Monday August 16th 2016 …
Have you ever heard of the film called Sliding doors ? … If yes, then you would know It’s all about our lives and the already planned route we take ahead, there are plenty of “what if’s and many regrets” and lots of “I shouldnt have done that or I wished I had” not to mention strange occurrences in life. If you can relate to this, then you will understand what I am writing about here.
Alternatively in simple terms it is recognised in real life as living in one of two Parallel universes!
I can remember the date simply as 1975 August, I was almost twenty. We as a joint family had just arrived in Spain after landing at Alicante Airport The slimy dago taxi drivers were queuing up to take advantage of the innocent and the naive traveller, we got hooked, he ripped us off for the journey onto the destination resort of Calpe which was much further along the coast of the Costa Blanca. We however had a great ride through Benidorm and noticing posters for the infamous Sticky Vicky we all giggled and smirked at each other. This was to be our first group holiday as two families sharing together. One of my fathers works colleagues had invested in a frontline apartment in a modern tower block called the “El Mar dos”
The insipid yellow building was probably the first one of the many tall buildings to be built at this end of the small town, and so in a small basic flat on the first floor we all bunked down and mucked in. My first spoken spanish word was webble … actually pronounced as heuvo, an ‘egg’ ! The famous ‘webble’ still sticks, even to this day.
Mother had stuffed teabags and tins of baked beans into her suitcase with many other food items which she was sure the Spaniards wouldn’t have in their Mercado’s. My dad had packed a three-piece suit in his case. He did get to wear it once at the Jousting event and he stuck out like a sore thumb and then again at the Benidorm Palace, an infamous shit hole then and im sure it still bears the same title and remains the same now, nothing like it’s portrayed by the TV show. Just two of the many tourist traps available to gullible punters, fortunately we only got caught out the once.
My best mate Derek and his parents got on well with my parents, as I his, a friendship for them that shared many adventures away without us two hanging on. That sadly ended after our parents each gradually passed away. Derek and I remain great friends to this day as I have already written on a few occasions.
Calpe had not yet then been affected by the boom of tourism and commercialisation, unlike Benidorm. It was still a small town and fishing port where the day boats would leave at 3:30 in the morning and return by 4:00 in the afternoon, busy to each unload their catch of the day and was sold to the small restaurants lining the tiny harbour and cooked to order to residents and the few holiday makers alike.
A traffic junction sliced the main road, the right fork led down to the harbour and small establishments selling cheap plonk and contraband fags and two-day old newspapers that had been imported from the UK. To the left the road led onto the residential route which continued and went on down to the Levante beach or you could bear right up toward the imposing Peñon de Ifach, known originally to the Phoenicians as the Northern rock, its southern counterpart being the rock of Gibraltar. This massive limestone outcrop emerges from the sea to a height of almost 1200 feet and links itself to the shore by rock debris.
In the middle of this vee junction stood an aged hostel and bar which was called “The Ancla” which of course from spanish translates to Anchor, a mainstay, and a mainstay this place became for us.
The Ancla was just a ‘get yourself ready and rock’ kind of place, and to say it was quite rough around the edges really was an understatement, fortunately everyone was friendly. As newbie holidaymakers and especially as this was our first foray to España self catering, we took it as a refuge and used it as our meeting point at any time of the day.
Rory the proprietor and his wife Mary, she, a retired circus acrobat/ trapeze artist juggled the accommodation bookings in-between cooking and serving the great food and keeping two unruly boys out of trouble, sadly to her disappointment that was a waste of her precious time. The entertainment was home-made which kept us all amused and the bar staff were extremely pleasant and always engaging. If you were lucky enough as a customer and it definitely got busy, (sometimes Derek and I having had some bar experience back at home) were invited to do a shift or two behind the cramped bar in exchange for a few Cuba libres, plus the bonus of drinking the mistakes you constantly made, we never did get the hang of spinning the bottles …..
The atmosphere was brilliant, an ageing pinball machine competed with the music on the free juke box playing the greats of the seventies at the time, Suzi Quatro, The Sweet, Three Degrees, George McCrae, Rubettes, Abba, Mud, New Seekers were favourites, sounds blasted out of speakers way past their sell by dates and when Rory the resident singer was otherwise engaged he was busy either serving coffee and brandies and bouncing at the door. We all sang songs, rather loud and disorderly as drunken Brits tended to do. I hear that tradition is still continued, gladly I am no longer of that age to do so, just a more genteel kind of person these days.
