.
We returned to the hotel and perched ourselves by the cocktail bar. There was something undeniably eerie about being the only two people there. Once again we were reminded of the Overlook Hotel and half expected the bar to suddenly fill with the spectral apparitions of deceased patrons. Eventually, the barman arrived (he was probably expecting a night of uninterrupted tv) and we were relieved to find that he bore no resemblance to Jack Nicholson. Inspired by the elegance and sophistication of our surroundings we asked for two Vodka Martinis. Obviously the barman did not what to spend the entire evening attending to a pair of drunken James Bond wannabes so he took two large glasses and filled them half with vodka, half with Martini then threw in a slice of orange as an olive substitute thus allowing him to return to whatever he was doing secure in the knowledge that no mortal could ask for a second drink.
“There’s half a pint of pure spirits in that glass,” said Iain “we’ll never make it.”
“Yes we will mate.”
And we did.
It was then time to make our planned return to the jetty and watch the waves breaking against the rocks. It was a spectacular night-time scene, enhanced by the heightened state of perception we’d achieved by smoking the last of our hashish. Unfortunately the fact that we were both drunk and stoned has led many people to question our certainty of what we saw next…..
I was looking out to sea, admiring the astronomical wonders of the sky at night when I spotted what, at first, I believed to be a shooting star.
“Iain! Over there. I’ve just seen a shooting star.” I was left speechless by what happened next, “It was beautif…uughhhhhh!”
“Uuughhhhhhh!” So too was Iain.
“You saw it too mate? You saw it?” I asked, unable to contain my excitement.
“Yeh! What was it?”
“I don’t know, but shooting stars don’t go up then turn and fly off into space.”
We were both in a state of extreme giddiness bordering on euphoria. We quickly analysed every rational explanation for what we had just seen. Meteorites don’t suddenly turn and travel back along their original flight path. Nothing within the boundaries of human technology can travel or turn at such a high speed. It was too far out to sea and there wasn’t enough cloud cover for it to be a spotlight. Also, unlike a spotlight, it had a distinct tail signifying that energy was being emitted.
There was only one possible explanation.
We threw our arms in the air, embraced each other and began dancing with joy. And together we cried;
“We’ve seen a UFO!”
I can’t tell you how if feels to suddenly be aware the we are not alone in the universe. It’s as if a whole galaxy of possibilities has opened up before you. Imagine being able to travel through hyperspace to strange new worlds orbiting distant stars. Star Trek had just come one giant step closer to reality and I’d taken one gianter step closer to becoming a total geek.
And another thing about seeing a UFO – it’s really, really cool.
What a climax to our adventure this had been. Iain and I had both wanted to see a UFO since childhood and we’d been granted the privilege on our last night in Gran Canaria. It was the perfect end to an amazing week (well actually alien abduction would have been better but maybe that’s asking too much). Of course, many people have poured scorn on our close encounter and they will often attempt to defend their scepticism by pointing out that on the night of the sighting we’d drunk seven bottles of beer and half a pint of pure spirits each, and smoked a joint. However, this cannot explain the fact that we both saw exactly the same thing and were able to describe the event to each other in lucid detail.
They’re out there – and they know we’re here. One can only hope, to save us from future intergalactic embarrassment, that they didn’t take Iain and I to be representative of the human race.
Monday – Going Home
The next day, still buzzing from the previous night’s encounter, we went a bit mad in the hotel restaurant and charged a gourmet meal with fine wine to my credit card. The head chef (a very cool gentleman with a mobile phone in one hand and a blowtorch in the other) even came over to personally flambé our dessert. We were going out in style.
The bus to the airport dropped us off at exactly the same spot where one week previously we’d stood wondering which bus would take us to Puerto Rico and what the hell we would do when we got there. A feeling of déjá vu soon turned to one of dejection as I thought of returning to life in London.
As the plane left the runway I wondered – would I ever have cause to return?
So, there it is. Roistering With Intent. An entirely factual account of what must be one of the weirdest holidays in Gran Canaria’s history. We’d found my father, we’d found new depths to our friendship, and we’d also found that the more you try and make sense of life, the more confusing it seems.
“It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens.” But what stuff this had been!