I had noticed an Orange Renault 14 slightly worse for wear and covered in dust parked outside this noisy establishment which was bearing a British registration plate, it was synonymous of a local registration to our home area, YXF ???N (similar to this pic)
Me, the nosey boy, great lover of cars and intrigued at this image, went off to seek and find, I eventually made contact with the driver, a young lady named Jean, just a few years older than myself. She was her sister to Rory. When she wasnt spending every hour available bringing up her young baby daughter she spent the rest of her day being a holiday rep, selling guided tours and organising evening bingo trips into Benidorm. She and her family ran the business, they attended the hotplates, and would pour greatly appreciated unmeasured drinks and strum and tend to warble along to the slight discord of an electric guitar once owned by Les Dawson.
Immediately Jean and I ignited a spark, a friendship had been struck. A spark …. one that has now lasted over forty years. Strangest thing which you probably would never believe if you hadn’t of read it here first, was that she had been living and working in the same town as ourselves in the holiday camp next to where Derek and I were bar tending as a blue coat. …. dear old Brixham ….. and we hadn’t even ever crossed paths.
Lets get back to parallel universes and sliding doors …. I had gotten the bug and thought perhaps I would want to live abroad, have a small business. In the seventies, it was hard work (here in Spain). Franco had been in power and now still the Guardia and the mafioso were everywhere, and yes, protection money had to be paid or they would just come in and shut down businesses or ensure the electricidad or the agua was disconnected. Red tape and illegal corrupt bureaucracy was rife.
I can’t remember the amount of times we were told to invest in Spain, especially Calpe as it was up and coming … and up and come it certainly did, but did we? …. no, we did not! Work for myself here in the United Kingdom and abroad came thick and fast. Life was changing for all of us, but only in the one dimension, in another it stayed the same, but in which one was it actually happening, or even more, were we actually aware?
Every returning year since we have been asked to come and live, and every year we said we’d think about it, and now forty years on we realise it’s now way too late. I’m certainly too old to move now, unless my six lucky balls fall into place! Although I can understand the Spanish language and am able to read it, my spoken is very poor, but once I get into the zone I can manage to make the locals either understand or laugh.
Today Jean returns to Devon, as she also loves it here too. This early morning we have arranged to meet for breakfast at a pleasant hotel in Paignton where we can be waited on. We greet and hug, and hold on tight in what seems like an eternity, with a few moments silence we then chat about the constant that is old times. We laugh about our adventures into Benidorm on the old road late at night, seven of us crammed into a battered old right hand drive car trying to out run the Policia, as both a foreign car full of foreigners attracts much attention, especially late at night. Images of us skidding around the winding corners with precarious drops over cliff edges, we could have all been killed, but we were not and are still able to tell the tale.’ … often a voice from the rear seat would scream out from a parent ‘NOT YET JEAN’ as she would attempt to make her move and overtake.
One great memory for me that is rather precious ….. ‘One sultry baking hot afternoon, the two of us headed toward the Peñon, walking off the normal path we climbed down through the palms, brushing the many shrubs of juniper, lavender and white pine with our legs, the scent was heaven. We found our way down onto the rocks under a remote part of the outcrop, the sun shone bright and high, the rays reflected over the water. Far away the horizon rested between the sea and the bright blue sky. Daring each other, we dived off the high rock edge into the deep crystal clear warm waters, below lay a wreck of a small fishing boat on the sea-bed which was teaming with marine life, above us the peregrine falcons which were nesting on the rock face circled high. The gentle winds blew sea-spray over our faces as we swam toward the bright light and just kept on laughing together, time and dimensions were as one. There were no other distractions, all was quiet, all was as if it were the dawn of time.’
Sometimes when something poignant like that happens, only hind sight tends to make you realise perhaps you should have grasped what was in your hand at that particular moment. Maybe it was a sign sent from somewhere far greater than part of the grand scheme we are now in, perhaps we shall never know!
These two universes have been running side by side for what probably has been millions and millions of years, occasionally bumping into one other and then spinning off until the next orbit brings us right back onto the preplanned collision course again.
So, is this what might be considered as part of the Big Bang Theory?
Jean once a young single mother and now with her grown girls, stands proud as a grandmother greatly respected by her Spanish family and those she loves. Me, once a Son, now a proud Father to my beautiful daughter and her partner and of a wonderful mate.
Spending just two hours every forty million years together is as if we have never been apart, and we talk about the same things every time ….. and yes, we still laugh at the same old news.
Sadly, saying goodbye was very emotional this time ….
Until the next collision course my dear!